Slide guitar, ghost notes, and Sonny Landreth

Here’s a new thread, rather than hijacking the other slide guitar thread. In an NPR interview piece, Sonny Landreth talked about playing on the other side of the glass. Rather than laying a finger across the strings above the slide, he speaks vaguely of playing notes and chords between the slide and the nut. Does this mean he’s fretting those notes, picking them, or tapping up there? Or does he simply allow the tones that others damp?

The article implies the phrase “ghost notes” came from John Hiatt, a heckuva slide player himself. (Landreth has been part of Hiatt’s studio band, the Goners, at times.)

IMO, Sonny is grossly underappreciated, maybe even a national treasure. It’s a mystery to me how he gets that sound, and at the same time, sneaking in those intervals that are uniquely Cajun. (Ha! As if I understand what those intervals are!)

Ah - there you are, AskNott. I was wondering if you were going to start this thread after you mentioned the possbility in this thread.

Here’s what I have - I may have to get onto a phone call, in which case I will come back to this…

  • Landreth is a freak of nature - that’s how good he is. I find him to be so technically good that at times I think he doesn’t invest enough time picking better songs, but that is a YMMV issue. But I think of him as the Eric Johnson of slide - just a technically brilliant, tasteful player. I prefer Derek Trucks for his song choice and his fusion of Middle Eastern and jazz voicings in his slide attack as described in that other post - but would not argue a whit if someone put forth Landreth as the Man on slide…by the way I have heard great things about his latest CD - lots of name guests, including Clapton…

  • Playing behind the slide is done by other folks, but is a Landreth specialty. When you play slide, you sometimes lay the slide across all 6 strings; another trick is to lay the slide across some of the higher strings (high E, B, G, etc) but leaving the lower strings (low E, A, D) open - in alternate tunings you can slide leads on the high strings while letting those lower strings drone. What Landreth is discussing is using the slide to fret notes but holding the slide at an angle so that the higher strings, towards the bottom of the neck aren’t touched by the slide and can be fretted by fingers behind the slide. It’s just one of those techniques, like fretting notes with your thumb or tapping harmonics an octave up that most guitarists are aware of, but not a lot have in their arsenal - but some folks really grab those techniques and make them central to their style (like EVan Halen and the octave tapping…). Landreth has make behind-the-slide fretting his territory - no one does what he does…

  • I have no idea if Hiatt coined the phrase “ghost notes” but it is used a lot. What a lot of folks/non-players don’t appreciate is that electric guitar is 50% effort in getting what you want to make noise work, and 50% effort trying to STOP noises you don’t want happening. I spend more time trying to find ways to get the fat of my picking palm, sides of fingertips of both hands, parts of my fretting thumb and pretty much anything I can to dampen strings I don’t want sounding. Well, that is especially true with slide - it sounds all vocal-like and glassy, but oftentimes the slide player is laying the fat of his/her picking hand across all the strings, and/or laying their fingers down behind the slide. In both cases, you may just leave them there like sandbags on the strings so nothing rings out - your amp is set with enough feedback that the slide and your pick - which are both “inside” your dampening hands, are able to sound, but nothing else is. Ah, but you don’t have to just dampen fully - you can apply a bit of English and have partial damping occur or get really oldschool and not dampen at all (an old cheap acoustic that old Delta blues players used weren’t of very high quality and so they didn’t ring out long - you didn’t have to control the noise on them nearly as much). Anyway, if you partially dampen the strings or let them ring out, you get a LOT of extra harmonics. And since the slide moves up and down the strings without touching the frets, the way that different layers of harmonics get emphasized changes a lot. So a slide player has to figure out what to dampen so they can try to emphasize the harmonics that work for the piece they are playing. Sound like a pain? It totally is.

That’s what I got for now; does that help?

Thanks, WordMan. I really appreciate reading your opinions on this stuff. I’m nearly obsessed about the art of the guitar, even though my thumbs blew out before I could learn to play one well myself.

Guitars aren’t instruments; they break rules - but only if you use them correctly :wink:

Ooops - pardon the cheesiness; I over-geeked.

That type of Chuck Norris machismo should only be done amongst other guitarists - it makes non-players roll their eyes and cue the Real Men of Genius music…:D;)

Hey, no problem, WordMan. If you can’t be philosophical about guitars, where would it ever be appropriate? Besides, I remember those round-back Ovations with the Swiss cheese holes.:stuck_out_tongue: