The “Train Whistle” lick utilizes the technique of half-step bending, producing one of the most unique guitar sounds available to players. The lick has developed into two very distinct styles, or positions: one is the more standard folk-blues style, and the other is the more advanced two-string bend, which produces an almost Hawaiian-style approach.
The latter, which is the one I use most, can also be combined with the tone knob on any electric guitar to get a very cool wah-wah effect, similar to the great lap-steel-guitar style of Speedy West, or any other great lap steel player. It was also the lick that my late, great friend Danny Gatton used all the time.
The first position ends up as a two-string lick, while the second is actually a three-string lick that can be broken up or played with all three strings at the same time. Once you start to practice this unique lick, you’ll quickly realize how much fun you can have with them. Once mastered, the lick will almost certainly become a viable – and very usable – extension of your repertoire.—Arlen Roth