Techniques, Arrangements and Improvisation
The late Kelly Joe Phelps was a singer and guitarist with depth, range, and amazing technique. His smoky voice and intricate, subtle slide guitar work infused his songs with soulful honesty and authenticity.
Kelly Joe plays with his guitar flat on his lap Dobro style, picking, sliding and using his right hand on the body of the guitar to create a percussive rhythm. He is a blues player who uses his bar and alternate-thumb fingerpicking to acheive an amazing technical proficiency as well as an unusually free, improvisational style that defies easy categorization. As he puts it on this video, "I like music that doesn't lock itself down so tight."
Aside from his prodigious skills, Kelly Joe is a patient and articulate instructor, providing numerous insights into his musical craft. With a quiet intensity, he passes along invaluable information based on his years of experience both as a performer and as a teacher. (He has taught guitar, banjo and mandolin both privately and at the college level.) On this video, he gives detailed instruction in his unique approach to the guitar, starting with bar technique, string muting, use of the capo, picking style and how to find scale patterns in the open D tuning he uses throughout the lesson. He then gets into careful explanations of how he improvises a solo, basing it on the melody of a tune and using a combination of open and barred strings to create a melody line.
Kelly Joe covers, in detail, the traditional gospel song When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, his funky minor-key blues Black Crow Keeps Flying and the classic folk song Irene Goodnight (as you've never heard it before!). Throughout the lesson he emphasizes the ability to freely develop your arrangement of a song and turn it into a vehicle to express your own emotions.
"About ten seconds into The Slide Guitar of Kelly Joe Phelps it's clear that Phelps is one of the cleanest, baddest, and most soulful slide players on the scene today. His impeccable timing and intonation should be an inspiration to slide players everywhere. The video lesson is taught in an informal, down-home style that puts viewers at ease as Phelps hits on pertinent topics such as setting up guitars for lap-style playing, right- and left-hand muting, and tilting the slide bar to incorporate open strings in chords.... just about every note Phelps plays is inspiring. His discussions on fingerpicking, alternating bass notes and dynamic tension should be useful to any guitarist - not just slide cats.... just about any two-bar fragment could be a great lesson." -- Guitar Player Magazine