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Basic Bluegrass Licks and Guitar Scales

Lesson 1 – Bluegrass Guitar Solo Improvising Course
Lesson ID: A0112

In this guitar lesson, I’ll teach you some basic bluegrass licks in the key of G that will get you started improvising bluegrass lead guitar. We’ll also talk about the guitar scales that you need to learn for improvising bluegrass solos. After you master the guitar licks, practice the arranged solo and your bluegrass improvising skills with the jam along video!

Important Points:

⇒ All four of these licks are in the key of G.
⇒ In bluegrass, it’s common to form licks around the chord progression.
⇒ Lick 1 is a key of G lick formed around the G major chord.
⇒ Lick 2 is a key of G lick formed around the C major chord.
⇒ Lick 3 is a key of G lick formed around the D major chord.
⇒ Lick 4 is a key of G lick formed around the G major chord.



Video Start Time Lesson Topic
00:00 min Chord Progression
00:39 min How to Play the Licks over the Progression
01:07 min Bluegrass Licks Formed Around Chords

Lick 1

Video Start Time Lesson Topic
00:00 min Lick 1 Breakdown with Tablature
01:29 min Guitar Scales You Need to Learn for Bluegrass Improvising
03:44 min How the Scales are Used to Create Lick 1
04:53 min Improvising with Scales

Lick 2

Video Start Time Lesson Topic
00:00 min Lick 2 Breakdown with Tablature
01:16 min How Lick 2 is Formed Around the C7 Chord
02:07 min How the Scales are Used to Create Lick 2

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Lick 3

Video Start Time Lesson Topic
00:00 min Lick 3 Breakdown with Tablature
01:00 min Following the Rhythm Guitar’s Chord Progression
01:37 min How the Scales are Used to Create Lick 3
03:18 min Scales You Should Learn First for Bluegrass Improvising

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Lick 4

Video Start Time Lesson Topic
00:00 min Lick 4 Breakdown with Tablature
00:38 min The Most Important Lick in Bluegrass
02:24 min How the Scales are Used to Create Lick 4
03:19 min Using the Scales to Get that Bluegrass Sound

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Jam Track Example:

Video Start Time Lesson Topic
00:00 min Practice Licks 1 through 4
00:34 min Jam Track – Format
00:55 min Jam Track – Count In

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MP3 Jam Tracks

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Scale Charts

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7 years ago

Another fantastic lesson!!

7 years ago

I can’t say thank you enough for this course. i’ve been trying to build my improvising skills so I can keep up at my monthly jam here in WV. Keep up the good work Devin

5 years ago
Reply to  Ron

What town do you live in, I’ve been looking for people to play with

7 years ago

Enjoyed the lesson very much Devin. very good instructions and easy to follow.
Thanks Bill

Devin (@guest_573)
7 years ago
Reply to  bfaust203

Thanks Bill! Really appreciate it.

Mark (@guest_578)
7 years ago

Nice lesson. Very helpful. Thanks!

Paul (@guest_579)
7 years ago

Excellent, this is exactly what I’m wanting to learn! Keep them coming!

7 years ago

I’ve been pulling bits and pieces from lots of resources to try to learn bluegrass and country guitar. Your lessons tie it all together so nicely. My biggest challenge, because I’m so excited about all your lessons have to offer, will be to slow down and take the time to really digest all the great info. I’ve taken the Rhythm Lesson 1 and now this lesson. Great stuff!
-Bill P

7 years ago

Thanks Devin. Lessons are great. Question however.
How can I smooth out my picking? I am using medium light strings acoustic guitar.
Star pick .60mm . Tried different picks but not smooth enough.

Kate D
Kate D(@kdillon91)
3 years ago
Reply to  Devin

i realize that i’m commenting 4 years after you wrote this lol but now I’m in the same boat as the parent comment – I’ve been plateaued at about 110 bpm (on both Black Mountain Rag & Jerusalem Ridge) for 2 months or so and was wondering if I should go back and practice them more slowly to build up precision and add speed?

7 years ago

I’m just beginning to learn scales and I’ m hoping that they will help with my basic guitar strumming by adding riffs and licks…one question though and forgive my naivety..if we can combine the G major and blues scales Positions 1 and 5 would it not be easier to just remember the notes that are not to be played , like E on the 4th fret for example. That way we know that all other notes are fair play?
7 years ago

Devin, I just noticed that the first note of lick #2 (D string 1st fret) is not on the G major scale, or the Blues scale. I suppose that instead of the E flat to E hammer on, you could hammer onto the E from the open D… and it sounds good…. and that keeps it on the scales. I guess another point to be made is that if you stray off of the combined (or hybrid) scale here and there, its not the end of the world. Also, do you think of that first note as just a lead-in… Read more »

6 years ago

For a beginner like me, this was an excellent lesson! Thank you, Devin.

5 years ago


5 years ago

I hear the beginner version of a Tony Rice lick! A great place to start. Thank you!

5 years ago
Reply to  tkeibler

Which Tony Rice lick?

5 years ago

If you want to learn how to play bluegrass you can not go wrong by not joining this website. Thanks Devin these are the best lessons around with one of the best teaching methods available.

5 years ago

Excellent explanation thanks Devin!

5 years ago

This is a great site. Thank you for your effort.

4 years ago

In addition to the AB looper, please replace the backing track. Looks like you upgraded to site (yea)!

4 years ago

a great lesson ..thanks Devin ….. finally while in lockdown I’m getting same serious practice happening.

joe michelotti
joe michelotti(@banjoe)
4 years ago

Why do you call this fifth position? I thought fifth position began with the fifth fret.

Jon Manning
Jon Manning(@jonny_guitar)
4 years ago

Awesome building blocks. This is stuff I’ve learned before, either directly or tangentially. It’s great to slow things down and put some of this into muscle memory backed up by theory.

3 years ago

Devin, question around flat picking technique. The right hand, are you “anchoring” it with your pinky finger. I noticed on Wheel Hoss you seem to anchor your right hand but on the licks you don’t. Can you advise please?

David Reid
David Reid(@david-r)
3 years ago

This is excellent! So glad that I found your site.

David Reid
David Reid(@david-r)
3 years ago

I love this lesson. However, one thing confuses me a bit. What is referred to here as “position 5” I have always called the “first position”. What is called “position 1” I don’t know what to call. Probably not a big deal, more important to just be able to play it.

3 years ago
Reply to  Devin

I’ve been attending Tom Strahle’s 3x a week pentatonic classes (on YouTube). He calls them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 he says he’s always done that. He also said he knows the ‘right’ way but just goes 1,2,3,4,5. I say just play and don’t split every hair lol unless I’m going into publishing I’m too old to care anymore. So I just play. Lol

Doug Pillow
Doug Pillow(@dougiep2010)
3 years ago

Does the G major scale chart have an extra note n it? 4th fret G string doesn’t sound right at all.

Doug Pillow
Doug Pillow(@dougiep2010)
3 years ago
Reply to  Devin

It does, thank you. Very new to guitar, still learning. Past beginner level, but not by very much. Finding the lessons here very easy to understand and follow.

Álvaro Antonio Fuente Lortia
3 years ago

Thanks Devin for making it so easy yo learn

Donald Bridgers
Donald Bridgers(@pearlsnaps)
3 years ago

I took the scale chart and penciled in left handed scales (yes, I’m a southpaw) for the 4 scales. Then I made a scales that started on G and ended on G for all 4 scales. That means dropping a few notes from the scales. Only then did it sound like a scale to me. Hearing the scale as I played helped me memorize the notes. Why did I go to all this trouble? Cause I’m sure I’ll see these scales again and again as I learn new licks.

David Webster
David Webster(@dwebman)
3 years ago

Hi Devin,
When I choose the TAB MP3Jam Tracks I get this screen but nothing I can play: How do I access the jam tracks?

Tyler Burley
Tyler Burley(@tburley)
3 years ago

Great lesson – thank you so much!

2 years ago

Absolut klasse!!! Toll!!!

John Zimmerman
John Zimmerman(@jzimmerman)
1 year ago

That was a lot of fun! Thanks Devin

1 year ago

anyone else have a problem with adjusting speed of jan track ?

Hunter Humphrey
Hunter Humphrey(@hunterh)
2 months ago

I really like this lesson