Guitar Slides


This is a 15 minute demo including friendly explanations of all the various slides and techniques you may choose from including tips on strings, setups and other challenges most players come up against when they begin playing slide. The main goal is to reduce some of the confusion and frustration related to this topic for beginners. WMV format will play on Win or Mac PCs. It's a little long but contains a ton of information.

Many people have debated over the origin of slide guitar but like most things history books are based on what facts are known and not all the facts. There are countless inventions and creations that happen in parallel around the world and slide is certainly bound to be one of those discoveries. I found slide guitar when I was just a young boy by sliding flashlight cells and other hard objects across the strings.. It was just a natural discovery almost any guitarist would stumble across eventually. Does this mean I invented slide guitar? The best thing to do is read all the writings on slide and then focus on the playing aspects and less about the history. Write your own history.

There's little doubt the various styles of slide playing were spread by people coming to Hawaii but be certain there were also people in Africa, America, India and other places that have discovered and developed slide playing in one form or another. Many black American sharecroppers would attach  a tightly stretched wire from two nails vertically down the doorway of a cabin or shanty and tune it by sliding a small wooden wedge up and down one end. Then they would pluck the wire and slide a glass or metal object up and down to make crude but effective slide music using the entire cabin as a single string acoustic instrument. This certainly reminds me of primitive single string African instruments. Some of the most fantastic slide playing I've ever seen was in India and I highly recommend searching for all these listening sources.

I've always assumed the invention and marketing of 78 rpm recordings in the 1920s was the main reason slide guitar began reaching so many people and became so popular. Southern blues players could suddenly hear and learn Hawaiian styles and visa versa.  Many guitar builders during the 1930s began marketing guitars made especially for the Hawaiian style of bottleneck slide. Many of those guitars were converted back to standard play and others can still be found today. They typically have heavier bracing and a beefed up neck and heel or a wider nut and some have square necks like a National or Dobro guitars. In any case we are here to discover some various slides but I'll provide you with some good links to slide history for your reading pleasure. Just don't believe every factoid you ever read about blues and slide. Sometimes total crap becomes fact after enough people repeat it.

Slide Guitar - Wikipedia Encyclopedia
History of Slide - Guitar Noise website
Slide History Paper - Ga Southern Edu
India History of Guitar and Slide - World Music Central Org



Diamond Bottleneck Slides - Absolutely the best quality glass slides I've ever owned and they are still an amazing value. Made in the UK by a small outfit that hand blows the glass and crafts the slides to an amazing quality level and variety.  The Redhouse is my personal favorite as a medium weight ultra smooth slide experience that won't weigh you down like most heavier slides but still has the comparable tone and sustain. The slightly heavier Ultimate slide is another favorite of mine when I need more mass but dont want the weight and bulk of the massive metal slides. The glass is hand blown lead crystal and they are as much a work of art as they are a functional tool.  They offer the tapered lip feature too. They even have a slide called the Evolution that is a glass and metal slide combined into one hybrid slide. Whether you order one of their custom models or an off the shelf design they will fit the slide to your exact specs and once you order they can keep your specs on file for future orders. They are sometimes a little delayed when custom glass needs to be hand blown for your order but the customer service is outstanding. I recommend most players starting off with a Redhouse. Shipping to the US was inexpensive and fast for my orders.

The Rock Slide - This is another top quality slide that may in fact be used by many pro electric players but makes a great acoustic slide as well. They come in three sizes and are computer lathed from a solid piece of brass and not cut from tubes. They are finished in gold plate but sometimes available in special edition nickel plate. I use the medium size on my pinky and was not able to even use the smaller size and returned it. I wouldn't recommend it unless you have a tiny finger and want a shorter slide. The large one can also be used on the pinky or ring finger but is a heavy little bugger and I have some trouble with heavier slides when I run past a note or cause more slide and fretboard noise. These have the patented full cutout on one end that makes closing your hand much easier in some cases. It also has a flat spot machined into one side making a place for the next finger to rest on the slide and support it. They are also tapered on the inside to fit your finger better. This is the most high quality metal slide I've found and an excellent value too. The surface is smooth so the tone is not as raspy or raunchy as many brass slides. It produces a smooth yet solid slide tone.

Jim Dunlop Slides - Dunlop has a wide variety of slides you can investigate and the main advantage is availability in USA dealers and the pricing is sometimes a little less than the high end slides made by the previously mentioned. The Dunlop medium brass slide is one of my all time favorites due to the tone it gives me on acoustic guitars when I need an authentic slightly raspy sound like Son House or a number of Delta players. The Dunlop 222 show to the left costs about 6-8 dollars in most stores and would last a lifetime and has a slightly rough surface which produces a little bit of a violin bow rubbing effect when I play. This sound is not always the one I need for a specific guitar or song but at times nothing can be better. It makes some of my old acoustics such as my Stella 12 string nail the authentic sounds I'm after. It fits on my pinky and is long enough to span all 6 strings which comes in handy playing open D at times. The Dunlop 215 is another longer slide made of tempered glass that I demonstrated in the video above. It's not one I use a lot but is an excellent option.  They also carry a number of signature slides including the Keb Mo signature ceramic slide. These all produce amounts of sustain and playing qualities that may appeal to different players. There's no way I can predict which slides will feel good to you but remember that if the tone is not being produced for the listener no amount of comfort or features is important. Tone rules the game and when you play a solo you want to be heard.

Blooze Bottle Slides - Here's a guy I've bought a few slides from and a he's good supplier of medicine bottles you wont find everywhere else. Most of them are bottles from medicine and other products. I'm not a huge fan of these thin bottle slides on acoustics due to the thinner more hollow sounding tone they help produce and the fact my finger gets too hot and sweaty but these are a classic type of slide used by legendary players. I tend to think they sound much better to my ear in the Duane Allman electric styles of slide guitar where the amp and distortion make up for any loss of sustain or fatness to the tone. One great thing about medicine bottle slides is the light weight and ability to zip around quickly without the slide slapping the guitar.

BigHeart Slides - I found this one on a popular online dealer and paid nearly 20.00 including shipping and very disappointed in the quality. These are made from salvaged wine bottles then flame melted on the ends. They have a seam in them like any home made wine bottle and the inconsistencies you may get with the cheapest bottles but honestly why not just make one yourself if you plan on buying one of these. I use it as a spare but the tone is not as good as my Diamond Bottlenecks which did not cost much more. This is not a slide that I would highly recommend but you can find these pretty easily in some of the larger music stores. Even in the photo you can see how sloppy they are. I demo one of these in the video posted here.

Rocky Mountain Slides - Another company offering a variety of ceramic slides designed for acoustic or electric. I'm not a huge fan of uneven surfaces but I admit many of these slides look cool and appealing. I just don't think they measure up for the style of playing I do. The sound is not solid enough for me but everytime I've tried one I put it right back down and grabbed one of my glass slides. These are very light though but just not my cup of tea. Thank goodness for all the great choices. We are not all alike and neither are our slides. 

Other Types of Slides

The ToneBar - Just a little reminder that slide playing on a square neck or lap style guitar uses a completely different kind of slide called a tonebar as seen here. They sell many different kinds but you may be most familiar from watching country music's pedal steel or dobro players using them. They are much heavier devices and are held long ways in the fingers and pressed down on the strings.  This is not what you want to buy for round neck slide guitar playing unless you plan on laying the guitar down in your lap which is a technique some people love to experiment with on regular round neck guitars.

The Shubb Axys - This is a slide that fits on your finger and easily reverses while you are playing so you can have slide when you want it and then rotate the device and continue playing with the slide completely out of the way. Schubb is a maker that always produces the highest possible quality and clever products. This product was not one that I needed or fit into my style but I thought it was an excellent idea and something many players might need.

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