Everything You Must Know About the Guitar Slide
This article teaches you what a guitar slide is, what it does, and how to use it correctly. We also include a list of the best slides in the market.
Playing slide on the guitar adds a smooth vocal quality to your music. The guitar slide is especially popular in blues music. However, it can also bleed into other genres. Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, George Harrison, and White Zombie all picked up the guitar slide at some point to add soul to their songs.
Are you ready to try out some new guitar techniques? The guitar slide is fun and easy to learn.
What is a guitar slide?
A guitar slide is a smooth tool usually made of glass, brass, or ceramic that you place on your finger as you play guitar. It allows you to manipulate the sound of the strings to achieve a glissando or vibrato sound. This effect can even mimic the human voice.
With a guitar slide, it is easy to connect notes seamlessly, even if they are far apart on the fretboard. This legato playing style has picked up fans over the years and remains integral to Blues music today. You can hear slide guitar in Pop, Rock, and Heavy Metal songs.
How does it work?
The guitar slide is a way to make a regular acoustic or electric guitar fretless. You can achieve a new dimension of playing with just one finger. Sounds pretty powerful, right?
Simply place the guitar slide on the finger of your dominant hand. Then, as you pluck and strum the strings, slide your finger to the next chord and listen to how it transforms the sound of your guitar. The smooth, legato twang can add emotion to your music.
The different types of guitar slides.
There are many different types of guitar slides on the market today. The most common slides are glass, metal, or ceramic. However, you may also find some slides in ebony, stone, or bone.
A guitar slide may cover your entire finger or just reach the knuckle. Some may be completely straight, while others are beveled. There are also signature editions that bear the names of famous slide players. So, how do you decide which guitar slide is best?
A guitar slide’s material, size, and shape can affect the sound you get on the guitar. So, before you base your choice on which one looks the coolest, decide if it meets your guitar-playing goals.
The material: Glass VS Brass slides
Glass and brass are the most popular materials for guitar slides. A glass slide sounds smooth and warm, while a metal slide has a brighter, harsher tone. Ceramic slides create a sound somewhere between these two extremes.
The length and thickness of a guitar slide
The length and thickness of a guitar slide can also make a difference.
A thicker slide can give you a warmer sound and is durable. However, it can be harder to control and may make your hand position uncomfortable. A long guitar slide that tapers to fit the shape of your finger is much easier to manage.
A thin slide gives you more control as you play. However, thin glass slides can be more susceptible to breakage.
Shorter slides give you more flexibility as you play. You can switch easily between sliding and fretting. Also, your slide finger is less constrained.
Longer slides have the advantage of coving more space at once. You can bar chords across all six strings and create more complex sounds. A full slide is usually 70 mm long and can cover all the guitar strings.
Guitar slide sizes
Once you decide on the material of your guitar slide, you want to know, “How should a guitar slide fit?”
First, decide which finger you want to use as your “slider.” Then, find a ring size for your finger and go from there.
Most guitarists avoid using the pointer finger as a slider since it needs to mute other notes. That leaves the middle finger, ring finger, and pinky as possibilities.
The ring finger is the most common finger to use for sliding as it gives you the most control. However, if you put the guitar slide on the middle finger, it is easy to play power chords, notes, and scales. If you only want to use the guitar slide occasionally, use the pinky finger.
A guitar slide should fit similarly to a ring. You want it to stay snugly on your finger, so it doesn’t slide off while playing. However, you also want to be able to pull it off easily. As you size your finger, ensure it fits comfortably on the finger knuckle.
How to use a slide on the guitar.
Once you pick the type of slide you want, it is time to get out your guitar and try this new technique. Here are a few tips to help you play slide guitar.
1. Set up your guitar for slide
If you plan to play slide often on your guitar, many pro guitarists suggest dedicating a guitar to slide. You can use slide techniques on a regular acoustic or electric guitar. However, your notes sound cleaner with the following setup:
- Use guitar strings that are heavy gauge, coated, or flat.
- Raise the action to lift the strings off the fretboard.
- Tune the guitar to Drop D, Open E, or Open D.
If setting up the guitar for slide seems too complicated for a beginning guitarist, a local guitar shop can help you.
2. Keep the slide parallel to the frets
As you apply the slide to the frets, make sure you keep the slide at the proper angle. If you slant it, you can get a messy, jangled sound. To avoid this, you want the guitar slide to stay in line with the frets.
3. Play notes when the slide is on a fret
A slide can take you smoothly from note to note. Keep the slide directly on top of the fret when you strike a new note. At first, it may seem unnatural since your fingertips generally press into the fretboard near the fret. However, if you press your slide between frets, it will sound out of tune.
4. Use the right amount of pressure
Don’t press too hard or too lightly on the guitar strings for the best sound. Using too much pressure can give you a discordant sound. However, if you play too softly, the strings may buzz. Finding the right pressure may take practice. With the right touch, you can enjoy that clear, smooth sound.
5. Mute strings above the slide
When you use a slide and strike a note, you notice that the string vibrates above and below your slider. However, you only want to hear the vibration below the slide to keep your notes sounding clean. This means you need to mute the strings above the slide.
Are you ready to try your hand (or finger) at slide guitar? Let’s look at a few of the best guitar slides available on the market.
The best guitar sliders on the market.
If you plan on playing slide guitar, many guitar slides are available. Here are our top picks for the three most popular slide types: Brass, glass, and ceramic.
Take a look and see which one is for you!
Brass slide: Rock Slide Aged Brass Joey Landreth Signature
A brass slide can give you a bold guitar sound. Rock Slide’s Aged Brass Joey Landreth Signature slide has a carved-out finger rest giving you a solid hand position and more control. The thick tip allows you to sustain notes longer and gives you stability as you play.
This slide is comfortable to wear and gives you a bright sound that commands attention.
This bottleneck guitar slide is similar to the one Derek Trucks uses on his guitar. It resembles some of the first guitar slides, cast-off glass medicine bottles. Dunlop’s bottle slide has a closed end to give your finger a secure grip. The glass material adds a warm, fluid tone to your guitar songs.
Ceramic slide: Dunlop 256 Joe Perry “Boneyard” Slide
Aerosmith’s Joe Perry is responsible for this eye-catching “Boneyard” ceramic slide. Not only does it look cool, but it also creates a warm, bluesy sound on your guitar. This lightweight slide is glazed on the outside with Perry’s signature. The matte interior finish gives you a solid grip as you belt out tunes on the guitar.
Slide into guitar fun.
Once you learn the basics of guitar playing, you can expand your skills and song repertoire by trying different techniques. Slide guitar is a fun skill you can apply to several different genres of music. Whether you follow blues guitarists or enjoy classic rock, you can listen to slide guitar masters in your favorite field and get inspired.
To beef up your skills on the guitar, try a 14-day free trial of Simply Guitar. This app is a fun way to learn guitar quickly and efficiently in the comfort of your home. You also get feedback in real-time so you can keep your tunes in perfect pitch.