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Crossroads - A Lesson in Slide Guitar.

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

My Custom Made Heavy Brass Slides are now available two lengths. The Original Shorter Length is for Standard and Dropped D Tunings and is the one I use. The New Longer Length Slide is for playing in Open Tunings.

For this lesson, I will now be charging a small fee of US $3.95 for the Printable PDF of the TAB/Notation. Click here to order it.

This lesson explained

​Are there enough covers of this classic Robert Johnson tune called Crossroads? No. ​Not quite: a slide in Dropped D tuning version was missing. Until now. Here it is.

It's in A, the key most people play it in and it follows the standard 12 bar format:

| A - - - | - - - - | - - - - | - - - | D - - - | - - - - | A - - - | - - -  | E - - - | D - - - | A - - - | E - -  - | ... or in Roman numerals,

| I - - - | - - - - | - - - - | - - - | IV - - - | - - - - | I - - - | - - -  | V - - - | IV - - - | I - - - | V - -  - |

The main difference with my version is that I'm in Dropped, so tune that bass string down a whole tone to D.

The basic ear-catching riff to this tune is the A - G - A move. This is something that I suspect Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce came up with when 'Cream' recorded it back in the late 1960s. It certainly isn't part of Robert Johnson's original. It is now the signature lick of that tune.

The lick over the I chord, the A sections, moves between A and G; when it moves up to the IV chord, the riff moves up accordingly to D - C - D. You can either see them as the chords A-G / D-C or as A-A11 and D-D11 ... doesn't matter what you call them, they work.

There are tons of ways to express the lick but I settled on the one in the video for this lesson. The A sections use the fingers for the first A and G, then a single slide note (A) for the last A. Over D, I use the slide for the two Ds and fingers for the C. (That's a D triad up at the 7th fret, a C triad at the fifth fret. This combination just seems to work well when wearing a slide, but, as I say, there are so many other ways of playing the very same thing.

Everything about this is fairly easy if you're used to having a slide on your pinkie except the little pull-off bits that follow the riff. I play the same little line over the A and D chords and it consists of a pull-off from the slide, then a pull-off with the finger to the open D string, then a single open A string note. But really really quickly. It's actually harder to play these slowly than fast. They're are also some extraneous notes that appear from time to time that are all part of the slide coming off the strings or me hitting some open strings. It was hard for me to tell watching the video so I tried to duplicate them ... couldn't. Sometimes these little details simply emerge and remain a mystery. 

The main thing to keep the various elements -- fingered notes/slide notes -- all flowing smoothly. That will take some time, and I suggest you start slowly and speed it up as you progress. You'll no doubt spend most of your time on the twiddly bit.

I've given you two different V chord sections (bars 9 and 21) , one down low just using power chord notes (roots and fifths) with a rising bass line over the IV chord (bar 10), the other a E7 played up the neck, ending with a D to C (D11) over the IV chord (bar22).

This is by no means an easy lesson. If you've never played slide you're probably better off looking at something more basic to start off with, but it sure is fun to play.

See you next time,


For this lesson, I will now be charging a small fee of US $3.95 for the Printable PDF of the TAB/Notation. Click here to order it.

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.