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5 guitar tricks you can learn from Slash

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Though we often reserve this spot for blues guitar, occasionally we make an exception and allow ourselves to detour into other styles. And, as guitarist of one of the biggest rock bands of all time, the subject of this month’s lesson needs no introduction - suffice to say that blues is at the heart of his lead style and there’s plenty to learn.

Slash’s loose but aggressive playing on classics such as Sweet Child O’ Mine, Welcome To The Jungle and Paradise City inspired a generation of guitarists to pick up a Gibson Les Paul at a time when pointy headstocks, doublecuts and Floyd Rose whammy bars were considered the essential stage gear. 

In this month’s lesson we’re looking at some ringing arpeggios and his melodic lead style. You’ll need three tones to play along: a clean chorus sound using a Les Paul set to its middle pickup position for the arpeggios; a high gain Marshall-style distortion tone with the neck pickup tone control rolled off a little; and a fully maxed out bridge pickup setting using the same distortion tone. 

Of course, a Les Paul will get you closest to Slash’s sounds but any humbucker-equipped guitar should get you in the tonal ballpark.

1. Clean chorused arpeggios

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This style of chorus-drenched arpeggio playing will be familiar to fans of Guns N’ Roses - check out songs like Paradise City or Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door to hear those classic Gibson cleans. These 16th notes are all played with ‘down up’ style alternate picking which can be tough at any tempo, so make sure to practise slowly at first.

2. Fluid string bending

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Switching to a neck pickup and a driven Marshall amp tone, this melodic lick is fairly simple in terms of content, but make sure to pay attention to those string bends. Use the notation to guide you but remember that Slash would play these with a typically loose, drawling style - aim for a fluid, vocal delivery that’s not too tight.

3. Oblique string bends

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The previous example should prepare you a little for this one where, once again, correct pitching on the string bends is key. Aim to let the notes ring together on the bends in bars 1 and 3 (a technique known as an oblique bend) for a November Rain vibe. Aim to keep it as clean and clear as possible throughout the rest of the lick.

4. Legato flurries

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Switching to the bridge pickup, this brighter-sounding example demonstrates how Slash might embellish a lick with hammer-ons and pull-offs in between the ‘main’ melody notes. Just look for the tight note flurries in the notation: the 32nd notes and the triplet in bar 1 are the rhythms to home in on.

5. High register lick

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These high register bends can be tough work when you’re not used to them, but bracing two or three fretting hand fingers together can make it less of a hurdle. Having successfully completed these, we move down through the G major pentatonic scale for some bluesy phrasing in a lower register.