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Want to Play Bluesy Slide Licks in Open G? Try this Endless Lick Generator

Lesson ID: TB431

Slide guitar is incredibly bluesy

Smooth slide sounds are expressive and help us ​play with feeling​. But, it’s easy to get lost on the neck when playing in the open tunings commonly used in slide. This leads us to stick to the same old familiar licks. Beginners can beat this by ​leveraging the hot spots​ for a fail proof way to jam in open tunings. But what’s beyond the hot spots?

This lesson will show you how to use the minor pentatonic scale to create bluesy slide licks you can be proud of.

Grab your guitar, tune to Open G (D G D G B D) and let’s get to it!

Step 1: Understand the Minor Pentatonic Scale

If you only knew one scale as a blues player, this is the one to learn. The Minor Pentatonic Scale is the foundation of the blues sound. This five-note scale gives you the raw materials to build bluesy licks. The scale contains the root, minor 3rd, 4th, 5th, and minor 7th notes.

Scale Formula: 1 – b3 – 4 – 5 – b7

When starting out, it helps to find these notes along a single string. This keeps things simple as you learn.

Once you know where the notes are, you can slide between them fluidly. Let the slide connect the notes for you.

Practice creating short licks and phrases using these notes along the 1st string. Then, repeat the process with the remaining strings. In the beginning stick to the 1st and 2nd strings. Doing so will give you plenty of options for creating licks, but this focus will help you learn the scale and how to use it quickly.

Notice that each diagram notates the interval of each note in the scale.

Learn the scale by focusing on intervals rather than memorizing fretboard patterns. Here’s why:

An “F” note sounds different in the Key of C compared to the Key of G because it has a different function relative to the key. Intervals are the label for that function, for that sound. Knowing the sound will help you choose the notes you need in any moment to craft the sound you’re looking for.

For more on intervals and how to use them on the guitar, ​see Tuesday Blues 418​.

Key Takeaways:

  • The minor pentatonic scale provides the framework for blues licks
  • Use the slide to connect between notes
  • Focus on the top two strings at first
  • Learn the intervals that make up the scale

Step 2: Incorporate Common Blues Techniques

Learning the scale on a single string forces you to move up and down the string with the slide. That’s what the slide does best! You’ll slide into and out of notes and you’ll connect notes with the slide.

But we can go beyond that. Make your playing more expressive by adding some classic blues techniques:

  • Slide Vibrato: Add vibrato to individual notes or at the end of licks. This adds emotion.
  • Slide Bends: In the blues, it’s common to bend just enough to hear the note go sharp. It’s called a microtonal bend. Here’s how to do it with a slide: play a note and push the slide slightly beyond the fret. Try bending the minor 3rd and minor 7th and resolve each to the Root.
  • Call and Response: Arrange your licks into a call and response pattern. The first lick calls, the next responds. This creates fluid phrases that tell a story.

Key Takeaways:

  • Use slide vibrato for expression
  • Push the minor 3rd and minor 7th notes sharp
  • Answer lick “calls” with “response” licks

Step 3: Expand Beyond the Top Two Strings

Once comfortable on the top two strings, it’s time to expand. ​Map out the minor pentatonic scale​ across the remaining strings.

This gives you more options for crafting interesting licks and connecting them to riffs on the lower strings.

Key Takeaways:

  • Map the minor pentatonic scale across all strings
  • Train your ears to hear scale degree functions


Remember, simplicity is key when starting out. A few notes on one string can sound amazing when played with emotion.

Use these steps to start creating bluesy slide licks in open g:

  1. Learn the minor pentatonic framework
  2. Add expressive blues techniques
  3. Expand across all strings

The blues greats make it look easy.

But with practice, you can unlock the secrets of soulful slide guitar.

So grab your slide and Play On!

When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

Back Porch Blues Course:  A proven system to fingerpicking the blues.  This step-by-step course guides you through building fundamental fingerpicking skills.  Plus, you’ll learn three levels of a delta blues style performance study to put your new skills into action.

Become a myBGI Member: Membership comes with access to Back Porch Blues plus over 70 step-by-step courses.  Get proven results with one of myBGI’s structured Roadmaps.

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