Justin Johnson: why I play a three-string shovel guitar

(Image credit: Justin Johnson)

There is something magically simple about the three-string shovel guitar. From the perspective of a beginner guitarist, it’s easier and less intimidating to play three strings as opposed to six, and there's also the added benefit of the wider string spacing and high action, which makes learning slide guitar and lap steel much easier. 

For the advanced guitarist, however, there are endless benefits to learning to play on fewer strings, and with no frets. When you're forced to create an entire song on three strings, without frets, and with only one finger of your fretting hand (your slide finger), you have to learn to do more with less. To me, that's always been the most appealing and essential aspect that differentiates blues and roots music from the rest of guitar playing; the ability to do more with less.  

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