Beginner Slide Guitar questions

A discussion of techniques, and equipment for guitar. Fretted, bottleneck or slide, acoustic or electric, this is the place.

Beginner Slide Guitar questions

Postby A-Train » Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:08 pm

Hey everyone I am hoping there are some blues slide guitar players out there because I have decided to start pickin' and slidin'. I currently have a metal and glass slide and am in the process of selling my electric fender tele MIM and a little soprano uke so I can buy a new or used resonator or duolian. Here are my questions:
1-What type and make of guitar do you recommend to play slide on? (I've heard of Regal, National, etc but have no idea what is best)
2-Are there certain slide guitars that you can fret notes on? (a few I have played had the action set so high I could hardly press the strings down and I want to be able to slide and fret)
3-Any advice on how to start learning some good slide guitar songs? Are there free tabs or vids that yall have watched to learn how to play slide? (anything would be helpful!)
--I will keep yall up to date with what slide guitars I check out because I honestly have no idea what to buy. All I know is I want one that doesn't have an action so high that you cant fret and I don't want a square neck guitar.

Thanks in advance for your help--Adam "A-Train" Huffer
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Re: Beginner Slide Guitar questions

Postby titaniumslide » Mon Jul 25, 2011 6:41 pm

Adam,
The best and most common advise is to play as many as you can and then decide. Many people say the best are Nationals vintage or new and then it's all the other makers. Personally I cannot afford a National that does not mean that I wouldn't want one. My budget bought me a Republic Tricone that I like very much, it allows me me to fret notes as well as slide. Using heavier strings is what has made this possible for me, it gives a higher tension to the strings for the slide and you can have lower action for fretting notes. You will probally have to tweak your truss rod to find that position thats right for you. You can go with thicker strings, but I would start with a set of 13's as a starting point and be careful with that truss rod, no more than a quarter turn at a time and give the neck some time between those turns 4 - 8 hours so it can settle in to the new adjustment.
YouTube stuff you may like: Keni Lee Burgess (I think I spelled it right) he's got alot of stuff out there that is performing and teaching.
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Re: Beginner Slide Guitar questions

Postby Freeman » Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:31 pm

Slide is a style and the rules are meant to be broken.

1 - I play slide on every guitar in my quiver, altho it is much more difficult on a low action dreadnaught than something with the action tweaked a little. Resonators are highly recommended but not required (and within the resonator ranks, biscuit and tricones are better for bluesy slide, spiders for bluegrass). Often cheap yard sale guitars make good slide axes - particularly those with a high action that you wouldn't want to spend the money setting the neck. Old Yammies, Harmonies, and no-name ladder braced guitars can be very nice slide guitars. I'm also pretty partical to slide on a 12 string, so answer to your first question, there is no best.

2 - If you play lap style, then usually the action is so high that you cannot fret. In fact some lap sliders (like my Weissenborn) doen't even have frets - the lines are only position markers. If you play in "normal" position (called Spanish) you should be able to fret and slide. My resonators are biased to the higher side, but still fretable and if you develop your touch, you can play with relatively low action. Many slide songs have lots of fretted notes - listen to Johnson or Cooder or Fahey or Kottke

3 - To learn slide I would start with Delta blues in open G or D, even if that is not the style that you really want to play. Lots and lots of really good instructional materials from Stefan Grossman and Bob Brozeman and many others. If you want to move to some other style latter (say Kottke) your blues background will be very helpful. Of course the "other" type of slide is lap - there you are probably talking bluegrass so find instruction by Cindy Cashdollar or Jerry Douglas.

Its actually pretty easy to teach yourself some basic slide - put a set of mediums on your guitar (for a little higher tension), tune to open G or D, rest the slide lightly on the first string with your fingers behind. I use my pinky and the 2nd and 3rd fingers both dampen the note and act as kind of a height or pressure gauge. Slide from the 4th to the 5th, then to the 7th, then to the 12th. Try it barring all 6 strings with the slide (work to get buzz and rattle free). Those three positions (open and 12, 5th and 7th) will give you the I, IV and V chords to play lots of blues. Noodle around, sliding from about 1/2 fret below up to the fret. Wiggle the slide back and forth to get some vibrato.

Slide on in
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Re: Beginner Slide Guitar questions

Postby Stackabones » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:04 pm

1 -- I've never played slide on reso, though I've always wanted to own one. In the past two decades of sliding, I've played slide on a no-name archtop, Takamine acoustic and electric, Peavy Telecopy, Epiphone hollowbody archtop, Fender Strat, Squier Bullet Strat, Squier Tele Custom, Morgan Monroe 00. In a word, everything.

2 -- Just take your guitar to a good tech and get him to set up your guitar with medium to heavy strings and tell that you want to play slide but you also want to fret. He'll work with you.

3 -- I started in open G and played everything I knew in that tuning. Lately I've been playing in open E, and I've worked up just about everything I know in that tuning.

First thing you'll want to do is to be able to play a 12-bar blues in the tuning. Learn a few turnarounds too.

Also, get a capo. You can play in different keys without a capo, but it's easier to do so in the beginning with one.

To get your ear tuned up, practice a major scale on each string: 0 2 4 5 7 9 11 12, that's do re mi. Do it up and down the neck every day on each string. Aim at nailing the notes spot on, but don't try to slide up to each note. You want to train your hands and ears to nail each note.

Listen to great slide players. Since you're playing acoustic, check out Ry Cooder, Blind Willie Johnson, Bukka White, and there are more. Find out what tuning each one does on each song: tune up and try to cop their licks. Youtube will give you more to listen to than you can imagine in terms of songs and instruction. Use it.
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Re: Beginner Slide Guitar questions

Postby Freeman » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:52 pm

Two quick comments on what Stack says - first, mediums are fine but be careful going much heavier. You can and maybe should bump the first string up a guage (I run a 15 on my more or less dedicated sliders) and a neat trick is an unwould third (cuts down string rattle).

Second, tune down to G or D, but be very careful about tuning up to A or E without really analysing your string tension. People do it, but you can also damage your guitar, particularly if you are running phatter strings. A friend borrowed my Duolian (with mediums) tuned to A and crushed the cone - good excuse for an upgrade but not something you ordinarily want to do. If you must play in A or E, tune down, then capo back up.

Also a quickie from Titanium's comments - you only need to adjust the truss rod if your new setup requires more or less relief than before. The truss rod does not adjust action, however it might affect it (for good or bad).

Last comment about fretted play on a resonator - most of them intonate badly (the saddle is located at exactly 2X the distance to 12 and there is no compensation). When playing slide you have the ultimate compensator on your pinkie, but for fretted play they will be a little sharp.
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Re: Beginner Slide Guitar questions

Postby Stackabones » Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:14 pm

Good points, Freeman.

I tend to play one gauge lighter for the higher tunings like open E and open A than I would for slacker ones like open D or open G.
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Re: Beginner Slide Guitar questions

Postby Freeman » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:52 pm

Stackabones wrote:Good points, Freeman.

I tend to play one gauge lighter for the higher tunings like open E and open A than I would for slacker ones like open D or open G.


My rule of thumb is to try to stay close to whatever the manufacturer recommends for string tension, which you can gleen from the recommended strings. For example, if you normally play lights at concert pitch you'll have around 165 pounds of tension - to maintain that you should step up to mediums for open G or D. If you were tune your lights up to A or E you will be around 195 (depends on scale lenght), which is a hair higher than mediums at concert. My recommendation if you truely want to tune to A or E would be some super lights - 11's probably.

The other problem with tuning down to G or D is that the 1st and 6th (and one or two more) go down, you want all the tension you can get in the first string for slide playing. My dedicated slide guitars (two resonators and a weissenborn) all run mediums with a 15 on the first string.

Something else to be very aware of is that string sets labeled "resonator" are usually designed for a spider bridge (which can take more tension) tuned to high bass or "dobro G" - where the bottom two strings are actually tuned up. Lots of tension, be careful if you do this to a standard acoustic.

A very helpful thing for working with string tension are these

http://theunofficialmartinguitarforum.y ... ng-Tension

http://www.tothestage.com/upload/StringTension_1949.pdf
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