If you’re interested in learning more about Slash’s game, it’s worth taking a minute to reflect on his Guns N’ Roses style and the elements that still feature in his single-player material today.
Compared to their ’80s contemporaries, there was a brutality to the GN’R sound and a blues-tinged punky swagger thanks to Slash and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin. Today, Frank Sidoris takes on the pace duties alongside the topper in the Conspirators, but that raw swagger remains: a loose, late attitude – and that’s what you should be aiming for.
Sure, metronomic timing is a good thing in principle, but really, it’s all about the feel when playing as Slash. Here are ten exercises on the techniques he employed throughout his career. Let’s dance!
1. Epic melodic solo
We are inspired by Knock on heaven’s door and November Rain here in our short solo. The shape that opens both bars 1 and 3 is one of Slash’s favorite melodic tricks, allowing him to switch between major pentatonic phrasing and pure major phrasing.
2. Dorian diades
This lick uses double stops in Dorian mode – a technique you can hear in Slash’s 2022 track Remind the dogs. You can play the whole stroke with just your first and third fingers by fretting each pair of strings. For extra attitude, use down strokes to strum every note throughout.
3. Blues-rock riffs
Here, we take a look at how Slash uses ’70s-style blues-rock riffs in tracks like Mr. Brownstone and recent Kennedy/Conspirators single The river rises. Use tight, muted alternate picking for the opening notes, then let the A5 chord hold, before cutting the riff again. In bar 2, use pull-offs to play the bluesy notes smoothly.
4. Sequence of four notes
Slash frequently uses this kind of run, but perhaps most particularly when soloing to Sweet Child O Mine. Based on the E minor pentatonic scale (EGABD), it is essentially a four-note pattern, each time repeating a note higher in the scale.
5. Constant eighth note licks
Slash used constant eighth note licks, most famously in GN’R Sweet Child O Mineon more heroes from 2012 Apocalyptic love album, and more recently on fill my world on the latest version, 4. If you can play an open D chord, you’ll get the idea – it’s basically the same shape moved higher up the neck.
6. Cowboy deals
Clean-toned cowboy chords like these feature in Slash’s work, but primarily with Guns N’ Roses. His later work with Myles Kennedy tended to feature more sophisticated harmony, for example in the opening of Anastasia and Shots fired. Picking is a challenge here, so practice slowly, keeping your picking movements as small as possible.
Slash is often described as a predominantly pentatonic player, and while there’s some truth to that, he usually brings a bit more to the table. Bar 1 describes some pure pentatonic ideas, bar 3 extending into the blues scale. See if you can use the shapes from bars 2 and 4 in other fret positions.
8. Harmonic minor lick
Another example of how Slash regularly goes beyond the pentatonic in his solos, this harmonic minor mounted on the first string calls the outro solo in Sweet Child O Mine. Go slow at first, focusing mostly on smooth position changes.
9. Drop D Riffs
Slash’s most common tuning is standard Eb (i.e. standard semitone tuning) but he will occasionally use drop D (or its equivalent, drop C#) for some string riffs serious. This one should remind you of Velvet Revolver Slide.
10. Acoustic Styling
This acoustic part combines strumming with arpeggiated chords as you can hear on Patience and To fall into pieces. The strumming in bars 1 and 3 is a “low-low-high-high-high” pattern, but this is an overview and how Slash will mix strumming and arpeggios.