Friday, March 05, 2010

(All New!) Guitar Friday: Slide Guitar

by M A N @roquesdoodle

Down home Mississippi, smoky bars, southern comfort, and deals with the devil. These are just a few things that come to mind whenever I think of slide guitar. Born in the early 20th century, slide guitar playing became a cornerstone of American blues with lyrical stylings that can evoke a host of emotions, from heart-wrenching sadness to unrestrained joy.

The concept of slide guitar is quite simple, but to better understand it, we need to know a little about how a guitar works (a little basics for all the non-players out there). If you look at a guitar, you'll see lines running across the neck. Those lines are small metal bars known as "frets." Whenever a player plays a note, she does so by pressing a string against the neck, causing the string to hit a fret. When this happens, the "length" of the string is shortened and its pitch is raised (most guitars have frets spaced to allow for the standard 12 note chromatic scale).

This is where the power of the slide comes in. Instead of pressing down on the neck of a guitar with your fingers to fret the notes, you use a small tube of glass or metal to slide along the length of the strings.The slide acts as a moving fret and is able to sharpen or flatten the pitch of any note to any degree the player wishes. This allows the player slide into or away from a note (much like bending in regular playing). Done properly, this allows for some powerfully emotive playing.

The list of amazing and influential slide guitar players is pretty extensive, but here are a few I thought would be fun to share. Feel free to add your own suggestions in comments.

Sylvester Weaver (the first blues man ever recorded): Guitar Rag
Ry Cooder (Ry was the genius behind the music for the movie Crossroads--no, not the one with Brittany Spears): Feelin' Bad Blues
Derek Trucks: Desdemona (slide kicks in around 2:10)
Eric Sardinas: Live (I'm not sure who said it, but my favorite quote about Eric is, "If Satan had a blues band, this would be it.")
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Jason Orrill said...

A couple of my favorites are Harvey Reid's version of "Vigilante Man" and "Preachin' Blues" by Son House. I've also always been partial to "Traveling Riverside Blues," another Robert Johnson tune.

LarryFleming said...

Here's a fun site with Slide guitar players. You can play the video at the bottom

I never used the slide other than trying it out one time. I like the sound but never spent the time to learn.

We hear a lot here in the south, I like Derek Trucks too and his style.

The Minstrel Boy said...

me and the bottleneck go way back. far enough that when coreciden switched its bottle to plastic i went and bought me a bunch of them.

the old pill bottles are what i use. since then, lucky for me since the pill bottles have all gone on to their rewards, they make reproductions of them.

there are many variations out there for the slides themselves. my suggestion is to try them all. when the right one fits, your fingers and ears will know they are home.

my biggest recommendation to folks is to put the slide on the pinky. this leaves the hand semi-free for fingering duty. putting the slide on the middle finger (like bonnie rait) or the ring finger (like joe walsh and duane allman) means that the only notes you'll be playing are the slide notes. which is fine if you have, and can afford, the backing players those guys have.

one of my favorite slide players out there is
leo kottke

dude amazes me. he's lyrical, and technically superb.

Anonymous said...

I'd recommend Elmore James.

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