30-day guitar challenge: Chicken picking has it uses outside of pure country circles and it's a great technique to have up your sleeve
After briefly indulging the egg-stremely powerful urge to kick off with a poultry-based pun, we should probably explain that chicken picking takes its name from the 'clucking' sound of strings bouncing off the fretboard, particularly when palm-muted.
The technique is also known as hybrid picking because it is a hybrid of picking and fingerstyle. Key players are Albert Lee and Johnny Hiland, who play mostly country, and John 5 and Zakk Wylde who fuse the technique into a rock, metal and country hybrid.
Your first aim is to identify a pick-hand position that allows you to alternate pick as well as fingerpick with your remaining fingers. It is vital that your pick doesn't collide with your fingers. You'll need to be able to apply palm muting, so keep reasonably close to the bridge.
Here are some stylistic licks that should help you get up to speed with this tricky technique.
Pull-off to an open string
Begin by trying this pull-off lick based on an E chord. The open-string G note clashes with the G#, but this is vital to the country vibe. Plectrum picking and fingerpicking are both used, so make sure you are comfortable holding your pick and picking with your middle finger.
Pull-off to an open string tab (right-click to download)
If you can play the previous example, then this is the next logical step, as you repeat the lick over and again at speed.
Small, precise pick-hand movements are the name of the game here. Don't try to go too fast too soon, though; focus on keeping both hands in sync at a steady pace.
Repeating pull-off tab (right-click to download)
Here we adapt the basic three-note line, specifically in the last five notes of this 11-note sequence.
Trying to get the feel of the odd number of notes is tricky, but try accenting each 4th-fret B note. Count '1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2, 1 2 3' to get a feel for the note groupings.
Rhythm change tab (right-click to download)
Here, the emphasis is on two elements of hybrid picking: first, fingerpicking two strings instead of just one; and second, using palm muting to enhance the 'clucking chicken' sound. You mainly want to mute the fourth string, but try extending the muting across higher strings, too.
String muting tab (right-click to download)
Round things off with this speedy lick, drawing on both country and rock influences.
Mixing up the more traditional pentatonic-based licks with two- and three-string hybrid licks is key to playing convincing country shred guitar.
Incorporating pentatonics tab (right-click to download)