When choosing what to play while improvising, many guitar players overlook “How” to play something, and often end up focusing on “What” to play. In this article we are going to look at one aspect of “how” to use slides in your improvisations.
First, let’s define what a slide is on the guitar:
• A slide is when you fret a note on the guitar with one finger, and without releasing the pressure you slide that same finger to the next note. In the example below, use your pointer finger and press down the 5th fret on the “G” string, and then without releasing the pressure slide up to the 7th fret.
• A second type of slide is what’s called a “Slide from nowhere”. This means that instead of fretting the note before the slide, you simply pick the string and simultaneously slide your finger immediately to the target note, which results in a “slide” sound effect.
Many times when listening to a student improvise, I am looking for the use of when, where and how often slides are used. In many amateur guitar players, there is almost no use of slides, and instead they pick every single note. By fretting every note, your playing will sound very mechanical, and therefore will not sound fluent or natural to your listener.
In order to break out of the habit of always fretting every note, we are going to look at how we can take a scale or mode and start off by applying slides to first the pattern, then to a melodic phrase.
We’ll use the pentatonic scale for our examples today:
First, play the Pentatonic Scale with picking only.
Second, play the Pentatonic Scale with sliding only. On this example, we are sliding “from” & “to” our starting notes.
Finally, let’s create a melodic phrase using picking and sliding together. In this example, you will see in the first measure that I use what is called a “Slide From No-Where”. This means that I am not fretting the note before the slide, instead I am simply picking the string and simultaneously sliding
After playing each of the examples above, you will be able to hear a significant difference in how implementing slides into your improvisation will improve your sound and creativity. This takes time to develop, but if you practice with a purpose and intend to implement this technique, it will eventually come natural to your playing.
Here is the order to practice implementing slides to your scales/modes.
• Learn the scale/mode first without slides until you have it 100% memorized with no errors. You want to be able to execute any scale at this point without thinking about where you need to place your fingers.
• Play the scale/mode using slides only. This step not only helps you to further memorize the pattern you will be playing, but it also primes you for step C.
• Begin creating melodic phrases while using a combination of picking & sliding. At this point you should be able to do Steps A & B flawlessly.