Warren Haynes: Why I Play Slide Guitar in Standard Tuning

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UG News editor since early 2013. King Crimson fan. I handle the news around here.

Blues guitar champ Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule and the Allman Brothers Band discussed his fondness of an uncommon practice – playing slide guitar in standard tuning. He told Reverb (transcribed by UG):

“I started playing slide guitar when I was about 14; I first started in standard tuning because I had not heard anything about open tunings.

“It was a little frustrating and confusing, and then somebody told me, ‘Oh, you need to tune your guitar to Open E or Open G or something like that.’

“I started doing that and it made it a bit easier. Open E is bluesier, Open G is a little brighter, a little more country.

“But eventually, I started playing in standard tuning again because I realized that it gave me more of my own voice to play in standard tuning.

“I could play stuff that was less conventional and less traditional. I could kinda play whatever popped into my head.

“There were a few other people doing that too, but most preferred the open tuning for obvious reasons – the harmonics are better, all the licks are right at your fingertips, very convenient.

“There are several different ways of emulating open tuning in standard tuning. The B, the G, and the D give you a three-note chord that’s the same as Open G.

“When I’m playing melodic stuff and chordal stuff, I tend to pivot off that a lot.

“So to play slide guitar in standard tuning, one of the things you have to do is figure out is how you can emulate the open tuning stuff.

“I was listening to Johnny Winter and Duane Allman…

“Duane Allman played mostly in Open E, but there were two songs in his recording career that were standard – ‘Dreams’ [off 1969’s ‘The Allman Brothers Band’] and ‘Mountain Jam’ [recorded during iconic Fillmore East show, released on 1972’s ‘Eat a Peach’].

“For me, I really like being able to decide in the moment – am I gonna play slide or regular guitar.

“There’s a lot of moments during the night where I’ll just pick up the slide and start playing. It’s a way of not having to switch guitars every time you get a whim.”

Warren and the Gov’t Mule gang have released their new album “Revolution Come… Revolution Go” today (June 9) via Fantasy Records. You can check out the “Stone Cold Rage” single below.


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