Learn to Play: Ry Cooder Slide Guitar Lesson with Jeff Massey

Ry Cooder is an American treasure. In addition to being a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer, he's also lauded for being one of the best slide guitar players in the world.

Cooder's instantly identifiable sound can usually be heard coming from his modified Tele- and Strat-style guitars, which are known as “Coodercasters." Coodercasters use a lap steel pickup in the bridge position and a gold foil pickup in the neck position. Ry has used a variety of amps over the years and can be heard on recordings by Captain Beefheart, Taj Mahal, and The Rolling Stones, just to name a few. Cooder also has a long list of solo recordings and still performs regularly to this day.

In this lesson, I concentrated on techniques I have borrowed from Ry Cooder’s slide playing, rather than going through a note-for-note deep dive. Ry has a tendency to improv and play things a bit differently each time, so exploring a couple of his licks and concepts should enrich your own ideas when it comes to slide guitar.

One of the main ideas from Ry that I’ve borrowed for my own slide technique is the way he can play a group of notes from one initial attack. Playing one note and then sliding up the neck with proper intonation and vibrato might look easy, but it's actually one of the most difficult aspects of slide guitar playing. Nailing a key trick like this will be a great asset to your slide guitar technique.

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