Using the Slide in D6 or E6 Tuning
If we simply raise the 2nd string a whole step (from A to B in D tuning, from B to C# in E tuning), we get a 6 chord open tuning. These tunings
are used extensively in Hawaiian and Western swing music, often on lap or pedal steel guitars. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when playing these
tunings (even when playing the blues). You’ll either feel the soft tropical breezes or the smell the cattle on the lone prairie.
In this tuning, the sound of the 6th comes from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings, which form a minor chord and give us a 6-chord sound when played
against the rest of the strings. If we lower this minor chord a whole step, we get a dominant 9 chord—a very cool sound, as in the example
below, in D6 tuning.
Below is the lick-building diagram for this tuning. Notice we now resolve to root, 3rd, 5th, 6th and major 7th.
Here’s an example using single-string lines against an alternating bass, Travis picking–style. You’ll need to use very little of the slide, covering just
the 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings and keeping the bass strings open. When you master this exercise, you’ll be a cool drink o’ water!
Using the Slide in D Minor or E Minor Tuning
Minor tunings work well with slide guitar; there’s nothing as spooky or sad as this combination. A simple change of tuning the 3rd string a half
step down from D or E tuning gets you there (change F# to F from D tuning, G# to G from E tuning). Let’s get started by looking at the lick-building
diagram for this tuning, this time using a Dorian scale.
Here are a few chords in D Minor to get you started. No sobbing allowed!
Here is a lick in the style of Blind Willie Johnson:
Here is an “L” shape lick off the 12th fret. “L” shape refers to the movement you can make when outlining chords with a slide. It’s much like how a
knight moves in chess. The “L” shape can be backwards, forwards, rightside up and upside down.