“So You Wanna Play The Blues . .” : Cool Blues Guitar Instructional Videos Part IV – Standard Tuning Slide Guitar Edition

Continuing my series on cool blues guitar instructional videos, I want to focus on one of my favorite guitar techniques: slide guitar and in particular, slide guitar played in standard tuning.

My older brother went to high school in the East Village in the early seventies and would often buy records at a used record store by St. Marks Place called Free Being. He brought home records by people he read about in Rolling Stone magazine (when it actually tried to curate good music). I was lucky to be exposed to records by classic bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf as well more contemporary artists such as Ry Cooder and Little Feat so I was no stranger to the sound of  slide guitar. The big epiphany was hearing the classic Allman Brothers record Live At The Fillmore East. So when I started to get serious about playing guitar, I also started playing slide as well.

A major turning point was when the guitarist Arlen Roth put out one of the first instructional books on slide guitar. I picked up a lot of things about playing slide from that book but there was a major problem. The majority of it (and most of the subsequent slide guitar instructional material that I’ve seen since) was centered on playing in what is known as open tuning. A guitar in open tuning is configured to sound a chord when all the strings are played open. A guitar in open E tuning will play an E major chord when strummed open. This tuning helps facilitate the playing of chords with a slide by just positioning the slide across the strings over a given fret. It’s more forgiving of string damping since all the notes will be part of the chord.
The downside is that it means learning a new system to navigate the fretboard. It also meant having to retune the guitar for slide playing or bringing an extra guitar for slide. To me, these issues were such a pain in the ass that I just tried to play slide in standard tuning. It seems that I wasn’t alone. Having high profile slide guitar players like Warren Haynes and Allen Hinds play in standard tuning has resulted in slide guitar instructional material that actually addresses the player who wants to play slide in standard tuning.

The first video is by studio ace Allen Hinds who offers a pretty comprehensive run through of the mechanics of slide guitar playing in standard tuning. He talks about having exact intonation with the left hand and the importance of right hand damping. He also touches on the use of unorthodox techniques like slant left hand positions and using  chord fragments for cool ambient playing.

Allen Hinds Slide Guitar Lesson – Playing Slide in Standard Tuning

The rest of the videos are from website I discussed in my last post, Leaning nGuitar Now and are aimed for the intermediate/advanced player. The first of the three videos demonstrates a cool slide riff with a George Thorogood vibe to it.

Learning Guitar Now – Standard Tuning Slide Guitar Lesson

The next video is along the lines of what Warren Haynes would play during Statesboro Blues.  It centers on, in what is known as the CAGED fretboard system, as the G position. It lick has a major key feel, as opposed to the minor key feel typical of most blues. The major key feel has always been one of the features that differentiated Duane Allman influenced players from other slide guitarists.  The G position allows the player to take advantage of the major chord that lies across the B, G and D strings (2nd, 3rd and 4th strings respectively). While based on the major chord, the line pivots between the chord’s minor and major 3rds and links the G position and E positions of the neck where it touches on the sixth string root minor blues pattern.

Learning Guitar Now – Standard Tuning Slide Warren Haynes Lesson

The third video from Learning Guitar Now give us a lick over the Allman Brother’s tune One Way Out. Like the previous video, the lick is based on the major triad that sits on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings.

Learning Guitar Now – One Way Out Slide Guitar Solo in Standard Tuning

Leaning Guitar Now (http://www.learningguitarnow.com/) offers a lot of excellent videos. Beside the stuff on standard tuning slide, there are videos on playing slide in open E and open G tuning as well as straight blues playing. Well worth checking out.

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Posted in Blues, Guitar Logic, Improvisation

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