You are here

How to Slide Your Way to Fretboard Fluidity

How to Slide Your Way to Fretboard Fluidity

In this lesson, I'll lay out a few tools I use in crafting guitar melodies and solos to make the instrument feel more fluid.

The first exercise is a way to double a note on the neighboring B and G strings. This kind of thing reminds me of a Johnny "Guitar" Watson move. It also helps get fingers accustomed to sliding very quickly.

And this kind of sliding technique might help you see connections on the fretboard while giving you an alternative to standard blues solos.

Start with your index finger on the third fret of the B string and slide your ring finger from the fifth to seventh fret of the G string. See below:

e|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
b|--------3--------------------------------------------------------------------
G|---------------5----s----7--------------------------------------------------
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After you are comfortable with the above, you can slide back down from the seventh to fifth fret on the B string.

e|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
b|------3------------------------5----s----3---------------------------------
G|--------------5----s----7--------------------------------------------------
D|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
A|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
E|-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here’s another one you can try just picking three notes. For this, we’ll use three notes on the B string at the 12th, ninth and seventh frets, and focus on going between them smoothly. Hopefully, this exercise will get your fingers more fluid and get you more comfortable sliding between notes without breaking them up, sort of like using a slide without actually wearing a slide. Start with your ring finger on the 12th fret of the B string, then slide down to the ninth fret, and then pull off onto the seventh fret.

e|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
b|------12----s----9----p----7-----------------------------------------------
G|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

You want to get comfortable doing this in a way where you don’t have a pronounced attack between the notes on the ninth and seventh fret. You want to do the pull off very softly, so it feels like the note is sliding off. I do that by letting go of the string rather than emphasizing the pull-off. From there you can just slide back up to the ninth fret by doing the following:

e|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
b|------12----s----9----p----7----s----9------------------------------------
G|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Again, stuff like this can help you conceptualize the guitar in a different way, where everything isn’t linked in with your right/plucking hand. You could combine this exercise with the one we did above, to get something like the following:

e|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
b|------12----s----9----p----7----s----9--------------------------11----s----9---
G|-----------------------------------------------11----s----13----------------------
D|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E|--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A lot of what we talk about in this video (below) so far involves sliding with one or two fingers on one or two strings to give rubbery, blending effects to your guitar. These are good ways to get your fingers comfortable with slide-type techniques before you pick up a slide, if you’re hesitant to pick up a slide for any reason. And these are good ways to get your wrist comfortable with stopping at points along the way so you can get a lot of notes in a single movement with your fretting hand.

Of course, you also can do these kinds of things with a slide on your fretting hand. Stepping back to the first exercise we talked about, you can do this same kind of thing with a slide, which has an interesting effect. And it can be a technique to get your fretting hand comfortable with a basic slide move. If you practice this, you can develop more fluidity going between two frets and two strings using a slide.

e|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
b|--------3--------------------------------------------------------------------
G|---------------3----s----5-----s----7--------------------------------------
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------------

e|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
b|--------3--------------------------------------------------------------------
G|---------------5----s----7--------------------------------------------------
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------------

e|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
b|--------3--------------------------------------------------------------------
G|---------------3----s----7--------------------------------------------------
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------------
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As for slide technique, I generally use the slide on my ring finger of my left hand, and I use the fingers of my right hand to pluck the notes.

As for the fretting hand, I like to play the slide without muting fingers behind it and with the slide not quite pressed down all the way. This can help you develop a frail sound with less sustain that sounds like a singer with a raspy voice or a sore throat, which I think is more interesting than a straight-ahead slide sound. Hopefully, these exercises will give you some stuff to think about—specifically focusing on what’s coming before and what’s coming after the notes you play, not just on the note you are playing. If you focus on these aspects of your compositional approach and playing, hopefully they can help you inject more depth into your notes and what’s behind them.

Steve is now offering online lessons to those who are interested in learning more about his guitar style. His schedule is somewhat irregular due to touring, but you can contact him and set up a time right here.

Steve Marion, also known as "Delicate Steve," is a guitarist from New Jersey. He has released two albums on David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, collaborated with Paul Simon, Ra Ra Riot, Dirty Projectors and Built to Spill (among others) and is a member of Saint Rich (Merge Records). Delicate Steve’s first album, Wondervisions, was named a New York Times Critic's Choice. He has been named one of the "30 Best Guitarists Under 30" by Red Bull Music. Critics have said, “Marion is one of those rare guitarists whose instrument sings in place of vocals...crystalline and futuristic...like George Harrison’s guitar reanimated...” (Pitchfork), and that he is “a true guitar hero" (Kevin Parker of Tame Impala).

Body Count Prep Crushing New LP, ‘Bloodlust’