LESSON > BEYOND BLUES
Slip Slidin’ Away
BY GEOFF HARTWELL
Geoff Hartwell is a NYC-based guitarist, singer,
songwriter, and instructor. His forthcoming
album features Kofi Burbridge and Yonrico
Scott from the Derek Trucks Band, and Oteil
Burbridge of the Allman Brothers. For more
information and to check out his instructional
DVD, Ultimate Slide Guitar: Essential Slide
Techniques, visit geoffhartwell.com.
• Understand the advantages
of playing slide guitar in standard tuning.
• Develop picking-hand muting
and accurate intonation.
• Create phrases in the style
of Duane Allman and Derek
Click here to hear
sound clips of
The sound of slide guitar is incredibly intoxicating. I’ve always been drawn
to it because of the singing, vocal quality
that it has—so emotional and expressive.
It’s very prominent in blues and roots rock,
but as an approach and set of techniques, I
think slide guitar is truly useful in all styles.
The conventional wisdom for slide playing is to use an open tuning, where you
retune your guitar so that strumming the
open strings creates a chord. Two popular
slide tunings are open E (E–B–E–G#–B–E,
low to high) and open G (D–G–D–G–
B–D, low to high). The most compelling
benefit to this approach is that anywhere
you put the slide you’ll have a nice big
chord. This is also a fundamental compromise with two serious drawbacks. First, you
are now bound to only major chords, and
even worse, all the notes and their positions
that you have already worked so hard to
learn are gone because you’ve retuned half
of the strings.
Luckily, this isn’t the only way to get
your hands around some greasy slide licks.
Using standard tuning is just as viable and
some of the greatest slide guitarists in the
world use it. What’s great about learning
slide techniques in standard tuning is that
you can apply them to any tuning you want
down the road too. The techniques are
difficult enough as it is, so let’s get rockin’
with the tuning you’re already used to.
The biggest adjustment for most play-
ers is the sense of touch and how lightly
you have to actually rest on the strings
with the slide. Typically, players will use
thick strings and high action. I use stock
action and .010–.046 light strings. There
are some folks who take it to the extreme.
Billy Gibbons plays a super-light .008 set,
even when playing slide. Talk about a light
68 PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2012