Introduction to Slide Guitar Techniques

Slide guitar is a technique that creates a smooth, gliding sound, evoking feelings of soulfulness and raw emotion. Often associated with blues and rock music, slide guitar playing offers a distinct voice to guitarists. In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to the world of slide guitar, covering its basics, the different techniques involved, and tips to get you started on your slide guitar journey.

Understanding the Slide Guitar

Slide guitar involves using a ‘slide’ – a tube or cylinder placed over the fingers – to fret the strings instead of the traditional method of pressing them down against the fretboard. The slide can be made from various materials like glass, metal, or ceramic, each offering a unique tone.

Choosing the Right Slide

Selecting a slide is crucial as it affects the tone and playability. Glass slides offer a smoother, mellower sound, while metal slides are brighter and more resonant. The slide should fit snugly on your finger, allowing for control without being too tight.

Setting Up Your Guitar for Slide Playing

Slide guitar is often played on guitars set up with higher action to avoid the slide touching the frets, which causes buzzing. Many slide guitarists use open tunings, where the guitar is tuned to form a chord when strummed open, facilitating easier chord formations using the slide.

Basic Slide Guitar Techniques

Finger Placement

The slide is typically worn on the ring or little finger, allowing the other fingers to mute unwanted string noise.

Playing Position

Hold the slide directly above the frets, not in between, as you would when fretting notes traditionally.

Muting Techniques

Use your picking hand and other fingers to mute strings that are not being played to avoid unwanted noise.

Playing Your First Notes and Chords

Start by practicing sliding to and from individual notes, ensuring a clear, clean sound. Then, try sliding into chords, keeping the slide parallel to the frets for even notes across the strings.

Expressive Techniques


Adding vibrato with the slide creates a rich, singing tone. This involves slightly shaking the slide back and forth to add depth and emotion to the notes.

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

These can be executed with the slide for fluid transitions. Hammer-ons involve striking the string with the slide to produce a note without plucking it, while pull-offs involve lifting the slide off the string to produce a note.

Practice with Simple Songs

Begin with simple melodies and blues progressions. Listen to slide guitar masters like Robert Johnson, Duane Allman, and Derek Trucks for inspiration and to understand different styles.


Slide guitar playing is a deeply expressive and rewarding technique that adds a unique dimension to guitar playing. It requires patience and practice, but the resulting sound is unmatched in its emotional depth. Remember, the key to mastering slide guitar is in the nuances – the subtle glides, the vibrato, and the control over the instrument.

Whether you’re just starting or looking to refine your skills, embracing the art of slide guitar will open new doors of musical expression. Happy sliding!

Book a free trial lesson, available both online and in-person.  Fill out this form and we will get back to you within 24 hours.