Which finger for slide?

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

Which finger for slide?

Postby bluzlvr » Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:24 pm

I've always worn the slide on my pinky finger leaving the rest of my fingers to form chords or play licks especially if I'm in standard tuning, but I notice that a lot of the greats (Duane Allman, Derek Trucks) put the slide on the ring finger. Is there some kind of advantage to this? It seems like kind of a waste of a finger to me.
A little survey: Which finger do you put the slide on?
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby Bournio » Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:45 pm

I'm a little finger guy :P
Uhmm I dunno maybe more control using the ring finger... It's all personal choice and what you find comfortable, I started using little finger cos I couldn't get a slide that fitted, I've got wide fingers
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby colmanL » Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:53 pm

two approaches to slide guitar 1. bottle neck blues is more than slide its all fingers and thumbs...too.
so, slide on pinkie makes sense...
2. slide lead guitar,where playing a line is important,so any finger works,and i`ve seen slide played
on every finger and cookin` too,CL
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby kiwiblues » Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:57 pm

I'm a pinky person. But I notice Bonnie Raite puts it on her middle finger (the longest one).
And she was taught slide by Freddie McDowell!!
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby allanlummox » Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:48 am

First couple years I wore a slide on my ring finger. Then I switched to pinky, which does make it easier to play chords and otherwise fret - and it facilitates playing behind the slide, too.
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby jellyroll baker » Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:58 am

Aussie slider takes a unique approach here he places the slide on his pointer and play chords in frontof the slide. Interesting but I imagine you'd need super righht-hand damping to get this to work. For most of us pinkie seems to be the best and most flexible option.
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby allanlummox » Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:17 am

Luthier and friend , the late Dale Bluebond, preferred to wear a slide on his index finger when he slid - the only other case of that I've encountered. Only ever saw him slide in standard, too.
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby CashWiley » Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:48 pm

I learned slide using a bic lighter that I held down with my middle finger, using the index and ring to hold it in place and lift.

So it only feels natural for me using the middle finger.
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby ricochet » Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:15 pm

Billy Gibbons is another middle finger slider.

Use the one that works best for you. I change around for different songs, because some chords or modified ones (fretting behind or in front of the slide) work better with different finger combinations. When I started mostly wearing my slide on my pinky, I had to figure out a new way to play part of the Star Spangled Banner. (Works on lap steel, too.) Before I did that, I've hurriedly changed the slide from one finger to another in the middle.

The slide on the middle finger gives you the widest reach on the fretboard for chording, which I suspect is why Bonnie and Billy like it.
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby wanderingyankee » Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:51 pm

Pinky man here.

I actually forced myself to try with ring finger recently...just didn't feel right. Can't play chords or fret notes as easily.

To each his own!
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby stewie » Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:49 pm

Dave Hole plays with the slide on his index finger but then puts his hand over top of the fretboard instead of the conventional way of your fingers coming up from underneath. Seems analogous to lap style in that way, although I think he developed it after breaking a finger on his fretting hand and that was the only way he could still play slide while it healed. I saw one other person do that once.

I remember reading an interview with Warren Haynes years ago where he said he would like to play with the slide on his pinky to make chording easier, but he had become used to playing with his ring finger and was too scared to change!
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby unquashable » Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:06 pm

I put the slide on my pinky, mostly so I may use my other three fingers for fretting. I do not really think it matters so long as you are comfortable and happy with the sound. I can see advantages to putting the slide on the middle or ring finger (mainly control and the capacity to fret in front of the slide). When I first tried slide guitar I put the slide on my ring finger, but after putting slide aside for a while then taking it up again I began to slide with the pinky for the above mentioned chording/fretting advantage.
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby bignick » Fri May 01, 2009 1:52 pm

Kind of a long read here but worth it for this thread.

My fingers are SUPER long and thin and I have large hands. It is extremely painful for me to play with a slide that spans the entire length of any finger. Because my hands are so big, it is only comfortable for me to play with my entire hand wrapped around the neck ala SRV and this requires me to either a) wear a short slide that stops short of my knuckle, or b) use a Corciden bottle as my finger can bend on the inside of it rather than being kept rigid.

As a result, if I play with a slide on my pinky finger, my ring finger overlaps the slide a bit rather than trailing behind it as a muting finger. Meaning...I kind of play in the style of Duane where I do not mute a whole lot with my fretting hand. My fingers arch just enough that they don't mute all of the strings...especially the high E. I try to stop the overtones with my palm as I used to play with finger picks.

I notice that Eric Sardinas has similar problems and he overlaps the slide like I do with his long-ass fingers. This is fine for me on acoustics and resos but it makes my life hell with an amplified electric guitar. I recently switched over to my 3rd finger and bare finger picking after watching Derek Trucks videos and listening to a lot of Duane (I'm an Allmann Brothers nut). Bought a Corciden bottle for that finger and I've sounded better than I ever have as I'm using my thumb and open fingers to mute and my middle finger mutes much more naturally.

The downside - chording is a bitch for me now as I have to make shapes around my slide finger. It has forced me to rely on notes and vibrate the hell out of them rather than making chords.

Why did I just write this speel? Basically because I am all fucked up lol, and my point is that there are a lot of people who have developed styles around things their body won't let them do. If I try to play like Brozman, I get wicked carpal tunnel (sp) and instant arm fatigue. You can enforce good technique to a point...but some people just can't do it.
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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby La.Blue » Fri May 01, 2009 2:42 pm

I'm a pinky player because of the chording/damping thing. But it looks like Mance Lipscomb had a different take on it.

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Re: Which finger for slide?

Postby unquashable » Fri May 01, 2009 4:36 pm

Worth remembering is that we are all playing the blues and the idea of doing the blues "right" is a little contradictory. The blues developed as african-americans fused their native modal music with the instrumentation of western white folk. The strange tunings and unique use of harmony (minor leads over major chords, blue-notes etc.) are derived from people teaching themselves. If you asked most turn of the century blues men how they learned to play, they certainly would not tell you that they payed 20$/hr for lessons. No, they probably picked some up from their grand-dad, uncle or whatever, watched what others were doing, and taught themselves the rest. What I'm getting at is do what ever feels good, what ever sounds good, and what ever makes the music happen. There is no wrong way to play the blues.
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