Everyone knows Tony Rice is one of the most legendary bluegrass flatpicking guitarists of all time. Rice had a very distinctive style which he honed over many decades of playing acoustic guitar, and learning from legends like Clarence White and Norman Blake.
For guitarists trying to inject a little Tony Rice flavor into their own soloing, I thought it’d be helpful to put together a few lessons teaching some of Tony’s most legendary licks. If you’ve listened to a lot of his music you’re almost sure to recognize these instantly.
Need help learning bluegrass guitar? I recommend picking up my crash course guide for beginner bluegrass guitar, where I break down all the licks, chords, techniques and gear you need to get started, all as simply as possible:
Here are 3 of Tony Rice’s best bluegrass guitar licks, along with video lessons for each:
Tony Rice’s 3 Best Bluegrass Guitar Licks
The Tony Rice C Chord Bluegrass Lick
This is a C chord lick that Tony uses all the time and that many other bluegrass players like Norman Blake use a lot. I really like it because you can get a lot of mileage out of it. You can use it as a basis for starting or ending a bluegrass solo or you can use it as a fill in-between chords. You can use it to embellish the melody like Tony does in Church Street Blues.
It’s a good foundational lick to learn too if you’re new to bluegrass playing because it really highlights how a lot of bluegrass soloing is very chord-focused. In a way, the lick is basically an arpeggio based out of the open C chord.
The Tony Rice F Chord Bluegrass Lick
This is another one of the licks that really always drew my ear when I first started listening to Tony. It’s this lick he does over the F chord.
You can hear Tony play this lick in songs like One More Night, Last Thing on My Mind, Lay Down My Old Guitar, etc. If you listen to Tony a lot, you’ll hear him use it all the time.
The Tony Rice “Anywhere” / Ultra-Versatile Bluegrass Lick
Here’s one of Tony’s most unique licks. This is a very versatile lick that you’ll hear him move all over the place on the fretboard, often playing it more than once in a given guitar solo.
This is one that will really open up the fretboard if you give it a shot and get good at it. However, it’s definitely one of his “quirkiest” licks and can take a while to really get a feel for it and get it under your fingers. Feel free to watch the video multiple times till you feel you’ve really got a handle on it.
Learn More Bluegrass & Tony Rice Style Guitar
If you’ve enjoyed this post, check out some of my other guides on bluegrass guitar, Tony Rice, and more:
- Learn Bluegrass Guitar – the Complete Guide from Acoustic World
- How to learn bluegrass guitar in 7 easy steps
- The best guitar strings for bluegrass music
- The 3 best acoustic guitars for bluegrass music
- 3 bluegrass guitar licks in the style of Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton & Norman Blake
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