Nicotine Blues - A Slide Guitar Lesson.
(Reminiscent of Ry Cooder's "Fool for a Cigarette")
Nicotine blues - The lesson explained.
Another Slide in Dropped D lesson for you.
The title: I always struggle coming up with titles for these snippets. I usually look out the window to see if there's anything outside that might inspire me, like the weather. In this case, the piece reminded me of a great Ry Cooder tune called "Fool for a Cigarette", so if you're thinking 'Poor Kirk, he must have just quit smoking', you're wrong. I did that almost 17 years ago and I haven't had the nicotine blues for almost as long.
This is in dropped D, so lower that bass string by a whole tone before you get started.
This will be a good one to refine all the various techniques used in this style of slide guitar. There are all kinds of things going on in this on: the left hand is sliding into full triads, single notes, low-string power chords, normal single note lines and double stops. The right hand is busy with picking and muting.
It's a 16 bar blues in the key of D and sticks exclusively to the I-IV-V chords, so nothing to get confused about there.
I start with a full D triad up at the 7th fret. Remember that when you're using the slide, it needs to be positioned directly above the fret wire, not behind it where your finger would go in normal playing. You'll notice that I slide into the triad from below, a standard approach when playing slide. How far below you start is not awfully important, so long as you reach the target note(s) on the proper beat. That means that have to start the slide-in slightly ahead of the beat, and you really need to be accurate about stopping the slide as you reach the correct pitch. These are all things that are hair-pullingly difficult to coordinate at first, but, thank goodness, become second nature after a while. How long a while depends on how often you play.
After the initial three string pluck, I play a little line that uses some of the triad notes under the slide -- with the slide -- interspersed with some 'normal' notes that I play with my index and middle fingers 'behind' the slide, using notes from the A chord that has come into play. This is the part that really needs a fine touch. You need to keep the slide on the strings for the slide notes (duh!) and lift the slide off the strings ever so slightly for the normal notes. Lift it off too far and you won't be able to get it back down nicely for the slide notes; lift off too little and you'll get all sorts of buzzing and dirtiness going on. It really is a feel thing that you need to practice over and over to get right. You'll notice a slide note just before the start of bar 3, a flat 3 (F) that gets inserted after the line. It slides out of the note downward, unlike the triad that slides upwards to the target notes.
The next bit, bars 3 and 4, are all normal finger playing, a little line in D that passes through a momentary V chord (A).
The whole riff repeats.
At bar 9, I move to the IV chord, G. This is a so-called power chord on the three bass strings. Remember that we've lowered the E string to D, so we have two roots and fifth down there on the bass strings. Playing them at the fifth fret gives us a G chord, no third. It would fit just as nicely under a Gm chord, but in this case we know it's major, even if we can't hear the 3.
Bar 11 goes to the V chord, the A. Here I start with a little stab at a 'normal' A chord, then quickly follow it with a slide A up at the 7th fret. This is where I could have played another power chord but instead I just used the one note from it. Look out for that neat lick at the end of bar 12. It slides up to the 5 of A at the 9th fret, then back down to the 3 and b3 before resolving on the root. You probably have to run through those moves a few hundred times to get the timing and pitch right but, again, it will eventually be all muscle memory. I can guarantee this because it is for me. For me, after all the years I've been doing it, it's a standard move, one I can do over and over again.
The whole thing ends with another repeat of the opening riffs.
Pay close attention to the right hand in the video. You'll see that it is automatically choking off strings that are not in play. The thumb handles the low strings, laying across them as required; the finger tips handle the top strings as required, either touching them gently to mute them, or picking them when a note comes along to be picked. This is only achievable after lots of concentrated practice and playing. You will need to focus intently on every last move until, magically, one day you no longer need to ... it just happens. It's a bit like your hand has cached all the required information and no longer needs to consult the brain. Trust that it will happen.
As I always, take this v e r y s l o w l y ... work on it bit by bit. Assemble all the bits when you've got them down individually. Playing slide is one of the most difficult and demanding forms of playing but, when you start getting it down, the most fun way of all. Combining it with normal playing in the tuning you're already familiar with (apart, perhaps, for that low D) makes it even more fun.
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
As well as putting together these free 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.