Bon­nie Raitt

Har­ri­son Marsh looks at a fig­ure who’s carved a unique niche in the guitar world; the song­writer, singer and gui­tarist, Bon­nie Raitt.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON | SLIDE -

While best known as a fine singer and song­writer with hits in­clud­ing I Can’t Make You Love Me and Nick Of Time, Bon­nie Raitt is also a highly re­spected slide gui­tarist. BB King called her, “The best damn slide player work­ing to­day”.

The California born gui­tarist made her de­but in 1971 and has recorded 17 al­bums since. Her ma­jor break­through was 1989’s multi-mil­lion seller, Nick Of Time, but fol­low-ups Luck Of The Draw and Long­ing In Their Hearts sold fab­u­lously too, and fea­tured some of her big­gest sin­gles. Her unique mix of blues, folk and coun­try has earned her 10 Grammy awards, a Hol­ly­wood Walk Of Fame star and a host of other ac­co­lades. Slide has been at the heart of the mix from the start.

Bon­nie took up guitar at a young age, and in 1970 she sup­ported coun­try blues leg­end Mis­sis­sippi Fred McDow­ell. Since then she has shared stages and stu­dios with A-list artists and is still on the road in 2018. Early Raitt al­bums are highly rec­om­mended and crit­i­cally ac­claimed, par­tic­u­larly the Nick Of Time al­bum, and it’s songs from this era that are most well known and dis­play the best ex­am­ples of her slide work.

Un­usu­ally, Raitt uses fin­ger­picks and a glass slide worn on the sec­ond fin­ger. It’s fun to ex­per­i­ment with this but our ex­am­ples will all work with a more con­ven­tional ap­proach us­ing the slide on the third or fourth fin­ger. Bon­nie’s ap­proach en­ables her to play 5th chords and rhythm while singing, be­fore switch­ing to slide so­los and fills.

Raitt’s tone is com­pressed to give a smooth slide sound with al­most in­fi­nite sus­tain, a di­rect influence from Lit­tle Feat’s Low­ell Ge­orge, with whom Raitt worked fre­quently dur­ing the 70s. Her wide vi­brato and con­trol of slow fig­ures is mas­ter­ful, and has be­come a sig­na­ture of her sound. Slide guitar has be­come her sec­ond voice and, while rarely dis­play­ing speed, her play­ing is al­ways taste­ful, of­ten cre­at­ing melodies across a sin­gle string and us­ing open strings to great ef­fect. The Low­ell Ge­orge in­flu­ences shine through but her sus­tained vi­brato is in­stantly recog­nis­able and may take a lot of time to em­u­late well. There’s a host of mu­si­cal gen­res in Bon­nie’s cat­a­logue, but it must be said she has one of the best slide tones of all time.

NEXT MONTH Har­ri­son looks at per­haps the great­est liv­ing slide ex­po­nent Derek Trucks

there’s a host of gen­res in bon­nie’s cat­a­logue, but it must be said she has one of the best slide guitar tones of all time

Bon­nie Raitt uses slide to un­der­pin and il­lus­trate her fan­tas­tic mu­sic

Raitt uses a 1965 Stra­to­caster stripped to the bare wood and al­most al­ways tuned to open A. In­deed this in­stru­ment was so iconic that Raitt’s was Fen­der’s first fe­male sig­na­ture model. Bon­nie’s tone is clean but heav­ily com­pressed to give that clas­sic sus­tain. Use an ‘in-be­tween’ Strat-type tone if you can, then add smooth drive, and com­pres­sion if you have it.

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