I have been teaching slide guitar pretty much as long as I’ve been teaching any other form of guitar too, and I actually wrote my first book, “Slide Guitar” for Oak Publications (Music Sales) way back in 1973, when I was still just twenty years old!
When you’re a “natural” at a certain technique such as slide, as I was at that age, and it comes time to teach it, or write about it, you realize just how much of it you know instinctually, as opposed to really being able to clearly “break it down” and explain it. Of course, this had to happen for me rather quickly, as I was writing a book on it, and people had never seen a guy who taught slide before, so students were numbering in the many, and I had to analyze very quickly!
It’s funny, because now, these days, I relish the thought of teaching something as direct as slide guitar, because I know how to get to all the critical elements of this technique right away, and regardless of the level of the student, whatever I show them will always be applicable towards making them better, and will certainly shed some new light on the subject.
Having to “break it down” is actually helped by the teaching process itself, as you become literally forced to take a good, hard look at just what it is you do to make these sounds come out of the guitar! Very subtle things develop as your teaching becomes more in-depth, such as understanding the dampening, or muting process, as well as how the left hand mutes by a finger learning to have “two sensations”. This means for example, that the index finger of say, an A power chord is not only sensing the note it is pressing down on the 2nd fret of the D string, but that it is also lightly stopping the G or even the B strings adjacent to it. These are very, very minute and subtle aspects of guitar playing and teaching, but they truly, in my eyes, constitute the very things that make playing and teaching “musical” as opposed to being just a bunch of exercises and scales to practice!
After all, you really want to know how the great sounds, techniques and tones are achieved, and just exactly what goes into making these wonderful things happen, just like the pros. And believe me, I know firsthand, from having many of the pros teach for me on Hot Licks, it’s a very hard thing for many of them to actually know, analyze, and especially teach! So when you see me teaching those really tiny subtleties that make a big difference, don’t forget how much thought and analysis went into it!