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Please check out this live performance of "Your Latest Trick", by Dire Straits, as it is a perfect example of the question theme:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKiVttFnqkY&t=4m12s

Notice the fast arpeggios that happen towards the end of the solo. What are the techniques/principles involved to play a slide arpeggio this clean?

What I mean is: when you're playing with a slide (at least on a regular guitar), it's hard enough to keep the strings you're not playing from sounding even if you're playing single string melodies with reasonable time difference to switch between strings when necessary (see, for example, the guitar solo from High Hopes, by Pink Floyd).

But in this arpeggio in the video I sent, there are many notes played very fastly across different strings and there's strictly only one note sounding at a time.

Anyone who's familiar with sweep picking (in regular guitars) will know how big a deal it is to keep only one note sounding at a time even if you have four fingers to do the work. With a lapsteel guitar played with a slide, you only have one big, unsensitive and inflexible metal/glass "finger" to do it. So, how different is the "sweeping" (or whatever it's called) technique on a lapsteel?

Note: obviously this solo is executed by a world class player (don't know his name though). But I can't determine if this passage is powered by sheer over-the-top ability over a simple principle, or a certain technique that makes it easier than it seems to be, or a clever tuning that puts the notes in comfortable places, or a combination of those.

I'd be also interested in marginally related information, such as players who play this kind of thing, other songs with similar passages, technique videos/books/articles or songbooks/transcriptions.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

As you've figured out this would be pretty tricky to do with the left hand as you might on a (right-handed) 6 string electric guitar, the answer is all in the right picking hand…

The technique you hear in the video is called Blocking, at least that's what it's called when used on a Pedal Steel Guitar (which is what is being played in the video). Blocking is a matter of damping (quietening) the (last played) string before picking the next string, and is done with the right picking hand. There are two common ways of doing this:

The easier way is to use the edge of your (right) picking hand (a bit like palm muting on a regular electric guitar — except that you completely deaden the note).

The second (and harder) way is called Pick Blocking and as the name suggests the player's finger-picks are used to damp the preceding notes. I'm pretty sure that this is what you are hearing in the video.

I would also guess that this is Paul Franklin who is both known to play with Mark Knopfler, and for his Pick Blocking technique. Hunting for "Paul Franklin" and/or "Pick Blocking" on YouTube and Google will lead you to more information on how to do this.

For example, here is a Pick Blocking tutorial on youtube:

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A simple method: Mute the lower strings with your palm, and the higher strings with your free fingers (either hand may work). Of course, this isn't the same as picking cleanly with perfect technique, but it will help you sound good until your skills get to that point.

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Variation on Matthew Read's response (and I like the others can't view this), but if you're playing lap steel, you're fingerpicking, so you mute with your fingers, not your palm. Or, in addition to your palm.

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I can't get the video but possibly he is using a noise suppressor to cut the low volume of notes out so they don't ring? That with palm muting can help a lot with tightening up the sound. It works well for a lot of sweep picking and heavy riff based music(such as metallica, etc..). Certain sounds are required. If you have a high gain high feedback amp with a lot of delay, verb, and compression your just not going to get a clean sound no matter how great your technique is.

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Well yes using the right hand picking technique it can be done with a bar.

Out of my own musical necessity, in 2009 I made my own little finger slides and use them on both hands. If you see this video, http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y9Itxq8UeH4

I have learned to use them in a way that allows me to play clean arpeggios and other fast runs that were not possible on Lapsteel before. They have been very inspiring for me, here's a lot of music I created with them, it's a bit over the top in some places but that's what I do. http://frankfrombach.bandcamp.com

Ok have a great sounding day +/-1db. FF

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