The style of an acoustic song I'm working on benefits (in my opinion) from overemphasised/rough slides between delicately picked chords. In other words, delicate notes interspersed with over-exaggerated string-noise. Several of the chords fortuitously use the same basic shape in my preferred voicing, but not all.

If I want to create a slide sound when changing between chords which don't use the same shape, what is the best way to do this... i.e what passing note/chord do I slide from to make it sound like I'm sliding between chords when I'm not?

The two things I've tried so far are:

  1. If the shape I'm moving to is a barre (or standard EA chord), play a barred version of the previous chord as a passing chord and slide.
  2. Slide on a single string - usually E or A string - from the root of the first chord into the desired fret of the new chord, forming the new chord at the end of the slide
  • Are you trying to create a strong musical glissando between the notes, or are you just looking to make string noise? (The “rough slides” makes me wonder if you’re looking more for the latter.) Apr 14, 2015 at 21:24
  • I think the latter - more like when you hear someone changing chords quite noisily except I want to do this deliberately - but since I don't really know what glissando means I am not sure of the distinction :)
    – Mr. Boy
    Apr 15, 2015 at 7:17
  • A glissando is a glide from one pitch to another (and it literally means glide). Trombones and fretless instruments excel at glissando, but the term includes any smooth run of notes. So if your goal is to make a smooth pitch change, that’s glissando. But if you just want to make the strings squeak and rattle, that’s something else, and you might want to be clear in your question. Apr 16, 2015 at 0:43

4 Answers 4


I do that sort of thing regularly. That's why I prefer coated strings on my acoustics. They don't make as much noise when I slide.


changing between chords which don't use the same shape

the easiest thing to do technically speaking is to slide on whichever strings the two shapes have in common. As Dr Mayhem suggested, the root, third and or fifth (as applicable) will sound best.

There are sometimes cases where the two chords do not share any of the same fretted strings. In that case - what I do is form the new chord in one position on the fretboard and slide the chord shape up to the new chord. If you are sliding from an open position chord, you can play the open strings that will be fretted in the new chord shape and quickly "hammer on" the new chord shape in first position and quickly slide to the new position. This happens very quickly all in one motion (strum - hammer - slide).

For example, If I am playing a first position G chord using 320003 voicing and I want to slide to a D7 played as XX453X - I will strum the open D G and B strings and quickly hammer the XX453X shape on at first position (XX231X) and slide that shape up to the XX453X all in one motion. You end up with your target chord ringing out at the end - even with just one strum. Gives the effect of playing a chord and then bending all the notes in the chord up several steps to a new chord.

In fact, in the above example, you can strum the full six string G chord once - and without strumming again, hammer the new chord shape on the D G and B strings in first position and slide the shape up to the XX453X position and effectively slide from a G to a that D7 voicing all in one strum - even though the two chords have no fretted strings in common.

If you don't do it as I described, you will have to strum or otherwise play the new chord after you slide up to it - before it will be heard as the new chord. If that is acceptable in your arrangement - it may be easier just to form a part of the new chord (perhaps the root and 3rd - depending on voicing chosen) and slide the partial new chord shape up in the manner described and then strum again after your target chord is reached - to establish the new chord.

If you want to slide from a chord played higher up the fret board to another chord in a higher position, and they don't share any commonality between the two chord shapes, the easiest thing to do is exactly what Dr. Mayhem suggested - form the new chord in one position and slide it up.

For example, in a song I play often - I go from a 5th fret A Barre chord (using E shaped Barre chord formation) to an E7 played around the 7th fret as 076707 (B7 shape). To give the effect of sliding up to that chord, I form it on the 6th fret 065606 and slide it up one fret. There is no other way to slide from the Barre Chord to the more open chord without doing it this way.

The foregoing illustrates that the exact technique to slide between two chords with your chosen voicing - will vary, depending on the way each chord is formed. Most likely you will want to develop different methods for each of the various chord transitions.

Once you get used to a certain slide from one chord to another, it becomes second nature. It takes practice in the beginning, just like learning a new chord shape that you have never tried. Once you master it, you can throw it in wherever and whenever it fits - to spice up any guitar arrangement.

Good luck.


Depending on exactly what chords you mean, this could be done many different ways, however my usual rule of thumb is when sliding from one chord to another is to try and slide either the root or he third or fifth (generally this means first or second finger) while moving the other fingers to the new shape during the slide.

As I say, it depends on the chords - sometimes you may wish to actually fret an entirely new chord and then slide the sixth up to the seventh for example.


You can only really slide when fingers remain on the same string between the chords, obviously. So a real slide can only occur between the notes of the two chords that are played with the same finger on the same string. E.g., if you want to slide from F major (1st position of d-g-b) to an Eb major (3rd position of d-g-b), the only note that you can really slide is the note F on the D-string to the note G on the D-string:

F   Eb
X   X
1   4
2   3
3 - 5
X   X
X   X

Having said that, what is usually happening when sliding between chords with non-identical shapes is that during the movement from one to the next chord, you actually form the shape of the chord that you're sliding to already a bit earlier (i.e. a few frets before). This means that when I play the example above with sliding, I actually play F - (Db/D) - Eb, where the (Db/D) is the same shape as the Eb chord. So I slide up to Eb from either a Db or a D chord, depending on when exactly I form the new chord shape during the slide. And I believe that this is very often the case when sliding between chords with different shapes. So to answer your question about the passing chord, it is always the target chord shape one or more frets lower (or higher if you slide down) than the target chord. It can't be any other shape, because real sliding requires the same fingering as the target chord. Of course, if the target chord shares part of the shape of the previous chord, you can decide to slide only those notes (just like the note on the D-string in the example F - Eb above), without using a complete passing chord.

  • Well I guess my question then becomes where do you slide from ... "1 or more frets"... does it matter or is only the slide audible rather than the passing chord? And - could you equally well slide down rather than up?
    – Mr. Boy
    Apr 13, 2015 at 7:34
  • @Mr.Boy It only matters in as much as you prefer one or the other. Usually sliding goes fast and normally you shouldn't really hear the "passing chord", just the sliding effect. And of course you can slide down as well, but for some reason my impression is that this is not done as frequently as sliding up.
    – Matt L.
    Apr 13, 2015 at 8:03
  • Lower notes may vibrate slower, but also have more string mass. Sliding down the neck (higher notes) compresses all that energy, and sliding up the neck disperses it (lower resultant volume). In theory it should be the same (for instance in an octave slide, half the mass, twice the speed), but in theory skinny tires have as much friction as wide ones. You will hear the passing chord, not as a chord, but as drone color. A song in which all tones stick to a consistent set of relative intervals is different than sliding up a 3rd and 5th simultaneously, introducing other microtonal intervals. Apr 16, 2015 at 1:06

Obviously for each string which will have relatively different fret placement, you will either have to make a digital jump (such as a hammer-on), or accellerate an analog slide, which means non-uniform sliding and lots of crazy microtonal intervals occurring. That's a matter of choice.

Notice though I said 'relatively' different fret placement. This is all relative to which 'position' you slide to. No matter what (if you can find a fitting chord anywhere), you always have the option to at least maintain one smooth analog slide.

Take advantage of that compositionally. You are essentially choosing which notes of your chord progression form a melodic progression. Any string which gets uniform slide while others jump will be perceived as the melodic back-bone of the progression. It may suit the song to move along by a m2 or m7, but if you don't wish to always be aware of what note(s) you are handing the transitive role, then you should either strive to move along in fifths from chord to chord (one note of 2nd chord is a 5th up from 1st chord), or easiest if you don't use open strings, move from chord root to chord root, in exactly the interval of the chord progression.

Moving along in fifths is generally safe and harmonious, but if you are playing Minor Swing or something, you'll want to emphasize minor thirds in your transitions instead.

This doesn't have to be achieved by theory but can be done smoothly by ear instead. If you play slide as if your instrument were a barbershop quartet, with an awareness of what note each string is doing at all times, and hear your chord destination in advance, in terms of components, you'll simply feel which note(s) should be strongest for transitions, and work the rest of the final chord shaping around them.

There are three solutions: fixed interval with revoicings, root to root, and melodic transition spine. The most expressive power is in the third method which encompasses the other, so you might as well learn that one.

The other huge choice is whether to maintain intervals between strings while sliding (and thus have to make jumps), or let each string slide into place at it's own relative rate. This is like choosing between clean jazz and sitar ragas, with a world of difference in color, but each technique having it's valid role depending on how you prefer to sound.

  • If you learn slide thinking in terms of strings being a barbershop quartet or theremin orchestra, always keeping awareness of chords as sets of notes each playing a role within the scope of the total piece, not merely the chord itself, then knowing which strings to emphasize by uninterrupted sliding will evolve naturally of it's own accord. Apr 14, 2015 at 4:52
  • This shouldn't really be a new awareness. Any chord is conceivably several chords depending on which consider to be the root. It's that same attention to intended chord roots used during progressions which you apply to melodies or progressions when choosing the primary slide string. Apr 15, 2015 at 3:50
  • Kristal, if you think of things to add to your answer after it is posted, all you need to do is click "edit" and you can add more detail to your answer. I have noticed that you often have multiple comments on your own answer's - as additional information. Not sure you know that you can just add the information as an edit to your original answer instead of a comment. You can even copy and paste your comments into your answer and then delete the comments. Try it. Apr 15, 2015 at 6:02
  • Sometimes I compose answers in word if I know they will be lengthy. But I have never had any trouble editing. If the edit contains a departure from my original answer (or a new thought), I will usually make that clear by posting the edit at the bottom of the original answer - preceded by "EDIT: " Also, I understand that comments are routinely purged - so any after-thoughts you add via comment may be lost to posterity. Apr 17, 2015 at 2:04
  • Oh, well that's useful to know. It appeared that not only do they not really want editing here, that they don't want deleting either. I have a chat thread I would have liked to delete. If I could, I'd be deleting posts that are no longer relevant, and were more messages than supplementary content. - Well, I can at least delete things here now. Perhaps that was one of those privileges I hadn't earned earlier. Apr 24, 2015 at 3:26

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