Uncovering the Influential Guitarists behind the Nashville Sound

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As country music evolved throughout the 1950s and 60s, a new sound emerged from the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. It was a sound that would come to be known as the Nashville Sound. This unique style blended traditional country with pop, creating a polished and sophisticated sound that resonated with audiences across the country. But what set the Nashville Sound apart from its predecessors? Who were the key players behind this musical movement? In this article, we will uncover the influential guitarists who pioneered this sound and explore the playing style and techniques that made it so distinctive. So, pull up a chair and get ready to dive deep into the world of the Nashville Sound.

The Nashville Sound

The Nashville Sound
When it comes to influential sounds in country music history, few can match the impact of the Nashville Sound. This genre-defining style emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, blending traditional country music with pop and rock influences to create a polished, sophisticated sound that captured the hearts of listeners across the country. The Nashville Sound was made possible by a talented group of musicians who pioneered new playing techniques and styles on their guitars, from fingerstyle to hybrid picking and beyond. In this article, we’ll explore the history and impact of the Nashville Sound and uncover the stories of the pioneering guitarists who made it all possible. Are you ready to dive into the world of the Nashville Sound and its musical pioneers? Let’s get started!

Internal Link: If you’re interested in learning about another legendary guitarist and his techniques, check out Chet Atkins and his Legacy of Guitar Techniques.

What is the Nashville Sound?

The Nashville Sound is a subgenre of country music that first emerged in the late 1950s as a response to the declining popularity of traditional country music. The new sound was characterized by smoother, more polished arrangements featuring strings, background vocals, and a signature sound of electric guitar. The term was first coined by music executive and producer Owen Bradley, who was instrumental in shaping the sound and bringing it to prominence.

The Nashville Sound marked a distinct departure from the raw, honky-tonk sound of classic country music, and aimed to appeal to a wider audience of music lovers. It was heavily influenced by pop and jazz music, and incorporated sophisticated arrangements and production techniques that gave it a distinctive polished sound.

Unlike the older style of country music, which was centered around the acoustic guitar and fiddle, the Nashville Sound relied heavily on electric guitar. Some of the most influential guitarists of the era were the pioneers of the Nashville Sound, including Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, and Grady Martin. These musicians developed new techniques and playing styles that became hallmarks of the sound and influenced countless artists in the years to come.

The Nashville Sound helped to transform country music from a regional genre to a national phenomenon, and brought it to a much larger audience. It paved the way for later innovations in the genre, such as the Outlaw movement of the 1970s and the rise of country-pop crossover in the 1980s and 90s.

While some country purists criticized the sound for being too polished and commercial, there’s no denying its impact on popular music. The Nashville Sound ushered in a new era of country music that was more sophisticated, nuanced, and widely accessible than ever before.

The Rise of the Nashville Sound

In the mid-1950s, the country music scene in Nashville was dominated by lush, heavily orchestrated productions that typically featured string sections and background choruses. However, a younger generation of musicians was beginning to emerge, eager to bring a fresh sound to the genre. Among these were pioneering guitarists like Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, and Grady Martin, who were eager to experiment with new recording techniques and instrumentation.

Atkins, who was then a sought-after session musician and record producer, had grown frustrated with the formulaic approach to recording that was common at the time. He believed that the music could benefit from a more stripped-down, straightforward approach that showcased the technical skills of the musicians. To achieve this, he began experimenting with different guitar techniques and encouraged other musicians to do the same.

At the same time, other guitarists like Garland were incorporating jazz influences into their playing, creating a more sophisticated sound that was still rooted in country music traditions. Martin, meanwhile, was exploring new guitar sounds and experimenting with different amplifiers and effects pedals.

Together, these guitarists and others like them helped to usher in a new era of country music that emphasized technical skill and musicianship. Their approach, known as the Nashville Sound, would go on to dominate the country music scene for years to come.

The rise of the Nashville Sound was not without its detractors, however. Some traditionalists in the country music community felt that the new sound was too polished and commercial, lacking the raw emotion and authenticity of earlier styles. Despite these criticisms, however, the Nashville Sound continued to grow in popularity and influence, paving the way for future generations of country musicians.

It’s worth noting that this development in American music was not without influence from other musical genres. Artists like Merle Travis, Doc Watson, and Maybelle Carter had already created an important foundation for the fingerstyle guitar and flat picking styles that became characteristics of the Nashville sound.

The Impact of the Nashville Sound

The impact of the Nashville Sound on American music cannot be overstated. This music genre not only redefined the sound of country music but also influenced popular music throughout the US and the world. Below is a table showing some of the major impacts of the Nashville Sound.

Crossover Appeal: The Nashville Sound made country music more appealing to a wider audience, bringing it into the mainstream. The polished arrangements and clean sound made it more accessible to pop and rock fans.
Record Sales: The Nashville Sound resulted in record sales that were unprecedented in country music. With its new, more modern sound, it appealed to a younger audience, resulting in millions of records being sold.
New Recording Techniques: The Nashville Sound brought with it new recording techniques, including multi-tracking and overdubbing, which revolutionized the recording process. These techniques enabled producers to create complex arrangements that were not possible before.
New Style of Songwriting: The Nashville Sound also influenced the style of songwriting in country music. Songwriters were inspired to write more personal lyrics, and the focus shifted from traditional subjects like trains and prisons to more relatable themes like love and heartbreak.
Career Launching Pad: The Nashville Sound helped launch the careers of many artists, including Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Loretta Lynn. It also helped establish Nashville as a hub for the music industry, boosting the city’s economy and cultural significance.

The Nashville Sound continues to influence country and popular music to this day. Its impact can be heard in the work of contemporary country artists, and the sound of classic country radio stations. It has solidified its place in the history of American music and continues to inspire new generations of musicians.

Pioneering Guitarists of the Nashville Sound

Pioneering Guitarists Of The Nashville Sound
As the Nashville Sound rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, it became clear that the intricate and captivating guitar work was a huge driving force behind its success. However, the names of the guitar pioneers who crafted this sound are not always well-known outside of the music industry. Without their innovative techniques and masterful playing, the Nashville Sound as we know it may never have come to be. Today, we’ll uncover the influential guitarists behind this craze and explore the unique styles and techniques they used to create this iconic sound. Get ready to discover the surprising stories of these guitar pioneers!

Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins was one of the most influential guitarists and producers of the Nashville Sound era. He was known for his fingerstyle guitar playing and his unique blend of country, jazz, and pop music. Here are some of the highlights of his career:

  • Chet Atkins started his career as a session musician in Nashville in the 1940s.
  • He became a producer for RCA Records in the 1950s and was responsible for producing many of the biggest hits of the Nashville Sound era.
  • Atkins was also a prolific recording artist himself, releasing over 80 albums throughout his career.
  • He was known for his innovative guitar playing techniques, including his use of harmonic notes and his “Atkins style” fingerpicking technique.
  • He was a mentor to many other guitarists, including Jerry Reed and Steve Wariner.
  • Atkins was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Chet Atkins’ influence on the Nashville Sound cannot be overstated. His innovative guitar playing and skilled production techniques helped define the sound of a generation and paved the way for future generations of musicians.

Hank Garland

Hank Garland was one of the most innovative guitarists in the history of the Nashville Sound. Born in Cowpens, South Carolina in 1930, Garland began playing the guitar at an early age and quickly developed a unique playing style that incorporated elements of jazz, country, and rock.

Some of Garland’s most notable contributions to the Nashville Sound include his work on Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces,” Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman,” and Elvis Presley’s “Little Sister.” Garland was a prolific session musician who played on countless other hits during the 1950s and 1960s.

Garland’s playing style was marked by fast, fluid lines and intricate chord progressions that emphasized his jazz training. He was also known for his use of the B-Bender Guitar, which he helped to develop, and his skillful implementation of double-stops and volume swells.

Despite all of his successes, Garland’s career was tragically cut short in 1961 when he was involved in a severe car accident that left him in a coma for several months. Although he recovered, his playing was never the same, and he eventually retired from the music business altogether.

Here are some interesting facts about Hank Garland:

  • He was a child prodigy who began playing the guitar at the age of six.
  • In addition to guitar, he also played the piano, bass, and drums.
  • Garland was a prolific songwriter who wrote several hits for Patsy Cline, including “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy.”
  • Despite his early success, Garland was notoriously difficult to work with and often clashed with producers and other musicians.
  • He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 as a sideman, recognizing his contributions to the Nashville Sound.

Hank Garland’s innovative playing style and unique musical approach helped to define the Nashville Sound and inspire future generations of guitarists. His legacy and influence continue to be felt today, and he remains one of the most important figures in the history of American music.

Grady Martin

Grady Martin was another influential guitarist of the Nashville Sound, with a career spanning several decades in the mid-20th century. Born in 1929 in Chapel Hill, Tennessee, Martin began playing guitar at a young age and quickly gained recognition for his skill. He became one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Nashville, playing on countless hit records.

Martin was known for his versatile playing style, often incorporating elements of rockabilly, jazz, and country music. He was a master of both electric and acoustic guitar, and his playing could range from delicate and melodic to sharp and aggressive. Martin’s innovative techniques and use of effects pedals also set him apart from other guitarists of his time.

One of Martin’s most notable contributions to the Nashville Sound was his use of the electric bass guitar. In the 1950s, Martin began experimenting with the instrument, using it to provide a more driving rhythm on recordings. This technique became known as “tic-tac bass,” and it quickly became a staple of the Nashville Sound. Martin’s innovative use of the electric bass helped to shape the sound of country music for years to come.

In addition to his session work, Martin also recorded several successful albums as a solo artist. His 1961 album “The Fuzz” was particularly influential, featuring Martin’s use of distortion and other effects that predated the advent of heavy rock music.

Grady Martin was a key player in the Nashville Sound, bringing a unique voice to the guitar and helping to push the boundaries of country music. He continued to play and record music until his death in 2001, leaving a lasting legacy as one of the most innovative guitarists of his time.

Birth name: Thomas Grady Martin
Born: January 17, 1929
Birthplace: Chapel Hill, Tennessee, U.S.
Died: December 3, 2001 (aged 72)
Genres: Country, rockabilly, jazz
Occupation(s): Musician, songwriter, session player
Instruments: Guitar, bass guitar, banjo, harmonica, trumpet

Ray Edenton

Ray Edenton was an influential guitarist in the Nashville Sound movement, playing on countless recordings for some of the biggest names in country music. Born in Georgia in 1928, Edenton moved to Nashville in the 1950s and soon found work as a session musician. He was well known for his versatility, able to play in a variety of styles and genres, and his signature twangy sound made him a sought-after guitar player.

Early Years and Career Highlights

Edenton got his start playing in a variety of bands around Georgia and the southeastern United States. He eventually caught the attention of Nashville producer Owen Bradley, who began hiring him for recording sessions in the 1950s. Edenton quickly became a regular in the Nashville music scene, playing on countless recordings for artists like Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, and Dolly Parton.

Playing Style and Techniques

Edenton’s playing style was characterized by his use of hybrid picking, where he used both his fingers and a pick to play the guitar. He was also known for his use of double-stops, where he played two notes at once on the guitar, and his use of volume swells, where he slowly raised and lowered the volume on his guitar to create a dynamic, emotional sound. Additionally, he often used a B-Bender guitar, a specially modified guitar that allowed him to bend the pitch of the B-string to create a unique, twangy sound.

Below is a table summarizing some of Ray Edenton’s key attributes as a guitarist:

Playing Style and Techniques Description
Hybrid Picking Using both fingers and a pick to play the guitar
Double-Stops Playing two notes at once on the guitar
Volume Swells Slowly raising and lowering the volume on his guitar
B-Bender Guitar A specially modified guitar that allowed him to bend the pitch of the B-string

Edenton’s contributions to the Nashville Sound cannot be overstated. His unique playing style and signature sound helped define the genre and make it a national phenomenon. Today, his influence can still be heard in the recordings of countless country music stars.

Harold Bradley

One of the most distinguished guitarists in the Nashville Sound era was Harold Bradley. He set the standard for the music genre, and his contributions were immeasurable. Bradley was born in Nashville in 1926 and began playing guitar as a young child. As he grew up, he mastered several different playing styles and techniques, which allowed him to lend his skills to a broad range of music styles.

Some of Bradley’s most famous works include his session work for Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and Brenda Lee. He played on hit songs like “Crazy,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” and “Only the Lonely.” Bradley also worked with many legendary musicians such as Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, and Buddy Holly.

Bradley’s style was characterized by a blend of fingerstyle and hybrid picking techniques. He also utilized double-stops, volume swells, and chucking to add depth and dynamics to his playing. He was a pioneer in the use of the B-Bender guitar, which allowed him to create a unique sound that defined the Nashville Sound.

Apart from his contributions to recorded music, Bradley also played a significant role in shaping the Nashville music scene. He co-founded the Nashville chapter of the American Federation of Musicians and helped establish the Nashville Musicians Association. His work helped to ensure fair pay and working conditions for musicians in the area.

Harold Bradley was an essential figure in the Nashville Sound era, leaving an indelible mark on the music industry. As a session player, he helped create some of the most iconic songs of the time, and his contributions to guitar technique have influenced countless artists. He will remain a legend in the Nashville music scene for generations to come.

Bob Moore

Bob Moore was one of the most sought-after bassists in the Nashville Sound scene. Born in Nashville in 1932, Moore’s distinctive style and technique made him a crucial figure in the development of the genre.

Moore’s career started in the late 1940s, playing with a number of country music legends including Red Sovine and Little Jimmy Dickens. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that Moore’s work became more widely recognized. He played on hundreds of hit records, including those by Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams Jr.

Moore’s bass playing was characterized by his impeccable timing and his ability to effortlessly meld with other instruments in the band. He was a master of walking bass lines and also introduced the “tic-tac” style of playing, which involved playing the bass strings with a pick while muting them with the palm of the hand to create a percussive effect.

Another key aspect of Moore’s playing was his use of the Fender Bass VI, a six-string bass guitar that was relatively new at the time. Moore’s use of the Bass VI helped give the Nashville Sound its distinctive tone, with a deep, rich sound that complemented the other instruments in the band.

Here are some examples of the hit records that Bob Moore played on:

Record Title Artist Year
“Crazy” Patsy Cline 1961
“Suspicious Minds” Elvis Presley 1969
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” Hank Williams Jr. 1965

Bob Moore’s influence can still be heard in contemporary country music, and his contributions to the Nashville Sound have helped shape the genre into what it is today.

Jerry Reed

Jerry Reed, born in 1937, was one of the most prolific guitarists of the Nashville Sound. Reed’s unique style of fingerpicking and his ability to blend various genres like country, rock, and jazz made him stand out as a musician. Here are some significant highlights of Jerry Reed’s career:

– Reed’s signature guitar technique was his use of the clawhammer fingerpicking style. This style involves using the thumb to play the notes on the lower strings while the other fingers create the melody on the higher strings. This technique allowed Reed to create a rhythmic and percussive sound that complemented his smooth playing style.

– Reed’s songwriting skills were also notable, and he wrote hits for several artists, including Elvis Presley. Reed’s most famous composition “Guitar Man” was a hit for both Reed and Presley.

– In 1971, Reed gained further popularity with his hit single “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” The song won a Grammy Award and became one of Reed’s most successful recordings.

– Reed’s musical style influenced a generation of guitarists, including Chet Atkins, who once called Reed “one of the greatest fingerpickers in the world.”

– Reed’s film career was also noteworthy, and he appeared in several movies, including “Smokey and the Bandit” and “The Waterboy.”

Jerry Reed’s contributions to the Nashville Sound are immeasurable. His unique fingerpicking style and songwriting skills set him apart from other guitarists of his time, and his influence is still felt in modern country music.

Glen Campbell

One of the most influential guitarists of the Nashville sound was Glen Campbell. Born in Arkansas in 1936, Campbell moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s to pursue a career in music. He played guitar on numerous hit records as a session musician before achieving his own success as a solo artist.

Campbell’s distinctive playing style combined elements of country, pop, and rock, and he was known for his impressive fingerpicking and smooth, melodic solos. His guitar work on hits like “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” helped define the sound of country music in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In addition to his work as a recording artist, Campbell was also an accomplished television personality. He hosted his own variety show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” from 1969 to 1972, and appeared in several films and TV shows throughout his career.

Despite his success on stage and screen, Campbell struggled with personal demons throughout his life, including addiction and the early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. However, his legacy as one of the pioneers of the Nashville sound and one of the greatest guitarists of all time lives on.

Some of Glen Campbell’s most notable achievements include:

  • Winning four Grammy Awards, including two for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male
  • Being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005
  • Having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Recording over 70 albums throughout his career

Glen Campbell’s contribution to the Nashville sound cannot be overstated. His ability to blend genres and his impeccable guitar playing helped shape the sound of country music for generations to come.

Johnny Seay

Johnny Seay was one of the lesser-known guitarists behind the Nashville Sound, but his contributions were certainly no less significant. Here are some interesting facts about his playing style and career:

  • Background: Born in Texas in 1940, Seay began his musical career as a teen, playing in local bands and honing his skills as a vocalist and guitarist.
  • Recordings: In the 1960s, he signed with a Nashville label and began recording a series of country-pop hits, including “Frankie’s Man, Johnny,” “Day For Decision,” and “The Shelter of Your Eyes.”
  • Guitar Style: Seay was known for his smooth fingerstyle guitar playing, which combined elements of country and pop music. He was praised for his ability to create memorable hooks and inventive chord progressions that added depth and complexity to his songs.
  • Influences: Seay was influenced by established guitarists like Chet Atkins and Hank Garland, but he also drew inspiration from a wide variety of musical genres, including rock, jazz, and blues. This eclectic mix of influences allowed him to create a unique sound that was both familiar and fresh.
  • Career Highlights: Although Seay never achieved the same level of commercial success as some of his contemporaries, his contributions to the Nashville Sound were significant. In addition to his hit recordings, he also worked as a session musician and producer for a number of other artists.

Despite his relative obscurity today, Johnny Seay remains a respected figure in the world of country music, and a testament to the enduring legacy of the Nashville Sound.

Velma Smith

Velma Smith is one of the pioneering guitarists of the Nashville Sound movement, but she often goes unnoticed in music history. Her contributions to the genre are significant, however, and her style is unique among the other players of the Nashville Sound era.

Early Life and Career

Velma Smith was born in Oklahoma in 1927 and began learning the guitar at the age of 12. Her family moved frequently for her father’s work, eventually settling in California, where Velma began playing professionally in the 1940s. She played in various western swing bands, including Spade Cooley’s band, and gained a reputation as a skilled and versatile musician.

The Nashville Years

In 1958, Velma was invited to Nashville to record with singer Wanda Jackson. She immediately impressed the musicians and producers at RCA Studios with her playing, and soon became a sought-after session player. In addition to playing on recordings for Jackson, she played on albums by Brenda Lee, The Everly Brothers, and many others.

Style and Technique

Velma Smith’s guitar style is characterized by her use of double-stops and “harmony lines,” which add a unique flavor to her playing. She often played on a Fender Telecaster, which was a departure from the Gibson guitars favored by most Nashville Sound players. Her playing was often featured prominently in recordings, adding a distinctive sound to the overall arrangement.

Influence and Legacy

Despite her influential role in the Nashville Sound movement, Velma Smith is not as well-known as some of the other guitarists of the era. However, her unique playing style and skill as a session player left a lasting impact on country and rock music. Her use of the Telecaster, in particular, helped to establish the guitar as an important instrument in country music.

Velma Smith’s contributions to the Nashville Sound movement cannot be overlooked. Her use of double-stops and harmony lines, as well as her preference for the Telecaster, set her apart from other guitarists of the era and established her as a skilled and versatile musician. Though she may not be a household name, her influence on country and rock music is undeniable.

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Playing Style and Techniques

When it comes to the Nashville Sound and its pioneers, it’s impossible not to mention the extraordinary playing styles and techniques that made this genre so unique. The guitarists behind the craze each brought their own signature techniques to the table, whether it was fingerstyle, hybrid picking, or the use of the B-Bender guitar. In this section, we’ll explore some of these captivating techniques and how they contributed to the Nashville Sound’s distinctive style. Get ready to be amazed by the incredible skills and innovative approaches of these impressive musicians.


One of the key playing styles of the pioneering guitarists of the Nashville Sound was fingerstyle. Fingerstyle refers to a technique of playing guitar where the player plucks the strings with their fingers, rather than using a pick. Below are some of the techniques that are commonly used with fingerstyle playing:

  • Travis Picking: Named after Merle Travis, this technique involves alternating the bass note with the melody notes, creating a steady and complex rhythm.
  • Thumb Picking: This technique involves using the thumb to play the bass notes, while the fingers play the melody.
  • Fingerpicking: This technique involves plucking the strings with the fingertips, rather than the nails.
  • Classical Style: This technique is characterized by a rest stroke, where the fingers pluck the string and come to rest on the next higher string.

Fingerstyle playing requires a great deal of skill and practice, and the pioneering guitarists of the Nashville Sound were no exception. Chet Atkins, for example, was known for his intricate fingerstyle solos and arrangements. Hank Garland was also a master of fingerstyle playing, and his use of octaves and chord inversions helped to define the sound of the Nashville Sound.

Fingerstyle playing was a crucial component of the Nashville Sound, and the pioneering guitarists who used this technique helped to create a unique and influential style of music.

Hybrid Picking

Hybrid picking is a guitar playing technique that combines both pick and fingers. This technique is widely used by Nashville sound guitarists to create a unique sound. It allows for a greater level of control over melody lines and can also create a more complex texture by alternating between finger and pick playing.

To perform hybrid picking, a guitarist must hold the pick between the thumb and index finger while using the middle and ring fingers for fingerstyle playing. This technique allows for quick switching between playing with a pick and fingerstyle playing without losing fluidity in the notes.

Advantages of Hybrid Picking

One of the main advantages of hybrid picking is the ability to play lead guitar and rhythm guitar in the same song. A guitarist can play intricate lead guitar licks with the pick and fill in the chords with the fingers. This allows for a fuller sound while maintaining a strong rhythm section.

Another advantage of hybrid picking is greater control over string muting. When playing with a pick, unwanted string noise can occur due to the pick striking all the strings. Using fingers to pick specific strings helps prevent unnecessary string noise, producing a cleaner overall sound.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Picking

There are a few downsides to hybrid picking that guitarists should be aware of. This technique can be physically demanding for some guitarists, especially those with smaller hands, and may take some time to master. Another disadvantage is that it can be difficult to maintain consistent volume levels when switching between pick and fingerstyle playing.

Hybrid picking is a valuable technique to add to a guitarist’s toolbox. It allows for greater control over melody lines and can create a unique and complex texture in music. With practice and patience, this technique can be a useful addition to any guitarist’s playing style.

Advantages Disadvantages
Allows for playing lead and rhythm guitar in the same song Physically demanding, may be difficult for guitarists with smaller hands
Produces a fuller sound while maintaining a strong rhythm Difficulty maintaining consistent volume levels when switching between pick and fingerstyle playing
Greater control over string muting, producing a cleaner overall sound


One of the distinctive playing techniques utilized by pioneering guitarists of the Nashville Sound is “chucking.” Chucking is a percussive method of playing where the strings are muted by the palm of the picking hand to produce a rhythmic sound. This technique is often used in conjunction with a bass note played with the thumb of the picking hand.

Here are some key aspects of chucking:

  • The muting of the strings can be achieved by laying the palm of the picking hand across the strings, or by using the edge of the palm close to the bridge of the guitar.
  • Chucking evolved in response to the need for a driving rhythm section in country music. Guitarists realized that by using this technique, they could provide a strong rhythmic foundation while still playing solos or fills.
  • This technique is often heard in Chet Atkins’ and Hank Garland’s playing styles, and can be heard on iconic tracks such as “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, and “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets.
  • The percussive sound produced by chucking can also give the illusion of a drummer playing alongside the guitar, which was particularly important for early country recordings where resources were limited.

Chucking has become an integral part of the country guitar style and is still widely used today. This method of playing allows guitarists to provide a strong percussive element to their playing without compromising their melodic lines. By mastering the chucking technique, guitarists can add an extra layer of authenticity to their country sound, and pay homage to the pioneering guitarists who developed the Nashville Sound.


One of the most distinctive features of the Nashville Sound guitar style is the use of double-stops. Double-stops are when two notes are played simultaneously on adjacent strings, creating a harmonized effect. The technique adds a richness and depth to the sound of the guitar, and was often used in the solos of Nashville Sound songs, as well as in the accompaniment.

Pioneering Nashville Sound guitarist Chet Atkins was known for his use of double-stops, using them in both his solos and rhythm playing. Hank Garland was also regarded for his ability to seamlessly blend double-stops into his playing. Double-stops were an important part of Grady Martin’s guitar style too, as he would often use them to create a unique and unforgettable sound.

Double-stops can be played in various positions on the guitar neck and require precision and synchronization from both hands. Some common double-stop positions include playing two notes on the same fret across adjacent strings, playing two notes on adjacent frets across adjacent strings or playing two notes on the same string with another on an adjacent string.

This technique requires a great degree of finger control, as well as a good understanding of music theory – specifically, how different notes and chords can be harmonious when played together. It’s essential that the player knows which notes complement one another to create a pleasing sound.

Here is an example of some double-stop chord shapes:

G Major D Major A Major
E|—–3——| E|—–2——| E|—–0——|
B|—–0——| B|—–3——| B|—–2——|
G|—–0——| G|—–2——| G|—–2——|
D|—–0——| D|—–0——| D|—–2——|
A|—–2——| A|—–x——| A|—–0——|
E|—–3——| E|—–x——| E|—–x——|

Double-stops are a core element of the Nashville Sound guitar style that require skill and knowledge of music theory. Pioneering Nashville Sound guitarists such as Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, and Grady Martin used double-stops extensively in their playing and helped to establish them as a key part of the sound.

B-Bender Guitar

One of the groundbreaking techniques used by some of the pioneering guitarists of the Nashville Sound was the B-Bender Guitar. This technique was first introduced by the legendary guitarist Clarence White in the mid-1960s. The use of the B-Bender guitar allowed guitarists to create a pedal steel guitar sound on their regular electric guitars.

The B-Bender Guitar was essentially a mechanical device installed into the body of the guitar. This device enabled the guitarist to bend the B-string by pulling down on the guitar strap or using a lever attached to the device. The result of this action was a pitch change that mimicked the sound of a pedal steel guitar. This technique was used to create soaring, country-style melodies, and was especially popular in songs that featured a lot of sliding notes or “steel guitar” parts.

The B-Bender Guitar is a fascinating technique that requires a great deal of skill and practice to master. Many of the pioneer guitarists who used this technique were renowned for their impeccable timing and phrasing. Using the B-Bender guitar, they were able to produce some of the most beautiful and memorable solos in Nashville Sound history.

Some of the most notable country music stars who have used the B-Bender Guitar include Albert Lee, Vince Gill, and Keith Urban. In recent years, this technique has also been used in other genres of music such as rock, pop, and blues.

The B-Bender Guitar was a groundbreaking technique that revolutionized country music guitar playing. It allowed guitarists to achieve a sound that mimicked the pedal steel guitar, hence creating a new dimension of musical expression. The B-Bender Guitar requires a deep understanding of timing and phrasing to master, and its use has been influential in the genre of country music and beyond.

Volume Swells

One of the key techniques used by Nashville Sound guitarists is volume swells, also known as volume pedals. This effect is created using a pedal that allows the player to gradually increase or decrease the volume of their guitar while playing.

To achieve this effect, the guitarist will press down on the pedal with their foot, causing the volume to gradually increase. This allows for a smooth and gradual transition between notes, creating a beautiful and expressive sound.

Volume swells are commonly used in country music, as well as other genres such as rock and blues. They add a unique and emotional quality to a guitar solo, creating a sense of tension and release.

In addition to a volume pedal, some guitarists may also use compression pedals to further enhance the effect. A compression pedal will help to even out the volume levels, ensuring that the swells are consistent and smooth.

While volume swells may seem simple in theory, mastering the technique requires precision and control. It takes practice to be able to smoothly transition between notes and create the desired effect.

Volume swells are an important part of the Nashville Sound, adding depth and emotion to the music. Whether you’re a seasoned guitarist or just starting out, experimenting with volume swells can help take your playing to the next level.

Pros Cons
Creates a smooth and expressive sound Requires a pedal or effect
Can be used in various genres Takes practice to perfect
Enhances emotional quality of music May not be suitable for all types of music


As we conclude this journey into the fascinating world of the Nashville Sound and its pioneers, it becomes clear that these guitarists were much more than just musicians. They were innovators, trendsetters, and trailblazers who paved the way for generations of artists to come.

The Nashville Sound was a unique blend of country, pop, and rock that emerged in the 1950s and dominated the charts for decades. With lush string arrangements, smooth vocal harmonies, and expert guitar work, this sound captured the hearts of millions of fans worldwide.

Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, Grady Martin, Ray Edenton, Harold Bradley, Bob Moore, Jerry Reed, Glen Campbell, Johnny Seay, and Velma Smith were just a few of the guitarists who helped pioneer the Nashville Sound. Each had their distinct style and played a crucial role in shaping this genre.

Their playing style and techniques were just as unique and innovative as the music itself. From fingerstyle and hybrid picking to chucking and double-stops, these guitarists pushed the boundaries of what was possible on the instrument. Not to mention, the B-Bender guitar and volume swells were also created in this era.

Overall, the Nashville Sound and its pioneers left an indelible mark on the world of music. Their contributions helped shape the course of country, rock, and pop music for decades to come. It’s up to us to honor their memory and continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible on the guitar.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the Nashville sound and classic country music?

The Nashville sound incorporated pop and rock music elements into traditional country music, while classic country relied heavily on acoustic instruments and traditional country music structures.

Who were some of the most influential guitarists of the Nashville sound?

Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, Grady Martin, Jerry Reed, and Glen Campbell were among the most influential guitarists of the Nashville sound.

What kind of guitar playing techniques were common in the Nashville sound?

Fingerstyle, hybrid picking, chucking, double-stops, volume swells, and the B-Bender guitar were all common techniques used in the Nashville sound.

What is hybrid picking?

Hybrid picking is a guitar playing technique that involves using both the pick and fingers to pluck the strings.

What is the B-Bender guitar?

The B-Bender guitar is a modified guitar that allows the player to bend the B-string up one whole tone using a lever.

Who was known for inventing the B-Bender guitar?

The B-Bender guitar was invented by Gene Parsons, who played with The Byrds during the 1960s.

What is chucking in guitar playing?

Chucking is a guitar playing technique where the player mutes the strings with their fretting hand while simultaneously picking or strumming them to create a percussive sound.

Who pioneered the Nashville sound?

Producer Owen Bradley and guitarist Chet Atkins both played a significant role in pioneering the Nashville sound.

What is the impact of the Nashville sound on modern country music?

The Nashville sound had a significant impact on modern country music by popularizing the genre and opening up doors for more crossover success outside of traditional country music audiences.

What can we learn from studying the guitar playing techniques of the pioneers of the Nashville sound?

By studying the guitar playing techniques of the pioneers of the Nashville sound, we can gain insight into the evolution of country music and the influence of pop and rock music on the genre.


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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