Want to Learn Slide Guitar? Derek Trucks Says You Should Do This to Master the Technique

Playing guitar with a slide is far more difficult than it may seem at first. In a way, it’s similar to a fretless instrument where you can do true glissando. However, hitting the right note and doing a proper vibrato is pretty challenging and requires a lot of experience and practice. Among the greatest slide players today, and arguably of all time, is Derek Trucks, known for his work in The Allman Brothers Band. If you’re planning to get into slide guitar, it’s Derek who you should be listening to.

The MASTER of Blues Slide Guitar - Derek Trucks

Recently, Derek had the chance to visit Rick Beato and chat about various guitar- and music-related topics. When asked about the most important thing one needs to learn when they start playing slide, he responded (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“It’s all ear training, it’s all just hearing it. I mean, I would tell people, ‘Just go listen to Elmore James.’ For me, that’s the starting point for electric slide.”

“All the blocks are kind of there – he’s playing major and minor melodies, he’s aggressive with it, there are times where he’s not, the tone is incredible, and always felt like the intonation between his voice and his guitar, it was just incredible.

“Elmore [James] is, for me, a starting point, and then Duane [Allman]. After that, it was kind of horns, singers, and Indian classical musicians. Johnny Winter was a big influence at one time, Lowell George, Jesse Davis. Just tried to listen to all of them at some point.”

Further down the interview, Derek also reflected on some vinyl-related topics and the old albums that he grew up on. He offered:

“All of our favorite records were a lot shorter than we remember them. That was kind of a revelation we had, because we listened to vinyl, upstairs, in our studio. I remember we were in the process of writing all this stuff, and we’d often go upstairs and listen to everything we’ve done, up to that point, once a week, just to kind of see where we are, see what’s holding the water and what’s not.

"Desdemona" - Derek Trucks Guitar Solo

“But, you know, we’re spinning records, we’re listening to ‘A Love Supreme,’ listening to ‘Axis: Bold as Love,’ listening to Sly Stone’s (Sly and the Family Stone) ‘Fresh.’ And then I remember looking at the bag, It was 33, 36 minutes. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding?'”

“When they’re done, you’re like, ‘I would listen to that again, start that sucker over.’ [laughs] So, that was kind of a mini epiphany we had, when we were thinking about this. I mean, at some point, it was just like, ‘How much can you cram on a CD?’ There’s nothing artistic about that, ‘Let’s just record until there’s enough time.’ That never happens.”

“When you think about your favorite records, most people are surprised when they go back and think about how long they are. I mean, a double album was a little bit over an hour or so. This is something I didn’t really know until we started really getting into the way we were recording.”

Photo: Simone Quattrociocchi (DEREK TRUCKS Liri Blues 2009)