Awww come on, some of you have been far too afraid to even try playing slide guitar! There are plenty of tutorials in YouTube, etc.. Here are the most basic of basics for guitarists who’ve not given this sort of playing a shot -and also for non-guitar players who may be curious.
I’m not going to get much into techniques in this post, but like nearly ANYTHING you have to swallow and try! Patience with yourself is key to learning. Not getting immediate results is often where we give up rather than learn and find the joy in success regarding any new venture.
So 1 string “diddley bow”, 2 string “chugger”, 3 string cigarbox guitars or any old acoustic or cheapo electric guitar can work. Yes! If all 6 strings freak you out try 1, 2 or 3 strings. You could of course take all but 1 string off a junk guitar and start there or like me, build a simple instrument.
There are countless “slides” made of many different materials but try what you have available before you pay money for something. Note that different material sounds different. Sliding on wound or plain (unwound) guitar strings will all sound different. The same is true for slides- metal of various sorts, plastic pvc, the back of a pocket knife or handle of a butter knife all work. Being a hot sauce fan I use various empty bottles. I began using (hard to hold until I worked at it) an old 9 volt battery, then went to a proper glass slide. I use a wide assortment of slides these days.
The simple way to set up a guitar for slide-ONLY playing is to jack the bridge up high enough so that when pressing the slide on the string/s they do NOT touch the frets or neck. Secondly, if 2 or more or simple 6 strings are used, tune the guitar to an open chord such as a full E chord or if desired, another “open” chord. Again, the Web is loaded with slide guitar tuning info., but in essence if you only play typically tuned guitars, forget where those notes are because I’m talking about setting a git up for -slide-, not to play by pressing fingers between the frets and down onto the neck.
Note- one must place the slide exactly perpendicular to the actual FRETS, not between them as if playing with fingers normally.
Learning the new “scale”- where individual notes are in open tuning/s is part of the fun and expansion of one’s musical ability with guitar.
How you hold whatever you’re using as a slide is also a matter of personal feel, comfort and practice. Using typical slides early on I played like Dave Hole (Australian blues slide-king) by using my index finger inside the slide and playing over the top of the neck rather than the normal ring finger under the neck way. Again, there are various ways to use a slide, check the Web for tons more on this.
There’s no sin in playing slide as in lapsteel or table-top fashion either. I find it a fun way to change between that and standard guitar holding position.
Finally, a sweet vibrato using a slide is THE DEAL and may take a little time and discipline to learn, but I’ve long been convinced it’s far easier to do than using one’s fingers to produce that mimic of a human voice on the strings…
So there you are, give it a go! Be patient with yourself and you’ll likely expand your musical and guitar-playing world!
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn