some tips for damping (blocking) for the slide guitar.
to get a clean sound playing slide guitar, damping is essential. if you listen to many acoustic slide players (bukka white comes to mind), there's little or no damping, and
s to a point, central to that style of playing. if you listen to ry cooder for example, you're hearing damping at it's very best. it's central to that sound, and style of playing.the following is mostly for the fingerpicking approach which im' guessing your favorite players use. mr. cooder mr. allman, and mr. landreth, to name a few, all use, or used, referring to mr. allman this technique.
the left hand is the less complicated of the two. simply drag your other 3 fingers (of your left hand) lightly over the fingerboard behind the the slide. you don't want to press very hard , as that can create all kinds of problems. you also want to keep your fingers straight. i've seen some of the above mentioned players do this with 1 finger instead of 3 at times. but for me 3 is easier.
the right hand is a lot more complicated. start with the thumb, it basically damps the lower 3 strings. it's relaxed, and straight. im' using the outside edge, and lay it lightly on the lower 3 strings and keep it there at all times when im' playing on the upper strings, (1st. 2nd. and third strings). that's all good, but what happens when you want to play a lick on the bottom strings? you simply block the other low strings with the thumb. for example if im' playing a note on the 5th string, im' keeping the thumb at about the joint over the 6th string, and have the 4th string blocked with my index finger. if im' playing on the 6th string. i block the 5th string with my index finger, and the 4th string with my middle finger. and my fingers are at this point on strings 6 to 2 (yes the baby finger is used. simple math says that you have 5 fingers, and 6 strings. what you do is roll you hand enough so that the baby finger touches the first string. it's a bit uncomfortable, but in reality that's how it works. what about using the thumb on the 2nd string , as in "chicken pickin"? simply use the lower part of the thumb, and part of the palm to block all the other strings. the fingers block in the following way. i simply keep one finger over each of the top 3 strings. that is , the fingertips resting lightly on them. the idea is simple, im' blocking everything but the string i want to hear with the thumb, or other fingers, so that the only sound i hear is the sound of the string, or strings, in the case of double stops. here's the tricky part , as you move from string to string,you need to block with the finger you just played with. again the trick is to always block the strings you don't want to hear. this will take some practice until it becomes a reflex. i don't know about anyone else, but i look at the slide guitar as a seprate instrument. as a teacher, i insist that all my slide students be , or become decent fingerpickers. needless to say, all of the above mentioned players are great fingerpickers. if you want to here some examples of this. you can visit my site at davidlamarmusic.net. p.s. im' playing all that you hear.
Welcome to MD David... You could become our resident expert for the guitar.