Don’t limit your slide chops to singing, single-note leads. Instead, try crafting cool rhythm parts by focusing on both sides of the slide.
• Create suspended sounds by fingering notes behind the slide.
• Learn how to change harmony by moving the bass note.
• Develop a better sense of playing over chord changes with the slide.
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Think of some of your favorite slide players—Duane, Sonny, Derek, Ry. They all have that mojo, a magical touch that makes their particular brand of slide stand out. Novice sliders usually gravitate towards working out some melodic leads or melodies before branching off. In this lesson, we’ll look at using the slide for rhythm guitar in an open tuning—specifically, open E (E–B–E–G#–B–E). If you’ve never messed around with an open tuning, the concept is rather easy: Just tune your open strings to the same notes you’d play if you were strumming an open-position E chord.
These examples involve using the slide to move between notes and chords, as well as using your fretting fingers behind the slide. It takes some time to get the right feel for this technique. It involves angling the slide in different directions to allow the notes behind it to be audible while still allowing the notes “fretted” by the slide to resonate. Putting the slide on your fourth or third finger will work just fine, however it might be a little bit tougher if you play these with the slide on your second finger.
Ex. 1 is a simple IV–V–I movement in the key of E. You’ll be sliding up to the 5th fret for the A chord (IV), then up to the 7th for the B chord (V). However, using the first finger, we’re playing a C# on the 3rd string, 5th fret (remember, we’re in open E tuning), and then hammering with the slide to the full chord on the 7th fret making a movement from a Bsus2 chord to a regular B chord. Follow it up by sliding up to the E on the 12th fret.
In Ex. 2, we’re reusing the behind-the-slide technique the same way we did with the sus2 chord, but this time we’ll start on the A chord. Then, with the same technique, move up to B and use your first finger to grab the chord’s 4 (E) on the 2nd string, before making the Bsus4 into a B major chord with a full slide barre. Then slide to the 12th fret; this hints at an E major chord, but with your first finger now on the 6th string, 9th fret (C#), it becomes a C#m7.
Ex. 3 is a descending movement that primarily uses your first finger to fret bass notes while your slide stays at the 12th fret and covers the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings. This is followed by a full slide down to the 5th fret for the A chord.
Let’s build on some of the techniques we’ve already used. Ex. 4 places the second finger on the 2nd string, 9th fret, along with the D chord to voice-lead to the A chord on the 5th fret. This is followed by the sus2 movement we used before on the E chord at the 12th fret.
By now, you’ve probably realized that suspensions work great in this style of slide. Ex. 5 uses hanging sus4 sounds on each chord while playing the 3 before and after it. You’ll need to angle your slide to hit the sus notes while retaining the original chord.
Ex. 6 has a Ry Cooder vibe. Again, we descend using the first finger for the first three bass notes, while hovering over the 12th fret with the slide. For the A and B chords, use the third finger to fret the low root notes while the slide handles the rest of the voicing.
Ex. 7 demonstrates a simple chord movement in the key of G. We’re sliding from the G chord on the 3rd fret to the B chord on the 7th fret. Next, we slip into Em. That’s followed by a resolution from D on the 10th fret to C on the 8th fret.
Here’s a trickier one. Ex. 8 blends melody with chord movements. It begins with a double-stop on the 3rd and 1st strings at the 12th fret. For the next move, you’ll need to stretch your first finger to the 9th fret to play the 6 (C#). Following that, use a portion of our previous C#m7 voicing to complete the chord melody, then move your first finger up a half-step to D on the 10th fret. Repeat the lick and then close with the E chord at the 12th fret.
Ex. 9 uses many of the ideas we discussed earlier, including the voicing from Ex. 4. The last measure features sus2 and sus4 sounds on the B chord at the 7th fret.
Our final example is similar to something I played in my arrangement of John Martyn’s “May You Never.” It involves the first six notes jumping between the slide and your first finger (start with the slide). That melodic figure is followed by ringing B, A, and E chords. A little reverb sounds nice on this one.