Published on March 16th, 2015 | by Sam0
Brent Mason Chicken Pickin Licks – It’s Time You Learned About Leaving
I’ve written a ton about Brent Mason, so on this solo transcription I won’t go into too much detail about him. One thing to note is that his work with Alan Jackson in the late 1980s and early 1990s was some of the greatest country guitar playing on record and pretty much all of it is worth digging into to mine for chicken pickin licks.
It’s Time You Learned About Leaving is from Alan’s Everything I Love album. from 1996. There are a couple great short solos at the beginning of the song, but for this lesson we will check out the fills played behind the final chorus of the tune.
The Clucka is a signature sound of Chicken Pickin’. Everyone has their own way of achieving the sound, but the basics of it are playing slightly dampened notes – usually pretty fast. I tend to just lift my finger slightly off the fret, so my fingertip is still on the string deadening the note. The notation marks these as “X” – so you can really be on any fret that’s comfortable for you at that moment. The Clucka will take some practice, so make sure to take some of these licks out of context to practice. One of the trickiest things about it is governing how hard you’re pushing on the string. Just spend some time experimenting with this and you’ll figure out what works for you.
The Cluckas are a huge part of this solo, so make sure you work on them. Brent tends to play them either as sixteenth notes or as fast sextuplets. Try thinking of a phrase that mimics the rhythm of the sextuplet – I always default to “Buck-et-a” because I would sing jazz basslines that had a similar rhythm as “Buck-et-a jazz.” The rhythm stuck with me as ‘buck-et-a’. Make up your own phrases though, they will be more meaningful and easier to use.
Chicken Pickin’ Harmony
Notice that Brent stays pretty much within the scale for the entire section. The only chromatic notes are notes that resolve into a chord note – something that would make any trained bebop player proud. Mason also tends to slide from a non-chord note INTO a chord note on an off beat. This creates some of the tension in this kind of solo. He also ends each phrase either on the root (4 times) or the third (2 times) which highlights just how important endings of phrases are in chicken pickin’. Also notice that Brent resolves each line to a chord – these aren’t just sweet chicken pickin licks in space. They are chicken pickin licks with a purpose! This is a major factor in propelling a solo forward instead of just ‘sitting there’.
Pull Off Chicken Pickin’ Licks
The 6th bar features a really great pull off lick. Country guitarists use all of the guitar’s idiosyncrasies including pull offs. Most of these are from an off beat to a beat, which gives some nice accents to the rhythmic feel of the line. Again, he resolves the line, which usually can make up for any odd sounds in the line. Context is king, and context will always trump harmony.