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Western Swing (Guitar Lesson)

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DJ Phillips

Western Swing

DJ gets to the roots of the country music genre with a lesson on Western Swing.

Taught by DJ Phillips in Classic Country Guitar seriesLength: 5:50Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (02:00) Western Swing Western Swing Rhythm

The basic Western Swing guitar accompaniment is played in 4/4 time. It consists of a long-short, long-short rhythm pattern in which chords are strummed and sustained on the the 1st and 3rd beats of the measure. On beats 2 and 4, the left hand lightly mutes the chord before the next chord is played. This rhythm is rather similar to the Freddie Green accompaniment rhythm that is frequently used in jazz music.

Watch as DJ demonstrates the Western Swing rhythm with an A major barre chord. Notice how he lifts his left hand pressure from the strings after the chord is strummed on beats 2 and 4. Practice the rhythm along with him at 00:47 in the lesson video.

Notating the Western Swing Rhythm

Articulation markings are typically used when notating the Western Swing rhythm. A straight line is written above beats 1 and 3. This line indicates that the chord should be held for its full value. A comma is written above beats two and forth. Commas usually appears in vocal music to indicate where breaths should be taken. The comma carries out a similar function in guitar scores as well. Allow the rhythm to "breathe" by cutting off the sound of the chord before the next strum. This technique is usually accomplished by slightly releasing left hand pressure from the strings.

Right Hand Pattern

The Western Swing rhythm is played with all downstrokes. This creates a very deliberate, on top of the beat type of rhythmic feel. Occasionally an eighth note strum is added to the "and" beat of 3. An upstroke must be used to play the added strum. Adding this eighth note to the rhythm figure helps emphasize the swing aspect of the rhythm. It also adds some variety to the pattern.
Chapter 2: (02:33) Full Color Chords Classic country typically features simple triadic harmony. On the other hand, the Western Swing genre utilizes many elaborate chord voicings used by jazz guitarists.

For example, the Major 6 voicing is frequently used in this style. A sixth chord adds the sixth scale degree from the major scale of the same letter name to the chord. Watch as DJ demonstrates how to convert an A major barre chord in fifth position into an A6 chord. An A major triad is comprised of the notes A, C#, and E. An A6 chord adds the note F# to this basic structure.

Note: Fretboard diagrams with appropriate left hand fingerings for all chords discussed in the lesson can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Once you have mastered the left hand fingering for the chord, practice it with the Western Swing rhythm.

Major Sixth Voicing (5th String Root)

At 01: 24, DJ demonstrates how to play a sixth chord with a root note on the fifth string. He demonstrates this voicing as a D6 chord. This chord functions as the IV chord in the key of A major.

Chord Progression Exercise

A common Western Swing progression features the following chords: I6 - I7 - IV6. Within this progression, a major sixth voicing is used for the tonic chord. Then, the tonic chord is played as a dominant seventh to establish an effective resolution to the IV chord. The IV chord is played as a major sixth voicing.

The I6 and I7 chords are played for one measure each. The IV6 chord, D6, is played for two measures.

Practice this progression with the Western Swing rhythm. Practice with a metronome to ensure that you are playing strictly in time. When you feel ready, practice the progression along with DJ at 01:58.
Chapter 3: (01:16) I - VI - II - V Progression and Turnaround The I-VI-II-V or "turnback" progression is one of the most common progressions used in jazz and the Western Swing genres. It is typically used at the end of a section to "turn" the chord progression back to the beginning of the form.

In Western Swing, each chord in the progression may be played as a major chord. Or, more colorful voicings may be used. For example, the progression may consist of the following chords: I6 - vim7 - iim7 - V7. In the key of A major, these chords are A6, F#m7, Bm7, and E7 respectively.

Practice this progression on your own with a metronome. Play each chord for a total of two beats. When you feel ready, return to the video and play along with DJ at 00:37.

Preview of Next Lesson

In the next lesson, DJ applies the Western Swing rhythm concepts discussed in this lesson to the classic tune "Roly Poly." This song was originally performed by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Supplemental Learning Material



Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

BootSQBootSQ replied

To confusing to understand this instructor.

tonehoundtonehound replied

good lesson, but you should kill the distortion for a country lesson

porkchop172porkchop172 replied

The video did move quickly but I watched several times and came away with some good stuff to practice.

porkchop172porkchop172 replied

The video did move quickly but I watched several times and came away with some good stuff to practice.

porkchop172porkchop172 replied

The video did move quickly but I watched several times and came away with some good stuff to practice.


I couldn't grasp any context as he kinda raced through everything. A little more explanation or perhapse a 1/2 time run through first would help.

Jason.MounceJason.Mounce replied

Hey Jon, sorry to hear this was a bit fast for you. If you find that the examples are going by a bit too quickly for you, utilize the time compression feature on the lesson video. Below the video itself you'll see several buttons. The time compression tool is a long rectangle that has !00% followed by an up and down arrow. Clicking the arrows will either speed up or slow down the video based on what you need. You can also utilize this tool in conjunction with the looping feature which is the circular arrow that is just to the left of the time compression tool. Clicking that button will open up an A and B button where you can create looping points for the video. Hope that helps you out!

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

Best teacher without question.

SteveAikenSteveAiken replied

keep up the good lessons. You are quickly becoming my favorite instructor


Enter your comment here.


question! the last 2 chords you put in the supelment for what?


dj dont listen to them your way cool i like but i would offer some theory of the styl not just lerning chordsa

dougyddougyd replied

There should be no need to look up chords used in the lesson. They should all be charted below the lesson video. What a hassle it is to look them up.

rarebird0rarebird0 replied

You're darn tootin'. I just don't get the design oversight. There's plenty of room for chord diagrams. And there's room for a tab line under the instructor.

jeremymundelljeremymundell replied

Video not found...

johnmijohnmi replied

This guitar tone is very muffled along with covering up what he is saying....Not to impressed

propylonseanpropylonsean replied

I got confused in the Western Swing video. Here is what I think is going on...DJ shows the 1 6 2 5 progression in the key of A in slow-mo and uses F#7 B7 and E7. However, when he then plays it at normal speed he uses F#m7 and Bm7 rather than F#7 and B7. I.e. he is using minor sevenths - not major sevents - in the 6 and the 2 of the 1 6 2 5. Sean

fastfretsfastfrets replied

Get the penut butter out of your mouth when you speak and don't play as your talking. What cord was that???

amguitar27amguitar27 replied

*country lessons, that is.

amguitar27amguitar27 replied

I wish they offered lessons by another teacher. I do not like DJ's style at all.

dranak992dranak992 replied

the tabs are wrong btw... for the A6 chord its showing your main A chord.

ehabehab replied

Hi DJ Please I need to know if you are playing on a special Amp, as I can’t reach to the sound you are playing or you have a different adjustments than the classic Amp Regards

poppy wallspoppy walls replied

Nice lesson, i have my work cut out for me don't use those 6th cords much, kinda like the sound. the hardest part is muting the strings not played i have a tendency to strum the base note first then follow through a little late. any suggestions?

poppy wallspoppy walls replied

Enter your comment here.

ikerrrikerrr replied

no wonder i dont care for western swing

hunter1984hunter1984 replied

No wonder you don't care for western swing? What? what're you talking about? You mean you don't care for fun rhythms and interesting chords? Get some taste.

zorroukeyzorroukey replied

Thank you also royalthefourth. I am new at this website and if I would have looked at some of the questions that I have been asked already I would have seen that you answered a similar question. Checking out the supplemental content for A6, A7, and D6 helped me a ton! THanks again!

zorroukeyzorroukey replied

These chords rock but I am having a bit of trouble locating my finger positions. Like the beginner lessons is there anyway at the end of every segment you can give the tabs of these chords you are talking about? Example in the lesson two of western swing you are using a F#7 and B7 chord that is high up on the fret board. Showing the finger tabs at the end would be very helpful just as it was in the beginner stages. Thank you

sendbahtsendbaht replied

Thanks royallthefourth that helps to name the cords.

royallthefourthroyallthefourth replied

If you're not sure of how to finger the chords (I wasn't!), check the supplemental content for A6, A7, and D6

halldavidrhalldavidr replied

Forget what I wrote below. I see the close-ups. Had a bit of tunnel vision I think.

halldavidrhalldavidr replied

Would be nice to see a close-up of your fingers on the fretboard as you play the chords. Slow the pace down a bit, too.

nkraftnkraft replied

I also like the chords used here. Hadn't really thought about 6ths much before. Like the others, though, I find the explanations lacking and rather quick. I can pick it up after a viewing or two, but this is definitely not the 1.5 difficulty it's advertised to be.

decksdecks replied

a little quick with the chord explanations, but for someone who was more experienced they would probably appreciate it... I however have to reply the lessons a few times. No biggie though

watsoncjwatsoncj replied

Great chords DJ! It's pretty challenging for my pinky to keep up. I am making slow improvement though.

meganmegan replied

I think DJ that these lessons offer the most potential for where I'd like to go with playing the guitar. Although I don't much listen to mainstream country (but some!), I really enjoy what might fall into a broad alt-country category: Wilco, Jayhawks, Calexico, Mazzy Star, Lucinda Williams, just to mention a few of the better known. So, thanks.

genesisgenesis replied

awesome. those chords...i likey

Classic Country Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Having roots in Folk, Celtic, and Gospel music, Country and Country Western evolved rapidly in the 1920's. This genre of music has spawned two of the top selling solo artists of all time. Elvis Presley, and Garth Brooks.

Introduction to CountryLesson 1

Introduction to Country

This short lesson will introduce you to the country style of playing and provide some necessary background information on how the genre got started.

Length: 2:04 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Western SwingLesson 2

Western Swing

DJ gets to the roots of the country music genre with a lesson on Western Swing.

Length: 5:50 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Roly PolyLesson 3

Roly Poly

In lesson 3, DJ teaches a short song called "Roly Poly." If you ever find yourself jamming in a country circuit, you'll need this one in your repertoire.

Length: 5:22 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Classic CountryLesson 4

Classic Country

DJ discusses the classic country style. He explains the rhythmic and structural differences between this style and western swing.

Length: 6:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Chicken Pickin' and Modern CountryLesson 5

Chicken Pickin' and Modern Country

With lesson 5, DJ starts to discuss elements of the modern country style. This includes the technique known as "Chicken Pickin'."

Length: 12:59 Difficulty: 2.5 FREE
Hybrid PickingLesson 6

Hybrid Picking

In this lesson, DJ discusses some of the finer points of the hybrid picking technique.

Length: 15:05 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Electric Country, Western SwingLesson 7

Electric Country, Western Swing

In this lesson, DJ begins to talk more in depth about modern electric country guitar. He starts with the western swing style.

Length: 11:11 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Eldon Shamblin, Western SwingLesson 8

Eldon Shamblin, Western Swing

Lesson 8 continues to cover the western swing style of electric country. Eldon Shamblin and his musical efforts are discussed further.

Length: 13:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Twin Guitar Boogie's Twin LeadLesson 9

Twin Guitar Boogie's Twin Lead

This lesson covers the twin lead section of the song "Twin Guitar Boogie."

Length: 17:59 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Twin Lead Solo: Part 2Lesson 10

Twin Lead Solo: Part 2

DJ breaks down the second part of the twin lead solo from "Twin Guitar Boogie."

Length: 14:57 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Twin Guitar Boogie's Guitar SoloLesson 11

Twin Guitar Boogie's Guitar Solo

Finalizing his teaching on the Twin Guitar Boogie with emphasis on Eldon Shamblin, DJ brings you this lesson on the guitar solo.

Length: 21:55 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Twin Guitar Boogie TechniquesLesson 12

Twin Guitar Boogie Techniques

Lesson 12 covers all the techniques involved in the previous lessons on the Twin Guitar Boogie.

Length: 7:21 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Solo BuildingLesson 13

Solo Building

DJ takes the techniques he discussed in lesson 12 and helps you create a solo over a standard country rhythm.

Length: 17:33 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
FingerpickingLesson 14


Lesson 14 delves into the realm of fingerpicking.

Length: 17:44 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Solo and Improvisation Lesson 15

Solo and Improvisation

In lesson 15 DJ demonstrates the techniques used by Merle Travis to build a solo, and improvisation technique.

Length: 12:15 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Guitar Boogie Pt. 1Lesson 16

Guitar Boogie Pt. 1

Lesson 16 starts a 3 part series on Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie."

Length: 47:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Guitar Boogie Pt. 2Lesson 17

Guitar Boogie Pt. 2

In lesson 17, DJ completes his note for note demonstration of "Guitar Boogie."

Length: 30:39 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Guitar Boogie ConceptsLesson 18

Guitar Boogie Concepts

In this lesson, DJ takes a look at some of the country guitar concepts used in the song "Guitar Boogie."

Length: 16:13 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Whistle StopLesson 19

Whistle Stop

In this lesson, DJ teaches the song "Whistle Stop" by legendary guitarist Jimmy Bryant.

Length: 19:41 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Yodeling GuitarLesson 20

Yodeling Guitar

DJ demonstrates the song "Yodeling Guitar" by Jimmy Bryant.

Length: 32:25 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Joy RideLesson 21

Joy Ride

DJ teaches the song "Joy Ride" as performed by Jimmy Bryant.

Length: 30:37 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Jimmy Bryant ConceptsLesson 22

Jimmy Bryant Concepts

Now that DJ has covered "Whistle Stop" and "Joy Ride," he'll be looking at some of the concepts used to play these songs.

Length: 23:05 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Got a Lot of RhythmLesson 23

Got a Lot of Rhythm

This lesson covers the tune Got a Lot of Rhythm which features the playing of Hank Garland.

Length: 10:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
I Need Your Love TonightLesson 24

I Need Your Love Tonight

In lesson 24, DJ takes a look at an Elvis Presley song "I Need Your Love Tonight."

Length: 19:55 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Sugarfoot RagLesson 25

Sugarfoot Rag

In lesson 25, DJ continues his in depth look at Hank Garland's playing with a demonstration of Sugarfoot Rag.

Length: 32:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Walkin' the FloorLesson 26

Walkin' the Floor

DJ takes a look at "Walkin' the Floor" by classic country guitarist Leon Rhodes.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Honey Fingers Pt. 1Lesson 27

Honey Fingers Pt. 1

DJ Phillips teaches the progression, structure and melody of the song "Honey Fingers."

Length: 35:30 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Honey Fingers Pt. 2Lesson 28

Honey Fingers Pt. 2

In lesson 28, DJ demonstrates the entire guitar solo for the song "Honey Fingers."

Length: 27:13 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Applying Concepts and Skill BuildingLesson 29

Applying Concepts and Skill Building

Looking back on the lessons on Leon Rhodes' playing, DJ offers up a lesson on applying the new concepts.

Length: 11:49 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Luther PerkinsLesson 30

Luther Perkins

DJ discusses the tic-tac techniques used by Johnny Cash guitarist Luther Perkins.

Length: 18:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Tic-Tac Rhythms AppliedLesson 31

Tic-Tac Rhythms Applied

Looking at guitarist Luther Perkins, DJ helps you to apply the tic-tac rhythms in your playing.

Length: 7:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Style of James Burton #1:  Open String LicksLesson 32

Style of James Burton #1: Open String Licks

DJ returns to his country lesson series to profile legendary country guitarist James Burton! In the first lesson of this mini-series, DJ takes a look at open string licks that are common in James' playing.

Length: 16:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Style of James Burton #2:  Chicken Pickin'Lesson 33

Style of James Burton #2: Chicken Pickin'

DJ is back with the second lesson in his James Burton mini series. For this one, DJ takes a look at how James Burton started the Tele sound with the use of hybrid picking and chicken pickin'.

Length: 13:21 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Style of James Burton #3:  Double StopsLesson 34

Style of James Burton #3: Double Stops

In lesson 34 of his country series, DJ is expanding on his look at James Burton. In this lesson you'll be taking a look at double stop and partial chord concepts utilized by this country great!

Length: 12:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Style of James Burton #4:  BendsLesson 35

Style of James Burton #4: Bends

To finalize the concepts and techniques portion of his mini-series on James Burton, DJ offers up a look at bending technique.

Length: 11:57 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Style of James Burton #5:  Combining ElementsLesson 36

Style of James Burton #5: Combining Elements

Now that you have all the lick based elements and concepts under your belt, it's time to apply them. In lesson 36, DJ plays all of the licks you've learned with a backing track.

Length: 4:50 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
DJ Phillips

About DJ Phillips View Full Biography Like many guitar players who began playing around the same time, DJ began plunking out Nirvana and Soundgarden tunes when he first picked up the guitar in the mid-nineties. While these grunge-y roots certainly have their merit, it wasn't until DJ's eldest sister took him to a Led Zeppelin laser light show that the full potential of the guitar began to come into focus.

With Jimmy Page's Les Paul pyrotechnics as his inspiration, DJ began fervently practicing for hours on end in the suburban jungle of Southwestern Ohio. This newfound passion (combined with his complete lack of athletic prowess and physical coordination thus completely ruling out all sports) led him to form rock bands in junior high and high school. He grew to love the performance aspect of music and soon decided on it as a career path.

College led him to Nashville, Tennessee where he began to pursue a degree in Commercial Music at Belmont University. He also started another band and got his first professional theater gig the following summer. Since that summer, DJ has spent nearly every waking hour finding ways to play music and avoiding a real contribution to society in any other way.

He moved to Minneapolis after college, rocking out between theater gigs with his current rock band Brother Big Bad. He has now convinced the band to move to Nashville where music flows like water.

DJ is elated to be a part of JamPlay and is thankful for everyone's warm welcome and says "Now, let's ROCK, people."

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