Watch the Muting and Finger Guarding online guitar lesson by Sonny Landreth from Slide Supernatural
I use a fingerstyle approach to playing slide guitar using open tunings. A significant part of developing articulation and clarity, note definition, is muting. That involves the right hand technique that I call finger guarding. With the left-hand I will use my fingers to dampen notes behind the slide when I do not want them to produce other tones or sounds. It’s kind of like a piano player using the sustain pedal. If you want the note to ring more you depress the pedal. If you want the note to have a shorter sustain you release the pedal. So that’s kind of what the fingers are doing, in fact it’s not unlike playing the piano in that you’re looking at the entire fretboard and you see all of it laid out before you, it kind of helps for the concept of what we’re doing here. Right-hand getting is exceptionally important; I learned this listening to Chet Atkins when I was a kid. The strings and the thumb have their assignments, and the third finger, second finger, and the first finger lay down on the first three strings. And that is their territory, each has their own string. Then the thumb, either with a thumb pick or not, controls the sixth, fifth, and fourth strings. So whatever string I’m not using, the finger just rests on it enough to mute it so it doesn’t ring into the other notes. This way any note not being played is muted with a finger. If I don’t want anything ringing then I get what I call a full choke, but if I lift them I can get an open sound, and can control how much sustain I want.