Aristotle called it the “unscribed tablet”—the tabula rasa—the idea that we come into the world as a blank slate, free of any pre-formed knowledge. But thanks to the internet and mass marketing, we don’t remain blank for long, though how much of that knowledge is based on fact is debatable.
The internet in particular moves things along so quickly that we often don’t have time to form our own opinions before someone downloads us theirs. While another person’s experience can give us insight, it also can make it harder for us to make our own discoveries and choices. In the end, it’s all too easy to simply reach other people’s conclusions.
This came up recently when I started a 10-week course on playing blues slide guitar as part of some not-so-adult education at my local college. Even though I’ve been playing guitar a long time, slide guitar was new to me.
A slide is about the simplest guitar accessory imaginable. It’s a glass, metal or ceramic tube you stick your finger in and slide up and down the guitar’s neck. Do that with a guitar tuned to a chord and music—more or less—ensues.
The earliest slides were made using cow bones, knives or, for the thirsty bluesman, the neck of a wine bottle. But, of course, everyone wants to invent something new and complicate the crap out of it, slides included.
So by the time I began slide shopping a century after their invention, I found slides made from plastic, glass (wine bottle, soda-lime, tempered, lead-crystal and borosilicate), brass, stainless steel, chrome and carbon fiber, ranging from around two bucks to a blues-inducing $325 (the pick to go along with it will set you back an extra $90).