Country School: Floyd Cramer Licks

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Let’s explore the ingredients of that quintessential country piano sound made famous by pianist Floyd Cramer…

The fundamental building blocks are a Major Triad (1-3-5) and its Parallel Major Pentatonic Scale (1-2-3-5-6). For a C chord, these are…


Play, listen, and notice that three notes C-E-G (1-3-5) in the major triad are harmonically stable and resolved, while two notes D(2) & A(6) in the major pentatonic scale are harmonically active and need to resolve.

That said, the basic idea of these licks is to create harmonic tension by playing either the 2 or the 6 of the scale-chord on a strong beat, and them resolving it as appropriate.

Two more things to keep in mind:

  • It is helpful to think of 2 and 6 as suspensions that resolve to a chord tone.
  • This pattern works equally well for all of the “big three ” chords: I, IV, and V.

That said, let’s look as six common Floyd Cramer country licks that employ this pentatonic scale-chord idea…

Slow 2-3 Resolution

It is characteristic of country piano to sustain the G (5) during the 2-3 resolution.


Fast 2-3 Resolution

There is no rule about how long to sustain the suspension. Use your own judgment about what feels right and how it fits the flow of the music.


Slow 6-5 Resolution

It is characteristic of country piano to sustain the C (1) during the 6-5 resolution.


Fast 6-5 Resolution


2-3-1-3 Triplet

Another variation that works well as a pickup in a Waltz rhythm. It should feel unhurried in order to suit the the laid back flow of the music.


6-5-3-5 Triplet


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