Slide Guitar Tuning
I have played slide guitar for almost as long as I have played guitar. My early influences were Leo Kottke and Ry Cooder as well as the many “roots” black blues players such as Robert Johnson.
I always played in open D tuning. This was always a problem because it always took too much time to switch from standard tuning to open D.
New Technology has Changed Things
With the new technology, Line 6, which is always on the leading edge of technology has a guitar that will digitally change to different tunings with the flip of a switch. Gibson now has a Les Paul that will do the same. I am not sure about other companies but the ones that don’t are probably scrambling to keep up.
The Best Way for Me was to play “Standard Tuning Slide Guitar”
If you can’t afford to buy multiple guitars for every tuning. And don’t have time to retune.
You play slide in standard tuning in the scale of the key the band was playing in.
I have been working on the blues boxes to help me learn the neck. To play slide I just had to use these scales with the slide to add runs or work out the melody.
The 5 blues boxes are the pentatonic scale with 2 blue notes added to each box.
You can stay in one box or as I often do go from one box to another.
You must remember to play the slide on top of the fret and drag a finger behind the slide to dampen the sound on the back side of the strings.
Play slide in a band
When I play in my Church worship band I usually don’t play slide the whole song.
It is easy to switch from playing regular to slide since it is in standard tuning. The root note on the 6th string of the key the song is in tells me the notes that I can use in both slide and lead runs. I may stay in box one of the root chord or I may go to box one of any chord that the song goes to. I can also move from box one to box 2 of the root chord. There are many options but the main thing is to keep it simple and melodic.
It is better to sound good than to be fancy. Play from your heart.
Slide Guitar Takes Practice
Although slide guitar is a different method it still requires muscle memory. You have to practice to get the feel of it. Slide guitar is beautiful when played correctly, but it sounds terrible if you don’t have the right touch. You must hit the notes with authority and know when to slide into a note and how fast. Slow can be awesome, especially on electric guitar.
Also short notes with the slide pulled back. There are many techniques, such as pinch harmonics that can be added as you develop your slide style.
Three awesome slide guitar players that played in standard tuning.
Duane Alman, Elmore James, and Muddy Waters.