Chicken Pickin' jamesburton

Published on April 28th, 2014 | by Sam


James Burton Chicken Pickin 2

James Burton has had a very long, very amazing career.  His chicken pickin’ has completely changed the face of both country music and even been incorporated into rock and roll!  We’re going to look at a few of James Burton chicken pickin’ licks from his work with, of all bands, the Monkees!  But don’t discount this stuff, JB absolutely kills this tune.

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James Burton Chicken Pickin Lick 1

Our first James Burton Chicken Pickin’ lick is a simple one, but a necessary one to have in your bag of tricks.  We’re in the key of A here.  The 2nd is bent up to reach the 3rd of the chord, then comes back down the major pentatonic scale.  Effective, even though it’s a little simple!

James Burton Chicken Pickin

James Burton Chicken Pickin Lick 2

The second lick from this Monkees tunes over a B minor chord.  He starts with a pre-bend that is released to the 4th, then basically moves into the minor pentatonic this time with a chromatic note thrown in.

James Burton Chicken Pickin 2

James Burton Chicken Pickin Lick 3

The final Monkees-James Burton Chicken Pickin’ lick that we’ll look at is a really great one.  We’re back in the key of A, and back to the major pentatonic scale.  The first measure is in a slightly unorthodox fingering, but one that should be relatively comfortable-it’s very similar to the E major pentatonic, but with a middle finger on the B string instead of the first finger.  The rhythm may look a little scary at the end, but it can be played as “dit-dah, dit-dit-dah.”  The lick happens towards the middle of the song, so listen through the tune.  The second measure of this lick brings us back to the same position as the first lick.

James Burton Chicken Pickin 3

When you’re working on improvising, really in any style, it’s a great idea to start making these licks your own.  One way to do this is to sort of cut and paste a couple together.  If you’re wanting to emulate the James Burton chicken pickin’ style, but don’t want to copy his licks exactly, try putting lick 1 into the second bar of lick 3.  Or, put lick 1 into the first bar of lick 3.  Then try editing some of the rhythms.  The key here is to get into the music and do it.  You’ll learn almost as much from doing things wrong as you will from someone telling you how to do it right.  Just try to make the mistakes in the ‘shed instead of in front of an audience!

Bonus James Burton Chicken Pickin’ Lick

Bonus time! Here’ is a really fun lick from an Elvis Presley tune.  James Burton played with Elvis for years and was THE key member of Elvis’ band in the 70s.  Sometimes Elvis’ music after 1958 can get a little corny, but when JB is at the helm the band is absolutely rocking!  This lick is in the key of A.

James Burton Chicken Pickin

If you’re into chicken pickin’, make sure to do 2 things before you leave.  Sign up for my newsletter – you’ll get a FREE eBook, Chicken Pickin’ 101, among other great downloads.  Then make sure to check out my new Chicken Pickin’ book  for only $16.99!  It has over 100 chicken pickin’ licks organized by context, which is almost always the missing ingredient in solos! Supercharge your country guitar playing today and grab the book.


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2 Responses to James Burton Chicken Pickin 2

  1. Anthony says:

    Sam Smiley.Nice site great content! You’re an excellent instructor! I’ll be ordering a kindle version of your Chicken Picken book.Thanks and GBY, Anthony Smith

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