by Adam Levy

This guitar lesson is a preview of what’s to come in Adam Levy‘s 50 Low-Down Rhythm Licks. Stay tuned for more to come and an announcement of the full course soon. Be sure to subscribe to stay tuned!

It starts with a cowbell and ends with a horn section, but in between, the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” is all about Keith Richards’ open-G country-rock riffing. In the verse sections, Richards leans heavy on the downbeats, keeping the chords bone-simple. Richards fills the gaps in Mick Jagger’s vocal lines (bars 3 and 4, and 7 and 8 ) with sly double- and triple-stop jabs, giving the verses a bluesy call-and-response shape. My favorite bit, though, is the down-and-dirty major-pentatonic phrase at the end of bar 8.

It’s possible to approximate “Honky Tonk Women” in standard tuning, of course, but it is so much more fun to play in open-G (low to high: D, G, D, G, B, D). From standard tuning, you’ll need to tune your low E down to D, your A down to G, and your high E down to D. If you’re an open-tunings newbie, don’t panic. Open-G is a relatively easy one to get comfortable with, as the three middle strings—D, G, and B—remain unchanged. To nail the funky feel of the original, put your pick down and play with your bare fingers.

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Adam LevyA longtime friend of the ‘Fire, Adam Levy has been unlocking the guitar for students of all levels and varied interests for decades. His teaching experience comprises several years with the National Guitar Workshop, the Blue Bear School in San Francisco, and private lessons for New School in New York City. He is also a talented artist and songwriter, having worked with Norah Jones, Amos Lee, and Tracy Chapman. Be sure to check out Adam’s official website, his insightful blog, and his latest album, The Heart Collector.