Advice for wannabe slide player

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by lpfella, Dec 18, 2009.

  1. lpfella

    lpfella Member

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    I so badly want to play slide. I lack formal lessons on guitar but have been playing long enough that I do pretty well.

    But...when it comes to slide, I really struggle. the older I get the more I want to be proficient but I give up easily because I rarely seem to make much progress. I struggle with most aspects of playing slide - muting with my fingers, making it sound good, getting the pitch right, moving quickly across the fret board, etc. etc. - it just seems so different than playing normal.

    I am wondering if any of you have some suggestions about how to approach this aspect of playing, advice on technique, advice on some famous slide guitar parts I could try to copy that are simple and will boost my confidence, some good patterns to use in standard tuning or other tunings, other practice techniques to help me improve,.

    By the way, I am trying to learn to play slide in standard but am open to trying other tunings. Since I have two les pauls I would like to keep them in standard and the action set up for playing normally but also learn how to play slide with normal action.

    Any other advice is welcome as well.

    Should I just give up?

    Thanks
     
  2. Jamie_Mitchell

    Jamie_Mitchell Member

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    Open E, glass slide, go up a gauge, loose the pick.
     
  3. lpfella

    lpfella Member

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    Thanks Jamie. Why do you suggest open E? does it work with most keys? I have lost the pick and have found my control to be a bit better. I should be playing 11's then? I have been using a glass slide. Curious why you suggest glass over others.

    Yeah, I have heard that the higher gauge strings could help. Thanks.
     
  4. SwedeRacer

    SwedeRacer Member

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    Everyone sounds like they're choking a cat when they first start. Just keep practicing and ignore the protests of your roommates/significant others - they'll be all about the slide a couple months from now.

    I play in standard with 10 gauge strings since I don't like to change guitars on stage - The big thing is just to know your base positions and have some standard licks much like you would if you're sticking to your base pentatonic scale. It makes it far easier as long as you know 'home base'. For me home base is where ever the 'open a' chord shape is for the key. In the key of A this is the 14th fret, 12th for the key of G. It makes it easy since thats your root and you can work around it. Treat this as home base and then create licks out of there (Warren Haynes frequently does this - listen to him).

    If you want to get crazy i suggest learning a lot of one string licks derek trucks style - that way you don't have to worry as much about the fact that the strings aren't in tune like they would be in open e.

    The other good thing to do when practicing is fret a note then slide in to it and try to get the pitch right. A good vibrato often covers up intonation mistakes as well.
     
  5. lpfella

    lpfella Member

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    That sounds like a great suggestion. I am typically a great vibrato player with my fingers but I don't seem to be able to make the slide vibrato work for me. I can't seem to get the shaking of my hand/wrist down? I guess practice, but it seems really unnatural for me. so, right now, I am playing slide with little vibrato. I want to develop that vibrato. Was just talking with a co-worker today about how I can't seem to get the vibrato down.
     
  6. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    I only play in standard tuning, and do not have a guitar set up for slide specifically. I use .11s on my tele and strat, which are what I play slide on. However, I would never claim to be a good slide player, but I do play it often.

    Imo, the biggest key to slide is controlling/muting notes so that you are only playing what you want. That is what takes the most time to develop imo. I think SwedeRacer has the right idea of taking it one string at a time to develop your technique. Good luck with it.
     
  7. lpfella

    lpfella Member

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    Oh in addition to some other struggles I have is that when I go to using my fingers (right hand - picking hand) and a slide I seem to have a decrease in volume. Do others experience this? Do you just add a boost?

    Also any suggestions about improvement of playing with fingers (left hand) and slide simultaneously?
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2009
  8. Mayo5

    Mayo5 Supporting Member

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    Does anyone have suggestions for website/tutorials or dvds for slide playing?
     
  9. Ooogie

    Ooogie Member

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    Check out Geoff Hartwell, a great player and I know he posts here sometimes...

    http://www.geoffhartwell.com/home.html

    Mark
     
  10. ABKB

    ABKB Member

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    Just a work of advice on slide, use your EARS and develop your ears. You can tune anyway you want (including standard which I often use), but when your going for a "D" note, you can look at what your hand is doing and where the fret is, but you may or may not hit the note until your ears develop enough to know "oh yes, there it is". Once you can do that, your well on your way to really playing slide. Hope that helps!
     
  11. lpfella

    lpfella Member

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    good advice. I can imagine exactly what you are describing. Thanks!
     
  12. Jamie_Mitchell

    Jamie_Mitchell Member

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    Open E is just a common slide tuning, and it was the easiest for me to get into. Doesn't have to be that one, could be any number of them.

    Play whatever gauge works. I play slide on my guitar when its set up with 10's, but then I am usually playing with lots of gain. I had a guitar that I only played slide on for awhile, and that was short scale with a 13 or 14 on the top.

    I just think for electric guitar, glass is the best for the classic slide sounds. I've gotten the best results with glass and ceramic.

    Jamie
     
  13. Jamie_Mitchell

    Jamie_Mitchell Member

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    Take your thumb off the back of the neck and shake your hand.
    For the wild stuff, high up on the neck, I end up tilting the slide at a 45 degree angle with the neck and just shake like crazy...
     
  14. ddewees

    ddewees Supporting Member

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    a few other resources:

    Warren Haynes video/dvd lessons show a lot of standard tuning examples.

    Sonny Landreth has a few articles that have appeared in Guitar Player and other mags - one even had a video lesson on their web sited

    Others would include Roy Rogers and Leroy Parnell, older hotlicks videos. Great resources. Oh yea, Arlen Roth has one too.

    David Hamburger's Slide Shop from TrueFire is excellent too.

    Echo what others have said. It will sound bad while you learn until your right hand muting gets under control. Also the left hand fingers can mute when you need and want them to. The class at Furpeace Ranch with Sonny L and 10 electric guitars had moments where we, the students sounded like a bunch of beginners on violin, amplified.

    Matching slide size and weight to string gauge is helpful. Heavy slide = even heavier strings. light, thin slide = lighter gauge strings. In standard tuning I managed to make it work with 10's and smaller slide that fit on my pinky but did not cover all the strings. This helped with only needing to mute a few strings. You'll need to learn a lot of 2 and 3 string chord shapes in std. Tunings allow you to cover all 6 and get a chord as well as more freedom on allowing "good" overtones to occur behind the slide if you are not muting the ringing strings.

    The herco thumb picks that look like a regular pick can help you blend finger and pick technique.
     
  15. Willie Johnson

    Willie Johnson Member

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    I’ve been playing slide guitar for a very long time (both electric and acoustic.) I started playing in standard tuning, on the electric, using a Craftsman 5/8 socket (ala Lowell George.) I think its fine to start in standard tuning if you are playing in a band situation and only need to use the slide for lead riffs and some fills. However, I will tell you that my technique improved by leaps and bounds once I started using other tunings. After all these years I am convinced that the best tuning to use for overall slide playing is open G. Try tuning to open G and you will almost instantly sound better. Another very useful tuning I used a lot (with a band) was just dropping the high E string to D. You are practically in standard tuning but you get the voicing on the D,G,B (and now D) strings that you would get in open G and still have the familiar tuning on the top five strings. I also believe that you are far better off using the slide on your little finger. This allows you to use your other fingers to play chords, riff and mute. I agree with others who have said use your fingers, not a pick. That allows you to use your right hand fingers to mute and also to “pinch” two strings simultaneously (which you need to be able to do to get certain sounds.) The drop in volume you speak about will disappear once you learn how to attack better, pinch and pull, etc. If you are really serious about doing this and since custom made slides are rather inexpensive (compared to all of the other crap we guitar players buy) I would highly recommend going to the Diamond Bottleneck site and ordering their “Ultimate” leaded crystal slide. Nothing I have ever used compares to the sound and feel of their Ultimate. They will make it to fit your finger precisely and even engrave it for around $50-$60. That slide, by itself, will make your tone so much better. Keep at it and try to develop a light touch and you will, eventually, be able to play well on light strings with low action.
    Good luck!
     
  16. sharpshooter

    sharpshooter Member

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    Well, if you have really been bitin by the slide bug, you are in for the long haul,,,thats ok. Their has been a lot of good advice by previous posters. I agree with Willi, you will get ahead of the curve, if you start out using your pinky for the slide. Also, the "pinch" picking. I call it "clutch picking", where you use a pick, (thumb and first finger), for down- strokes, and your second finger for the up-strokes, either alternatly, or together.
    Get a slide that fits your finger well, it should fit snug enough to not fall-off your finger easily, a slide thats too loose will hamper your delelopement of a smooth, controlable vibrato.
    Try and forget that the guitar has frets, your ears will "learn" where the sounds are. Think of a trombone, it has no "tuning", nor "notes", but the player "hears", and finds the sounds they want, from "sliding".
    A good learning tool, is to play a simple melody on one string.
    Work on developing a light touch, it will really pay-off, enableing you to easily switch between "fingers", and "slide" on your "normal" guitar set-up.

    Your gonna love it.
     
  17. lpfella

    lpfella Member

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    Man, this has all been really good advice.

    For those of you who mention playing a slide on my pinkie, do you suggest this because I will be able to give a lighter touch? That has been one of my struggles....my left hand being too heavy in my approach. I have tried using the slide on my pinkie but felt my fine motor control with my pinkie suffered a bit more than my ring finger but I did notice that the pinkie allowed for a lighter touch.

    The slide I currently own is pretty light imo, glass, completely equal in length to that of the width of a guitar neck. It is designed to only go to my second knuckle to allow me to bend that knuckle. I could get something much better (thanks for the advice) and probably will in the near future but I think this is a decent slide to work with until I develop my playing just a tad more.



    Thanks for all the advice.
     
  18. Willie Johnson

    Willie Johnson Member

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    The reason I mentioned playing slide with your pinky has nothing to do with touch. It has to do with having the other three fingers free to play and mute. If you try playing in an open tuning (and learn how to play chords with your other three fingers) you'll see what I mean. And, when you use the slide on your pinky, you are not just using your pinky. You will learn to put pressure on your pinky using your ring finger. So, although the slide itself is on your pinky, you are really using both of those fingers together.

    If the slide you are using only goes to your second knuckle, you are not going to be able to gain the control you are looking for, very easily (it will be top heavy and flop around.) Most "Good" slides now have a notch cut in them to allow your finger to bend but also allow the slide to cover your finger. If the slide only comes to your second knucle, you are really trying to control it with the tip of your finger instead of the whole finger and that will make life a lot more difficult for you.

    You also mention that the slide you are using is very light. The thinner the wall of the slide and the lighter the weight, the more pressure you must apply. And, conversely, the thicker the wall and the heavier the slide the less pressure you'll need to apply. Also, thin, light glass slides do not produce a very good sound and have very little sustain (unless you are playing through a "cranked up" Marshall!). That is why I previously suggested that you get an Ultimate slide from Diamond Bottlenecks. The difference in sound (tone) and sustain between a thin, light, off the shelf slide and a Diamond Ultimate will be like the difference between the tone of a ukulele and a violin. I would rather see you use a socket (5/8" deep well or whatever fits best) than a thin glass slide. Then, you will get a better sense of weight and get much more sustain.

    Also:
    What kind of music do you want to play with slide? Are you going to play just fills and riffs, do you want to be able to play and sing an entire song playing chords and fills and riffs, do you just want to be able to play some basic chords and fills, behind another player, etc.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2009
  19. lpfella

    lpfella Member

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    The glass slide I am using has a thick wall to it. I thought I saw some people I really enjoy using a slide that does not go below the knuckle. So I tried it and seemed to have better control but I should really try a slide you mention or a couple different ones to see how much better they are. I plan to buy one soon but I am really GASing for a pedal. I haven't had GAS for a long while either. Then I plan to get a slide. When I go to order one online from one the places you mention, how will I know which is best for me since my experience is limited to the one I currently have?

    I play rock and alt country type stuff and want to use the slide with those styles. I do not sing leads at all so I would like to use the slide in all the ways you mention. Leads, chords, fills, as many ways as I can in a tasteful way. I just have to get a new slide here in the near future and start working on it more and more.

    I plan to get my new pedal over winter break and then will be looking to get a new slide.

    Wish me luck. I seriously can't wait until I can actually make something sound good with a slide...but at the rate I have been going, it doesn't seem like it will come soon enough.
     
  20. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    I agree with the suggestion of Geoff. He has an instructional vid out for playing in standard tuning. Geoff is an excellent player, and I have learned quite a bit from him. Didn't know he posted here.
     

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