Let’s explore the ingredients of that quintessential country piano sound made famous by pianist Floyd Cramer…
The fundamental ingredients 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 well for all of the “big three ” chords: I, IV, and V.
Let’s take a gander at six commonly-used Floyd Cramer country licks that employ this Pentatonic Scale-Chord idea…
Slow 2-3 Resolution
One pattern is to sustain the G (5) as the top note 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
Another pattern is to sustain the C (1) as the top note during the 6-5 resolution…
Fast 6-5 Resolution
Again, here are not rigid rules about how long to sustain the suspension. It’s all about feel and how the resolution fits into the flow of the music.
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.
And here is one more pentatonic idea to add to your country bag…