Blues guitar has always had an element of the slide guitar from its beginnings in the delta over 100 years ago. There are legends of players using knifes, broken bottles, anything to slide across the strings. Many of these slide guitar licks have become a part of the language of the blues and are used even now.
The slide guitar has been played by some of the blues’ greatest players: Robert Johnson, Skip James, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Duane Allman, and most recently Derek Trucks.
Trucks is a very interesting player because he has such a diverse musical palate. You can hear him play straight blues with the Allman Brothers Band, jam band music with his own bands, and even get into south Indian and jazz music on different tunes. Most players would spread themselves way too thin going for all these different styles, but Trucks goes deep into all of these. From transcribing John Coltrane and Elmore James to studying with Ali Akbar Khan, Trucks is the real deal. It certainly helps that his uncle played in the Allman Brothers Band and that he was a prodigy at a very young age.
We’ll take a look at 3 licks from Derek Trucks’ first solo on the classic “Statesboro Blues” from the Allman Bros album, One Way Out. These are all played in Open E tuning, which is low to high E B E G# B E. Many of these can be easily adjusted to play in standard tuning. The tune is in the key of D.
Slide Guitar Licks 1
The first slide lick comes at the end of the form, in the turnaround section of the blues. It starts out with a Duane Allman-inspired, Elmore James-inspired back and forth lick on the root and 5th. Then Trucks moves down the blues verbatim. The lick gets its interest from the way the scale lines up with both the string changes and slides. He jumps up to the root at the end to delay the resolution.
Slide Guitar Licks 2
The second Trucks slide lick here is pretty straight forward. On beats two and three he uses a Albert King move by sliding from the 4th to the 5th and back. This lick has become a part of the blues vocabulary with bends and slides.
Slide Guitar Licks 3
Our final slide lick comes at the very end of Trucks’ first solo. This lick comes from Duane Allman and probably even before that. One of the great things about playing slide with an open tuning is that you get very simple fretboard moves that sound great and melodic. This lick is a great example of this. He just slides down from 10th fret to 8th fret on the top 3 strings and gets a nice blues scale-ish run moving down. Classic vocab!
Sam Smiley is a multi-styled guitarist. After being schooled in the jazz tradition, he has found way to meld all American roots music into his own unique style. As a musician, he performs regularly playing anything from blues to jazz to country to soul. He has traveled the world performing in clubs and in theaters.