Magazine article Guitar Player

Sonny Landreth: Part Four: The Ghostly Drone of Sympathetic Vibration

Magazine article Guitar Player

Sonny Landreth: Part Four: The Ghostly Drone of Sympathetic Vibration

Article excerpt

FROM DELTA BLUES TO MODERN ELECTRIC slide to his trademark "behind the glass" technique of playing fretted pitches and slide notes simultaneously, Sonny Landreth has a near supernatural ability to infuse his music with the most exciting and soulful aspects from every era of slide guitar. In this installment, the Louisiana slide deity shares ways to take advantage of the phenomenon known as sympathetic vibration.

Other than being a whole-step apart in pitch, open-E and open-D tunings are exactly the same. Why do many players tend to gravitate to one more than the other?

The interval structure is indeed exactly the same for both, so the fingerings are identical. However, the feel of each tuning is quite different. Open D [D, A, D, F#, A, D, low to high] has a lot less string tension, which gives it more of that slack key sound. I actually prefer the sound of D--it's more blues; more Elmore James "Dust My Broom." Plus, D is easier to get into from standard on most guitars because you're dropping strings, as opposed to raising them for open E [E, B, E, G#, B, E]. But, because of open E's extra string tension, I find that complicated riffs and approaches are easier to execute, because there's less elasticity.

Mostly, it depends on the song--and the guitar. If you're going to be throwing different tunings and string gauges at your guitar, it's really important to have an instrument that has stability in the neck, body, and [in the case of hollowbodies] bracing. For instance, I love the sound of old Danelectros, and they're quite well suited to lowered keys such as open D, but I never really got them to work for me up in open E. Overall, I'd say the main reason I use E is I'm more comfortable singing up there than in D.

In the April '07 installment of "Slide Seminar," you shared ways to practice string guarding--muting unused strings with your plucking-hand fingers and palm. In the next issue you demonstrated some approaches to single-string melodies. Any other techniques players should learn before moving on to more complex slide licks? …

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