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How to play slide guitar like the world's greatest players

Figure 8. Derek Trucks

Derek Trucks tunes in open E and wears a glass slide on his 3rd finger.

Derek Trucks tunes in open E and wears a glass slide on his 3rd finger. (Image credit: Future / Kevin Nixon)

Derek Trucks has become one of the most respected of all slide players. Like Duane Allman, who was one of his biggest musical influences (not to mention his uncle Butch Trucks’ bandmate in the original incarnation of the Allman Brothers Band), Derek plays in open E tuning and wears his slide on his 3rd finger. 

Many regard him as the player who keeps the blues-rock spirit of Allman alive and who has built upon it brilliantly. 

But the highly talented and creative guitarist has done more than just that, by assimilating into his distinctive, original style an impressively diverse array of musical influences, such as jazz and Indian sitar music. Derek’s slide style may be imaginatively described as “the Mississippi Delta meets the Ganges Delta.”

Trucks’ 1997 debut album, The Derek Trucks Band, caused jaws to drop to the floor. Here was an unknown young guitarist playing jazz standards by Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, all on slide and in open E tuning! 

Several distinguishing elements of Trucks’ celebrated slide style are demonstrated in this featured musical example, namely: a lack of standard blues licks; a more linear approach (playing up and down strings instead of across them in a fixed position), the way vibrato (when used) is only applied to the end of a note, which requires initial pitch centering to be spot on; a sitar-like use of trills (see bars 3, 8, 12 and 13 below).

(Image credit: Future)