If you’re already tuned in to Sonny Landreth, you can skip the following prose, get right to the click, and start working with this masterpiece of a blues electric slide course immediately.
If by some cruel twist of fate, you have not yet treated your ears to Sonny’s magical slide guitar work AND you yearn to learn electric slide blues guitar — you’ve just hit the jackpot.
Eric Clapton calls him "the most underestimated musician on the planet and also one of the most advanced.” John Hiatt, Junior Wells, John Mayall, Irma Thomas, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Kenny Loggins, Mark Knopfler, Eric Johnson, Robben Ford, Vince Gill, Bonnie Raitt and hundreds of other world-class artists who have had the privilege to make music with him would emphatically agree. Sonny Landreth’s slide guitar prowess is supernatural.
This edition of Sonny’s Slide Supernatural instructional series is focused solely on the blues. Sonny presents 10 blues performance studies in a variety of keys and feels. No tedious exercises to struggle through, no drawn-out explanations — you’ll dive right in and play your way through the course from start to finish.
“I’ve been drawn to the slide ever since I first heard it played on those old delta blues albums. Most all of my blues and jazz heroes were striving for the same thing... to emulate the human voice, and to tell stories with their instrument. So for me, slide guitar, especially electric slide guitar, helped me find my voice to tell my own stories with my music.”
Sonny very deliberately prepared the variety of performance studies to impart the full range of essential techniques and approaches that you’ll need to develop your own slide approach and sound. Each of the studies features both a head and a solo section so that you can learn to play a melody as well as learn how to improvise solos. Sonny describes each of the ten studies in the following…
Blues Walk: “This tune is based on the classic Walking Blues, especially the Paul Butterfield version. For this one I am in open G tuning, which is from to low to high, DGDGBD. The progression is a basic 12 bar blues. I like to play blues riffs over a solid, four on floor rock groove ala Paul Butterfield. We'll do some fretting behind the slide at the 12th fret with the index finger only and get some nice vibrato going on in the verse. Then we'll shift down to the open strings for the solo.”
Dusty Broom: “This one I'm working with one of the greatest slide riffs of all time in D tuning. D tuning form low to high is DADF#AD. We'll put a different twist on this classic by muting at the 12th fret to give it a different attitude. The progression is a basic 12 bar form but instead of a straight ahead traditional groove, we'll be playing over a funky double shuffle rhythm to give it a sense of syncopation (show double shuffle). I'll be fretting behind the slide with my first finger on two strings at a time to give it a more modern sound. For the solo on the second time through the form we'll use single notes around the 12th fret in what I like to call the anchor zone.”
Blue Tarp Blues: “This one is a simplified version of my song Blue Tarp Blues from my "From The Reach" record. For this one we'll use the minor key version of G tuning by simply lower the B string a half step to Bb. That tuning would be DGDGBbD from low to high. I really like this tuning because it creates a moodier vibe that can really change up the set. The verse is a basic 12 bar minor blues, using Gm, Cm, and Dm. By adding an F chord into the chorus we'll segue out of the blues progression and add in some big power chords, let me play that for you. (Show against track) Ok, let's take a look at the performance.”
Firebird Blues: “We’re gonna slow it all down with a song I wrote in memory of my friend and hero Johnny Winter. As he was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix, I wanted to cop some of his vibe too. The is a 12 bar blues in open G. Open G is DGDGBD from low to high. We'll zoom in on getting more of a vocal quality to the sound with a steady vibrato and dig deep into phrasing by using whole notes instead of a whole lot of notes. This is a opportunity to create space in your soloing, it sounds cliche but it's true, sometimes what you don't play is as important as what you do play.”
Congo Square: “Let’s go down to New Orleans with a minor version of D tuning played over a great second line rhythm. This track is from a live version of Congo Square that I recorded with Kenneth Blevins on the drums and David Ranson on the bass. We'll weave in and out of long melodic lines and use plenty of syncopation to get the mojo workin'. The progression is a basic 12 bar minor blues with a twist, on this one I make the IV and V chords major, although you could keep them as minor if you'd like. I also put a ascending turnaround that I'll show you in the breakdown.”
The Highway: “From one of my all time favorite songs,this 8 bar chord progression in G tuning is a cool alternative to the usual Blues pattern. We will go through the progression three times, the first time I'm going to show you a head that I developed playing this song on the road for many years. The second time, I'll mix both the head and the changes and by muting with the palm of my right hand we'll get a cool rhythmic part. On the final pass, I'll play a simple solo sticking to the top three strings and show how one pattern can speak well in different positions on the neck.”
Hurts So Good: “I have always loved this theme and decided to rework it in G tuning. Although it is a basic 12 bar blues the idea is to blur the lines between something poignant and something badass. I do this by playing with both the major third and minor third of the chords in both the verse and solo. In the verse I will stick to my anchor position around the 12th fret and pay careful attention to the vibrato to add a Leslie effect to the melody. I'll also use ghost notes ringing out behind the slide more texture to set up the solo.”
Gemini Blues: “In an ode to Elmore James this one is a 12 bar shuffle in D tuning and really fun to play. We'll dip into the country blues a bit with open string melodies answered by big chords played up top on the verse. Also we will venture above the 12 fret this time to give the solo section a push. On every tune it's important to pay attention the groove, on this one we want to play up the eighth note swing feel.”
All About You: “Let’s check out a heavy 12 bar shuffle in G similar to my tune All About You. We'll get the verse rocking in a call and response between lower octaves and single note lines up-top. Then we will tackle a riff in the solo section, though a bit more challenging, I'll show you useful technique to transition around the neck more smoothly. I'll also mix some fretted notes as well as using the slide.”
Solo Blues: “Here is a solo piece in D tuning with minimal changes. This tune will use all of the techniques we have used in the examples above. I'll use octave harmonics, open strings, anchor position riffs, fretting behind the slide, palm muting, and string raking. We can put all these together to provide a driving groove even without a rhythm section.”
Sonny demonstrates over rhythm tracks and then breaks them down by stepping you through the key concepts, techniques and creative approaches that he used to perform the solo in the performance study. All of the key performances are tabbed and notated for your practice, reference and study purposes.
You’ll also get Guitar Pro files so that you can loop and/or slow any section down as you work through the lessons. Plus, Sonny generously includes all of the rhythm tracks for you to work with on your own.
Grab your guitar, slip that slide over your finger, and let’s play the blues with Sonny Landreth…