Hey brothers and sisters, I saw your questions out there about the mysterious world of guitar slides. This good friend of your guitar strings is a very cool tool used to produce a very cool sound from your guitar. Give the words below a read to find the answer to the question, “What is a guitar slide for?”
What Slide Are We Talking About Here? – It Sounds Fun!
A Guitar slide is essential a hollow tube or pipe made from a specific material (usually metal or glass) used to produce a very distinctive sound from your guitar. The smooth sound is created by placing the slide against the strings very lightly and the “sliding” the, uh, slide along the guitar neck.
It is definitely not the kiddies slide you played on as a child! The technique produced on guitar is called “glissando” (basically picking or plucking one note, then holding your finger down and “sliding” or moving up or down to the next note.) This type of slide is a cylinder that is worn on one of the fingers of the fretting hand.
This material (usually metal or glass) produces a very distinctive and instantly recognisable sound from a guitar. This technique is often utilised in the Blues style and some Country and Western music. This style is related to the Hawaiin lap guitar played with a metal bar by sliding along the strings as well.
Technique Preparation – Slipping And Sliding
Due to the fact that these slides are generally very smooth materials, they naturally produce very little friction. This may it a bit difficult for you to “aim” and hit the notes you want to on your guitar. To help with this problem, you can simply place one of your free fingers on the strings behind your slide (as this position won’t affect the note you are playing).
This finger (or group of fingers depending on how many you use) can act as a sort of anchor for your fretting hand, and therefore the slide as well. Doing this will allow you to add a bit of resistance or drag to the strings as you slide offering more control and stability.
Finger Selection – A Quick Tip
You may be wondering how to choose the “right” finger to place the slide on. This is quite an important choice as it will ultimately determine how you can play. Your options are fingers 1,2,3 or 4(index,middle,ring or pinkie respectively).
Playing the slide on finger 1 may allow the most versatility in your playing as you still have three fingers which are able to play clear notes as they are not hidden behind the slide. Moving from the 1st to the 4th finger reduces the number of fingers which are able to produce clear notes as they are effectively behind the slide
and any notes they play will be muted by the slide.
Depending on whether or not you decide to play notes, or you simply want to slide around, your choice of a finger may change at a later stage. The ultimate goal is always for you to play in the manner that is most comfortable for you, while still executing the technique correctly.
How Do I Do It?- The Finer Details
In order to get the basic technique down follow these steps:
- Consider dropping the low E string to “D” when first starting out to make your life a bit easier.
- Select one of your fingers to place the slide on (It should be comfortable on your finger and generally go up to your second knuckle to allow you to bend your finger a bit.)
- Buy an entry-level slide (BE CAREFUL IF YOU TRY AND MAKE YOUR OWN, PLEASE DON’T GET HURT!)
- Place your guitar in normal playing position (against the body) or on your lap (Hawaiian style).
- Place the slide against the strings lightly, and directly over the fret. (let’s use the 5th fret)
- NOTE: (If you press too hard you end up hitting the frets and the distinctive slide guitar sound is not achieved)
- Strum the strings to make them sing out.
- Move the slide to directly above the 7th fret (while the strings are still singing their notes)
- When you get here to move the slide slightly past the 7th fret and then back past the 7th fret to create the vibrato sound.
This is a very basic look at the technique for slide guitar. I am not incredibly proficient with this skill (I am still a padawan:) The reason I chose to talk about this style is that it is very fun to slide around and also adds a lot of expression due to the glissando (slide) and vibrato effects that are synonymous with this technique.
The amount of slide you incorporate is totally up to you. You may play entire songs written for slide guitar or even just use a bit of slide skill here and there throughout the songs you like to play.
Why are You Telling Me About It? – Extra Dimension
While it may take a few tries to get right (like many things in life), I believe you may quite enjoy this technique. Guitar playing is a journey. You can reach mastery in one particular genre, style or skill only to find there are hundreds more in the world.
This is both terrifying and exciting at the same! This reinforces the idea that the more you learn, the more you realise there is to learn. There are so many facets to music that you could spend an entire lifetime learning and probably never get bored.
This is Why I think you should try and learn everything that interests you in terms of different skills and techniques and then allow them to grow your creativity. These multiple tools in your musical toolbox will definitely see you expanding your musical horizons and skill.
Guitar Slides – Now You Know
Whether you landed here out of pure curiosity, or are actually looking into slide guitar, I would definitely recommend trying this technique out. It is quite fun even if you are just messing around with new sounds and it can really give you an added sense of freedom.