What Sets Contemporary Electric Guitar Playing Apart in Country Music?

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When we think of country music, the twang of a traditional acoustic guitar often comes to mind. However, in recent years, contemporary electric guitar playing has been making a significant impact in the genre. But what is it about the electric guitar that makes it stand out in country music? In this article, we’ll delve into the evolution of the electric guitar in country music, explore modern techniques used by contemporary country guitarists, and discuss the role of the electric guitar in shaping the sound of today’s country music. So grab your pick and let’s dive in.

The Evolution of the Electric Guitar in Country Music

The Evolution Of The Electric Guitar In Country Music
The sound of the electric guitar has become a defining feature of country music. From its early days in honky-tonk bars to the modern country hits on the radio, the instrument has undergone a significant evolution. Today, contemporary electric guitar playing has its own distinct sound, incorporating a wide range of techniques that have helped shape the genre. In this section, we will explore the history of the electric guitar in country music and how it has evolved over time. We’ll also take a deep dive into the guitar techniques used by country musicians today, and the impact it has had on the music industry. So let’s dive in and explore the innovation and myths that surround electric guitar country music.

From Honky-Tonk to Modern Country

Country music has a rich history that spans over a century. The evolution of country music can be traced back to its roots in honky-tonk music, a popular style of music that emerged in the 1940s. Honky-tonk music initially relied on acoustic instruments such as the guitar, fiddle, and mandolin. However, with the advent of electrification, the electric guitar began to make its presence felt in country music.

The electric guitar revolutionized country music by providing a new sound that was both bold and distinctive. Country musicians began experimenting with the instrument, finding new ways to incorporate it into their music. The electric guitar gave country music a new edge that had not been heard before.

As the popularity of country music grew, new sub-genres began to emerge. Modern country music, which is popular today, has its roots in the 1950s and 1960s. This period saw a rise in rock and roll influence, with country musicians adopting elements of the new genre into their music. This led to the development of a harder, more aggressive sound that was perfect for the electric guitar.

Today, modern country music has a very distinct sound that is rooted in tradition but also incorporates elements of rock and other genres. The electric guitar continues to play a vital role in the sound of contemporary country music. And with rising-star country guitarists such as John Mayer, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban pushing the boundaries and exploring new techniques, the electric guitar remains as relevant as ever.

The electric guitar has played a major part in the evolution of country music from honky-tonk to modern country. Its unique sound and versatility have allowed country musicians to experiment with new sounds and push the boundaries of the genre. The electric guitar in country music is a testament to the innovation and creativity of musicians who continue to push the genre forward. If you want to learn more about the deep-dive guitar techniques of iconic country musicians or bust some electric guitar country myths in your head, make sure you check out our other articles.

The Rise of Rock and Roll Influence

During the 1960s, rock and roll started to gain popularity, and it didn’t take long for its influence to make its way into country music. As a result, electric guitars began to play a more significant role in country music. Many guitarists began experimenting with new techniques and sounds that were borrowed from rock and roll.

Here are some of the ways rock and roll influenced the electric guitar in country music:

  • Increased use of distortion: In rock music, distortion is often used to create a gritty, aggressive sound. Many country guitarists began playing with distortion to add more edge to their sound.
  • More emphasis on solos: In traditional country music, the guitar was mainly used for rhythm playing. However, as rock and roll became more popular, guitar solos became more common in country music.
  • Greater use of feedback: Feedback occurs when sound from the amplifier is fed back into the guitar and produces a high-pitched squeal. Some guitarists began to use feedback as a way to add a new dimension to their playing.
  • Incorporation of blues influences: Many rock and roll guitarists are heavily influenced by the blues, and this influence made its way into country music as well. Guitarists began incorporating blues licks and scales into their playing, which gave country music a newfound sense of soulfulness.

With the rise of rock and roll in the 1960s, country music underwent a transformation as electric guitars became more prevalent. As a result, guitarists experimented with new techniques and sounds, which allowed for more expressive playing. To learn more about the innovations in contemporary electric guitar playing in country music, check out these resources:

Modern Electric Guitar Techniques Used in Country Music

Modern Electric Guitar Techniques Used In Country Music
The electric guitar has become an integral part of country music, and contemporary artists have taken it to new heights with modern guitar techniques. From bends, slides, and vibrato to hybrid picking and chicken pickin’, these techniques have given country music a unique sound and flavor. In this section, we will explore these modern electric guitar techniques and how they have transformed the genre.

Bends, Slides, and Vibrato

When it comes to contemporary electric guitar playing in country music, there are several techniques that stand out as particularly important. Among these are bends, slides, and vibrato. These techniques are essential to creating the distinctive sounds and textures that define modern country music.

Bends are a technique in which the guitarist uses their fingers to alter the pitch of a note while it is still ringing out. This technique is often used to mimic the sound of a pedal steel guitar, a popular instrument in country music. By bending a note up or down, the guitarist can create a subtle, expressive sound that adds depth and emotion to their playing.

Slides, on the other hand, involve moving from one note to another by sliding their finger up or down the fretboard. This technique is particularly effective for creating a smooth, legato sound, as the slides help to connect each note seamlessly. Slides can be used to create long, sustained notes or fast, flashy passages, depending on the context.

Finally, vibrato is a technique that involves adding a slight, rapid variation in pitch to a note. This can be done by rapidly bending and releasing the string, or by shaking the finger rapidly while holding down the string. Vibrato adds a touch of expressiveness to the notes, creating a more dynamic and interesting sound.

These techniques are just a few examples of the wide range of tools and tricks that contemporary electric guitarists use in country music. By mastering these techniques, guitarists can create a sound that is uniquely their own, and that sets them apart from the rest of the pack.

Hybrid Picking and Chicken Pickin’

When it comes to modern electric guitar techniques used in country music, hybrid picking and chicken pickin’ have become increasingly popular in recent years. Hybrid picking is a technique that combines the use of both the pick and the fingers on the right hand, giving players greater versatility and control over their sound. Meanwhile, chicken pickin’ is a style characterized by quick, staccato notes and snappy inflections, often achieved by plucking the strings with the fingertips, similar to a chicken pecking for food.

Hybrid Picking Chicken Pickin’
Combines use of pick and fingers Quick, staccato notes
Greater versatility and control over sound Snappy inflections
Useful for playing complex chord progressions and arpeggios Often achieved by plucking strings with fingertips

Both techniques allow for greater expression and creativity in a player’s performance, and are often used in conjunction with other techniques such as bends, slides, and vibrato. Many modern country guitarists have adopted these techniques into their playing style, citing influences such as Brent Mason and Brad Paisley.

Hybrid picking and chicken pickin’ have become defining characteristics of contemporary electric guitar playing in country music, allowing players to push the boundaries of traditional country sounds and infuse their own unique style into their performances.

Pedal Effects and Novel Sounds

Electric guitar playing in country music has evolved tremendously with the incorporation of novel sounds and technological advancements. The apparent use of pedal effects stands out in modern country music, producing a variety of sounds that create a unique listening experience.

Pedal Effects
Pedal effects are electronic devices that manipulate the guitar’s original sound, creating new and innovative sounds that have revolutionized contemporary country music. A plethora of effect pedals are available, each with a unique sound and application, allowing guitarists to blend their playing style with various sounds for artistic expression.

Some commonly used pedal effects in modern country music include:

  • Overdrive/Distortion
  • Overdrive and distortion effects produce a gritty, distorted sound that is achieved by pushing the guitar’s natural sound beyond its limits. This sound is ideal for creating a rocking sound that works well with country music’s energetic beats.

  • Reverb
  • Reverb pedal effects emulate the sound of playing in a large room, echoing the original guitar sound. It helps to create space in the music and gives the electric guitar a more natural, organic tone.

  • Delay
  • The delay effect produces an echo that lasts for a specific duration, allowing the original guitar sound to be sustained and repeated at intervals. This effect is perfect for creating a rich, textural ambiance that adds depth to modern country music.

  • Wah-Wah
  • A Wah-Wah pedal effect is an envelope-controlled filter that produces a nasally, vocal-like sound. It allows players to move from tone to tone, creating a unique sound that stands out among other guitars.

Novel Sounds
It is not only pedals that create unique sounds in modern country music. Contemporary electric guitar playing in country music utilizes novel sounds, including tapping, auto-tuning, and harmonizing, to create a unique listening experience for fans. Guitarists have taken country music to new heights by adapting and incorporating sounds popular in other genres to add a modern twist to their playing style.

Pedal effects and novel sounds are significant contributors to modern electric guitar playing in country music. By incorporating these tools, players can create innovative sounds that embody the energy, passion, and soul of country music while standing out and making a statement.

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The Role of the Electric Guitar in Contemporary Country Music

When it comes to contemporary country music, the electric guitar plays a crucial role in shaping both the sound and the feel of the genre. The instrument has come a long way since its early days in honky-tonk music, where it was used mostly for simple chord progressions. Today, electric guitars can take on a variety of roles in a country band, from providing a driving rhythm to delivering soaring solos. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the distinctive techniques and styles that modern electric guitarists use to make their playing stand out in the crowded field of country music.

Lead Guitarist vs. Rhythm Guitarist

In contemporary country music, the electric guitar is an integral part of any band. However, there are different roles that guitarists can play within the band. Generally, guitarists can be divided into two categories: lead and rhythm guitarists.

Lead guitarists are responsible for producing the guitar solos, creating memorable melodies that capture the audience’s attention. These guitarists are often the focal point of the performance and are given ample time to showcase their skills through extended solos. The lead guitar can be heard prominently in the mix, often playing high-pitched, ear-catching riffs that perfectly accentuate the song’s melody. A good lead guitarist has a keen understanding of music theory and can improvise and adapt his or her playing style to suit the needs of the song.

On the other hand, rhythm guitarists tend to play a supportive role in the band, providing a solid foundation for the lead guitarist and the rest of the band. Rhythm guitarists play the chords and often perform complementary riffs, which can fill up the sound and add texture to the song. Their playing style is typically more subdued than the lead guitar, but it is nonetheless essential to the overall sound of the band. Rhythm guitarists need to have a good sense of timing and an understanding of chord progressions to hold the rhythm section together.

Both lead and rhythm guitarists play important roles in any country band, and it is essential that they work together to create a harmonious sound. The lead guitarist’s flashy solos and the rhythm guitarist’s steady strumming combine to create a unique sound that is an essential part of any great country song. The interplay between these two guitarists is what makes contemporary electric guitar playing stand out in country music.

Incorporating Electric Guitar Solos and Breaks

The use of electric guitar solos and breaks in contemporary country music is a hallmark of the genre. These features can range from short, single-note riffs to lengthy, virtuosic displays of technical proficiency. They add excitement and emotion to a song, and are often the highlight of a live performance. In this section, we will discuss the role of electric guitar solos and breaks in contemporary country music.

Types of Solos and Breaks

There are several types of electric guitar solos and breaks that are commonly used in country music. These include:

  • Bridged solos: These solos are used as transitional elements between different parts of a song. They are typically shorter and less intense than other types of solos.
  • Between-verse solos: These solos are used to fill the space between verses. They are often more intricate and melodic than bridged solos.
  • Outro solos: These solos are played at the end of a song, often as a way to bring the song to a dramatic close.

Incorporating Solos and Breaks into a Song

When incorporating electric guitar solos and breaks into a song, it is important to do so in a way that complements the overall structure of the song. A well-placed solo or break can enhance the emotional impact of a song, but one that is poorly placed can detract from it.

One effective approach is to use solos and breaks to create tension and release within the song. For example, a solo can be used to build tension leading up to the chorus, and the release of that tension can be achieved through the chorus itself.

The Impact of Solos and Breaks on Songwriting

The use of electric guitar solos and breaks has had a significant impact on songwriting in contemporary country music. Many songwriters build their songs around the guitar solo, using it as a centerpiece for the song. This can create a sense of anticipation for the listener, as they wait for the solo to arrive.

The technical proficiency required to play these solos has led to more complex and interesting guitar parts being written. This has elevated the status of the electric guitar in country music, and has led to a new generation of virtuosic guitarists.

Electric guitar solos and breaks are an important aspect of contemporary country music, adding excitement and emotional depth to songs. When used effectively, they can enhance the overall impact of a song and create a memorable listening experience for the listener.

Impact on Music Production and Songwriting

In recent years, the electric guitar has been a driving force in the evolution of country music. The use of innovative electric guitar techniques has influenced not only the sound but also the production and songwriting processes in the genre.

One of the main impacts of the electric guitar on music production is its ability to create unique and dynamic sounds. In the past, traditional acoustic instruments were the primary instruments used in country music production. However, electric guitars allow for a wider range of sounds to be produced, making contemporary country music more diverse and inclusive.

The use of electric guitars has also influenced songwriting in country music. Songwriters are now able to produce songs that are more complex and layered thanks to the electric guitar’s capabilities. They are able to incorporate different guitar sounds, intricate solos, and complementary riffs that add a new dimension to a song.

The electric guitar has played a significant role in modernizing the production process of country music. Musicians recording in a studio can easily create multiple guitar parts and add them to a track. They can manipulate the sounds using effects pedals, software, and other technology, creating new and unique sounds that stand out in the genre.

Impact on Music Production | Impact on Songwriting
— | —
Creates unique and dynamic sounds | Makes songwriting more complex and layered
Allows for a wider range of sounds | Incorporates different guitar sounds
Modernizes the production process | Adds intricate solos and complementary riffs
Adds a new dimension to a song | Creates new and unique sounds using effects pedals and technology


After exploring the evolution of the electric guitar in country music and the contemporary techniques that make electric guitar playing stand out in the genre, it is evident that the electric guitar has had a significant impact on country music.

The rise of electric guitar playing in country music has allowed for an expansion in the genre’s sound, providing artists and producers with a wide range of possibilities for experimentation and sound creation. The incorporation of electric guitar playing contributed to the growing popularity of country music and has allowed it to become one of the most popular genres globally.

Electric guitarists in the country music scene use an array of techniques such as bends, slides, vibrato, hybrid picking, chicken pickin’, and pedal effects to create unique and innovative musical sounds that are now commonplace in the country music industry.

Whether the electric guitar is used as a rhythm instrument, a lead instrument, or to provide solo breaks, it stands out as an important component of contemporary country music. The electric guitar has opened up opportunities for new collaborations and experimentation within the genre, leading to exciting developments in the industry.

In conclusion, the electric guitar is a vital instrument in contemporary country music, providing artists and fans alike with an array of sounds and possibilities. The evolution of the electric guitar in country music has provided a means for innovation, creativity, and growth within the genre. As the country music industry evolves, so too will the electric guitar, continuing to shape and influence the sounds and direction of the genre for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the most influential electric guitar players in country music?

Some of the most influential electric guitar players in country music include Chet Atkins, Brent Mason, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, and Keith Urban.

How has the electric guitar evolved over time in country music?

The electric guitar in country music has evolved from its roots in honky-tonk music to incorporate elements of rock and roll, jazz, and even heavy metal. Today, contemporary country music relies heavily on the electric guitar as a core component of its sound.

What kind of techniques do modern electric guitarists use in country music?

Modern electric guitarists in country music use techniques such as bends, slides, vibrato, hybrid picking, chicken pickin’, and a variety of pedal effects to create distinctive sounds and textures.

What is hybrid picking?

Hybrid picking is a technique that involves using a pick and one or more fingers on the right hand to pluck the strings simultaneously. This allows the guitarist to play intricate lines and rhythms with greater speed and precision.

What is chicken pickin’?

Chicken pickin’ is a technique that involves using the fingers on the right hand to pluck the strings in a rapid, percussive manner. It is often used in country music to add a snappy, staccato quality to lead lines and licks.

What kind of pedal effects are commonly used in country music?

Common pedal effects used in country music include overdrive, distortion, delay, reverb, compression, and wah-wah. These effects can be used to enhance the tone and texture of the electric guitar and create a range of unique sounds and sonic landscapes.

What is the difference between a lead guitarist and a rhythm guitarist in country music?

A lead guitarist is responsible for playing the main melodic lines and solos in a song, while a rhythm guitarist focuses on creating the harmonic foundation and strumming patterns that support the overall sound of the song.

How do electric guitar solos and breaks contribute to country music?

Electric guitar solos and breaks are an important part of country music because they allow the guitarist to showcase their skills and add excitement and energy to the song. They can also provide a memorable hook or melody that adds to the overall impact of the music.

How does the electric guitar impact music production and songwriting in contemporary country music?

The electric guitar plays a critical role in contemporary country music production and songwriting, as it provides a wide range of tonal and textural options that help to create the signature sound of the genre. It also allows artists and producers to experiment with new sounds and techniques that push the boundaries of traditional country music while staying true to its roots.

What makes contemporary electric guitar playing stand out in country music?

Contemporary electric guitar playing in country music stands out due to the sheer variety of sounds, techniques, and musical styles that are incorporated into the genre. From classic honky-tonk to modern rock-infused anthems, the electric guitar has become an essential part of the fabric of contemporary country music.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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