Mississippi Blues Slide Guitar – In the early days of the blues, bottleneck guitar was pretty much the only game in town for a number of reasons. First, guitar were often home made and therefore the quality wasn’t too great, which meant that the tuning wasn’t too accurate, they were the devil to keep in tune and they didn’t have frets. These home DIY instruments might have between 1 to 6 strings of various gauges, and were quite rudimentary.
An idea was spawned somehow, probably from their African roots music, that shiny object held lightly on the strings could make an interesting sound and so bottleneck, or ‘slide’ was born. This article I found just about sums up Mississippi Blues Slide Guitar:
Mississippi Blues Slide Guitar – Bottleneck Guitar Playing
written by Noel Halpin
Bottleneck and slide guitar playing. This is a form of guitar playing which has been around for nearly one hundred years or more. Its roots are embedded in the African-American negro blues music. It is easily recognized when played by the wailing sound it makes on the fret-board of the guitar.
Bottleneck and slide are terms often used interchangeably for a style of guitar playing in which the strings are “stopped” by a small metal or glass tube held in the hand or slipped over one of the left hand fingers. Strictly speaking, ” bottleneck” refers to glass, whereas slide refers to metal, but the technique for playing is the same in both cases. Slide guitar originated in America, around the Mississippi Delta
It was predominately negro blues music. It is thought that it’s roots originated in the tradition of black slavery and therefore linked strongly and forever to the evolution of the blues. It is also believed to be an expression of feelings through music and song. The term bottleneck is derived from the fact that the earliest slides were made from broken – off necks of beer bottles. This technique for Mississippi blues slide guitar was the precursor to all the modern slides we now have available in the music market place.
Using a slide is quite easy, and it is also easy to make your own slide from the neck of a bottle, or you can improvise a metal one from a piece of tubing. But why go through all this bother when they are readily available in all musical instrument retail shops, and very inexpensive. Metal and glass produce very distinctive different sounds, that is why most guitarist will have both types in their guitar bag. But if you just want one, then experiment around with both types until you are satisfied with the one that gives you the sound you are looking for.
Wearing the slide on the finger is also a very personal choice. It takes time to get used to wearing the slide so you must use the finger you feel more comfortable with when playing. Usually the third or fourth finger is the choice, but like I said it is purely a personal decision. Just to give you a tip on which finger might suit best, I would recommend you try the fourth finger as this frees up the other three fingers for playing chords or individual notes.
The Basics – How To Play Bottleneck Guitar in the Mississippi Blues Slide Guitar Style
In the video above I’m playing the famous Crossroads by Robert Johnson using a thick walled glass bottleneck. The basic techniques you need to master are:
- resting the bottleneck or slide on the strings without touching the frets
- moving up or down to the required note using vibrato to locate
- damping the strings behind the bottleneck to remove unwanted sounds
It’s been said that Mississippi Blues Slide Guitar is the easiest style to start playing, but the hardest to perfect. The fundamentals are very simple, and its possible to make a three chord blues trick by simply laying the slide across all of the frets either open, on the 5th fret and the 7th fret. It’s the subtleties and nuances that make all the difference and this is one of the exciting things about playing slide. It can either be hard and driving, or delicate (or both at the same time!)