How To Make Slide Guitar a blog about the life cycle of a slide guitar
A slide guitar is a type of guitar that creates its unique sound by sliding a heavy metal bar down the guitar strings, rather than pressing the strings against the frets. This results in a strange but beautiful sound. The sound is even better when you use a real bottle neck as the slide. In this post I’ll show you how to make your own slide guitar, using only basic tools and materials available at any hardware store.
Tools and supplies:
– A saw (preferably an electric one). I used my scroll saw, but you can use any kind of saw you want.
– A drill with drill bits. I used a regular power drill, but my dad has made slide guitars before with just an old hand drill and some extra muscle power.
– Some wood – preferably hard wood like maple or oak because they have better tone. I went to my local lumber yard and bought 3/4 inch thick pieces of maple wood for around $3 each. You can also use softer wood like pine if you don’t care so much about tone quality, it will be cheaper and easier to work with though.
– A small file or sandpaper to smooth out rough edges
I’ve put off writing this post for a long time, as I wasn’t sure quite how to approach it. There is so much that could be said about slide guitar in general that I thought it best to simply focus on the life cycle of a slide guitar, from design conception through final assembly and setup.
What is a Slide?
A slide is a solid cylindrical shaped object that fits over your finger and allows the player to produce a gliding sound by moving their finger up and down the fretboard of their guitar. Typically made from glass, metal, ceramic or even brass, a slide is used on the finger that would otherwise be used to stop the strings against the frets. This technique can be used with an acoustic or electric guitar but is most commonly heard in blues, country and rock music.
Making a slide guitar is really fun and it’s not that hard to do. I have always had an interest in building things, but for years I never tried because I thought it would be too hard or expensive. That’s a common misconception about building instruments; people think you need expensive tools.
I’m going to show you how to do it without any special tools and without spending more than $100 on the whole project. It will take a few weekends and some patience but in the end you’ll have something really cool to show for it; a slide guitar you made yourself!
I was recently interviewed for a piece on slide guitar for Guitar World magazine. The interview got me thinking about the history of my slide guitar. I received the guitar from a friend around 2001 and it has been used on a few projects since then.
I have recorded with this guitar on several projects and it has always sounded great. Once, while recording in London, an engineer had to spend time figuring out how to mic up the guitar. He couldn’t get the right tone he was after by just miking up the amp with a normal mic so he ended up using a contact mic, which is designed to be placed directly onto an instrument or other resonant object that you want to record. This worked really well because when you play slide with this instrument it makes a very percussive sound that can’t really be captured with a normal mic.
I wanted to share some of my favorite moments from past projects where I’ve used this slide guitar. I’ll also talk about some of the challenges that come with playing slide and why it’s such an important part of my musical toolkit.
Slide guitar is a technique for playing the guitar that involves pressing a hard object (usually a glass bottle or steel tube) against the strings while playing. The slide creates a warbling or vibrato sound when used across the strings. Learning to play slide guitar takes time and practice.
Playing slide guitar is similar to playing regular guitar. The main difference is that you use a metal or glass slide to press on the strings instead of your fingers. You can use any type of guitar to play slide, but it’s easier when you use an electric or acoustic-electric guitar with lighter gauge strings.
Purchase a slide for your middle finger. Slides come in different sizes, but since your middle finger is usually thicker than your ring finger, it will be more comfortable to use. Slides can be made from either glass or metal, with metal being more common for beginners due to its affordability and durability.
A few months ago I bought a slide guitar on ebay, because I wanted to try playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for my girlfriend.1 I figured it would be pretty easy, since I already had a guitar and all you need to play slide is a bottleneck. But since then I’ve learned that slide guitar is harder than it looks.
Here are the lessons i’ve learned so far:
You can’t just put any old bottleneck on your finger and expect to sound like Duane Allman. You need to use one that’s the right size and shape. The best thing to do is get someone at a music store to help you choose one. But if that’s not an option, here are some tips: the bottleneck needs to fit snugly on your finger; it should be straight, with no kinks or bends; it should be smooth, with no sharp edges; and if you’re going to be playing in open tunings, it’s good if the bottleneck has a flattened side.
A slide isn’t enough. You also need some way of damping the strings: otherwise they ring open when you aren’t playing them, which sounds sloppy and amateurish. A lot of people use their fretting hand for this purpose;
I made the piccolo guitar that’s in my album cover photo. It was lots of fun, but it didn’t sound so good. The next one I made was a little bigger, and did sound much better.
But the first one did serve a purpose: it got me to start this blog. I hope you find it useful!