I bow to your superior knowledge about the instructions given to Patton by his photographer..
: You are making a lot of assumptions here which
: are unfounded.
: It is pretty clear, aurally, whether a
: player is playing with the guitar held
: upright, or as you say
: "bottleneck" style, or lap style,
: which, by the way, does not necessarily
: imply the use of a hard edged knife. Many
: such as Mance Lipscombe, played upright with
: the back of the knife, which was often
: rounded, not square. Some would use the bone
: of the handle, etc. And some would use round
: edged steels made specifically for the
: purpose, then as they are today. I have an
: Oahu steel that was probably made in the
: If a player fretted notes, while also using
: a slide, as, for instance, Robert Johnson
: did, they were playing upright, and likely
: using a bottleneck or pipe which would stay
: on the pinky finger while fretting with the
: other fingers. Fretting while playing lap
: style, in which the strings are usually
: raised, is cumbersome at best and generally
: impossible. Patton never fretted while
: playing slide, and most who listen closely
: before making pronouncements feel he likely
: did play lap style.
: Yes, fretting well above the neck join is
: another good clue, but not an impossibility
: while playing upright/bottleneck. I have
: seen several accomplished players flip their
: left hand palm up to slide well beyond the
: neck join while playing upright.
: Listen for fretted notes. If you hear them,
: the player is holding the guitar upright. If
: you only hear slide or open notes, there is
: a good possibility, though not a certainty,
: the player is using lap style. Both of these
: styles were commonly used in the pre war
: Also, these players were intelligent enough
: to know that if they wanted to tune
: excessively high they should put lighter
: strings on their guitar. Most pre war
: players used a much lighter (.018') plain
: 3rd string, which would reduce tension
: somewhat as well. Try this, move all the
: strings of a light set over one string, and
: leave off the bass string. Then sub in a
: .009" or even just another .012 for the
: high E string. Now tune up to Standard at F#
: or G (I don't believe Patton went above F#
: in Standard, or B in Spanish). Feels about
: right, doesn't it, and you end up with a
: plain .016" third string. I tune my 95
: year old, well bellied Stella, strung with
: lights and a plain .018" third, up to
: Spanish at A and leave it there til next
: session without a care. Been doing that for
: 15 years and notice no change in action over
: that time. These guitars are built light,
: but not poorly, and they play best when
: played hard.
: There's no indication that Patton was
: playing and not just posing in that picture.
: He most likely would have had the guitar
: flat on his lap if he was actually playing.
: The photographer probably asked him to hold
: it up so the guitar was more visible.
: Your cat has no claws and the pigeons are
: chortling. There is endless aural evidence,
: but you likely have your evidence from
: books. Listen, experience, experiment, see
: what you find out.
: --Previous Message--
: Just to put a cat among the pigeons, I was
: wondering if there's any actual evidence
: that Patton, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert
: Johnson, or anyone one else, for that
: matter, actually played and/or recorded
: using what we now call
: "bottleneck" style guitar in the
: 1920s or '30s?
: Enlargements of the (relatively) recently
: discovered "studio" portrait of
: Patton, clearly shows him playing
: "knife" style on a "12
: fret" parlour held at 45 degrees on his
: Further evidence in favour of Patton's use
: of "knife" style, comes from
: recordings like "When Your Way Gets
: Dark", played in open A, which features
: regular slide excursions up to the 17th fret
: (assuming he was tuned 'up' to open A, or
: the 19th fret, if he was tuned 'down' to
: open G and capoed at the 2nd fret), which
: are hardly easy to play
: "bottleneck" style. This lick
: found it's way into Robert Johnson's
: "Come On In My Kitchen".
: Both Patton and Johnson also often tended to
: play slide out of 'Spanish' tuning pitched
: in keys as high as B and B flat.
: We tend to forget that pre-war steel string
: sets came in just one gauge: 14 to 64. Prior
: to the mid-'30s, guitars had no adjustable
: truss rods and only a few, top-of-the-line,
: instruments even had an inert truss rod.
: Cheaper instruments within the financial
: reach of blues players would not have been
: able to take the string tension of a set of
: steel strings tuned to open A without
: Just in standard tuning, a string set like
: this tuned to concert on a guitar with a
: 24.8" scale, generates 220 lb ft of
: torque on a guitar bridge. That's probably
: more than the peak torque your car puts down
: to the road through its driven wheels.
: Skip James recorded using a Stella 12
: string, strung with only 6 strings and tuned
: down to "cross note" 3 frets below
: I suspect everyone else tuned down and used
: a capo. Try playing bottleneck on a "12
: fret", tuned to open G and capoed at
: the 4th fret to play in the key of B. What
: used to be your 12th fret is now fret 16.
: Now play that Patton lick that used to go to
: fret 17, but which now goes from fret 16 to
: fret 21. Easy, isn't it?
: Now forget about "bottleneck" and
: play it "knife" style, as I'm
: convinced they did, back in the day.
: Any thoughts?