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That Country Vibe – How to achieve an award winning country tone! Part I

Country music is a genre that is defined by its amazing prowess of guitar playing. With iconic artists like Chet Atkins, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban setting the new standard for the style of country guitar playing, it is not just the old school ‘twang’ it used to be. If you’re looking to play country guitar, here are some essential pieces of gear that will help you get a jump start on that Nashville country feeling.

  • Electric or Acoustic Guitar
    Country music has been played on both electric and acoustic guitars for a long time, so the first step is to choose the right guitar for you. For a traditional country sound, a hollow or semi-hollow electric guitar like a Gibson ES-335 or Gretsch Nashville is a good choice. For a more modern country sound, a solid-body electric guitar like a Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster is a popular choice. Alternatively, for those singer songwriter types, you can opt for an acoustic guitar, like a Martin or Taylor, which is a great choice for playing country ballads and acoustic numbers.
  • Amplifier
    If you’re playing electric guitar, you’ll need the right type of amplifier to get that signature country sound. For a classic country tone, a tube amp like a Fender Deluxe Reverb or a Vox AC30 is a good choice. These amps are known for their warm, clean tones that can be overdriven when needed. Alternatively, you can use a digital modeling amp like a Line 6 Helix or Kemper Profiler, which can emulate the sound of vintage amps and effects.
  • Effects Pedals
    While country guitar doesn’t rely as heavily on effects pedals as some other genres, there are a few pedals that can help you get the right sound. A good compressor pedal, like the MXR Dyna Comp or Keeley Compressor Plus, can help you even out your dynamics and add sustain to your notes. A reverb pedal, like the TC Electronic Hall of Fame or Strymon BigSky, can add depth and dimension to your sound, while a delay pedal, like the Boss DD-3 or Strymon Timeline, can add a sense of space and create rhythmic patterns.
  • Strings and Picks
    The right strings and picks can make a huge difference in your playing style. For a traditional country sound, try using lighter gauge strings, like .009s or .010s. These strings will give you a bright, snappy tone that is perfect for country picking. For picks, try using a medium or heavy pick, like a Dunlop Tortex or Fender 346, which will give you more attack and control over your playing.
  • Fingerpicks
    If you’re planning on playing fingerstyle country guitar, you may want to consider using fingerpicks. Fingerpicks are small picks that attach to your fingers and can help you get a brighter, more articulate tone. There are a variety of fingerpicks available, including metal picks, plastic picks, and even fingerpicks made from animal bone.

These are some of the essential pieces of gear to get that authentic country tone. Since there are many different styles of country music, these pieces of gear are a good starting point that will help you in the right direction towards creating the right tone for your playing style. As you’d expect, the most important thing is to experiment and find the gear that works best for you and the playing style you are tying to achieve.