I'm going to start learning slide guitar, and I'm debating just using one of my existing guitars for slide, or buying a guitar better suited for slide.

The guitar I already have, that I don't use much, and could set up for slide, is a Yamaha SE612, which is a fat-strat type guitar, HSS pickups, thin and fast neck, medium size frets, locking nut & a tremolo set up for dive bombs.

As I understand it, all I'd need to do is put on heavier gauge strings and raise the action. Is there anything else I'd need to do? What gauge strings would be good? is there a "typical" action height that is typical for slide rather than figuring it out via hit or miss?

Also, is the tremolo pretty redundant with this style since there's so much vibrato going on with the left hand? Should I block that out, or are there slide players who use tremolo, too?

Bernie Sanders for President!
Last edited by krm27 at Dec 8, 2014,
I only play slide on electrics. Your guitar will be fine, but block the trem in case you want to change tunings. Since you are a beginner, you are likely to be a bit heavy-handed, so I would go with something like 13-56 or 12-52 strings and an action height of about 2mm at the heel fret, treble side. Also, I would use a glass or ceramic slide, I think they give better sustain than thin metal, and, being a beginner, you might beat up the frets with a heavy metal slide. I use a genuine bottleneck on electrics and a heavy brass slide on acoustics.

Heavy string sets usually have a wound 3rd, and the difference in string-to-string balance might bother you if you are used to a plain 3rd. Also, you will need to reset the intonation if you have been using light strings and go to heavy, if you want to play fretted notes as well as slide.
Thanks. I realized sometime after starting this thread that my tremolo would make changing tuning difficult. I have another guitar, Yamaha SJ550hr, which is shaped like a Telecaster but with humbuckers that can be coil split. I think I'll try making that my slide guitar for now.

A few minutes ago, I got out a glass slide that I bought a couple years back but never figured out how to use, and tried it on the SJ550hr without changing string, action or tuning (just using D & G strings at open, 5th, 7th and 12th) and was able to get some bluesy tones. I'm eager to see what can be done with some open tunings.

I think the action is on the low side, but I was trying to be delicate and it seemed to work okay with light pressure. It would probably be a bit harder to get the pressure right on all six strings, so I'll probably raise the action to make it easier. On the other hand, I'm not sure why heavier strings are recommended for slide guitar... do they give better sustain? I liked the tone okay with the current strings. I might just use the strings I've got for a while and get used to the tones they can give for slide. Later I can switch out to heavier strings and I should be able to hear the difference myself, see which I prefer.

My number one player recently has been a hollow body, and I was trying to learn some jazz guitar, which led to a renewed interest in blues music & thus slide. I really liked being able to pick up the hollow body and play unplugged with decent volume, and also the ability to then plug it in to kick it up a notch. Solid body electrics can be a hassle when you don't feel like plugging in, but don't want to practice with a really thin sounding guitar. So I'm thinking if I take to slide guitar, I think I might have to invest in another hollow body, or semi-hollow, to use as a dedicated slide guitar. I'm thinking a cut-out on the lower bout would make it easier to play slide on higher frets, so some kind of hollow body with a cut-out, like an ES175 shape, would do the trick. And if I can find that type of guitar with P90s...well, I've been GAS-ing for a P90 hollowbody or semi-hollow, and this might be the excuse. Then I'd have one hollowbody for jazz and one for slide blues. And the electrics, of course, when I gotta rock.

Just GAS-ing out loud.

Bernie Sanders for President!
I use 10-46 on four of the electrics, tuned to open E or A. Being an acoustic guitarist, I tried for a long time to get heavy strings to work for me, but I eventually discovered that light strings work better (for me) on most electrics. I have a 30" bari with 13-56 tuned to open D, and it sizzles like telegraph wires in the wind - it is the best sounding electric I have. My old Westone 335 knockoff also as 13-56 because they work better with the pickups (SD SH-2) in it, and its very dark tone. So, as you can see, it is a case of using whatever works best. I have a very light touch, so I set the action height at about 1.6 mm on the treble side, but again it is a matter of what you are comfortable with.

I'm also a fan of P90s, and I've been wondering about full hollow electric, but I can't justify it in my own mind, because I have good acoustics fitted with magnetic picups.
my slide guitar is a 1982 gibson that is in desperate need of a refret. i din't feel like putting a few too much cash on it for the refret. so jack up the action go for some .11's in open G and go for it. it won't detioreriate more and it sounds beautiful too

thats me though.