A little about 3 string slide guitar
The bare basics of how to play.
You start with playing a melody on one string. Start with playing on the thinnest string (which we refer to as the 1st string). For this style of playing, you can use bare fingers instead of a pick.
Here are some basics on using a slide:
· To change the note a string plays, you press the slide against the string just hard enough to get the note to sound. Pressing too hard can sometimes throw you out of tune.
· Drag one of your fingers behind the slide to get rid of unwanted sounds.
· If you are playing notes on the first string only, tip the slide up slightly so it doesn't drag on the other strings.
· Muting strings is a big part of playing slide. Part of controlling the sounds your instrument makes is being able to silence the sounds you don't want to hear. Most important for you right now is to rest the thumb of your picking hand on the second and third strings to keep them from sounding while you play notes on the first string. When you want a note to stop ringing on the first string, rest your picking finger on the string.
· For now, always slide up to the note you want to play. Part of what people love to hear when they listen to slide guitar is the way it mimics the human voice, easing into each note and giving music more personality. Sometimes it's a haunting quality, other times quirky and playful.
There are lines cut into the side of the neck facing you. They mark where the notes of the common 12 note scale used in western music are located on the string. The trick is to position your slide even with these marks to hit the right note. It takes practice and you have to use your ears to get you the the right spot on the string. Your ears are your biggest asset when finding a note.
Once you get the the note you want, don't just leave the slide still. Use a subtle movement of the wrist holding the slide to give some motion to your music. Remember, you're going for the sound of the human voice and there's always a little bit of movement in a sung note. This is called vibrato. When using vibrato on a slide guitar, always wiggle between the note you want to play and slightly below it. Don't go higher than the note or it will sound out of tune.
Now, you know enough to be dangerous. I suggest you give the song “Happy Birthday” a try. The first two notes are actually on the open string—you leave the slide off the string. Then you gently dip the slide onto the string and find your way to the next note. You will find the markers very helpful in getting to the right notes. You will also notice that some of the lines marking the notes have a black dot in the middle. They come in very helpful when you are going higher up the neck and need a quick reference for where to stop. If you're having trouble finding the next note, don't forget the open string. It gets used more than once in “Happy Birthday”
After you master one song, try more on the first string. You will be surprised how fast you are able to figure out new songs after a while. Not every song will begin with the open string, but a lot do
You can strum chords with a pick or use bare fingers. If you are playing with other people, be sure you are all in tune with one another. We are going to be tuned like this: 1st string (the thinnest) is a G, 2nd string is a D, and 1st string (the thickest) is a G. Chords are simple for you and your 3 strings. From this point on, I am going to refer to the markers on the side as frets. Each fret represents a change of one note in the scale. Playing the chords is as simple as strumming all 3 strings together. Here's where the chords are located:
All of these chords are neither major nor minor; they will work with someone else playing either one. Remember to slide up to your chords just like you do with single notes.
Muting is just as important when strumming chords. The two basic techniques you are going to need are:
· Muting with the strumming hand to stop chords from ringing.
· Removing the slide from the strings and using another finger from that hand to mute the strings while you strum, creating a percussive effect.
1. Why the square neck?---Believe it or not, on a slide only instrument, a square neck actually feels very natural. I came from a round neck resonator background, but the square neck on one of my first prototypes convinced me to change over to leaving the neck square.
2. How long does it take to get good at this instrument?--If you already play slide, about 10 minutes. If you already play guitar and are familiar with the concept of barre chords and know a scale or two, you can be playing good enough to fool folks that don't know how to play slide in an evening or two of noodling around (hopefully, part of that noodling will be the things I mentioned above or it will take you a little longer).
3. I just want to play the blues. What are the most important things I need to know?---The G blues scale notes are the open strings and on the following frets: 3,5,7,10,12. You can make a lot of cool music with those few notes. You can make tons of cool blues riffs without ever venturing past the 5th fret. Use more space in your music at first, then ease into playing more complicated stuff. Overplaying=music nobody wants to listen to.
At this point, you need to do some exploring. Figure out the melodies of songs you are very familiar with. Figure out a LOT of songs. It will get easier and easier as you go. You can go to a lot of sites to get chords for songs to play along with others.
To learn more advanced techniques, I suggest googling Justin Johnson, Glen Kaiser, and Shane Speal. All three have plenty of lessons online. By the time you make it through all that material, you will be pretty good at this and I will be looking up lessons from you.
Remember to have fun playing. Once it's no fun, most people quit trying. If you have a day where playing isn't fun, take a day off from playing and just watch videos of other people playing 3 string guitar. It will motivate you and you'll be more fired up tomorrow. Figure out what keeps you motivated and enjoy the ride. Get loud when you can. Unplug and play quietly when you must.
Have some fun.
--R E Tish