A Beginners Guide to Slide Guitar

A Beginners Guide to Slide Guitar

July 21, 2023

What’s the deal with slide guitar?


Slide guitar is a technique where an object (usually metal or glass slide) is used to glide along the strings without fretting the instrument, producing a unique and emotive sound.

Slide guitar has a rich history that can be traced back to early blues musicians in the American South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. African American blues pioneers, such as Sylvester Weaver and Blind Willie Johnson, were among the first to use a slide made of a broken bottleneck, knife, or other improvised objects to create the sliding effect on their guitars.

This technique was later popularised by legendary blues musicians like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, and it became a defining element of blues and eventually found its way into various other music genres, making slide guitar an iconic and enduring part of musical heritage.


Robert Johnson History of Slide Guitar Learn Slide Guitar

Robert Johnson (1933)


Since then, slide guitar has been used by many to craft some of the most iconic songs, riffs, and melodic solos ever heard.

The soulful and compelling nature of slide guitar lies in its ability to mimic the human voice, making it one of the most expressive and emotive techniques in a guitarist's repertoire.

Sliding between semi tones (1 fret) with a slide causes a gradual change in the frequency, creating an infinite number of notes and a micro tonal sound reminiscent of Soul, R&B, Rock, Blues, & Jazz singers.


Watch Derek Trucks tear it up with John Mayer and BB King loving every second of it!

“That’s bout good as I’ve ever heard it” - BB King



What type of slide is for you?


Slides for slide guitar can be made from various materials, each offering a unique tone and feel. Here are some commonly used materials:


Glass slides are popular due to their smoothness and warm tone. They can produce a singing, bell-like quality and are favoured for blues and acoustic slide playing.


Metal slides, typically made of brass or steel, are known for their brightness and sustain. They offer a crisp, cutting sound and are commonly used in rock and electric slide guitar playing.


Ceramic slides provide a balanced tone with a bit of brightness. They offer a smooth surface and good sustain, making them suitable for a range of musical styles.

Bone: Bone slides produce a warm and mellow tone. They are often handmade and can offer a unique character and resonance. Bone slides are favoured in blues and folk genres.


Slides made from materials like agate, jade, or marble offer a unique and natural tone. They can provide a rich sustain and are appreciated for their aesthetics as well.

Synthetic materials:

Some slides are made from synthetic materials like acrylic or plastic. These slides can offer durability, affordability, and a range of tones depending on the material used.

It's worth noting that personal preference plays a significant role in choosing a slide material.

Different players may prefer different materials based on their playing style, desired tone, and comfort.

The below video demonstrates the tonal differences between the four most common slide materials: brass, glass, steel, and ceramic.

The guitar used in the video is a Bourbon Street Resonator Tricone in Matte Copper Finish. 


Ready to get sliding?

Here’s our top 5 tips when starting out on slide.

1. Choosing the finger for wearing the slide:

The middle finger (2nd finger) offers better control, while the pinky (4th finger) allows for extended reach up the neck. The compromise option is wearing the slide on the 3rd finger.

2. Proper finger position on the fretboard:

The slide should be positioned at the front end of the fret, rather than in the middle. Placing the slide correctly on the fret ensures accurate pitch and prevents the note from sounding flat.

3. Muting open strings:

To achieve clarity and avoid unwanted string noise, the 1st and 2nd fingers should be placed parallel behind the sliding finger to dampen the open strings. This ensures that only the intended note played with the slide is heard.

4. Applying the right amount of pressure:

The ideal pressure is like that used for natural harmonics. The slide should contact the string but not press it down onto the fretboard, as excessive pressure can cause buzzing.

5. Choosing the appropriate tuning:

Slide guitarists often use open tunings where the strings are tuned to form a chord. It is easier to start out with an open tuning and we suggest open G.



That about covers it.


In conclusion, delving into the world of slide guitar can be a transformative journey for guitarists seeking to add a new dimension to their playing. The soulful and expressive nature of slide guitar, with its ability to mimic the human voice, opens up a realm of emotional possibilities and creative opportunities. By embracing this unique technique and exploring the history and versatility it offers, musicians can unlock their inner storyteller and embark on a musical adventure that captivates both players and audiences alike. So, grab a slide, step onto the fretboard's sliding path, and let the soulful sounds of slide guitar elevate your musical expression to new heights. Happy sliding!

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