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Old 07-13-2007, 11:28 AM   #1
TwoString
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TwoString's Slide Clinic

NOTE – 7/13/2007 - MORE PICS WILL BE ADDED WHEN I GET A CHANCE

I posted parts of this in a couple of other threads about slides so I’ve decided to go ahead and write a basic clinic thread on the subject. This clinic will cover “proper” technique and building good intonation and feel for the slide, so this is mainly for beginners. If there are specific slide concepts you would like to discuss, post away.

Contents
1. Slide Materials and Shapes
2. Guitar Prep
3. Picking Technique
4. Slide Technique
5. Starting Points
6. Intonation

1. Slide Materials and Shapes
There are many different materials and shapes where slides are concerned. When you’re starting out, keep in mind that this really doesn’t matter. The basic tonality of some materials are as follows…

Metal: Bright sound bordering on harsh for most electric playing. Brass yields a heavier tone however, but still very bright.

Glass: Thin glass can be less than desirable as it tends to give a harsher sound than thicker glass. Glass is best suited for electric as it gives a nice balance between sustain and mellow tone.

Ceramic: The brightness of metal with a more mellow tonality like glass. This material is a nice balance between glass and metal.

Your intonation and technique are far more important than what material the slide is made out of. I would stress some importance on the shape, however.


Tube: The best choice for beginners. This slide offers a long flat surface area and will give you better control when you’re just starting.


Bottleneck: These slides are either made from or made to look like necks from glass bottles (wine, beer, coke, you take your pick). I recommend against these if you’re just starting out. The flared end and curvature of the slide could make controlling the slide more difficult.


Blues Bottle: This slide type is made to resemble old glass medicine bottles. While they are flat like tube slides, I would recommend against these as condensation tends to form inside the bottle pretty quickly and it plays havoc with your calluses. Also, since the interior of the bottle is larger than the opening, it might make the slide more difficult to control.

I’ve used all of the slides above and my favorite has to be the heavy walled glass tube slide made by Dunlop. For acoustic playing, I rely on a Dunlop Mudslide ceramic slide for its amazing sustain and bright tone.
2. Guitar Prep
There isn’t much to do in this department other than raise your action a bit if it’s insanely low. I keep my Strat at about 3/16” at the 17th fret for a nice balance between fingering and slide action. I also use a .010 - .048 string set. On smaller gauge sets, you will have a difficult time keeping the slide from hitting the frets unless your action is set very high. Also, a little more relief in the neck is preferred for slide as it gets those frets out of the way towards the middle of the neck where the strings tend to sag more under the weight of the slide.
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Last edited by TwoString : 11-30-2007 at 02:14 PM.
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Old 07-13-2007, 11:28 AM   #2
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3. Picking Technique
First things first, you need to get your "slide grip" on and proper. You can play slide with a pick, but you're going to have a hell of a time trying to properly mute the other strings. To see what I’m talking about, without fretting any notes, use a pick and play this string sequence.
6-4-2-3-5-1
Take notice that while you can palm mute or even mute with the side of your pick, as you start to move faster, muting is a little more difficult. Realize that with a slide, you’re not going to be able to mute strings with your fretting hand in front of the slide. With that in mind, it’s usually best to use a modified finger picking style while playing slide as it gives you more control over ringing notes and noise suppression while the slide is moving on the strings.

The "slide grip"


This is the default, no-sound-coming-through slide grip. From here you're in good position to sound just about any string. The thumb is muting the lower 3 strings, the tip of the index is muting the G, the tip of the middle finger is muting the B, and the tip of the ring finger is muting the E.

Sounding the high E


You'll find that you will adjust and move that default grip around to sound different strings and string combinations. Here the thumb has moved down and is anchored on the B. The thumb is muting all of the strings at this point. The high E is then struck with the index or middle finger with down strokes or upstrokes ("plucking").

Sounding the D/G


Here again you can see that the mute grip has changed. The thumb is still muting the low E and A, the ring finger is muting the B and the pinky is muting the high E. This gives you the ability to "alternate pick" notes with your index and middle finger, or just strum or pluck with your index finger.

Sounding the B


Here you can see that again the thumb has moved down to mute the dead bass strings. The ring finger is muting the high E. This again leaves you with the index and middle fingers to alternate pick notes on the B for speed.

Sounding the low E/A



All strings are muted with the tips of the fingers. The D is muted with the index, the G is muted with the middle, the B is muted with the ring and the E is muted with the pinky (although you can't see this through my gargantuan index and middle fingers). The first picture shows the thumb just before strumming the low E/A strings, and the second picture shows the thumb anchoring to the D string after the strum.

Try this technique out without a slide at first and try to sync up your left and right hands. You will learn the grip better if you start out without the added hassle of the slide. My slide technique is a combination of a few things...watching Warren Haynes, Sonny Landreth and Lee Roy Parnel play slide, as well as lessons learned from playing bass (clearly this is where the thumb anchor technique comes into play).
4. Slide Technique
How you wear your slide isn’t really important. You can push it all the way down on your finger, up to the first knuckle, maybe even have it dangling off of your finger. It also doesn’t matter what finger you place the slide on. The key ideas to keep in mind is you’re going to want these two things…
1. Control over the slide: You don’t want the slide flopping around all over the place.
2. Control over the strings behind the slide: Moving a slide around can generate a lot of noise. Also, you will notice that if you just place the slide on the strings and start playing without taking into consideration the strings behind the slide, the strings will ring out behind the slide. This noise can be heard through microphonic guitar pickups easily, and on acoustic, the noise will completely distract from the actual notes being played on the speaking length of the string.
You will want to use the slide on a finger that allows you to easily control these two factors. Here are my opinions on finger choice.
Index: You’re not going to have much control over the slide. Getting your other three fingers out of the way will be a challenge. Also, you won’t have any fingers left to mute the strings behind the slide. This position feels unnatural.
Middle: A little more control, but again you’ve got to be able to lift your ring and little fingers out of the way. The single index finger behind the slide may not be enough to mute the strings behind the slide.
Ring: Probably the best choice for starters. You’ll have a finger on each side of the slide, which gives you quite a bit of control over vibrato and other subtle movements. You also have two fingers behind the slide…that should shut those strings up.
Little (Pinky): A little less control than the middle, but a good choice due to the fact that you can now alternate more effectively between fingering notes with your index, middle and ring fingers and slide playing. You’ve got three fingers behind the slide, so if you can’t mute the strings with the slide on your ring finger, try it on your pinky instead and see how you like it

This is how I wear my slide...on the ring finger just above the knuckle so I still have flexibility in the finger. The index and middle fingers always stay locked down on the strings behind the nut (just resting on the strings, not pushing them down) to mute everything behind the slide.

5. Starting Points
Here are some basic ideas to keep in mind while playing slide.[indent]1. The finger you place your slide on isn’t really that important, just so long as you can mute the strings behind the slide.

2. Intonation is key. You want to make sure that when you’re sounding a note that you have the slide in contact with the string directly over the fret. As long as you understand that the slide if your fret, you shouldn’t have any problems.

3. You want to make sure you use enough pressure to keep the slide from bouncing on the strings, but not so much that the string makes contact with the frets. It will take a little bit of time to get used to understanding how much pressure is too much, but you’ll know when you’ve gone to far when you start to hear buzzing.

4. Your strings are arched. Your slide may not be. Without picking or plucking any of the strings, lay your slide across your strings. While the slide may push down the higher strings (strings 2-5) keep in mind that you may not have good contact with the lower strings. You will be able to tell this easily when you pick a string and it rattle against the slide. Pivot the slide towards the lower string you want to sound so it makes better contact with the string.

5. When it comes to sounding open strings, you want to lift the slide of cleanly and quickly to avoid noise. Some noise is desirable when using this technique, but play around with it to find what sounds best for you.
6. Intonation
Like I mentioned above, intonation is very important in slide playing. I’m not talking about saddle adjustments here; I’m talking about sounding notes cleanly and properly. Remember, you’ve got a fret mounted on your hand now, and that fret has the ability to move. Since this fret is not statically bound to the fret board or any given note position, there is a larger margin of error and a better chance that the note you actually sound is a few cents off from the whole note at the fret. When fretting a note normally, you would press the string down with your finger as close to the back of the fret as possible. With a slide, you will now place the slide directly over the fret.

Now that you have the ability to move a fret around (the slide), you can now get a taste for all of those wonderful notes that happen in between frets. If this idea sounds good to you, Google “Microtonal Guitar”…it’ll blow your mind.

To practice your intonation, start out with a basic scale in standard tuning on just one string. To get warmed up, we’ll use the G-Major scale on the G string.

G String 0---2---4---5---7---9---11---12

Play this simple scale several times until you get a feel for intonation and how far you need to move the slide to get the slide exactly over the fret.

I would recommend practicing your slide technique in standard tuning so you don’t have to worry about learning new patterns while you’re trying to get your technique down. Work with the patterns you are familiar with.

So that’s the end of the slide primer for now. If you all like what you see, I would be willing to write a follow up to show you a few advanced techniques and tunings. But there’s no use in learning the advanced techniques until you know the basics. If there are any questions, let me know.
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Last edited by TwoString : 11-30-2007 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 07-13-2007, 11:35 AM   #3
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Very interesting read.

I didn't even know what sliding was. Now I know. Thanks for the lesson and info!
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Old 07-13-2007, 11:49 AM   #4
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Good job, twostring.

I wish such forums and people were around 20 years ago, whan I was starting out...
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Old 07-13-2007, 12:53 PM   #5
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You really rock. I was thinking about buying a slide, but didn't know where to start so I just didn't grab one. Now, with this, I am gonna grab a slide at the music store and get going.

Thank you so much!
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Old 07-13-2007, 12:56 PM   #6
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Very good. I have to say though, that I couldn't live without my Blues Bottle slide.
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Old 07-13-2007, 01:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewilliams
Very good. I have to say though, that I couldn't live without my Blues Bottle slide.


To each his own I had one and used it for everything. One day at band practice 7 years ago it was sitting on my amp. The vibrations from the amp caused the slide to fall off of my amp. That thing shattered into about 34,987 pieces. I've been meaning to buy another one, but I just got hooked on the ceramic and the heavier glass slides.
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Old 07-13-2007, 01:13 PM   #8
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Yay! Thank you TwoString. You're my hero.
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Old 07-13-2007, 02:39 PM   #9
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awesome, now i can pull my slide out my case and finally start playing
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Old 07-14-2007, 09:12 PM   #10
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This is very good indeed, I guess TwoString rules.
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Old 07-14-2007, 09:27 PM   #11
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Awesome! Sticky!
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Old 07-14-2007, 09:31 PM   #12
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WHERE THE **** IS MY SLIDE!!!!!

u made me want to play slide like no other...
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Old 07-20-2007, 07:28 PM   #13
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bump. cause this is cool.
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Old 07-20-2007, 09:21 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by forsaknazrael
bump. cause this is cool.


HA...thanks man. I have the link to this thread in my sig as well, just in case.
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Old 09-06-2007, 04:09 AM   #15
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bump. because i'm soooooo tempted to play slide. i'm listening to Allman Brothers band's statesboro blues. i want TO PLAY!!!

should i be turning up the gain? and rolling the tone control down? might that help?
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Old 09-06-2007, 09:37 AM   #16
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I think I'm gonna build a lap steel guitar...
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Old 09-06-2007, 10:55 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ECistheBest
bump. because i'm soooooo tempted to play slide. i'm listening to Allman Brothers band's statesboro blues. i want TO PLAY!!!

should i be turning up the gain? and rolling the tone control down? might that help?


I wouldn't turn up the gain so much. His tone has a lot of headroom at times, and it only breaks up when he really hits it. I also wouldn't roll down the tone too much.
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Old 09-06-2007, 11:09 AM   #18
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TwoString rocks.

Do you have any experience playing with a Jet Slide?. They seem interesting.
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Old 09-06-2007, 11:10 AM   #19
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No experience with that, but if you're as dedicated as Will Ray, you should be able to use anything.
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Old 09-06-2007, 11:11 AM   #20
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