Ever wonder how guys like Bukka White were able to get such a big sound out of just one guitar?
When I was first introduced to these players, I was amazed at the aggression and attack that they brought to the acoustic blues. After breaking down a few YouTube videos by these two, I’m convinced that it’s all in the picking hand.
Sure, their slide work on the fretboard is legendary, but their ability to lay down such a lively rhythm part on one instrument is incredible. What I noticed from these bluesman is that their thumb and index finger on their picking hand worked together to provide some intricate strumming sounds that made their guitar sound huge.
Let’s take a look at this technique in a little detail through an Open D Slide example. We’ll start by isolating the downstroke and the upstroke.
- Thumb pushes down through 5th string, 4th string and occasionally the 3rd
- Light palm mute but make sure these strings ring out, that’s part of what creates the big sound
- The index finger brushes up through the strings, specifically attacking the second string and brushing through the 3rd and occasionally the 4th string.
- These strings just need to completely ring out and provides a nice contrast to the bass downstroke
Learn More about the brush up technique and how it can be used in other areas of your playing by checking out these lessons:
Getting these two strokes to sync up in a rhythm pattern will take some time, but start slow and build in speed and the intensity of your attack. In this video, I’ll walk you through strum-by-strum in open d tuning.
Switching Between Rhythm and Lead with a Slide
So far, we’ve been playing this rhythm figure a little loose. As I mention in the video, there’s no need to get crazy accurate with the strings that you strum. If you brush up a little too far, no worries. That’s part of the magic of an open tuning and it’s part of the magic of obtaining this very lively rhythm sound that we’re going for.
But the challenge comes in switching from the loose strumming part to the dead-on accuracy needed to pull off the slide lick. Take your time with the transition and work through the “training wheels” I cover in the video.
The goal is to make your rhythm guitar sound blend into your lead work and vice versa. We’re going for a nice fluid sound and this lesson will help you develop that skill.
Good luck and happy picking!
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Check out other lessons in this series: