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The Classic ‘Green Onions’ Lick
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The Classic ‘Green Onions’ Lick

The guitar lick in the classic song “Green Onions” is a very oft-imitated and quoted riff that was originally played by Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs. It is truly one of the real “foundational” licks of rock guitar, and has been the kick-off riff in countless jams ever since it was first heard. It’s also like a backwards version of the “I’m a Man” Muddy Waters lick, which is another archetypical riff that is used over and over again.

You’ll notice that I play it in a very special “pared down” way, which uses great mini barre chord “shortcuts” to play this lick with both great speed and ease at the same time. For example, the opening part, in the key of E, uses only one finger for the required E, G and A chords, while at the same time doing the necessary muting of unwanted strings.

This is what I would call an extremely “economical” approach towards playing these kinds of positions, and you’ll see how the same economy applies to the A, C and D positions in the second part of the song in a slightly different, but equally effective, manner.  It’s all one-finger playing at its finest! Hope you get a lot out of it.

Hope you enjoy!—Arlen Roth

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Arlen Roth
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Instructor Bio
Arlen Roth

Music lesson pioneer Arlen Roth is the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar. Read More...

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