open g tun­ing pt 1

Harrison Marsh looks at elec­tric slide in open G, used by Billy Gibbons, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Bon­nie Raitt & Ge­orge Thoro­good.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON SLIDE -

Hav­ing looked at the fun­da­men­tals of slide play­ing in stan­dard tun­ing, this month we ex­plore play­ing with a slide in open tun­ing, start­ing with open G. Open G tun­ing is hugely pop­u­lar among slide play­ers and was widely used by early coun­try blues play­ers. Today, Do­bro play­ers such as Jerry Dou­glas and Eric Clap­ton (Un­plugged al­bum) also favour this tun­ing. Far from just be­ing an acous­tic gui­tarist’s tun­ing, open G was the choice for Ge­orge Thoro­good’s Bad To The Bone and a favourite of Keith Richards of course he fa­mously re­moved the sixth string from his Tele­caster com­pletely.

In G tun­ing the open strings form a G chord, while 5th and 7th fret po­si­tions give C and D chords re­spec­tively. While open G lends it­self eas­ily to I-IV-V pro­gres­sions and this makes up a lot of the reper­toire here, as with wider blues play­ing it’s the sub­tlety, de­tail and phras­ing that leads to some mem­o­rable licks. As well as full six-string chords us­ing the slide, open tun­ing al­lows for play­ing dou­ble-stops eas­ily; th­ese add weight and in­ter­est to so­los and are syn­ony­mous with the style. You will of­ten hear play­ers cre­ate call-and-an­swer ef­fects be­tween licks and vo­cals, as Muddy Waters did so mas­ter­fully. The 12th, 15th and 17th frets also al­low the same licks to be played eas­ily an oc­tave up, which you will hear many play­ers use. The third, fourth and fifth strings also cre­ate a ‘5’

you might find it bet­ter to set a spare gui­tar aside, string it with a heav­ier gauge and raise the ac­tion

chord un­der the slide, which has led to some iconic rhythm play­ing.

With open tun­ing it’s im­por­tant to be aware of damp­ing (both hands) as the strings will ring sym­pa­thet­i­cally. Also, any­one us­ing light-gauge strings and a low ac­tion will strug­gle play­ing slide in G as the first, fifth and sixth strings are all tuned down a tone, tak­ing a lot of ten­sion off of the neck. You might find it bet­ter to set a spare gui­tar aside, string it with a heav­ier gauge and raise the ac­tion. Of course, ac­cu­rate in­to­na­tion is a prime goal.

An in­ter­est­ing thing about elec­tric slide is how dif­fer­ent play­ers find their dis­tinc­tive sound; Billy Gibbons is a great ex­am­ple, as is Ge­orge Harrison. So let your favourite play­ers dic­tate the sound you look for. It can be great fun ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent tones.

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