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SLIDE SCHOOL

It’s one of the most evocative, expressive and downright cool guitar styles around. But how many of us have sat listening to the likes of Robert Johnson, Sonny Landreth, Jerry Douglas or Ben Harper and thought, “I wish I could do that”, but never actually tried to learn? Happily, UK slide maestro Chris Eaton is here to give you the basics you need to get started. So raise your action, pick up your slide, and dive in…
© Getty Images

Slide guitar is very much an American tradition, and when you play slide – especially on an acoustic instrument – it’s hard not to sound American. Slide tones are so often heard in this context – on a film or TV soundtrack during a desert scene with a rattlesnake slithering past, for example. There is of course, the equally rich tradition of slide in Indian classical music, but in the Western guitar tradition, there are three primary styles: bottleneck, Dobro and Weissenborn. But which came first?

Let’s take a look at the origins of slide guitar…

In 1889, Hawaiian guitarist Joseph Kekuku accidentally discovered lap-slide guitar (also called ‘steel guitar’, due to the steel bar held in the left hand). Joseph was walking along a railway track with his guitar when he found a metal bolt on the ground. As he picked up the bolt, it hit the strings, making a sound that caught his ear. He developed that sound into a whole style of playing, and then in 1919, started touring Europe with the Bird Of Paradise show, which exposed the sound of Hawaiian lap-steel guitar to the world.

Finger and thumb picks are commonly used by slide guitarists who play lap-style
© Getty Images
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