DAVID GRISSOM HAS BASED A CAREER ON GETTING
a great sound, playing perfectly tasty lines that are at home in a
variety of styles and never upstage the singer, and being an easy
hang. On both his high-profile sideman gigs and his solo albums, a
key ingredient to Grissom’s trip is his use of open strings clanging
against fretted notes or bends to create big, complex sounds that
are simultaneously clean and dirty.
“I’ve always been really interested in and
attracted to using open strings,” he says. “It
really goes back to blues, especially ‘Blue
Jean Blues’ by ZZ Top.” He then quotes the
Gibbons line in Ex. 1, a slinky, stanky maneuver
in B. Pick the notes on the G, D, and A
strings and grab the B string—which rings
throughout—with your picking-hand middle
or ring finger.
Grissom takes this concept and runs with
it in the song “Lucy G” off his Loud Music
album. “In ‘Lucy G,’” he says, “the unique
thing about it is that the open string is the
b7. The song is in C#m and the open string
is the B.”
He then launches into Ex. 2, the tune’s
intro riff. It’s the same idea but with a surprisingly
fresh sound, thanks to the droning
b7. Slide into every fretted note that you can
and employ hybrid picking—two notes at a
time for most of the line and triple-stops on
the E and F#add4 chords.
“I’m using the open string as a pedal
tone, with other notes going either above or
below it,” explains Grissom. That has been
true up to this point, but when he plays Ex.
3, he actually has a note above and below it.
Grissom makes ordinary sliding sixth shapes
extraordinary by keeping the B string going
the whole time. “This is like a C# Dorian/B
major thing,” he explains, and he’s right, but
these slippery slides also rule in any tune
that has Lifeson-approved E to F# moves.
Speaking of “Xanadu”-style changes, check
out Ex. 4. This is similar to Ex. 3 but now we
slide all the way up to the fourteenth position
for a delicious F#add4 voicing. These
sound huge with a little bit of distortion
but are also beautiful with a compressed
clean sound or on an acoustic. And remember,
if you can create sounds like this with
an open B string, what’s stopping you from
doing the same thing with a G string? See
what I’m sayin’?