Now let’s dive into 7th chords. Rather than moving diagonally up the neck, these arpeggios are going to be more vertical. In blues, the most common tonalities are dominant and minor. Ex. 5 shows you how to move through four shapes of a G7 (G–B–D–F) arpeggio and Ex. 6 demonstrates Gm7 (G–Bb–D–F) arpeggio shapes.
Once playing through arpeggios becomes second nature, practice improvising through chord progressions. Take the arpeggios and break them down into smaller patterns and chunks. Let the shredder side take over and practice short, repetitive licks and patterns with a metronome. Then, use the soulful blues side of your personality to get into the groove. Soon you’ll find yourself creating some new and interesting sounds by combining the two. All right, let’s move on to the next section.
This is standard vocabulary for any blues or rock player, but our hybrid slide technique gives the standard shapes some new life. To play each of these examples, I’ll alternate between the slide and my fourth finger.
Practice these shapes until they become second nature and you’re able to play them with your eyes closed ... in every key. Ex. 7 and Ex. 8 demonstrate two positions of the G major pentatonic (G–A–B–D–E) scale. Remember, the G major pentatonic can also be viewed as an E minor pentatonic scale.
The pentatonic scale has five notes to each octave before the notes are repeated in the next one. Therefore, there are five different shapes of the pentatonic scale—one built off of each note. These five shapes can be thought of as inversions of the parent scale. Work through each pentatonic position slowly and methodically, focusing on balancing the tone between the slide and the fretted notes.
Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of super-charging your slide playing—string skipping. This is relatively easy because the slide lays across strings easily enough, but you still have to rock it back and forth to focus only on the string you intend to play. All these licks deal only with the A minor pentatonic (A–C–D–E–G) scale, but you should practice them in a variety of other keys and octaves.
In Ex. 9 we start simply enough by sliding into the lower note on each string and then using a hammer-on to attack the higher note. The skipping pattern is a leap followed by a move to an adjacent string.
Ex. 10 is a bit different: Here we’re playing everything with the slide and employing plenty of leaps. It can be a bit tricky to accurately play over every pentatonic shape, but stick to it.
Ex. 11 uses a rhythm based on sextuplets (six notes per measure), along with the same string-skipping pattern we first saw in Ex. 9. You can achieve a nice wave effect with fast licks like this. And remember, these licks don’t have to be played fast—this technique can also be applied to moody, slow phrases. Though it’s more difficult, try playing this example slowly and in the pocket to get complete control.
Our last lick (Ex. 12) uses a string-skipping pattern that’s based on a series of leaps. You get a good amount of range with this one. Slide into the first note on each beat, but also use the slide to play the lower note on each string. It’s great to have the slide on your finger and be able to create crying, screaming melodies when you need it, but not be limited when it comes to fingering.
So now you’ve tried combining slide guitar with a shred attitude. I hope this has opened up a Pandora’s box of possibilities and you’re ready to explore more on your own. Take it slow and have fun with this technique. These ideas are for you to explore, make your own, and integrate into your own style. And that might not be shred or swampy blues, or even a genre we’ve heard before ... but it will be you.