Harrison Marsh brings you more slide guitar ideas to try, moving on to the popular open E tuning, also known as ‘Vestapol’.
Open E tuning is hugely popular in electric slide playing having been used by many guitarists including Duane Allman, Sonny Landreth, and Derek Trucks (the latter almost exclusively). From standard tuning, the first, second and sixth strings are the same as in standard tuning, the third string is tuned up a semitone to G# (the Major 3rd) and the fourth and fifth strings are tuned up a whole step to E and B respectively, going from high to low E-B-G#-E-B-E. This is equivalent to open D tuning a whole tone higher. If you do not wish to tune in this way, open D tuning with a capo on the second fret will give a similar result; however, this means going even higher up the neck and it can make some licks difficult. Many players will prefer the tone or find slide playing easier in open E due the higher string tension.
As well as huge success with The Allman brothers, Duane Allman was a successful studio musician playing with the likes of Boz Scaggs and Aretha Franklin with his signature slide sound. Influenced by Allman and Elmore James, Derek Trucks plays almost solely in open E. One of the things to notice in the examples is that, just because we are tuned to an open E chord does not mean the song must be in the key of E. Indeed, as the examples show, slide has been used in wider genres than just traditional blues – and in a range of keys. The examples also show how a slide player might typically use higher fret positions, which can be a challenge for the fretting hand when maintaining good intonation. It is also common for slide phrases to skip between non-adjacent strings, so work through the examples slowly to begin with. Working out the relevant scales shapes and ensuring effective picking-hand damping will make playing easier.
All the examples were recorded using a fingerstyle approach with the slide on the third finger. Be aware of dynamic and tonal differences when moving between strings to avoid any notes sounding thin.
Tips: It’s common to use compression to even out the tone when playing slide, and accenting key notes of a phrase (perhaps with vibrato) can add colour to your playing.
influenced by both duane allman and elmore james, derek trucks plays slide almost exclusively in open e tuning
NEXT MONTH Harrison continues his series with more slide ideas in open E tuning