Learn to Play: Slide Guitar Basics with Jeff Massey

When I first started experimenting with slide guitar, I quickly realized the different tonal possibilities of each type of slide and guitar I used.

Initially, I learned using a metal slide on a short scale Supro guitar with a very high string action. The type of sound produced using a metal slide is reminiscent of some of the harsher, raunchier slide tones associated with players like Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter.

If you're just getting into slide guitar, I would suggest experimenting with materials and finding what's right for you. Ceramic and glass slides offer a slightly smoother, sustaining sound reminiscent of players like Duane Allman or George Harrison.

The high string action on my old Supro made for a loud sound with lots of sustain. Playing slide on a guitar with lower action makes the notes buzz and die out faster. The sound itself depends upon the guitar you're using, so every player has to pick a guitar that feels right.

On Technique

The main goals of a beginning slide player should include proper note intonation, string muting, and vibrato technique.

I can't stress enough how sliding over the actual fret and not the fret space is key for proper note pitch. The slide licks I decided to include here are great kickoffs for getting accustomed to the slide technique and developing your own ideas and concepts. The possibilities are endless.

It's important for players to experiment with different fingers until they can settle on what's most comfortable. Personally, I prefer wearing the slide on my pinky so that the remaining fingers are not hindered from holding chords. But wearing the slide on the ring finger is equally common. Some players even wear it on their middle finger.

Last but not least, open tunings can be an integral part of a good slide player's bag of tricks. Tuning the guitar to an open D or G chord, for example, can create some sonic options for the slide that wouldn't come across the same way in standard tuning.

Standard tuning also has its slide perks and is equally as relevant an option. Experimenting with tunings, types of slides, guitar string action, and the slide licks themselves should make up a full plate of ideas to start with. Have fun slidin'!

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