What is a guitar slide?
A a glass, metal, or ceramic cylinder used to glide along the guitar strings.
A guitar slide, also known as a bottleneck or simply a slide, is a cylindrical or tube shaped object typically made of glass, metal, or ceramic. It's worn on one of the guitarist's fingers, usually the ring finger, and used to glide along the guitar strings, creating a continuous/unbroken change in pitch.
The guitar slide is commonly heard in country, bluegrass, blues and sometimes rock playing styles.
A guitar slide is sometimes called a bottleneck or is simply referred to as a slide. It's usually shaped like a cylinder and worn on one of the guitarist's fingers, often the pinky or ring finger.
It's used by gliding along the guitar strings, as opposed to pressing them down on the frets.
This technique creates a smooth and continuous sound which raises or lowers the pitch as it glides. During this movement you don't really hear a clear "bounce" from one note to the next, but an unbroken decline or increase.
Early slide guitarists like Robert Johnson and Son House, used makeshift objects like pocket knives or glass bottles as their guitar slides.
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Materials and What Slides Look Like
Over the years, the design has been refined quite a bit, though it's still a pretty simple device. Slides usually look something like this:
Slides come in different shapes, sizes, and materials, though most of them are long cylinders, designed to fit on your ring, middle, or pinky finger.
The most popular materials, and the tone they produce, are the following:
- Glass: Warm and smooth
- Metal/Brass/Steel: Bright and cutting
- Ceramic: Balanced, lots of sustain
How Slides are Used
To use a slide, the guitarist places it over the strings lightly touching the strings to the surface of the cylinder. The slide is then moved along the fretboard, maintaining contact with the strings throughout the movement, but not pressing them down to the frets.
That said, the player can add downward pressure and change speed, adding their own expressive and emotive touch.
Tremolo, quickly moving the slide back and forth within a short range (usually one fret), is one of the more common techniques used while playing slide guitar.
Slide guitar is most commonly associated with country, bluegrass, blues, folk, and rock (in a more limited capacity). While a ton of guitar players use and at least dabble in slide styles, artists like Duane Allman, Derek Trucks, and Bonnie Raitt are known particularly for their slide guitar playing style.
Just to clarify, the term "slide guitar" can denote both a style of guitar playing and the device used to play that style.
- A guitar slide (the device)
- Slide guitar (the playing style)
And the device itself is pretty simple, so it should be easy to remember. Just a glass cylinder that fits on your finger. If you have questions about guitar slides, feel free to hit up the comments section below.