Monday, December 01, 2008

more cigar box guitar basics - slide playing

This is aimed at beginners who may have never played slide guitar or a three-stringed CBG. Now you have your guitar tuned up correctly you need to get the feel of playing slide.

It's amazing how many beginners think you have to press the strings down onto the fretboard with the slide. No no no, think about it. The slide is taking the place of the fret wires. The pitch or note played on a string gets higher as it gets shorter. The normal fret wires act in the same way as the nut at the top of the neck. They create a solid point on the string, along with the bridge, to allow the string to vibrate. The slide is simply a movable nut allowing you to shorten the string length in variable degrees rather than fixed ones like the fretwires. You only need to put enough pressure on the string to get a clear note when plucked. You also need to place the slide smack over the fret mark - not between frets or on the dots.

So first practise doing that on just the top (first) string. I prefer the slide on my little (pinky) finger as it leaves the best three fingers free. If you want to play slide on a conventional guitar, you'll appreciate having them free for occasional fretted notes. So just try placing the slide over the third fret position on the first string and pluck it. Does it rattle? Not enough pressure, put slightly more on until it rings out clear.

The most important thing you need to develop is hitting the note accurately when sliding up or down to it. You can only tell by using your ears. Unless you are tone-deaf you will know when it's right. So try putting your slide over the third fret, pluck the string and while it's still ringing, slide smoothly up to the fifth fret. Does it sound right? Yep - you just learned your first lick. Now try adding some vibrato when you reach the fifth fret. Using movement in the wrist, simply 'wobble' the slide back and forth slightly above and below the fret position. That sounds much better doesn't it. Try these exercises, sliding from frets 2-3, 3-5, 5-7, 7-10, 10-12 then try them in reverse. Don't forget to practise the vibrato on the targeted frets.

More tips to follow soon.