#1
Hi all,

at first, please excuse my very long posting. Please be gentle to me, as I am a beginner in making music (and because this is the first time I post in a forum).

Even if I never knew what it was called, even before beginning with playing guitar by myself I totally loved slide guitar songs (stuff like "In my time of dying" or the some of the songs by The White Stripes like "Litte Bird" or "Catch Hell Blues").

I know have set up one of my guitars (Vintage V100, cheap Les Paul Clone) for Slide. What I did was changing the strings for heavy gauges (12ers), raising the action and tuning it to Open A tuning. After that, I googled around and was finally able to adjust the intonation (at least as good as possible).

After some practice I am now able to play some simpler songs (like "Seven Nation Army", "Catch Hell Blues" or "Red Rain").

I always had problems getting into standard tuning and as I really like this slide stuff, I have decided to try to get better at this skill instead of the regular tuning stuff where I never archived a bigger level than power chords and 5 note soli. It just seems to fit me better (maybe I am also just lazy...).

However, as I have noted above, my tuning of choice is currently Open A. When trying to find information about this particular tuning, there are not many ressources that teach how to get into it (like chord diagrams, scales or stuff like that). I have seen that for Open G, there are many howtos and other stuff on the net and it seems like Open G is just tuned the same but one step lower (and therefore Open A could be played with an Open G tuned guitar with Capo on the second fret).

So, lets come to the question part:
- Where do experienced players see the drawbacks of open tunings? Things seem to be very easy (as far as I understand it currently)
- Are open tunings restricted to their particular key? For example, I know that Seven Nation Army is in the key of E, but played as Open A. Why is this? Would it not be "better" if the Song was played in Open E then?
- Could I take a song in Open D tuning and play it the same way but in Open G or does this only work with the combination open d/e open g/a?
- Is it possible to transpose all stuff from a free Open G chord diagram to Open A (e.g., the third fret barred on Open G would be a "A" it would be a "C" in Open A)?
- Are the positions of pentatonics the same, but also a full tone higher?
- Are there any good ressources for learning some cool licks and blues stuff in those tunings?

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And another question that has nothing to do with the tuning itself (at least not that I would assume). As I said earlier, I really like the raw sound of the slide riffs on Seven Nation Army and other Jack White slide songs. In fact this raw sound was the thing that brought me to start learning. When you see Jack play it live, he uses his Big Muff for the Solo and the slide part of the song to get that fat really really fuzzy tone.

Those parts do also not use the Whammy he uses for solos in other songs, but just plain distortion. However, even if I hit the notes right, they sound ok but I dont get this complete fuzz he gets. My Big Muff seems just to distort the sound - which itself sounds pretty ok but not like him playing it.

I usually play slightly overdriven, activating the Big Muff (tried different settings, currently the "famous" "2 o click for everything" setting) when playing solo and riff passages.

I currently use:
- Vintage V100 (mostly playing with the neck Humbucker)
- Fender Blues Jr. (15w)
- Big Muff (NY)

Do you think the MXR Microamp Jack uses before the Muff would make that big difference in the sound? Also is there a huge difference between the LPs Humbucker (which I currently lowered nearly completely into the body for less overall punch and darker tone) in comparision to Jacks Semi-Hollow Key guitar?

I know that are a lot of questions, but I hope you can answer some of them.

Greetings from Germany,
Chris
#2
Welcome Chris.

I play about 50:50 slide and fingerpicking, and that has included electric slide for the past 15 years or so.

To answer your questions:

Where do experienced players see the drawbacks of open tunings? Things seem to be very easy (as far as I understand it currently. Open and other altered tunings could be used for many genre, but except for the basic chords, you would still have to put a lot of work into developing technique. Standard tuning has the advantage of having a huge amount or resources available. If you wanted to learn, say, flamenco in an open tuning, you would be on your own. - But you could develop an exploitable stylistic niche if you could make it work.

Are open tunings restricted to their particular key? For example, I know that Seven Nation Army is in the key of E, but played as Open A. Why is this? Would it not be "better" if the Song was played in Open E then? I often play off the 7th fret in an open tuning, such as key of E in A tuning. It allows for different arrangements from the usual key = tuning sound. However, I don't play anything in a key that isn't in some way related to the open tuning. Here's an example:

Scarborough Fair

This is F# Dorian, a mode of E major, so it it played off the 2nd or 14th frets in open E.

Could I take a song in Open D tuning and play it the same way but in Open G or does this only work with the combination open d/e open g/a? You would have to re-arrange it to play it in open G. It is a case of finding an arrangement that works with a particular tuning and vice versa.

Is it possible to transpose all stuff from a free Open G chord diagram to Open A (e.g., the third fret barred on Open G would be a "A" it would be a "C" in Open A)? Yes, but the barred 3rd fret in open G is A#/Bb and the barred 3rd fret in open A is C.

Are the positions of pentatonics the same, but also a full tone higher? Yes

Are there any good ressources for learning some cool licks and blues stuff in those tunings? Dunno, I just use Youtube these days. Homespun has a huge range to teaching materials that I'm sure would cover slide technique.

The set up I use for electric slide is clean - compressor>> reverb, or distorted - compressor>>Boss SD-1>>reverb. I have a Little Big Muff and a few other OD/distortion boxes, but I like the raw sound of the SD-1 best.

I also prefer P90s to humbuckers, neck pickup, except for one guitar that has a Lollar Chicago in the bridge position and is great for distorted sounds.
#3
I started tinkering with slide in the 70's due to a guy named Duanne Allman...specifically Statesboro Blues. I didn't know a thing about open tunings, and learned it in standard tuning. I think Duanne used open D.

Later on I got an actual slide bar, I Had been using a zippo lighter, and discovered by chance open G worked really well, and off I went into open tuning, mostly G but I've played in D, E and the demented E tuning David Gilmour uses on "One of These Days".

It's mostly a matter of practice and learning your way around the neck. Yes you can play in different keys, but sometimes it's not easy. I've used my lap steel tuned in open G to do solos in E, A, D and G plenty times. You just have to learn your way around.

Intonation with slide is not critical, if your tuning is good open, the slide bar is your fret, my lap steel just has a straight bar for a bridge, no intonation at all. (old Electromuse made around 1945-1950). Just make sure the open strings are in tune, intonation from there depends on how accurate you place the slide bar.

Experiment with different effects and slide bars. I mostly play slide either clean or with an overdrive pedal, sometimes I use a distortion pedal but not often. In many cases I go with the neck pickup, the lap steel only has one, and with some electrics I'll use the bridge pickup, it depends on the sound I want. Try the Big Muff with the gain down really low. Just enough to give it some growl.

I use a brass slide bar for acoustic and antique glass medicine bottles for electric. Both have different tonal qualities, the brass seems to get better tone and sustain for acoustic, both work for electric, I just prefer the glass. I don't have a pickup preference, single coil and humbuckers both work well.

Finger picking is my preference, with a lot of practice you can muffle strings pretty quick with whatever fingers not in use for picking, and of course muffling them all behind the slide bar is useful a lot of times, and I often don't do that for the effect it gives. I use the slide bar on my ring finger, it's the most comfortable for me, many players like the pinkie, and I've seen a couple of guys like Billy Gibbons use the middle finger, I think Joe Walsh uses the middle too. Whatever you're comfortable with, the pinkie lets you do a lot of fretting, but with my messed up tendon I've never been able to use it.

I understand liking one tuning, I'm most comfortable with open G, but do try working in other tunings as well. I use open D a lot these days but have never tried to figure out many of the chords like I did with open G. I started using open G to learn non slide songs, That's the Way and Bron Y Aur stomp by Zeppelin, Fearless by Pink Floyd, Penny For Your Thoughts by Frampton. So I had to learn a lot of the chords by trial and error. In the 70's there was no internet and no books I could find on open tunings...So I figured it out one note at a time.

After many years, I've done a lot of practicing with open G, here's my Bandmix profile page, if you scroll down to the Music list you'll see a song named "Silhouette Of A Daydream". That's written and recorded in open G around 2005 or so.

http://www.bandmix.com/paleopete/

"While We Cry" is a cover tune, I payed everything on it myself, drums done on a keyboard drum machine. I wrote and recorded the others. "Last Train" is unfinished, I didn't have bass, drums, keys and other instruments to add the rest, planning to redo it later on, I uploaded that one just to get opinions on the basic track from the guys there.

Keep practicing, I almost always practice clean so I can hear all the details better, and worry about tone and overdrive onstage. I also usually practice on an acoustic, which helps make it lots easier onstage with an electric...I don't know of anything done in open A, never used it, but if it's the same as open G but a step higher, there's some George Thorogood songs, Bad to the Bone for one, Tell Mama by Savoy Brown, look up Rory Gallagher, he played a lot of great slide, and of course Johnny Winter...
Last edited by Paleo Pete at Nov 17, 2014,
#4
Thank you both for your excellent and in depth answers! This is so much more information than what I assumed there would be.