1 ANYTHING GOES
Slide is a rootsy form developed
by artists who simply
used whatever they could
get their hands on to create
haunting glissandos and singing sustain.
If you want to experiment with slide
playing, but don’t own a factory-made
slide, use whatever you can find in the
house, garage, or tool shed that might
get the job done. Early proponents used
animal bones, metal pipes, and medicine
bottles (Coricidin was a favorite).
Blues man Cedell Davis uses the edge
of a table knife, and Lowell George used
an 11/16" socket from a socket-wrench
set. It’s all good!
While you can use whatever
object slides easily across
the strings, is hard enough
to evoke a sustained note, and is comfortable
to hold and play with, different
materials do have different sounds.
Chromed or nickel-plated steel will be
bright and zingy, brass will be fat and
creamy, glass will be warm and round,
and clay will be warmer still. For metal
slides, many players swear by the density
of drilled-out rods over purposemade
tubes. Whatever sounds best to
you is the one to go with.
3 RAISE THAT ACTION
A guitar set up for shred
will likely be a nightmare to
play bottleneck on. It will
have you knocking frets, and
making all kinds of unwanted noises. If
you are going to get serious about slide
playing, you will probably need to raise
your guitar’s action a little. The higher
the strings, the easier it is to play slide.
Players who fret notes and play slide on
the same guitar can usually find a happy
medium where the action is still easy
enough to allow fretting, yet also high
enough to slide on smoothly.
4 TUNING IS CRUCIAL
It definitely pays to explore
some open and alternative
tunings if you want to get
the most out of the style. You
can do plenty in standard tuning, but if
you really want to sink your teeth into
slide, find your way around open-G and
open-D tunings at the very least, as these
will open up lots of classic licks that can’t
be accessed in standard tuning.
5 WEAR IT WELL
Wear your slide wherever if feels
most natural. Using a slide on
your little finger might provide
the most flexibility, because it
leaves three contiguous fingers free for standard
fretting—or for achieving some nifty
behind-the-slide fretted voicings. Some players
advocate using your index finger for similar
reasons, while others say the ring finger
gives you the best results. Great artists have
done their thing with a slide on every possible
finger, so try them all and see what sticks.