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One of my favourite lit­tle earcatch­ing gui­tar tricks is to get around the neck us­ing slides. It serves a sonic pur­pose as well as an er­gonomic one: sure, it helps you to play a wider se­lec­tion of notes than you would oth­er­wise be able to, but it also al­lows you to in­flict all sorts of grace notes and phras­ing choices on your poor lit­tle notes.

Some­times th­ese slides might be sev­eral frets long, some­times they might take you all the way across the neck, and some­times they might be lit­tle in­cre­men­tal ones – there’s just some­thing cool and vo­cal-like about mak­ing your way around the fret­board this way as op­posed to sim­ply pick­ing ev­ery note.

Let’s look at some of my favourite slid­ing licks. All of th­ese tend to sound best on the neck pickup with a goodly amount of gain and maybe a bit of de­lay set for half-note re­peats in time with the song, and they work at all sorts of speeds.

They ac­tu­ally string to­gether into an evolv­ing melody that’s a bit Guthrie Go­van-es­que, ex­cept for the fi­nal bar which is more Steve Vai-like. This is from my “songs I’ll get around to fin­ish­ing some­day” file.

FIG­URE #1

This first lick is based around the ex­act same pat­tern you would use to play a power chord on the lower strings. Pick ev­ery note down­wards and be sure you don’t press too hard, or the slides will be messy and jerky. I tend to play with a pretty light touch – one ben­e­fit of this is that you can set your strings much lower, which is great for play­ing su­per fast and having smooth le­gato phras­ing. If you play with a light touch, you won’t get all the an­noy­ing fret buzz that would oth­er­wise kill the sus­tain.

FIG­URE #2

Fig­ure #2 is kind of like Fig­ure #1, ex­cept this time, we’re slid­ing notes on the E string in­stead of the B string. So it’s al­most like Fig­ure #1, ex­cept in­verted. When I play this type of stuff, I down­pick the B string and up­stroke the E. Af­ter a while, it starts to feel pretty nat­u­ral, and you’ll just de­velop a sixth sense for when to pick and when to slide. As al­ways, start slow and work your way up the metronome.

FIG­URE #3

Fig­ure #3 is an­other sim­i­lar idea, but in­stead of play­ing off the power chord shape, we’re gonna shift one string fur­ther apart to work with the oc­tave. What I like about this is that it sounds al­most like some kind of weird har­monic or feed­back tech­nique.

This bit was in­spired by an old Richie Kotzen mag­a­zine col­umn from 1991, where he demon­strated how to give the sonic il­lu­sion of tap­ping with­out ac­tu­ally tap­ping. This ex­am­ple is noth­ing like what he played, but it’s what led to the orig­i­nal idea. Hell, maybe in 24 years, I’ll read a lick you wrote af­ter read­ing this les­son.

FIG­URE #4

Fig­ure #4 uses the good ol’ mi­nor pen­ta­tonic shape that ev­ery­one knows. All we’re do­ing with this part is slid­ing up on one string, and then down on an­other. I’ve put the strings into pairs us­ing the outer, mid­dle and in­ner strings (E/E, A/B, D/G).

You can use what­ever strings you like, but this has a re­ally weird, oth­er­worldly feel about it be­cause the har­monic jumps are so very dras­tic. Vai plays a sim­i­lar lick in “Blue Pow­der” on his Passion&

War­fare record, but he’s not do­ing it within the pen­ta­tonic sale. New scale, new lick. Sweet.

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