Every once in a while, things at the country jam may become a bit… unpredictable. It’s standard to need to be able to improvise, but when you’re unfamiliar with the country tune, how do you lead your band?

In his course, Ten Gallon Guitar: Intros Outros & Turnarounds, the esteemed Johnny Hiland lays down a country guitar formula for to use any time you’re in doubt and need to take the jam by the horns.

Here are 10 country guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Johnny Hiland’s Ten Gallon Guitar: Intros Outros & Turnarounds on TrueFire!

Working Man in A Intro: Overview


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

We’ll get things started with a working man blues feeling track in the key of A. Now if you picture yourself on stage and you’re looking back at the drummer to figure out what y’all are going to play, he’ll probably look back at you and say, “Hey man, it’s just four bars of 1, I’m going to give you a four count.” Now, that doesn’t really say if you have pickup notes or not, or if you should play pickup notes, or how you would even do it. When the drummer goes 1, 2, 3, 4…then you need to be playing your pickup notes on 3. But, 9 times out of 10 on a working man blues feel, I just wait for that 1 to hit and just floor it.

Working Man in A Intro: Performance


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

Here’s an intro lick to be used when you’re playing a working man blues feel in A. The goal here is to play something that can bring the singer in and land on our feet on the root.

Working Man in A Intro: Breakdown


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

This first track is a working man blues style rhythm, which is essentially 4 bars of 1. It seems weird that a song would just start with a 1 chord, but that happens quite regularly in country music. This means we have sixteen beats to work over, so I tend to break them up into two sections. I’ll lead into the song with something simple, and of course, bending the strings and getting a really twangy sound really works. In the video lesson, I’ll show you how to play this intro part including all the techniques needed to pull it off. Let’s check it out.

Working Man in A Turnaround: Performance


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

Now let’s look at the turnaround for our working man blues in A. Again, here we’re just playing just four bars on 1.

Working Man in A Turnaround: Breakdown


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

So: What is a turnaround? A turnaround actually happens after the first chorus, and it usually just segues a little bit of instrumentation in between the chorus and the next verse for the singer. Kind of gives them a little breath, which is a good thing sometimes! And of course, sometimes songs have a lot of verses and choruses, so a full-on solo doesn’t make sense.

Okay, so from a guitar player’s perspective, what’s really important about this turnaround? Well, essentially it’s the same thing as the intro, with one exception. I like to change the turnaround up a little bit – keeping the signature lick, like we did in the intro – and then I like to go a little higher on the neck to give it a little bit of a climactic climb to the next verse for the singer.

Working Man in A Outro: Performance


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

We’ll wrap up things here with the outro for our working man blues in A.

Working Man in A Outro: Breakdown


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

Now folks we’re diving into a four bar outro. An outro of a song means we’re getting out of there – this song is done, and it’s time to put this puppy to rest. Well, how do we do that properly? For me, especially in a chicken pickin’ tune like this, I like to start high and work my way low, so the song hits the climactic point right when the singer ends and then finishes on an A chord.

G Standard Country Intro: Performance


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

Here we get things started over our G standard country tune with the intro. We’ll be keeping things simple here to stick with tradition, just trying to bring the singer in on the tune.

E Rockabilly Outro: Performance


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

Now we’ll look at the outro for our rockabilly track in E.

Swing in A Turnaround: Performance


Download the tab & notation for this country guitar lesson

Now let’s check out how to play the turnaround for our Western swing track in A.

Digging these free country guitar lessons? Check out Ten Gallon Guitar: Intros Outros & Turnarounds.

Sweetwater