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How to improv playing slide, basic question

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 Taso
(@taso)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2852
Topic starter  

The only thing I LOVE to do on my guitar is improv, thats what its all about for me, and especially for the blues. I've been interesting in learning slide for long time, I think I'm going to go out tomorrow and buy one, and get down to the business of gettin' down.

My concern is that when doing my usual soloing/improving its almost always based on a pentatonic - there's a shape to it. Now as I'm reading, I understand that its all about open tunings when it comes to slide, or alternate tunings. So, my usual pentatonic shape won't apply will it? How do you know where the sounds you want to hit are, when using a differnet tuning? For example, standard tuning, I'll hear the note in my head, or sing it aloud, and know right away where it is on the fretboard. An alternate tuning changes those locations, right? Obviously I'll become accustomed to this overtime, but is there a standard box shape that works for open tunings?

^The question is a general one, found in the "feel" of that paragraph, sorry for writing so inconcisely, I just know very little about the subject.

Thanks

Taso

Edit: Also, is It Hurts Me Too ala Clapton in Open E or D or what?

http://taso.dmusic.com/music/


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(@dogbite)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 6353
 

Taso. when I first started playing slide and tuning open I was lost.
then I got the idea of learning where the notes where on the new fretboard layout.
I followed each string writing the note down on paper.
I saw right away where the triads were. triads are the three notes of a chord.
so if I were tuned open G, I knew that the second fret would give me an A...and etc up the neck.
then I used my ear . play a note and I could see/hear where the next note lived.
from there I rediscovered the boxes or patterns that I thought I lost.
they are there. I know you have the ear to find them.

now you dont have to grab paper and write things down the way I did.
you will find when forming a chord with the slide all the notes you want, for blues as an example, are on either side of the bar. either one or two frets away.

if you want I can send you a diagram of some blues runs in open G.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


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(@phangeaux)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 144
 

Taso,

I'm not an expert or professional player but my essential focus is on blues and bottleneck slide. This post is for the general readership, not necessarily specific to your questions, Taso.

I don't think you'll have any problem finding the right notes in alternate tunings with the slide, especially open chord tunings. It's quite easy, easier than playing in standard tuning I think, but one reason is that there are limitations as to what notes can be conveniently played with a slide in a particular open chord tuning. The open chord tunings have limitations compared to slide in standard tuning (see further below). When you change from one open tuning to another (I use open D and open G mostly, and standard) those positions will change. You'll find that a particular tuning works best for some songs/licks and not for others- A different open or alternate tuning will work best for other songs. Each time you change a tuning it is like picking up a different guitar that is played differently - ie; different fingerings for chords/triads and different positions for solo notes etc. with the slide. it's all pretty easy in a given tuning and eventually you'll memorize those for for your favorite alternate tunings. Although each open tuning is limited, compared to standard tuning, when it comes to slide work in a specific tuning there are still alot of very interesting things that can be done within the framework of that tuning. Each tuning has its particular advantages and limitations. I do think there is still alot of room to explore and create new things alternate tunings.

Taso, since you mentioned scales shapes and improvisation I think you will love to play slide in standard tuning, which by most accounts is more versatile than open chord/alternate tunings. Standard tuning for slide has unique characteristics and sounds for (mostly single note) solo work, and each alternate tuning has it's own unique characteristics, better for chord and triad combinations but some good solo stuff too. So, I think it's best to become accomplished in several different tunings. For me, those chosen are open D, open G and standard although I want to explore C tunings. There are lots of different tunings but I have to work on one at a time for awhile, try to memorize as much as I can and associate those patterns with that tuning before working on another one or I get confused.

Much more important than questions about scales and shapes, or what tuning to use, is learning proper slide technique. Without learning proper basic techniques first it is going to be harder to learn and your work won't sound as good. Alot of people find that "It is not as easy as it looks." I think this is generally more true when someone doesn't learn the basic and important techniques first which are necessary if not essential for slide guitar. Learning those first makes the whole process easier and more rewarding. Granted, to be really good at it is harder than it looks but with good technique even the easy stuff will sound great.

Basic techniques are not difficult but they are essential to get a good start and not become discouraged such as when your slide work sounds incredibly messy compared to a professional using good basic techniques. Simple stuff played with good technique is going to sound much better than more complicated stuff played without proper technique so if you focus alot on technique in the beginning you'll be happier and not disappointed in the results as you progress. I think this is even more true for electric guitars since the pickups are sensitive to unintended string noise.

Technique is beyond the scope of this post, I am not a teacher but you may be able to find some good resources on the web, and/or get some instructive CDs or DVDs by some masters of the craft.

The first important technique is damping the strings behind the slide. I play sitting down and I wear the slide on my small (pinky) finger and just rest my other fingers comfortablly behind the slide, mainly my middle finger is doing the damping (some with the ring finger) or sometimnes it's the index finger depending on what I am playing - just whatever is comfortable for you but damping behind the slide is necessary to eliminate unwanted noise and disharmonious string fequencies behind the slide (between the slide and the nut).

Next, the slide is actually like a moving fret placed on the string from the top down, positioned straight across the neck like the frets, keeping the slide perpendicular (except when you get into doing slants in some licks -later on) so, to hit a specific note, the slide will be directly above the fret as if it is a mirror image of the fret itself. You can slide into that note, most often sliding up from a half space or more below that fret or from any position like 2 frets or more below it, sliding up to the note- whatever sounds best to you for that particular part. It's very important to slide into that note and hit that note precisely, often adding some slide vibrato, but hitting key notes precisely in a solo makes a huge difference. I think the awesome effect of a great slide solo is dependant on nailing some of the key notes (defined as 'most important notes) more than anything else. - The first main sustained slide note especially and other sustained notes in the solo. The other in-between notes in the solos are more fluid and more forgiving of accuracy but nailing the first note opens the door (wide!) and hitting the other main notes in the solo makes for an effective solo.

The actual frets on the fingerboard serve as position markers. So, practicing sliding into notes up and down the fretboard and being able to hit those notes precisely is very important. Excercises focusing on that will be important in the beginning, and you'll pick it up in the songs you practice too. It's easy, just a bit of practice and it is fun to learn how to do it right. This is so you can slide into clean (and precise) notes with the slide.

Take for (your) example, Taso, Eric Clapton's version of 'It Hurts Me Too' from the CD: 'From the Cradle' which is in the open D tuning, (maybe raised to an open Eb), or open E tuning (all the same because - Open D is just an open E chord tuned down two frets or a full step to be an open D). Notice that in the intro and soloing he is sliding into that 12th fret position (directly above the 12th fret) and nailing that first sustained note adding a little bit of slide vibrato. In fact he is pretty much nailing every note in the solo, but these sustained notes are the key (defined here as most important) notes in the solo and you have to be able to nail them right on. That warrants some focus on accuracy and control of the slide, especially when first starting to learn slide. Sliding up and down the fretboard on individual strings in a particular scale or pattern and stopping precisely above the fret is a good start to get the feel of it. (please refer to guitar instructors for better descriptions) It's easy, fairly quick to learn and this will make your learning process more enjoyable.

There are probably better examples where that first key note or sustained note in the solo opens the big door. I've heard songs where that one first sustained note when it is nailed captures the whole depth of emotion and power in the song and that is what I ment by 'opening the door'. The solo does not even have to be fancy or complicated to have an awesome effect when you can nail those key (most important) notes. The point here is, that as a moving fret, the slide is so versatile it opens up the entire full range of (pitch?) for each string and requires control to slide precisely into the key notes, so that is one focus in practicing. There is of course a full range of in-between notes (or frequencies) that can be used very effectively too, usually as a starting point from which to slide into a note and sometimes an important note lies somewhere in between two frets that may be perfect for a blues riff.

Also you'll want to develop right hand damping, palm muting and some finger damping, especially on electric guitars since the pickups are so sensitive and pick up unwanted string vibrations from other strings. This is an area that I need alot of work on myself but after awhile I think it becomes natural. I think this is less critical on an acoustic guitar but still important. People starting out with bottleneck slide may find acoustic guitars better than electric to start learning on because the strings are usually a bit heavier and the unwanted noises will be much less prominent on an acoustic guitar, making the learning experience a bit easier and more fun. Electric guitars want to 'hear' everything including your lack of refined technique so they are harder to learn on. I think that learning bottleneck slide on an acoustic is a more enjoyable experience for the beginner. They don't pick up and amplify the lack of developed techniques like an electric does. I wouldn't want anyone to be discouraged by that when they are first starting out. When you go to an electric you'll have further refine those techniques.

Furthermore, I love the sound of bottlneck slide on a wood bodied acoustic guitar. If you've ever heard Stefan Grossman play on his old Stella (he has some instructional videos) I think you'd know what I mean. Beautiful sound! I have a metal bodied tricone resonator and that's truly an awesome guitar, but contrary to some opinions resonators are not essential to playing acoustic bottleneck and the rich sound of a wooden acoustic for bottlneck is hard to match in my opinion. I love it.

I practice mostly on an electric guitar simply as a matter of convenience as it's the closest one in reach.

By the way I use my bare fingers (or fingernails when I have them) on electric and acoustic and am becoming acustomed to brass Alaska fingerpicks on my tricone resonator, necessary because of the heavy guage strings I use on that one. As for myself, I can't quite imagine using a flat pick for slide work because to me bottleneck slide it is more of a finger style of playing, especially whn using alternating bass notes, but then I rarely use a flat pick anyway.

Changing tunings back and forth on a guitar is a nuisance so here are two ways that I deal with it. First, I usually have several guitars in reach each tuned to a specific tuning, especially if you are playing acoustics which usually have heavier string guages than electrics and don't retune as easily. I have one electric in reach in standard tuning and try to have a couple of acoustics in open D and open G. The electric is fairly easy and quick to retune but that can be inconvenient when you have to change tunings frequently. I save much time and trouble by having guitars in reach that are already in alternate tunings.

Secondly, I have begun organizing all of the music files on my computer (nearly all blues- several thousand of them) for practicing. I have playlist folders for Acoustic Blues, Acoustic Bottleneck/Slide, Fingerstyle Blues, Electric Blues, Electric Slide, Ragtime, etcetera, etcetera. NOW I am going to go though all of those I want to learn well and if the song is in standard tuning I will rename it to add an ('S') in parentheses behind the title of the song for 'Standard' or 'G' or 'D' (open D) 'DD' (drop D) 'A' open A, etcetera behind the song title. That way I will know what tuning is used at a glance and I can select songs that are in the tuning of the guitar I have in hand. Some songs work well in standard or alternate tunings so they will get more than one tuning designation in the parentheses. If an electric blues song is also suitable for acoustic and/or for slide it will go into those other folders as well and vice versa. Thereby I may have the same song in several different folders. 'Playlists' are just shortcuts to the song files so it doesn't use any more space on the computer to have huge playlists.

The advantage of labelling the songs with tunings is so that when I have a guitar in an open D tuning for example I can select songs that are labelled for open D, work on those, learning specific licks for that tuning etc. until I get tired of open D and switch to a different tuning, then focus on songs with the next tuning that I want to work on.

I may chose to adjust the guitar tuning sometimes to match a recording because alot of old recordings were not tuned or recorded at A=440 pitch and some more recent artists slowed the recordings down to lower the pitch in the final master. sometimes I just play in whatever pitch my guitar is tuned in but for studying difficult to play stuff I want to be in tune with the recording.

BY THE WAY, Taso, this may be the best part of this post for you. YOU CAN play bottleneck slide in standard tuning and it sounds awesome! You would probably do very well in a standard tuning. Warren Haynes (played with Allman Brothers) plays alot of slide in standard tuning, (almost exclusively) and I think Duane Allman probably played alot in standard tuning. Warren Haynes has a very good blues instructional DVD the second part of which fouses on bottleneck slide in a standard tuning which is his preference for reasons similar to how you described your own soloing. It sounds like playing slide in standard tuning would be ideal for you. I certainly would keep this in mind. Maybe some others here can name other slide guitarists who use standard tuning, and/or songs that are in standard tuning for an audio reference. Each different slide tuning, standard, open chord or alternate has it's particular advantages, tricks and limitations. Therefore it's probably necessary to focus on and learn more than one tuning. Open D and Open G may be the most often used open tunings for blues type stuff (which is about all I play) and are pretty easy. Standard is also a good tuning, requires a bit more movement of the slide and more control than D and G though. Some people drop the sixth string down to a D.

Anyhow. bottleneck slide (and blues) is my main focus and I want to get very very good at it. My personal overall objective is songwriting/composing, with a home recording studio to produce song demos. Performing in public is not one of my objectives. I'm on medical disability and it would take too much energy for me to do that on any kind of regular basis, however there may be some times that come up that I may play out from time to time. I just want to write a few good songs and let other professionals take off with them. I love the guitar so much though and want to become very very good at it so sometimes I question whether I want to be a professional guitar player or a songwriter. I think these are two very different approaches, becoming an excellent guitar player does not equate to becoming an excellent song writer and vice versa. It's a matter of where and how one focuses their time and energies. "Songwriter" it is (for me).

That's all I can think of. Sorry this post is so long.

Good luck.

Phangeaux
BadBadBlues


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(@tinsmith)
Prominent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 830
 

Holy Moly, that is long.

Just base everything off an A shape chord, in standard tuning. Pretty simple once you get into it.


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 Noff
(@noff)
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Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 102
 

Taso,

That's all I can think of. Sorry this post is so long.

I certainly didn't mind! Maybe you should write an article for the main page about this.


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(@phangeaux)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 144
 

Holy Moly, that is long.

Just base everything off an A shape chord, in standard tuning. Pretty simple once you get into it.

Yeah, very sorry about that being so long. I've been sitting at the computer all day drinking coffee with regular daily pain pills + an extra one (they're prescription) trying to 'wake up' and concentrate after not enough sleep and it hasn't worked. I rambled too much which is typical for me. (maybe it's the pain pills) I should just stay off of the computer and forums so i don't get in trouble. Usually when I am posting at forums something is not going right- this time it happens to be swollen joints in my left fngers for the past week aggravating the injury when I try to play so I've been using the slide only and sometimes just one fretting finger. It's interesting what can be done with just one finger in an open tuning. someone with just one finger could play pretty good guitar in an open tuning.

Sitting at the computer too much... I decided to check in here to catch up with a few old timers. Unfortunately I am too tired and lack concentration to try to go back and edit that long post. :-( I am really most happy when I am working with music and that's about all that I do normally day in and day out until I wonder if I'm going crazy. Sometimes I can't see the forest through the trees. I am setting things up so I can just do music all the time. I don't care if I go crazy, I'll just shut myself off more form the world, I'm already a recluse or, I'll move out into the woods :-) Someday they might find a song I wrote and say, "Dang that guy wrote a good song!

Anyhow, thanks for the tip for standard tuning, tinsmith. :-)

Nof, I just saw your post, I used to do quite a bit of technical writing, was quite good at it, but I'm currently not competent. (medical related) nor am I that competent at playing right now. My plan is a broad one and I've taken alot of time (years) to put this all together (preparation) to devote myself to playing and writing music. Working on mastering some guitar styles (like bottleneck/blues) is part of that plan which I'll be focusing alot on in the next 2 years. I do plan to write later on so maybe some of that will eventually be 'about music' . right now I'm not capable.

Meanwhile, I didn't mean to detract attention form the original questions so I am going to leave this topic alone and let other people post their thoughts.

Phangeaux
BadBadBlues


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 Taso
(@taso)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2852
Topic starter  

Phangeaux,

Great post dude. It was long, but it answered a lot of questions, even ones I didn't ask. Jeeze, I stop paying attention to GN for a few weeks and now I'm wondering how many incredible posts I've missed. Really, very informative. Talk to David and see about turning this into a Slide basics lesson. Do you have any recordings available? You sound like a slide-master :P

Some of what you said I know from playing normal guitar - most of it I did not, and it will be great to know going in. I'm not one of those who will be saying "its harder than it looks" because I think it looks pretty hard :P It's great to know that slide is played in standard tuning too. Duane Allman, Warren Haynes, along with Derek Trucks are three of my favorite guitarists, Trucks being the reason I decided to start learning slide - nice to know they use standard tunings.

Anyways, I'm going to re-read this when I pickup the slide from a music store and actually get going with it. One more quick question.

I don't have a special guitar I plan on using for slide - I'll be using my normal Les Paul for it. Will this negativley effect my sound? I remember reading/hearing that a higher action is better for slide.

http://taso.dmusic.com/music/


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 Taso
(@taso)
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Topic starter  

Taso. when I first started playing slide and tuning open I was lost.
then I got the idea of learning where the notes where on the new fretboard layout.
I followed each string writing the note down on paper.
I saw right away where the triads were. triads are the three notes of a chord.
so if I were tuned open G, I knew that the second fret would give me an A...and etc up the neck.
then I used my ear . play a note and I could see/hear where the next note lived.
from there I rediscovered the boxes or patterns that I thought I lost.
they are there. I know you have the ear to find them.

now you dont have to grab paper and write things down the way I did.
you will find when forming a chord with the slide all the notes you want, for blues as an example, are on either side of the bar. either one or two frets away.

if you want I can send you a diagram of some blues runs in open G.
Yeah dogbite, I figured it would be all about getting my ears used to it. I'm very interested in this standard tuning idea though, seems like that'll make soloing a lot easier. Dumdumdum, when shall I go to a music store and actually try it all out?

http://taso.dmusic.com/music/


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 Noff
(@noff)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 102
 

I found that helped me a lot. It's from http://www.12bar.de/slide.php


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(@steinar-gregertsen)
Honorable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 503
 

Another great resource is the dhord and scale calculator at Look No Hands.

Steinar

"Play to express, not to impress"
Website - YouTube


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(@vic-lewis-vl)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 10340
 

Great post from Phangeaux there - just adding him to the list of "people to make sure I listen to because they can be learned from" .......

Taso, I'm not that well up on LP's, so I don't know how low the action is compared to, say, a Tele or a Strat - but one of the main things to remember is, when playing slide, the lower the action, the more delicate the touch required - if you've got a low action, try a lightweight slide.

I got used to playing slide on my old Squier Tele (low action) with light strings (9's!!!) in Standard tuning (hated chopping and changing back and forth!) when it was my only electric - I don't know what gauge of strings you use on the LP, but try to use a similarly strung guitar - or even your own! - when you're trying out slides.

http://www.soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=5460743&q=hi

That was done on the Squier Tele, with the 9's, in Standard, with a light, glass slide. Just to give you an idea....

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


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(@phangeaux)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 144
 

Phangeaux,

Great post dude.

Thanks Taso and Vic. :-)

Dang, this is another long post, sorry, I get carried away sometimes. I am back in this to edit it and make oit shorter

My advice to you on slide in standard tuning is at the end with a very good link.

No I'm not a master at this, I am just a student/learner like most people here but I have a very good head for it and I take it very seriously-

For the most part I learned to play guitar by ear (early 1960's) from what I heard on the radio (as many old timers did after radio was invented) and this required that I learn to concentrate and listen very very carefully because that song on the radio only gets played once until the next time it comes around. THAT is a great way to learn, to listen carefully and integrate what you hear, visualise it and reproduce it. You can learn a whole lot of other stuff in the process (many times by accidental discovery) which you would not learn by following tabs or standard notation. I think over-all that playing by ear improves both the knowlege of the instrument and creativity on the instrument. They had not revived the Tabs system (which is actually centuries old) back when I was learning guitar. I am not sure when they started using tabs again, as I recall tabs went out of fashion by the beginning of the 20th century and picked up again probably around 1970 and thereafter tabs gradually became common again. Song books back then (60s) only had standard notation with chord changes labelled above the staff.

Anyhow, by about 1969-70 I set guitar playing aside for the most part as I was travelling alot leading a very adventurous life, good times and extrememly hard times (thus my soul for the Blues) and I just played intermittantly through the years until about 2000 when I went on medical disability (hopefyully I'll get off of it someday) At that time, like in an instant I became thoroughly obsessed with blues, (which I have always loved and has been the foundation for my playing) and obsessed with bottleneck slide. I felt that I had missed my calling as a professional guitarist decades ago, but my life experiences count for a great deal in my plans to be a songwriter composer.

I've spent the last 7 years emersed in music and acquiring various instruments setting up a home recording studio (and portable digital studio) for which there is quite a big learning curve - learning how to use this stuff (recording engineering). In retrospect I think I would have been better off just using a basic tape recorder or basic sound card and concentrating on just playing and song writing. Recording engineering has taken a huge chunk of time and energy and will continue to do so. Although I have a technical education and background which sucked me into recording engineering I didn't and don't want to be a recording engineer I want to be a musician songwriter/composer but I imagine I will make good use of the studio since I spent so much time on learning it (and will be spending alot more time on that).

A single person cannot excell at everything so I think a person should pick what they are best at and focus on becoming the best at that. One of the things that I want to be best at is bottleneck slide. I am serious about that and I see room for developing some new techniques and styles. I have my own signature techniques and style in mind, I just need to devote more time to working on it which is just around the corner, maybe a few weeks and I'll start wortking on music full time

I am mostly blues and blues based but I can get off into anything and everything. The guitar is like a magic paintbrush to me, a cosmic paintbrush and I visualize music in colors and patterns, sort of similar to those moving visual things in Windows Media Player except those are just simple repeating patterns compared to a whole song production or a whole work of art. I've also had alot of artistic ability since I was very young and I perceive music as a painting in motion in real time that expresses emotion and other unexplained realms of perception, the mind or consciousness. One of my primary goals is quite simple. I would like to create at least one great blues song (maybe 3) that people will be playing and appreciating as a great song 100 years from now. I'm very serious about this and all this work is to that ultimate accomplishment. I'll be making all kinds of songs though, rock stuff, childrens songs to space cowboy stuff, whatever happens along the way

I am also inevitably going to play lapstyle slide guitar, lapsteel... I recognize it's increased versatility but my first objective is to master bottleneck style so that is my focus. Yeah, I must admit, I have a definate goal of being a master at bottleneck slide. (alot of devoted work ahead)

Otherwise I am probably not much different than anyone else here at these forums. I am just a learner like everyone else and I know that there are alot of people here with more highly developed skills than I presently have. I am just devoted to becoming very good at it and that is what I am going to do.

I'm sorry I got carried away again and wrote too much.

Here is my advice on bottleneck slide on electric guitar though. It's just general based on my own experience and advice from others :

1) Raise the action and check/adjust intonation as needed, so you can still fret comfortably and be in tune up the fretboard. I'll be doing that tonight on two guitars.

2) Use heavier guage strings, find out what others are using for slide, you can mix stringsets too. You'll need a heavier guage for dropped tunings but there are other reasons too (see below)

3) Get several slides for different fingers, mainly small pinky finger and ring finger. Also different lengths, such as a shorter one that goes on only to the middle knuckle. That can save some wear and tear on the wrist. You won't have to worry about that though unless you get a sore wrist.

Now, here is the reason for 1 and 2. You need the higher action to be able to fret behind the slide, (between the slide and the nut) to get some additional notes in your slide work. If the action is low you won't be able to depress that string low enough to keep it from touching the bottom of the slide so you won't be abble to effectively fret behind the slide. I've discovered that this is essential to playing more advanced slide parts and this is why raising the action and heavier guage strings are always recommended by good slide players. The action (and string tension) has to be high enough to fret behind the slide. The heavier guage strings also make fretting behind the slide easier and more effective because of the increased tension from heavier strings, the slide will be a little bit higher from the fretboard. Also, I think that with a higher action and heavier strings you can put more pressure on the slide which will allow for a stronger attack on the strings (something I like to do oin excess sometimes). For that reason I will probably tend to use heavier strings and a bit higher acxtion and heavier slides than most people. However, you can play slide with a regular set up and light guage strings, using a lighter touch but I think it is limiting.

About number 3 different slides for different fingers: I have very long fingers and I started in the beginning using the slide on my pinky finger but now I've started using the ring finger (in standard tuning). The reason is that with the slide on the ring finger I can fret behind the slide alot easier, more efficently and less cramped than with the slide on the pinky which makes fretting behind the slide difficult in my case. A person with short fingers may be able to fret behind the slide on the pinky but with me my fingers are too long and it doesn't work.

Slide in Standard Tuning: Here is one of the best recordings I have found to play along with and learn slide in standard tuning. SUSAN TEDESCHI does a very slow version of "It Hurts Me Too" on the CD 'Better Days' as I recall. This is very slow and very easy to play along with in a standard tuning, using seventh chords, starting on the 7th fret B7 down to E7 and F#7. You will get alot of mileage and learn alot playing along with that song. In fact it is the same basic slide pattern used in a number of different blues songs. The song is done at a slow tempo and makes it especially good for playing along with and learning the slide parts.

Another very important skill to learn is damping with the right hand, fingers & thumb. It is really not too difficult and here is an excellent discussion at the International Guitar Seminars forum about playing slide in Standard Tuning with pointers on right hand thumb and finger damping with some photos:

http://www.guitarseminars.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000193.html

Jeez, sorry this was so long- I gotta get to work on some instruments instead of spending so much time on the web.

Later,

Phangeaux
BadBadBlues


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(@ricochet)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 7850
 

Some mighty good advice in that post, Phangeaux!

You can usually fret up to two frets behind the slide without specially raising the action. Some folks set their action way low and that might cause problems, but as most guitars come set up new they're quite playable for slide if you develop a good touch. My teacher more often than not just grabbed a random guitar off the store racks to play with me, and he fretted behind the slide. He always just amazed me with his skills!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


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(@phangeaux)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 144
 

Some mighty good advice in that post, Phangeaux!

You can usually fret up to two frets behind the slide without specially raising the action. Some folks set their action way low and that might cause problems, but as most guitars come set up new they're quite playable for slide if you develop a good touch. My teacher more often than not just grabbed a random guitar off the store racks to play with me, and he fretted behind the slide. He always just amazed me with his skills!

Hi Ricochet,

I am going to go back and edit alot of stuff out of that post to make it shorter. Honestly, the problem is that I've been taking pain pills every day (oxycodone 2x 10mg ) for the past 2 years and sometimes I get really spaced out on these, especially if I'm also dealing with insomnia (which I have been) which in fact is induced by the pain meds (and alot of coffee.) If I am dealing with pain issues on a given day (which I have been lately and unfortunately my left hand is involved) I am inclined to get stuck in front of the computer monitor for endless hours. I do get spaced out and type too much, it's almost like daydreaming on the keyboard. It is nearly all music related though.

I am always happy when I am involved with music, I forget everything else. In fact, music is healing, reduces pain, speeds up recovery times, etc' etc. and this has been proven repeatedly in clinical research. There is even a profession nowdays that focuses on music therapy. Good music can make us feel better in any circumstance which is probably why people listen to it, hey?

While on that topic: Blues can be and for the most part is a very healing genre and I look at it that way. That is the essence of the blues, a healing power. It's like this; in spite of our problems and difficulties, "The sun is gonna shine in my back door someday" That quoted lyric (as an example) has been used in a number of old blues songs. A good blues song is not supposed to bring you down and leave you flat, it's supposed to be an expression of that 'blue condition' that allows those feelings to be felt through the music, which is therapeutic in itself, and further gives us strength to endure, knowing that everything is gonna be alright. A great blues song is going to have that uplifting aspect. It's a like a short and very effective counselling or therapy session. Blues music just has a way of being able to do that. This (in my experienced view) is the essence of blues and it's origins. No matter how difficult things might be the sun is always gonna shine and be there to come in your back door someday. This is also why blues and gospel were so closely related. The messages, purpose and desired effects are so similar.

I should probably be posting this in the songwiting forums, hey? I haven't even spent any time there yet.

Hey, by the way of coincidence, a friend of mine (neighbor) was a professional rock guitarist for nearly 50 years, mostly 'Southern Rock' (now retired) and played slide in standard tuning. I remember when I was showing him my tricone and mentioned that I was playing in altered tunings. He said "Nah, you don't want to do that (altered tunings), you do it like this:" He grabbed his old Gibson acoustic and started playing some Allman brothers stuff in standard tuning.

Rico, regarding your comments about action, are you talking acoustics or electrics? Most people prefer a low action and light guage strings on electrics for regular playing and easy string bending. Easy string bending is something you don't want with a slide, especially for blues and especially in dropped tunings- they'll be too slinky. All of my electrics came with a low action and fairly light guage strings, usually 10's. Fretting behind the slide would require an extremely light touch with the slide, especially with a smaller fret board radius (curve) where it might not be possible at all and if so I think alot of extra supreme refined control of the slide would be necessary. Man, other than some soft jazzy blues styles a light touch just doesn't figure well into blues in my opinion. To express the power and emotion you have to put some attack on the strings here and there and in my view that's just not going to be possible with a delicate set-up. Just watch Bukka White or Son House - maybe it's unfair to use them as a reference but in my opinion a delicate set up just isn't gonna get it when you need to put some power into those strings. It's easier just to raise the action and/or use heavier gauge strings than to try to use a slide so delicately. Acoustics may not need any adjustment to start with because they seem to have a little bit higher action and heavier (medium) string guages. (they don't sound as good with light guage strings). I am not sure about the neck radius comparisons but I think acoustics are more flat which is an advantage.

I guess that the bottom line is simply this: If you can fret behind the slide effectively without having to have an eye surgeons control of the slide (which may take a long time to develope), then you probably don't have to change anything although it might be better to try a different set-up. If you can't fret effectively behind the slide then you probably need to make some adjustments, heavier guage strings and/or raise the action a bit.

My main electric needs new strings right now. I'll be changing them tonight. I bought some D'Addario ground 1/2 rounds to try out. They are 430 stainless steel, called a 'jazz light guage'. .012 to .052. They may be too light for me in dropped tunings but I didn't have the time to figure out each individual string guage I wanted to buy one string at a time so I thought I would try these.

In the process I am going to raise my action and readjust the intonation because I am getting really tired of this whole "light touch" scenario.

I'll see how these strings work out but later on I am going to buy single strings and fit the guages to my style of playing and prefered tunings.

I gotta get off of here for awhile and then come back and edit my post. TTYL, Rico, I may even send a PM.

Phangeaux
BadBadBlues


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(@ricochet)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 7850
 

I sympathize with your pain situation, and understand more of it than you know.

Agree about the healing power of music, and with your observations about the blues.

As for the action height, most of the electrics and acoustics I've picked up have been behind-the-slide frettable, but the hardest are those accursed Fenders with the steeply arched fretboards. (A concave sided slide is better for them.) And like I said, some electric players set their actions ridiculously low; that's hard to slide on in any case. Right after I posted that this morning I played some minor key stuff in Open E on a Washburn dreadnought with standard setup and 12s on it. No problem with that. I'm too out of practice to be good at the light string stuff for now, but when I was playing a lot I could pull it off with 9s in E on a Gibson-style electric off the wall. It's doable. 10s aren't hard to slide on, and 12s are just easy. Sometimes I like to crash and bang on the guitar, and sometimes I'd rather play with more finesse (which I wish I had a lot more of!) If I played as much as I type, I'd be really good!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


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