how do i play slide?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by wattsup32, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. wattsup32

    wattsup32 Member

    Nov 8, 2005
    New Jersey
    i finally have enough guitars to keep one set up for slide permanently. so, what do i need to do to do that?

    do i set the action higher as i heard say? should i tune it to a chord, and if so which is the most versatile for playing in lots of different keys? how do i mute the strings i'm not playing?

    well, you get the point, i have no idea what i am doing and would love your advice. thanks.
  2. pbradt

    pbradt Senior Member

    Dec 13, 2004
    You will find open tunings (G, A, E or D) will make lovely sounds for you.

    I think, other than knowing the fretboard and general music things and simply being accurate with the slide, string muting is paramount.

    I finger pick when I play slide, and the fingers that aren't picking, mute strings I don't want making noise when I slide. In addition, you simply MUST use a finger ABOVE the slide for muting as well, this technique eliminates most of the "Cat fight" sound that unmuted strings can make.

    I also recommend a heavy glass slide, the heavier the better. Heaviest I ever found is a Dunlop 213, which I use.

    A good basic instructional video is available ind it is worth the investment if you're serious about slide, "The Art Of Slide Guitar" with Lee Roy Parnell, one of America's best sliders and the guy who taught me. It's out of print but you can get it here. VHS only.

    When I started to learn about open tunings, it was like getting blinders taken off my eyes.
  3. raz

    raz Member

    Feb 25, 2004
    South and East of Seattle
    Get a copy of Dan Erlewine's "Guitar Player Guitar Repair Guide" and study the section on the "Mooney Innovations." You may not feel the need to go to that level of effort and modification, but it should be in your knowledge base. Setup has a huge, HUGE impact on any playing, but it's always seemed near-drastic to me as concerns slide.

    And while I, too, favor glass slides most of the time, you need to also try different materials and learn to hear the effect of each.

    The most important thing you can do ultimately is just laser-focus on your sensitivity to intonation. Most of the magic in the best slide playing is in the the tension and release created by slipping a little out and then back in to tune. Nailing that is going to take a lifetime.
  4. ES350

    ES350 Member

    Feb 13, 2006
    A little higher action, heavier strings, open tunings (D, E, G, A, C, etc)...listen to slide players; Fred McDowell, Elmore, Robert Nighthawk, Earl Hooker, Hound Dog, ---everything starts there. As far as changing keys within one tuning, you can use a capo, but expect to touch up the tuning a bit.
  5. Mullet Kingdom

    Mullet Kingdom Senior Member

    Nov 2, 2005
    Just South of the Colorado

    Kind of a loaded question, man.
  6. scottlr

    scottlr Member

    May 14, 2006
    Born & raised in Texas; stranded in Iowa
    Watch the new Derek Trucks CD for a few good shots of right hand muting. I usually play slide in normal tuning, but I don't play much slide. If I did, I'd probably go with an open tuning if I wanted to get serious about it, I guess.
  7. bluesbreaker59

    bluesbreaker59 Silver Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    out in the cornfields
    Open E, medium - high action, at least 10's for strings, use a heavy glass slide. For tone, use a small amount of very quick slap back delay, and a thick, sustaining OD pedal into a warm tube amp. I recommend the bridge pickup be of a PAF type, and roll the tone back to about 6. Then see the other recent thread on slide tuning and use the tips and such that are presented there. Also pick up the book by David Hamburger, and that video by Lee Roy Parnell.
  8. Bluzeboy

    Bluzeboy Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2006
    I dunno, E tuning is not for everyone. I, myself, prefer A or C but that is me.

    The one thing I haven't seen mentioned, maybe I just missed it, LOSE the pick.

    Other things to consider:
    Forget everything you thought you knew about guitar. Slide is a different beast. You don't "fret" (i.e place the slide) as you normally would. You have to be on top of the fret (or your intontation pretty much just sucks). To my ear, the best slide players use a very vocal approach. The slide parts should have more a singing quality than a "normal" guitar quality if you see what I'm getting to.
    Heavier strings are helpful. As to action adjustment, I dunno. I don't know how your action is set normally. As you develop a touch the string height becomes less of an issue.
    Slides: Get one that feels comfortable. Not to heavy,light, short, long, too big and it slides around on your finger, too small and it is not comfortable for you.

    In short, there are NO rules. Everyone plays differently and has different approaches to it. Just have fun and with practice it will come to you.
  9. rod horncastle

    rod horncastle Member

    May 24, 2005
    abbotsford, B.C.
    I play slide 50% of the time. I keep it very simple.

    tune your A string to a G (a la Keith richards). This opens a whole new world of chording without changing too much fret board knowledge. This way you can still play alot of basic chords with 3 fingers.

    pay attention to where all your open strings are. These come in handy at all times. For instance: key of C - open G string, or E string to bounce off of.

    Learn those Major & minor scales. I never use a basic blues scale when playin slide. (boring). get those 2nd's & 6th notes in there. Adds flavor.

    I play with a pick most of the time. I also use a brass slide, gives me a better low end for chords. Not as smooth but I really cuts through.

    Good Luck! Listen to lots of Ry Cooder & Skynyrd.
  10. cmatthes

    cmatthes Member

    Feb 24, 2003
    DC Metro 'Burbs
    All good recommendations above - I also suggest trying Matt Smith's "Chop Shop" book out. Matt gives the clearest and easiest to relate demystification of slide playing I've ever seen.
    Check it out!
  11. gennation

    gennation Member

    Feb 25, 2006
    Grand Rapids, MI
    If you can get your hands on The Rolling Stones album "Get your Ya-Ya's Out"...listen to Mick Talyors slide playing on "Love In Vain".

    85% of isn't very difficult but it's a REAL bleeder.
  12. Jo

    Jo Silver Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2003
    Granby, CT
    I've recently started trying to learn a little slide stuff and found I was most comfortable with the Keef tuning as Rod mentioned above (A string down to G).
  13. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    5868 ft above sea level
    I attended one of his NGW seminars this summer and a great piece of advice he gave was to have one's vibrato go up to the note rather than being centered on the note. It's a bit unintuitive but when he demonstrated it the point was definitely made.
  14. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

    Aug 9, 2004
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Alternate tunings and instruments that are specifically set up for slide are wonderful. However, I'd highly recommend that you (also) find a way to get on with slide via a standard-tuned instrument with low-medium action and your standard string gauge. Reasons being twofold - firstly, you don't want to deny the slide muse when the mood hits you, just because you don't have the allocated slide-friendly instrument strapped on at the time; secondly, some "parts-playing" is only (or perhaps *better*) served by standard tuning - and if some slide textures also speak to you within the tune at hand... well there it is.

    For this approach with electric guitars, I like a glass slide, a light touch (pick and fingers), a tube amp, subtle compression, and analog delay. I like to have more gain on tap for slide tones than I really need, and seem to get my sweetest tones by rolling volume and tone back at my guitar by a few numbers, to taste.
  15. cheesey

    cheesey Member

    May 31, 2005
    Ontario Canada

Share This Page