What is that sound you hear, coming from a long distance, of notes bending in ways that you could never dream of doing on your own? The smooth and easy transitions and waviness of the sounds feel almost hypnotic. You might think it might not be achievable with human fingers, and you will be right. It is the sound of a guitar being played with a slide, a piece of equipment that you could wear on the ring finger of your left hand, to achieve the effect. Slides are a popular accessory to have and have been used widely in the history of the guitar. Though they can be used to play on normal acoustic or electric guitars, there are guitars made specifically for slide playing, the resonator guitars. Whichever way you prefer to play it, the best guitar slides are incredibly fun tools to enhance your playing, definitely something you should consider picking up.
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Best Guitar Slides
|Dunlop 210 Tempered Glass Slide||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Ernie Ball Glass slide, Medium||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Fender Steel Slide, Standard Medium||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Planet Waves Glass Bottle Slide||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
|Clayton Heavy Wall Large Guitar Slide||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon
When to use guitar slide
The slides, originally, were intended to be used on guitars specifically to be played as slide instruments. Steel guitars, resophonic guitars, lap steel guitars and lap slide guitars are instruments dedicated to slide playing. The sound these instruments produce are highly enhanced by the addition of the slide, especially a steel slide, bringing the metallic resonance of these guitars to a whole new level of impressive.
A guitar does not have to be dedicated to slide playing for a slide to be used on it. Normal acoustic and electric guitars easily lend themselves to the sound enhancements provided by the slide, meaning that anyone can benefit from one of these.
Types of Guitar Slides
There are generally three types of slides manufactured around the world. Glass, ceramic and steel, each one having specific effects on the sound that the slide produces. The glass material is currently the most popular for guitar players, but even in the case of glass, the variation in sound is caused by the color and weight of the slide, so careful consideration is needed when buying one.
Glass is by the most popular slide material used for non-metallic slides. While the resonance and tonality of glass might be great, one of the biggest reasons for its popularity is the fact that glass is so easy to get and make at home. You might have heard some slides referred to as bottlenecks at one point or another and, if you didn’t know anything about them, been surprised. The truth is that the first slides were made of simple materials and one of the easiest materials to access was a bottleneck. The first bluesmen would use a hot wire to melt the bottleneck off of the bottle and then end up using those as slides. While you have the option of doing that as well, it might not be the most optimal way to go about getting a slide. After all, the seams on bottlenecks and the uneven surfaces some of them have will end up affecting your sound and playability. Though if you want a dirty, gritty sound, a seam might be nice.
The true benefit of a glass slide lies in the clarity, smoothness and warmth of the sounds produced when using it to play. There is a high variety in the glass slides – long, short, thick and thin, all of which you will have to decide on depending on your style of play. You also might want to consider the color since adding a metallic alloy to make the glass green will also result in heavier glass and deeper, fuller tones.
Metal is by far the most popular, and most often seen in pop culture, material for a slide. If you’ve ever seen a blues player use a slide, it is highly probable that he (or she) was using a metal slide. A large number of metals used for the creation of slides offers a great variety of resonance and sound. The most popular material is, you guessed it, steel. Producing a heart-wrenching, shrieking, bright, strong sound, it is one of the prime choices for bluesicians. The second most popular choice is brass, thanks to its deep, soulful sound. There are numerous other metals with which you should definitely experiment.
Ceramic slides are very similar in sound to glass slides, and tend to be way more brittle. The beautiful thing about ceramic slides is how much you can customize them. It is your choice whether you want them to have a smooth or rough finish for different effects on your music.
The history of the slide is fascinating because of how rustic and slightly campy it is. The beginnings of the slide are lost to the history of country and blues music. Was it an accidental creation, a result of a bar brawl. Someone broke a bottle, cut their finger, but still needing to play – put the bottleneck on their finger and voila! Probably not how the story went, but the fact remains – the origins of the slide are lost to the history of the musical instrument. Whatever it is the slide has accompanied the steel-string acoustic guitar and the resonator, lap steel guitars throughout the popular culture. The unique effect on the sound is one sought after and hoped for by many guitar players. The true beauty of the slide is not in its history, but in the layer of unique musical depth it adds to your performance. The best guitar slides, when used correctly, produce an almost unique musical effect on the listener. It can be both haunting and energetic, fun and emotional. The idea is that you need to be able to determine how much you would like to customize your slide for optimal sound. Determining the material, color, level of roughness and grain, the weight and the length of slide might seem a little pointless at first, daunting as second, but in the end will prove to be a worthy time investment, as you end up playing something you find to be great. Good Luck!