Learn to Play: Jeff Massey Teaches Muddy Waters' Slide Riffs

Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield in Mississippi in 1913. Years later, in 1943, he moved to Chicago and became a blues legend.

Prior to his move, Muddy had sung and played for his own enjoyment, but was unaware of how great his voice and guitar playing truly were before hearing a recording of himself that was captured by blues field recordist and historian Alan Lomax. When Muddy heard Lomax's recordings, he exclaimed, "I can sing!"

Not only is Muddy one of the best blues singers of all time, he's also a talented guitarist—especially when he uses a slide.

Waters primarily used open G tuning for his earlier recordings, before later switching to standard tuning, using a capo to jump to different keys. The capo allowed Muddy the ability to not only change keys but also remain in the E position, incorporating all the cool open-string-style licks that work so well in that position.

Even though his playing had a great, stinging edge to it, Waters still maintained a knack for good note intonation while using the slide. It’s important to maintain proper pitch with the slide positioned over the actual fret, as opposed to the fret space.

Waters' vibrato can be a challenge to learn, but I believe that just attempting to grab a few of these licks for your own trick bag will be rewarding and provide some new eye-opening ideas for your slide playing.


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