I’m sure everyone has heard of Derek Trucks by now. If you haven’t, you need to. He is becoming one of the greatest guitar players of all time. He has already accomplished amazing things such as, joining Eric Clapton on tour and playing Duane Allman’s guitar parts, playing in the Allman Brothers Band, and a Grammy win.
There is no doubt in my mind that he will go down in history as a legend just like Clapton, Hendrix, SRV, and Duane did.
But what makes him stand out from all of the bazillion guitar players out there.
There are plenty of other slide guitarists and many guitarists with more technique (Vai, Malmsteen, John Mclaughlin). So why has Derek become so adored?
I think it is for many reasons, but this one in particular is why I think Derek has moved to the forefront of being the next guitar legend. So what is this reason? Well, this is only my opinion but I think it comes down to Derek’s ability to play guitar like a singer.
To play like Derek, you need to learn vocal licks and not guitar licks. In this day and age when anyone can play speed arpeggios with their guitar behind their back and then move into 8 finger tapping, Derek’s VERY melodic and intense emotional playing comes off as a breathe of fresh air. Although Derek does have lots of chops, he certainly knows how to use them to effectively create an emotional experience with his guitar. This is what sets him apart from so many others.
Derek’s ability to imitate the human voice became quite evident to me when I first started listening to him about 10 years ago. I read in an interview that he often tried to mimic his wife’s (Susan Tedeschi) vocal runs on the guitar. After reading this, I went back to the early R&B recordings and noticed that a lot of what Derek was playing was coming from these singers and not the guitar players.
Ben E King, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, and Aretha Franklin. If you listen to Come Back Baby by Ray Charles you will hear a lot of Derek Trucks slide guitar licks. If you can transcribe Ray’s vocals for slide guitar, you will learn a lot about phrasing and putting together a memorable solo. Notice how much space there is between his vocal licks?
When you play, are you always trying to fit as many notes as possible into the tune? Does your playing always sound like riffs?
I find these 2 things very common when people start playing slide guitar. At some point you have to forget the riffs and try to play a solo as one cohesive thought. Not a bunch of riffs put together. It is very hard and I struggle at this too.
For me, when it really comes down to it, you have to forget everything you have learned when you’re trying to play a solo. Thinking about intervals and scales on stage can lead to very bad results and can often produce a mechanical type sound. This is where Derek excels. Derek is so good at developing a solo. He gets you interested at the beginning, gains momentum, and then delivers the knockout punch at the end. You MUST think like this when you’re playing as well. Try to give someone an emotional experience and not just a barrage of notes to try and impress everyone.
In my opinion, some of the best slide guitar licks are the ones you learn by listening to vocals. Try to understand their phrasing. Listen to them constantly, and their licks will become ingrained in your head. You will then start to hear what you need to play if you are comfortable with intervals and the fretboard.
If you want to learn more about this, I have created a full course to learn slide guitar in open e tuning. Check them out here.
Leave a comment below about why you think Derek Trucks is so great, or maybe you don’t think he’s that great at all.
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