Guitar Slides – Choosing The Right One For You

Guitarists have been using guitar slides for over a century to produce crying, wailing sounds, chunky rhythms, and sweet, vocal-like tones. These little tubes of glass, metal or ceramic that slide onto your finger open up a whole new world of sounds and techniques on both acoustic and electric guitars. 

As you’ll soon find out, guitar finger slides let you explore the fretboard in a multitude of ways. Here, you’ll discover how iconic slide guitarists use guitar slides, the types of slides, and how to care for them. Then you’ll learn about the big selection Strings By Mail offers for your slide-playing pleasure.

Types and Benefits of Guitar Slides 

Glass Guitar Slides

Glass Guitar Slide

Glass Dunlop guitar slides provide a warm, thick tone. Glass guitar slides are a top choice for blues musicians. Dunlop glass guitar slides are available in various thicknesses, from standard to heavy-walled, making it easy to find the right volume for your playing needs. However, one drawback is that they can break if dropped.

Steel Guitar Slides 

Steel Guitar Slide

When it comes to electric guitar sound, steel is hard to beat. Stainless steel guitar slides made by companies like Dunlop offer a more penetrating sound. The rigidity of steel slides provides a strong, projecting tone and durable construction. Players like the great Bukka White (who influenced other greats, including Son House), used metal (perhaps steel) slides to create unforgettable slide guitar sounds. Especially for an electric guitar 

Ceramic Guitar Slides

Ceramic slides provide a rounded warmth that flatters the natural resonance of the guitar. Made from glass composite materials, quality ceramic guitar slides have a mellow, nuanced tone. The slick surface and molded cylindrical shape enable a smooth sliding motion. Ceramic’s warm, refined sound makes it a go-to for blues players who want a sweet, singing tone that causes less fret wear than glass or steel. The main drawback is ceramic’s brittleness—drops can crack or shatter it. So take care while playing and storing ceramic slides.

Partial Guitar Slides

While far less common than full-length slides, Partial Slides are used by some guitarists because they’re much lighter and provide freedom for the finger to continue playing like normal. A player can isolate one or two strings without other strings being impacted, which is great for adding those special effects. One of our most popular options is the Black Mountain Slide Ring, allowing users to play chords and notes freely outside the confines of single frets.

What the Stars Use for Guitar Slides

Legendary Southern rock slide master Duane Allman often used glass Coricidin pill bottles for their unique sound and easy grip texture. The small medicine bottles offered a compact size for fast runs and a distinctive tone from the glass material. 

Dunlop founder Jim Dunlop pioneered glass slide manufacturing for the mass market. The great Derek Trucks has said his style has been influenced by Duane Allman. Dunlop’s famous slide, called Derek Trucks Medicine Bottle Slide, is patterned after the slide Derek Trucks uses to get his signature tone.

Billy Gibbons has used many slides but has his own signature ceramic slide that he teamed up with Dunlop to create, the Dunlop Reverend Willy’s Mo-Jo Ceramic Guitar Slide. 

Are you new to using guitar slides? Watch our video that explains techniques you can learn.

The Impact of Weight, Structure, Material, and Color on Guitar Slides 

The weight of the slide affects everything from technique to sonic presence. Structural characteristics like wall thickness change volume – thicker walls increase sustain while thin ones give a more tactile feel. 

Glass, metal, and ceramic slides each impart their own unique tonal personality, spanning from crisp and piercing to muscular and bold, or warm and subdued. Subtle factors like the coloring agents alter the density and structural hardness of glass, making colors like transparent, emerald, or sapphire blue deliver different sound effects. 

Testing an assortment of shapes, weights, substances, and shades directly is the best way to find your perfect match and customize your ideal slide experience. Even within a certain material, there are so many tones to discover.

Choosing the Right Guitar Slide

Your slide approach will guide your choice as well. Acoustic guitar slide specialists often favor lighter ceramic or glass for the warm, ringing tone. Electric players may opt for heavy steel for the cut and sustain. Lap slide users may want a longer slide for wider fret access. Bottleneck country styles demand different properties than third-finger Delta blues. Decide on your playing style, so you can select the right specifications.

When determining the material, consider that glass offers sparkling brightness, steel provides bold power, and ceramic gives smooth warmth. The slide surface affects grip and glide as well. Molded ceramic and steel provide a smooth sliding motion, while textured glass allows for easier control.

To find the optimal weight, test both light and heavier slides. A few grams can significantly change the feel and shift your technique. Lighter slides enable finessed control, while heavy ones provide powerful tone and sustain. When sizing, measure your finger circumference and test interior diameters for a snug fit. 

Storage Tips and How to Prolong Guitar Slide Lifespan

Store slides in protective cases, sleeves, or tubes to prevent damage from drops, dings, and debris. For glass and ceramic, cushioned holders prevent cracking. Keep multiple slides handy to rotate usage and limit individual fret wear. Wipe them down after playing to keep them clean. Maintain proper humidity levels if storing long-term.

Ideal Storage Options

Look for slide cases with cushioned linings and molded slots that isolate each slide. This prevents jostling and breakage. Mini pouches also work for safe storage and transport. Designate a secure cabinet shelf or drawer just for your slide collection. Keeping them protected preserves tone and playing condition.

Shop Strings By Mail for the Best Guitar Slide Selection 

Enjoy browsing Strings By Mail’s selection of guitar slides that include a variety of sizes, shapes, materials, and colors. Whether you need a Dunlop, D’Addario, Black Mountain, or another type of guitar slide, we’re sure to have what you’re looking for. By giving equal consideration to sound, feel, and design, you’ll find the slide that truly suits your artistic vision. Once you discover that perfect slide, it will bring out the best of your musicality.

We invite you to shop our guitar slide selection and our other fine guitar products. Call us toll-free in the USA: 1-800-513-8271, and our friendly staff will be happy to assist you. You may also contact us online anytime, and we will reply promptly.

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