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Michael Johnson >> Blues Legends III >>
Lesson Subject: Blues Legends III
What you learn: Blind Willie Johnson Style
Teacher: Michael Johnson

Michael: Our lesson tonight continues our study on acoustic delta blues legends, our feature guitarist is Blind Willie Johnson. Blind Willie was considered to be very influential slide blues player, but not as famous as Robert Johnson. The delta blues players usually detuned to an open tuning to allow playing slide licks easier. Here's a sample of the slide licks you'll learn:

Lesson Sample

Michael: Here's a graphic for tuning to open G:

Open G tuning


Michael: Notice you drop the 1st, 5th & 6th strings each one whole-step. Here's an audio clip of how your guitar should sound strumming on the open strings:

open G sound clip

Michael: G major has: G. A. B. C. D. E. F#
the major chord = G (I), B (III), D (V)

Michael: You can use different slides as well, I use a glass slide myself:

Slides


DFE: Is the thickness of the glass important?

Michael: The thicker glass slides sound better to me, here's some images of proper slide techniques.

Slide Positions/Techniques


ginger:
Do you use a heavier set of strings?

Michael:
Yes I do Ginger, heavy strings help and have better tone. Higher action on your guitar also helps.

Michael: Notice you get proper intonation by playing directly over the fret. Make sure you don't hold the slide pressing on the fretboard and fret, glide firmly on the strings. Also use your back fingers to mute the strings a little to get a better tone and avoid string buzzing. Here's our rhythm progression, to play a rhythm in an open tuning you'll have to adjust the progression a bit.



Michael: Since the A string is detuned, all you have to do is barre or play the 4th and 5th strings to play a 5 chord. It's actually easier to play this progression. Here's the jam track:

Looping Jam Track

Michael: This is a common, I, IV, V, blues progression. At the end of the phrase you can add a turnaround to end and begin the progression.

ginger: Is it more advantageous to wear the slide on your pinky than your ring finger?

Michael: Excellent question! If you use the slide on the 4th finger, you have the ability to play licks and chords with the other 3 fingers, but for some using the 3rd finger seems more comfortable. Here's a few turnarounds variations you can use:



Michael: This first turnaround you can play the 5th string open and then use the descending line on the 4th string and open 3rd string. You can pick both strings at the same time or you can pick between the middle two strings, like in this next turnaround lick:



Michael: You can also include the 2nd string as well:



Michael: Anybody without a slide you can use a glass bottle, drinking glass or medicine bottle. Here's our first slide guitar lick:



Slide Lick 2

Michael: This plays in the same basic positions, but uses double strings. This slide lick is also pretty easy, just slide up to the 12th fret on the 1st and 2nd strings, then shift to sliding to the 3rd fret. It's really not that hard to play slide licks once you get use to using a slide. Try playing the lick over the jam track. Here's another slide lick:



Slide Lick 2

DFE: Do you have to slide until the fret is in the middle of the slide?

Michael: Yes, you slide to the top off the fret. Now when the progression changes, you can follow with changing the slide positions that relate to the chord positions. In this next example you shift playing to the IV (C) of the progression change:



Slide Lick 3

Michael: Now you can follow playing over the V (D) of the progression and move to the IV (C) and back to the I (G). All in a series of connected licks.



Slide Lick 4

Michael: Then you can add on one of the turnarounds to end the progressions, like one of the ones you learned earlier:



Turnaround 2

Michael: This brings it all back home, much in the way the lesson sample comes together that I gave you earlier in the lesson.

Michael: Any questions before I go? I hope you all have fun with this lesson.

DFE: To change the Key do you have to tune another? I mean to play in a another key.

Michael: Good question, you can play different positions to change the key, or you can change to a different tuning. Here's the basic positions we were using for G I, IV, V:



Michael: Here's the A - I, IV, V positions.



Michael: And so forth, see how the positions change with the key, but in this tuning G sounds the best because of the open string notes you can use for most of these licks.

DFE: yes, thanks... merci

Michael:  Well, time to go, see you next lesson!


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