Learn to Play: The Melodic Slide Techniques of Duane Allman

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Duane Allman is a staple of southern rock and easily one of the most influential and recognized slide guitar masters of all time. During Duane's early career as an ace session guitarist, he primarily played a Fender Stratocaster cranked through a Fender Twin Reverb. Later, during the Allman Brothers period, you'd be more likely to see Duane playing an iconic Gibson Les Paul or SG plugged into a Marshall stack.

Allman Brothers folklore tells us that Duane was inspired to play slide guitar after hearing bluesman Taj Mahal's first release, which featured slide master Jesse Ed Davis performing the Blind Willie McTell classic, Statesboro Blues. This coincided with brother Gregg delivering a bottle of Coricidin pills to a flu-ridden Duane who started experimenting with the empty pill bottle as a slide. The rest is slide history.

For this video, rather than concentrate on one particular song, I decided to show a couple specific examples of how Duane inspired me as a slide guitarist.

Although Duane utilized open E tuning quite a bit, he also used standard tuning, which I utilize here. Capturing Duane's licks and approach is a combination of finesse, technique, and raw emotion. I would suggest paying strict attention to his subtle movements in vibrato and the way he slides in and out of pitch to create a sound like a human voice. Duane was also a master of mixing major and minor scales to create endless streams of melodic opportunities. Duane Allman was as much a master of melody and improvisation as he was a master of the blues.

I hope the licks and techniques in this video inspire you to go down some interesting melodic paths with the slide. I would suggest checking out the classic Allman Brothers Live At The Fillmore recordings as well as Duane's slide work with Eric Clapton on the Derek and The Dominos Layla record for prime examples of Duane's slide mastery.

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