5 Tips for Playing Like Duane Allman
Duane Allman was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on November 20, 1946 — 68 years ago. And although he was lost in a tragic motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971, his legacy lives on in the Allman Brothers’ classic first three albums, Derek and the Dominos Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, and the many recordings he made as a session player and sideman. And, of course, in his instantly recognizable sound.
Here are five tips to help you approximate the distinctive guitar voice of Duane Allman:
• Go Gibson: For his first sessions Duane used a hybrid guitar, but by the time the Allman Brothers Band began recording their eponymous 1969 debut, he had stepped up to a Gibson. His most famous instruments include a 1957 Les Paul Gold Top, a 1961 SG, a dot-neck sunburst ES-335 and a tobacco sunburst Les Paul Standard that he acquired the year of his death. His favorite acoustic guitar was also a Gibson — an L-00.
• Amp up: Duane played loud and proud. By the time the Allman Brothers were hitting their stride, he was playing a pair of 50-watt Marshall heads through Marshall 4x12 cabs, inspired by Jimi Hendrix. If you can’t let it rip at that level, find a distortion/overdrive pedal that’ll put you in the zone.
• Slide on: Slide guitar was, of course, an important part of Duane’s sound and style. Duane preferred Coricidin bottles for slide. You no longer need a prescription for cough medicine to get these containers. They’re being made specifically for guitarists, but if you can’t find one of these try a thin walled glass slide. And tune to open E (E-B-E-G#-B-E), Duane’s favorite tuning for slide.
• Listen up: Don’t just check out Duane’s recordings. Listen to the artists who informed his sound and be inspired as he was. Check out bluesmen Elmore James, Muddy Waters and Blind Willie McTell, and jazz artists Miles Davis and John Coltrane to start. You’ll hear the roots of many of Allman’s ideas about harmonies and modal playing.
• Pick slick: Note how rounded Allman’s single notes and slide licks are. That’s the result of expert picking and muting. Here’s a quick pick tip. Try playing with the rounded edge instead of the point of your pick. It’ll soften your notes and attack, and warm up your overall tone.