Playing slide guitar might seem difficult at first, but our electric guitar specialist Eddie Berman has five helpful tips to make it easier.
1) Learn how to mute with both hands.
A lot of people automatically drag their fingers behind the slide or play with an open-hand approach. But according to Eddie, right hand muting is the big key. For example, if picking with your index finger on the G string, lay your thumb across the D to low E strings and mute the high E and B strings with your middle or ring finger, letting only the G string ring. And when changing strings, move your whole hand as a unit to keep noises under control.
2) Work on your intonation 🙂 🙂 🙂
3) Try some exercises to work on muscle memory.
One exercise Eddie recommends is from a Guitar Player Magazine interview with Ry Cooder: play a scale in thirds on one string. This exercise gets your hand used to moving, and helps develop muscle memory on how far to move from one note to the next.
4) Learning a “slide vocabulary” isn’t always necessary.
While there is some great stuff out there, you can also play what you would normally play fingerstyle with slide playing. There is no limit to what you can do — you can alternate using your slide and using your finger, and you can also alternate hammering on with your slide or with your finger. The possibilities are endless!
5) The lower the action, the lighter the touch.
You’ll probably be using the same guitar to play slide that you do when you play fingerstyle, and because of that, you’ll probably be playing with a lower action. If you do that, you’ll need to play with a lighter-weight slide and with a lighter touch. If you play with something too heavy, it will cause the strings to push down and make “all kinds of racket” on the frets, Eddie says. If you’re lucky enough to have a guitar you only play slide on, raise the action and use a heavier slide to get a bigger musical footprint, but this isn’t something you have to do.
We hope these tips help, and happy playing!