Country School: Floyd Cramer Licks

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…

piano-ology-country-school-major-floyd-cramer-licks-pentatonic-scale-chord

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.

piano-ology-country-school-major-floyd-cramer-licks-slow-2-to-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.

piano-ology-country-school-major-floyd-cramer-licks-fast-2-to-3-resolution


Slow 6-5 Resolution

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

piano-ology-country-school-major-floyd-cramer-licks-slow-6-to-5-resolution


Fast 6-5 Resolution

piano-ology-country-school-major-floyd-cramer-licks-fast-6-to-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.

piano-ology-country-school-major-floyd-cramer-licks-triplet-2-3-1-3


6-5-3-5 Triplet

piano-ology-country-school-major-floyd-cramer-licks-triplet-6-5-3-5


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About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
This entry was posted in Country Piano and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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