Sonny Landreth Master Class Bear DE
Sonny Landreth Master Class
LIKE THOSE FAMOUS FICTIONAL KIDS who discover the gateway to Narnia in the back of a magical wardrobe, Sonny Landreth, too, has stumbled on a portal to another world—not one of lions and witches, but one of inspiring new riffs, approaches, and sounds. And for years this boundless world was hiding in plain sight in back of the slide—a vast timbral frontier that legions of electric slide players before him never thought to explore. You may have heard of some of the new techniques and textures the Louisiana guitarist has pioneered since then—such as ghost notes, ghost harmonics, reverse vibrato, fretted notes, hammer-ons, and pull-offs sounded behind the slide—but if you have never tried them, you’re probably guessing these radical approaches are complex and difficult.
In fact, they couldn’t be more simple— no theory, sight-reading, or Herculean guitar chops required. Like the act of playing slide itself, each of these approaches is a classic example of a physical task that takes a moment to learn but a lifetime to master. All you need to excel at these techniques is a love for cool sounds, and your ears will lead you the rest of the way. And if you also want to brush up on bottleneck basics, we’ve got you covered there too, because before this lesson hops over the glass to the “wild side” of the slide (as Landreth likes to call it), we’ll briefly flash back to Landreth’s insightful series of GP Slide Seminars, as well as his July 2003 Master Class, for a quick crash course on every other aspect of slide playing.
CHOOSING A SLIDE
“I always tell people, whichever slide you decide on, you’ve got to have the right balance between the weight of the slide and the gauge of the strings,” says Landreth. “Personally, I like heavier strings—.013-.056 D’Addarios—because they give you more tension to work with. The type of slide is important, too. I started out using metal, which has a harder and brighter sound that many people prefer, but the first time I tried glass, I was hooked. I instantly loved the smoothness of it and noticed a difference in the harmonics and the overall feel.
“Bottlenecks have a great vibe and a lot of character, and the blues cats really hit on something with that, because that flair on top gives you a much bigger, wider vibrato than other slides and really pushes some air. But it’s hard to play multiple parts at the same time with a bottleneck and maintain proper intonation. I use Dunlop Pyrex glass slides because they’re very exact and perfectly uniform, and their shape enables me to cover all six strings at the 12th fret and beyond, which is crucial for the stuff I play.
STRIKING THE STRINGS
“A thumbpick gives you a lot of power,” says Landreth. “I use a heavy Dunlop Herco combination thumbpick/flat pick a majority of the time. And while I used to use fingerpicks as well—which can give you a big, powerful, machine-gun fast sound—I actually prefer the sound of the fingertips. The combination of fingernail and flesh ope...