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Slide Guitar - 3 Tips for Success

slide guitar

Slide guitar is when a guitarist uses a slide, which is an object placed against the strings while playing. Playing slide guitar is a technique and is usually used in blues and country music. Slides are usually metallic cylinders that are worn on the player’s finger and pressing the slide against the strings creates a unique effect that sounds a bit like the notes are winding up or down. Learn all about slide guitar here.


Where did slide guitar begin?

In order to understand where slide guitar as we know it came from, we must look at its origins, that is the origin of sliding an object across a stringed instrument. Apparently, it was in Hawaii that slide guitar was born, thanks to locals taking a slack-key guitar and playing the instrument with a piece of metal. Slack-key guitar is a style of guitar playing that has one or more of the strings detuned, or given more slack. Eventually the idea came to the United States and made its way into the southern states, where a number of blues guitar players picked up the technique. 

Most blues guitar players used a bottleneck type of slide, which is played with a Spanish style guitar, held upright, while others used a lap guitar. Some notable artists that have played slide guitar are Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and The Rolling Stones. 

Learn how to play "Little Red Rooster" here.

How to play slide guitar - 3 Tips for Success

Slide guitar these days means using a bottleneck slide with an acoustic or electric guitar. Some folks have put this to great effect like Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. 

1.Get a Slide

Before you do any slide guitar, you’ll have to first acquire a slide. There are a ton of options and they’re not super expensive so make sure you have one. 

2.Increase the Action

Once you have a slide, make sure your guitar is set up for it. It’s perfectly okay to simply play your guitar with a slide without having to make additional adjustments but it’s actually pretty helpful if your guitar’s action is a little higher than normal so you have plenty of room to slide against the strings without touching the frets. 

3.Don’t Touch the Frets

Remember, using a slide is all about keeping the strings off the frets. If the string touches the fret as if you were playing without a slide, the slide effect will no longer be audible. The sliding sound is best when the strings are free from any obstruction. 

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to playing slide guitar. For a full breakdown, including tabs and a backing track, make sure to check out our blues slide guitar techniques in our Blues Style Level 2 course here.

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