The Czech Republic, South Korea, India, China, Italy, England, Australia, Mexico, Canada—these are just some of the international locales from which many current GIT students hail. One perk of attending the school is that by meeting dedicated players from every corner of the Earth, it’s easy to forge a network of likeminded players that spans the globe. While this column typically features lessons from GIT’s roster of guitar instructors, sometimes—as we did in the November GP, when we served up Jan Zehrfeld’s inspired reworking of “Smoke on the Water”—it’s fun to zoom in on one of the school’s many inventive and accomplished students. This time, we’ll look at Florent Atem, a two-time Grammy-nominated GIT alum from Tahiti, and focus on an interesting, shred-friendly technique he’s developed that he deems “slide picking.”
“A cross between tapping and sweep picking, slide picking really is the missing link between those two techniques,” says Atem. “It combines their main features in one motion.” The approach is simple: Slide the pick across the strings at a given position on the neck—from one string to the next, several strings in succession—so that each time the pick hits a new string, that string hits the fret solidly enough to produce a note.
“It works in both directions—from low to high, or high to low,” says Atem, demonstrating with Examples 1 and 2. The rich, compressed, and forgiving distorted tone he has dialled in gives the notes extra articulation. “Fretting-hand string muting, proper pick positioning, and a firm attack are essential for the notes to ring clearly. A thick, pointed pick may lend the best results.”
If you get deep into slide picking, you may find it can be executed without a pick, by performing the slides with a fingernail. “The thumbnail is well suited for descending slides, the other nails for ascending ones,” shares Atem. “Various techniques, such as a one-string legato phrase, for instance, can be used as pivots to fill up the space between each sliding motion, giving you time to prepare for the move in the opposite direction [Ex. 3].
“Sliding the pick across a few strings only, as opposed to crossing all six, opens up yet another realm of possibilities [Ex. 4], as will altering your guitar’s tuning. I’m very proud of the fact that the people to whom I’ve showed this approach, including Michael Angelo Batio, didn’t notice the physical move, but the ‘unusual sound’ they said they heard.”