Derek Trucks Reveals Most Important Things About Playing Slide Guitar, Explains One Simple Trick Behind His Tone

The guitar, just like any instrument, is kind of like a vessel that allows us to express ourselves in ways that we aren’t able to by just using any language on this planet. And when it comes to the guitar as an expressive tool, there’s hardly any musician who can tap into what Derek Trucks is doing. Somewhat similar to a fretless guitar, slide allows one to achieve true glissando. And this comes with great expressive potential.

Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, & Warren Haynes Perform "I'd Rather Go Blind"

While talking to Total Guitar, Derek Trucks discussed some of these aspects of the instrument and how he uses its potential. The former guitarist of The Allman Brothers Band was asked about all of the “emotion and power” that he puts into his playing. He explained:

“Slide playing is all about intonation, which only comes through time. You can’t skip over those things. When I feel like I’m not where I need to be, I’ll check in with players like Elmore James or Son House to remind myself.

“Through them, I learned how you attack a note affects whether it sings or not, which can change whether people want to hear it. If you bring them in with a beautiful emotion from the beginning, you can dig in and take it anywhere.

"Desdemona" - Derek Trucks Guitar Solo

However, it’s also about telling a story, so to speak. He adds:

“You just need to start and end well. You need an entrance and an exit – you’ll be forgiven for a lot of what happens in the middle! You might have this phrase and then need to find ways to get in and out of it.

“You find different cornerstones in this thing you’re building. You go off and explore, and then come back home occasionally. That’s an Indian classical concept, where somebody improvises and then comes back to the melody with everyone else, before it’s someone else’s turn to run with it.”

The Derek Trucks Band - Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni | HD

Elsewhere in the chat, Derek also reflected on the way he utilizes his tube-driven amplifiers to achieve that sweet and just slightly overdriven tone of his. The secret, as he explains, lies within low-wattage amps on low-volume settings. Trucks elaborated:

“Some of the biggest sounds actually came from this tiny Tweed Deluxe on three. There was something about the tone that totally barked. When you go back into the control room, quite often it’s those tiny amps that sound biggest. Live is a totally different beast. I have Duane Allman’s 50-watt Marshall [as used on the Allman Brothers Band’s classic 1971 live album ‘At Fillmore East‘], and it sounds incredible.”

“But it’s hard to make it sound the same on the record as it does in the room. It’s almost like the bigger the sound in the room, the smaller it sounds through speakers in the control room. That’s something you are always balancing: how it sounds on the floor and how it sounds later.”

Photo: Simone Quattrociocchi (DEREK TRUCKS Liri Blues 2009)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.