More on Exploring Country-Style “Chicken Pickin’ ” Techniques in Metal

Last month, I introduced the concept of bringing the country guitar technique known as chicken pickin’ into metal music and metal-style solos.

To review, the technique is performed using hybrid picking, as notes are alternately sounded with the downstroke of the pick followed by an upstroke with a fingertip (typically the middle finger). The fingerpicked upstroke serves to snap the string against the fretboard, and this aggressive, “cluck”-type sound is the reason this technique is often referred to as chicken pickin’.

I presented the technique last month by playing phrases that moved across pairs of adjacent strings, from high to low, starting with a picked downstroke on the lower of the two strings, followed by a fingerpicked upstroke on the higher of the two strings. We’ll now delve deeper into other neat things you can do with chicken pickin’.

I am fascinated with the idea of applying syncopated, drum-like figures to the guitar, and I have found that using chicken pickin’ is a great way to recreate those sounds in a melodic way. One such syncopation is that of two 16th notes followed by a 16th-note triplet, played repeatedly on the downbeat of each quarter note across multiple bars.

FIGURE 1 illustrates this pattern performed on the top two strings, starting with a pick stroke on the B string followed by a fingerpick on the high E string, after which the two techniques alternate throughout the remainder of the figure. Notice that the 16th-note triplet is achieved via a quick hammer/pull between two notes on the high E string.

The next step is to move this concept across every pair of strings in a descending manner, as demonstrated in FIGURE 2: at the culmination of executing the initial pattern on the top two strings, I begin the next sequence on the third and second strings with a pickup into beat two, by sounding the 10th fret of the third string on the last 16th note of the first beat, following each quick hammer/pull. I then apply this same “jump start” to each new string pair as I progress through the entire pattern. The scale upon which these phrases are based in the B blues scale (B D E F F# A).

Another effective approach is to remain on a single pair of strings but move up and down through all of the fretboard positions of minor pentatonic. In FIGURE 3, I begin with the same phrase that kicks off FIGURES 1 and 2, but I immediately shift from seventh position up to 10th position on beat two to sound the notes associated with B minor pentatonic (B D E F# A) in that position. This is followed with shifts up to 12th, 14th, 17th and 19th positions.

And finally, yet another cool twist is to use non-adjacent strings, as shown in FIGURE 4: here, I remain on the third and first strings, and progressively descend the fretboard in a chromatic, one-fret-at-a-time manner.

Now that you have the basic idea, try devising your own chicken-picked phrases and solo ideas.