Good Guitar Sliding Tips For All Guitarists

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons, Tutorials & Tips' started by bob-bobby, Dec 22, 2004.

  1. bob-bobby

    bob-bobby Extinct or Banned!

    Most slide guitar instructions start like "and now we use the open xyz tuning". That means you can forget what you know about the fretboard and forget both your left and right hand techniques. You have to learn everything new. To avoid this, I'll explain slide guitar on standard tuning, so all you need is a slide. Open tunings give a different sound and have their advantages, but they are not better in every case. The late Muddy Waters for example played in standard tuning, also Duane on some songs.
    The guitar

    You can use both acoustic and electric guitars, as long as they don't have nylon strings. If you want to play much slide guitar, prepare a guitar just for this job. That means using heavier strings (no "super slinky"...) and a high action (distance of the strings to the fretboard). If you have an extra guitar only for slide, you can also try out the open tunings. If you have only one and play sometimes slide or want to switch between slide and normal playing, use the standard tuning.

    Resonator guitars (i.e. a Dobro) are great for acoustic slide guitar, they give a loud, metallic "Delta Blues" tone due to the metal cones build in.

    The advantage of slide guitar is that you can play it on old guitars with worn-out fretboards or even cheap guitars with bad adjusted frets. You don't need the frets!

    The slide
    Some slides

    Slides are usually made of glass or metal. In the early days of Blues the players used also a bone (like Mississippi Fred McDowell, who gave some of his slide guitar secrets to Bonnie Raitt) or a knife. Glass and metal produce a different sound and it's just a matter of your taste which you prefer.

    The easiest and un-coolest way is to go into your guitar shop and buy one.
    The coolest way, but hard to play is using a bottle.

    Another way is to look around in your garage for a piece of tube, walk through a property market and look for heating copper tubes (you can make about 20 slides of 1 meter tube!) or visit a pharmacy and look for those little tablet glass bottles. You can also use the neck of a bottle (another expression for slide guitar is bottleneck guitar). There are lots of things you can use (Duane used a glass Coricidin medicine bottle).

    Some general rules:

    * heavier slides sound louder (they don't vibrate itself so much)
    * glass is harder than metal (usually). It slides better over the strings and gives a sharper tone
    * metal slides produce a "warm" tone
    * higher strings are easier to play than bass strings

    The finger

    Which finger should I use for slide playing? You have the choice between middle finger, ring finger and the pinky. The index finger does not work, because you need a least one finger to mute the other side of the strings. All fingers have advantages and disadvantages.

    * The middle finger. The biggest finger (I said finger!) can hold a big slide and so give a fat sound for "power slide". However, you have to lift up the ring and little finger and you can't play the normal way.
    * The ring finger. Duane played this way. The slide is big enough to get a good sound and you have two fingers left for muting the strings. But playing the normal way is hard.
    * The pinky. The method of choice if you want to combine both slide and normal playing. You have three fingers for muting or playing without slide. The slides are smaller and maybe they don't cover all strings. Johnny Winter and EC play this way, Muddy Waters used it too.

    The tuning

    As mentioned above most slide players use open tunings. That means all strings are tuned in a way that the open string notes belong two a major (or sometimes a minor) chord. That does not necessarily mean that they are tuned note for note using a chord! Some notes can be left out.

    For the sake of completeness some common slide (open) tunings:

    * Note that for example Ab is G#...
    * There are always more than one open tunings for a key!
    * Never tune a string above standard tuning, at least with an acoustic guitar and heavy strings. It can break the neck. Tune down if possible.
    * Reference: Standard tuning E-A-D-G-B-E (Eric And Duane's Guitar Beats Everything)
    * Open G: D-G-D-G-B-D (the most common slide tuning, EC's favourite Dobro tuning).
    * Open E: E-B-E-G#-B-E (Duane's favourite tuning, Delta Blues, stress for the neck) or open D with capo at 2nd fret.
    * Open D: D-A-D-F#-A-D

    I'll focus on standard tuning. To play a chord we need at least 3 strings for a good sound.

    Which major chord has three open strings?
    The G major chord uses the open D, G, B strings.
    That means, for any major chord in standard tuning we can use these strings. For example to play the A major chords simply put the slide above the second fret and pick these strings.
    Often used major chords with these strings are:

    G: open strings
    A: 2nd fret
    C: 5th fret
    D: 7th fret
    E: 9th fret
    F: 10th fret

    Now we can do the same for the minor chords. E minor uses the open strings G-B-E, so we get the other chords in a similar way:

    Em: open strings
    Fm: 1st fret
    Gm: 3rd fret
    Am: 5th fret
    Cm: 8th fret
    Dm: 10th fret

    We all like graphics, so I here it is:
    chords for slide guitar

    That's our starter kit - all major and minor chords with standard tuning. If we start with solo guitar, we can still use what we've learned about scales in standard tuning. The scales are the same, but keep in mind that you have to position the slide right above the fret, not between.
    The technique

    At first you have to put the slide on your finger. Try different sizes and fingers and play a simple note or chord. You have to figure out what's best for you - no one else can.

    Secondly, you must mute the not picked side of the string. If not, it will vibrate also and produce unwanted sound. Depending on the slide finger, use the remaining fingers aside and press them gently upon the string.

    Now we come to the slide itself. Press it directly above a fret on a string, but don't press the string on the fretboard. Now pick the string and move the slide slowly up and down. Play around with this to get a feeling for it. Try to play slow licks you know already. Don't forget to mute the other side of the string.

    Some tips in general:

    * start playing the Blues in G and use the D and G string. Open string is G(I), 5th fret is C(IV) and 7th fret is D(V). Playing both strings together and sliding into the IV and V sounds really cool (power chords!).
    mp3 Sound example: first slide
    * Play fingerstyle or use fingerpicks / a thumb pick. Most slide players do that. You get a better control, speed is not necessary - the slide is limiting you.
    * Slide into the notes. Start with the slide a little bit under the fret and than reach the note above the fret. This is a bit new at first, because usually the finger is pressed between the frets.
    * Don't forget the vibrato. Compared to a finger vibrato it's easy to play, just move the slide a little it up and down.

    Now we come to our first slide guitar lick in E. Noted in tab it looks like (standard tuning!):


    mp3 Sound example: slide lick 1

    We start with a slide into the B note, 12th fret and let it ring while picking the E note. We close the lick with the root note after a slide into the G note.

    Variation (I'll add sound examples later) in the style of Robert Johnson's "I belive I'll dust my broom", played like Elmore James:


    mp3 Sound example: slide lick 1

    Simple chords in the "Little Red Rooster"-style


    mp3 Sound example: slide lick 1

    Now you're ready to play Muddy Water's Rollin' and Tumblin' (for example from EC's unplugged / Cream live or from Muddy himself):


    Let's close with EC's acoustic intro of "Ramblin on my mind". This song is available on various boots from his 1999 tour and is one of his best "Robert Johnson style" slide performances ever:


  2. amit82cse

    amit82cse Silent observeR

    If its written 3/5, it means that slide from 3 to 5 but if its written only /4 then how will you find the starting sliding note?
  3. deathdr_87

    deathdr_87 Awesome Guitarist

    @ami8t - then u slide from newhere -

    good work bobby!!! - nice post

    btw - ive used a drum stick as a slide while playing on overdrive/clean - i ususally add a wah while playing clean -it gives this really funky sound - i know its not a perfect slide- but it really sounds cool - espeically in the middle of a jam....

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