Country Guitar


Authored by Kevin Belz


Course Code: OGUIT-228

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


In Country Guitar students will learn how to play guitar in the country music style. The course begins with the basic tools and techniques that are essential for any country guitar player and gradually gets more complex as we work through the various sub-genres of country music, including western swing, fingerstyle, truck-drivin’ songs, and modern pop/rock country. The course covers techniques for developing, practicing, and performing melody lines, various country style rhythms, soloing, and improvisation, as well as, playing melody and bass lines while simultaneously playing through chord progressions. Finally, the course covers other types of guitars that are prominent in country music such as the baritone guitar and the pedal steel guitar, and explores techniques on how to mimic those sounds with a standard guitar. By the end of this course, students will be able to confidently play with a country music ensemble.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Perform a variety of country style rhythms
  • Utilize your new knowledge of scales to develop country licks, melodies, and solos
  • Perform a variety of country music feels including straight eighths, boogie-woogie, country swing, country shuffle, and honky tonk
  • Perform a variety of country music picking techniques including banjo rolls, chicken pickin’, bending, hybrid picking, muted picking, and sixteenth-note boogie woogie
  • Play melody lines and chord progressions simultaneously
  • Play with a deeper knowledge of common chord structures used in country music
  • Practice translating baritone guitar and pedal steel guitar lines and feels on a standard guitar
  • Practice and perform fingerstyle playing
  • Confidently perform with a country music ensemble
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Building a Country Guitar Repertoire

  • Open Chord Review, and applying the CAGED System
  • More Basic Chords
  • Rhythm Guitar Song Study
  • Learning the Melody
  • Chord Melody
  • Lick of the Week: Intro Phrase
  • Assignment 1: ‘Wildwood Flower’ by the Carter Family

Lesson 2: Country Rhythm Guitar and the Influence of Sun Records

  • Country Rhythm Styles, Telecaster Tones, and Amplifier Types
  • The Electric Country Guitar Sound
  • Theory Review: Diatonic Harmony and Triads
  • The Guitar Sounds of Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, and Loretta Lynn
  • Music Theory Review: Chord Recognition and Common Tones
  • The Rhythm Playing Style of Luther Perkins
  • Lick of the Week
  • Assignment 2: ‘Mystery Train’ by Elvis Presley

Lesson 3: Country Guitar Scales: Pentatonic, Major and Minor, Blues Scale, Hybrid Scale

  • Major, Minor Pentatonic and Blues Scales
  • Incorporating the Major Pentatonic Scale
  • Applying the Major, Minor Pentatonic, and Blues Scales
  • Turnaround Phrase
  • Developing Phrases Using Scales
  • Hybrid Pentatonic Scales—Blues vs. Country
  • Lick of the Week
  • Assignment 3: Playing Minor and related Major Pentatonic in Position

Lesson 4: The Sounds of Bakersfield and Honky-Tonk

  • Honky-Tonk and Rhythmic Approaches
  • Hybrid Picking
  • 12-Bar Blues Pattern Shuffle
  • Lick of the Week
  • The Bakersfield Sound
  • ‘Buckaroo’ by Buck Owens
  • Assignment 4: Honky-tonk Rhythm and Lead

Lesson 5: Country Shuffle and Country Waltz Styles

  • Shuffle Rhythm
  • Harmonized E Major Scale
  • Country Shuffle
  • Lick of the Week
  • Harmonizing a Major and Hexatonic Scale in 3rds and 4ths
  • Assignment 5: ‘Bartender's Blues’ by George Jones

Lesson 6: Soloing and Improvisation

  • Overview: How to Build a Solo
  • Using Chords
  • Embellishing the Melody
  • Lick of the Week
  • When to NOT Play
  • Using Chords
  • Assignment 6: Solo Development

Lesson 7: Country Guitar Vocabulary

  • Classic Country Style Intros, Turnarounds, and Endings
  • Mixolydian Licks
  • 3rds and 6ths
  • Changing Keys and Scales
  • Lick of the Week
  • Assignment 7: Solo Transcriptions

Lesson 8: Western Swing

  • Western Swing as a Genre
  • Chord Inversions
  • Common Chord Progressions
  • Rhythm Changes
  • Lick of the Week
  • Assignment 7: Western Swing Style of Bob Wills

Lesson 9: Truck Drivin’ Songs

  • What Makes a Truck Drivin’ Song?
  • The Rhythm of Truck Drivin’ Songs
  • The Baritone Guitar
  • Making your Standard Guitar Sound Like a Baritone
  • Drop D Tuning
  • Lick of the week
  • Assignment 9: ‘Roll Truck Roll’ - Red Simpson

Lesson 10: Country Rock/Pop

  • Chordal Approach
  • Modulations
  • Guitar Tone
  • Using Effects Pedals
  • Lick of the Week
  • Assignment 10: Modern Country

Lesson 11: Playing Like a Pedal Steel

  • The Pedal Steel Guitar
  • Using Your Volume Pedal to get a Pedal Steel Sound
  • Playing with a Slide
  • Lick of the Week
  • Bends
  • Assignment 11: ‘The Bottle Let Me Down’ by Merle Haggard

Lesson 12: Fingerstyle

  • Merle Travis
  • Fingerstyle Patterns
  • Chord Melody Fingerstyle
  • Chet Atkins
  • Adding a Bass Line
  • Lick of the Week
  • Assignment: ‘Freight Train’ by Elizabeth Cotton


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Guitar Chords 101 and Guitar Scales 101 or equivalent knowledge is required. Students should have at least one year of playing experience and the ability to play some scales and chords on the guitar. Guitar tablature and some chord blocks, in addition to traditional notation, will be used throughout the course.


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)



  • Electric or acoustic guitar
  • Guitar tuner (software/app acceptable)


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • Instrument connected directly to audio interface (recommended electric option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and a microphone stand.


  • Metronome (hardware or software/app)

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Kevin Belz

Author & Instructor

Kevin Belz is a versatile and well-rounded musician with years of playing experience, including extensive touring both internationally and nationally. Some of the names he has recorded with and/or played with include New Orleans piano great and legend Henry Butler, Susan Tedeschi from the Derek Trucks Tedeschi band, Blues great Duke Robillard, Ellis Hall of the Tower of Power band, Mighty Sam McClain, and Handy Award nominee Toni Lynn Washington, to name a few. He has shared the stage with Blues legend, BB King, Buddy Guy, and Ray Charles. He has also toured, performed, and recorded with “ The Commander Cody Band”  playing a mix of Country, Western Swing, and rockabilly.

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Along with his full schedule at Berklee as Assistant professor in the Guitar Department teaching Jazz, Rock and Blues styles, he also has a full schedule of playing live shows and records in and around the New England area. He has been a regular faculty member at Berklee College for the past 18 years. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Country Guitar can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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