Love listening to slide guitar and would like to teach myself how to play. Although, I'm hesitant because I feel like there are more fundamental techniques that I should learn before jumping into playing with a slide.

As a self-taught novice with limited skills and limited time, having a better idea of the skills/techniques "required" for slide guitar would be great motivation to move along that path and find more time to play/practice.

  • possible duplicate of How to learn to play guitar with a slide ?
    – user399
    Commented Apr 14, 2011 at 9:36
  • Did see that one, but this question is more about the skill set one should have before even picking up a slide. For now, I'm less concerned with learning how to actually play slide guitar and more focused on improving any particular skills that will help my playing once I do. If it helps, M. Werner has named many of the musicians that got me interested in playing slide in the first place.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 1:07
  • Or... maybe I'm just looking at this the wrong way. No matter how bad my playing currently is (I'm a true novice -- transitioning in/out of barre chords can still be challenging & they don't always sound quite right), maybe I should just jump right into playing with a slide?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 1:39
  • 1
    @joelhaus, there's nothing wrong with trying out the slide before you master the guitar, However you will need a second guitar for playing slide since you want high action on a slide guitar... And if you have problems with barre, high action is the last thing you want on the guitar you practice barre with.
    – user399
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 7:07

1 Answer 1


I'm a cigar-box guitar builder, and we all use slide extensively. I have also built a full-sized resonator guitar and have a cigar-box 6-string electric...

Here's the basics. Ideally, you should have a guitar set up for slide playing. You'll want the action higher than what you'd use otherwise, otherwise, the slide will be banging into the frets on the high strings all the time. As well, you'll probably be re-tuning the instrument all the time, as most slide playing is done in open tunings. You don't need anything special to start out, in fact an old "beater" guitar may have a nice funky sound when played with a slide.

There are tons of instructional materials available. Dedicated websites, videos, books... All to teach you the fine details. Basics include working on your "attack", that is moving the slide smoothly onto the string rather than banging it down, placing the slide directly over the fret, and working on obtaining a nice, fluid vibrato since that's part and parcel of the style.

Slides... Ask a hundred slide players, get a hundred answers. Glass, steel, bone, brass, old pocket-knives... I like glass and copper personally. I make my own glass slides from wine bottles by scoring the neck with a Dremel cut-off wheel and tapping.
Listen to a bunch of the old slide masters... Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Skip James, Son House... Those are the old masters. There are lots of fine contemporary players too in all styles, but I would go to the roots first.

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