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Andy Wood - Country Guitar Part 7: Triplets

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 42 **

A huge part of playing in any style is to have an understanding of the clichés. That word can often have a negative connotation associated with it, but in my mind, that doesn’t make sense. Yes, a cliché might be something that is overplayed, but they're a big part of making anything sound authentic. You might argue that the same repetitive sentence structures used over and over with the same words is a cliché, but without them, you might question if I know how to speak the language at all, or if I'm just hoping for the best.

A sure fire way to get you some of that classic chicken pickin' sound into you playing is to master the way Country players approach triplets.

The best way to do this would be to understand why players use these triplets, so before learning the notes to play, you'll know the best place to use them.

When you think of long flowing 8th or 16th note Country lines we're repeating that

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + etc.

but adding a triplet in there gives a feeling of acceleration which is exciting.

1 + 2 + 3 + a 4 +

This can be even more effective when the triplet is followed by a single note rather than more 8th notes, it gives a feeling of accelerating to a note then really accentuating that note.

1 + a 2 3 + a 4

There are obviously multiple ways we can approach this concept, and it's been done numerous ways by countless players over the generations. The first way might be to just treat the triplet on the D string as a palm muted slide which you articulate rather loosely then accent the note on the B string. This is the oldest way of doing it, and you'll hear it from players like Roy Nichols, Jerry Reed and James Burton.

As the years went by, players came along and made this concept a little more articulate. Rather than sliding and muting the triplet, they would treat these 3 notes as melodic content in their own right. This can be a little harder as you need to be considerably more accurate, but it results in a sound that feels a little different from the previous one, especially if you remove the muting. Think of guys like Brad Paisley, Keith Urban or Jerry Donahue for this thing.

The final way comes from the real hot pickers, rather than playing 3 notes on a single string, they'll ascend a pentatonic scale, or arpeggio to create some more melodically intricate ideas and options. So if we're in the key of A, before we might have played B C C# A (chromatic on the D string) but playing scales or arpeggios might result in C# E F# A. This is something you would hear from the real technical players like Brent Mason, or Albert Lee.

The final thing you might add to this would be to accentuate the single notes as double stops on the higher strings. This is really tricky at first, but adds some real authentic spank and sparkle to your lines. So rather than hitting just an A on the B string, why not play A and C# together to sound like an A chord? This can lead you perfectly into the double stop ideas we looked at previously.

There's a lot to digest here, so take your time looking at the tab, and try to come up with your own ides combining the triplets and double stops to really make them your own.

Good luck and I'll see you next time!


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