Joe Dalton’s Big Twang
Chicken pickin’ is a flashy style which requires a strong right hand attack and the use of either the middle or ring fingers in a hybrid picking style, snapping the strings against the fingerboard. Although the technique requires some speed to be played convincingly, digging in
and picking hard are just as important. Harmonically, chicken pickin’ relies on both major and minor pentatonic scales, mixing them constantly. To hear the technique in action, check out pickers like James Burton, Albert Lee, Arlen Roth, Ray Flacke and Brent Mason.
The main theme of “Chicken Pickin’” is based on an almost call-and-response type riff, beginning with a bend using the A major pentatonic, and responding with a first position minor pentatonic/chromatic run down from the root, b7, 5, b5, 4 and a quarter-step bend on the
b3 before resolving to the A with some tasty double-stops. The first run over the IV chord is based on an extended D major pentatonic,
repurposing the ubiquitous Lester Flatt bluegrass riff, finishing with a quick shift to the D minor pentatonic scale for a bluesy, b7 bend,
before coming back home to the main theme over the I.
Over the V we play a cool E major pentatonic pull-off riff which should move along quickly enough that the b3 adds a bit of flavor instead
of dissonance. Moving back to the IV chord features a run up riff that should sound familiar to country fans. The key to playing this riff
successfully is by playing the triplet figures as percussively as possible – mute with your left hand most of the way through so the note on
the high E really pops. Also, using your pick for the G string and finger to pop the E will really help this lick flow.
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