QP SLIDE | Professional Guitar Bottleneck

Slide for guitar, everything you need to know to get started

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Welcome to the fascinating world of guitar slides! If you are new to this tool or just want to explore a new and exciting technique, you are in the right place. Guitar slides are an essential element in creating rich, emotional and characteristic sounds, used in a wide range of musical genres, from blues to rock, from country to jazz and beyond.

The most popular guitar slide is tubular (originally a piece of metal tube or a bottleneck) and is threaded on a finger, but among those who have experienced everything: cylindrical or shaped iron bars to have more grip (still used by those who play steel guitar), whole bottles, the microphone rod (Jimy Hendrix), rings and even knives blades).

The very particular sound obtained with this technique, spread with the boom of Hawaiian music in the USA at the beginning of the ‘900, finds its main use in blues, country and in general in American popular music, but it has also spread in rock and has been adopted in many other musical genres by those who like to merge and experiment with new approaches.

Click here to discover all the musical genres and their characteristics.

There is also a slide tradition in Indian classical music, where the guitar, more or less modified, has almost taken the place of the Veena, traditional instrument played with slide technique.

Here are some tips for those who want to approach the slide guitar:

Open or standard tuning suitable for guitar slide users

First of all I suggest you consider whether to approach the open tunings or play in standard tuning.

This is not just a stylistic choice and is not always related to the musical genre you want to play.

The advantage of starting with standard tuning is that you won’t need to learn new scales and chords and you can quickly phrase with the slide and get new sounds without too many complications.

This approach is certainly simpler but a downside to consider is that standard tuning limits the use of open chords a lot, making it more difficult to create note-rich chords.

With the standard tuning you will be bound to very articulate patterns where it will be difficult to play more than two or three notes at the same time.

That’s why if you want to appreciate all the potential of your slide you should start to familiarize yourself with the open tunings (perhaps starting from the classic open G and open D of the great bottleneck pioneers).

If you love experimenting, you can also approach other tunings, such as DADGAD, also known as Celtic tuning, or baritone tuning, etc.

Open guitar tunings are settings of strings that, when empty, reproduce a complete chord, usually a major or minor chord.

This facilitates the construction of chords and harmonies with the slide, which can cover all the strings with one movement.

Some of the most common open tunings for slide guitar are:

  • Open G: DGDGBD (variante High G o Dobro: GBDGBD)
  • Open D: DADF#AD
  • Open E: EBEG#BE
  • Open A: EAEAC#E
  • Open C: CGCEGC (variante CGCGCE)

In this way the possibilities of using the slide will be greatly expanded allowing you to play complete chords, using all six strings at the same time, or more generally to have patterns much more adaptable to the bottleneck that in fact extends on the keyboard like a bar.

Experimenting with new tunings also means experimenting with oneself and one’s own sensibilities, getting rid of the routine of a mechanical and organized sound, thinking in terms of music and not of positions and taking advantage of an opportunity for growth and discovery.

Slide for guitar, everything you need to know to get started

Which type of guitar is best for bottleneck use?

As with other guitar approaches, the slide technique has no limits and can be applied to any type of guitar.

However, there are some types of guitar that are often taken as a slide reference, such as resophonic guitars.

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Resophonic guitars were initially born from the need to increase the volume level of an acoustic guitar in the absence of amplification.

In the case of a resophonic guitar are in fact aluminum cones that, with different configurations depending on the model, are able to characterize the sound and amplify the volume.

The result is a very metallic, brilliant and penetrating timbre, particularly similar to some musical genres and the use of the slide.

A study on the choice of guitar will be published later.

Rope size

The choice of string sizes is mainly related to the type of guitar and the type of tuning chosen.

Open C tuning, for example, requires a thicker string set than open E or standard tuning.

On a resophonic guitar, thicker strings allow the resonator to vibrate more than a typical acoustic guitar scale.

In general, thicker strings have the following advantages for slide:

  • Greater volume and sustain (on sustain there are those who, like Ry Cooder, would object)
  • Increased tension and stability
  • Less risk of hitting buttons

On the other hand, thicker strings also have disadvantages, such as:

  • Greater difficulty in bending and vibrato
  • Increased button and slide wear
  • More effort for fingers and wrists

The choice of string sizes depends on your preferences, style and skill level.

A good starting point, with open G and open D tuning, can be a 0.13-0.56 scaling for acoustic and resophonic guitars, a little less for electric guitars.

On standard tuning I recommend starting with a set 0.12-0.52 for acoustic and resophonic guitar and 0.11-0.48 for electric.

From there you can experiment with different layouts depending on the results you want to achieve.

The right setup of used guitars with slide
The slide guitar setup is crucial to get the most out of the slide.

The setup can include adjusting the action and pitch by acting mainly on the Truss rod and bridge harnesses.

For the slide, the most important aspect is definitely the action, which is the height of the strings compared to the keyboard.

Adopt a higher action if you want to play only with the slide technique, you will get cleaner sounds and more sustain, an action media with a hybrid technique where Slide and fretting alternate.

A low action is not recommended, you would get a poor sound, characterized by rubbing noises and bumps of the slide on the keys.

To turn the action up, you can step on the bridge by raising it whole or adjusting the individual saddles.

Sometimes it is enough to adjust the Truss rod, the metal bar that runs along the handle. Loosening it slightly increases the curvature of the handle getting more air in the middle of the keyboard.

In any case, if you are not sure how to do it, we recommend that you contact a professional to avoid damaging your guitar.

Choice of slide type and material

The slide is the element that characterizes the slide guitar technique that can be of different materials, sizes and shapes, depending on the preferences and needs of the guitarist.

The choice of slide shape depends mainly on the type of tuning you use.

If you use an open tuning, it is preferable to opt for a slide along the whole finger, which will allow you to play full chords covering all the strings.

If you use a standard tuning instead, you may prefer a short slide, which leaves the other fingers free and allows you to use the slide with phrasing built on one or two strings.

The choice of slide material affects the timbre and volume of the sound. The most common materials are:

  • Metal: produces a bright, strong and, of course, metallic sound. It is often preferred to other types because of the greater sustain and not being susceptible to breakage in case of accidental falls. It can be steel, brass, copper or other metals, all with different sound characteristics.
  • Brass: offers a warm and round sound, with excellent dynamic response. It is particularly suitable for those looking for a balance between brilliance and softness in the sound of the slide.
  • Glass: produces a warm, soft and sweet sound. It is the preferred material for those looking for a light slide. It can be normal or tempered glass, the latter more resistant to impact.
  • Ceramic: produces a balanced, rich and round sound. It is a versatile material, suitable for both acoustic and electric guitars, for various musical genres. It can be porcelain, terracotta or other ceramic materials.

To learn more about the characteristics and differences between the various slide materials, you can check out this article ‘Guitar slide types’.

Use of slide technique during arrangement

The slide guitar technique is not only a way to play guitar solo, but also a tool to enrich the songs during the arrangement.

With the slide you can create melodic, harmonic or rhythmic parts that integrate with other vocal or instrumental parts, giving the song an original and personal touch.

Some examples of using the slide technique during arrangement are:

  • Create fills or counterpoints with the slide, filling the spaces between the vocal or instrumental sentences, creating dialogues or tensions. For example, the slide can dialogue with the voice and other guitars, creating melodic and harmonic variations.
  • Create riffs or grooves with the slide, which give rhythm and movement to the song, creating a solid foundation on which to build the other parts. For example, in “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood, the slide creates a bluesy and powerful riff that characterizes the song.
  • Create solos or improvisations with slide, expressing their creativity and personality, exploiting the expressive possibilities of slide. For example, in “Statesboro Blues” by the Allman Brothers Band, the slide performs only one virtuoso and engaging, showing the mastery of the guitarist.

Exercises to improve intonation and pressure

Playing with the slide requires very good intonation precision and movement to give that effect of continuity between notes or the characteristic vibrato effect of the bottleneck.

Intonation is the ability to play notes accurately and cleanly, without smudging or jarring.

Also the pressure is very important, that is the force that is exerted on the strings with the slide, which must be right to get the desired volume and sustain, without crushing the strings too much and thus create unwanted noises.

To improve intonation and pressure, there are some exercises you can do.

1 – Play the notes of a scale with the slide, trying to place the slide directly above the nut and not between the keys, keep a constant pressure on the strings and make the sound vibrate with small rapid movements back and forth.

You can gradually increase the speed and direction of the slide, use different scales or tunings, even trying to play multiple notes together at the same time. This will help you improve accuracy and agility.

2 – Play simple melodies with the slide, trying to imitate human singing and use vibrato to give expressiveness to the notes. This will help you improve intonation and expressiveness.

3 – Accompany tracks with slide, try to follow the structure and style of the song integrating it with interludes and small riffs that can fill or accompany the main parts. This will help you discover new phrases and patterns that can be used in other contexts.

Get a free video lesson for guitar Slide

If you are interested in the world of slide guitar, love the typical sounds of blues and country and want to deepen your knowledge and your technique, do not miss the opportunity to walk with QP Slide this path.

In collaboration with Sebastiano Lillo I thought and created for you this free introductory video lesson that will help you understand and learn more about the world of Guitar Slide!

Buy now a slide QP Slide, my professional brass bottlenecks are handmade and are the result of years of study, technique and passion.

With the purchase you will get free 3 free video lessons to start to better master this technique with the best slides on the market.

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