Getting Started with Slide Guitar

In a series of posts here last month on we took a look at a range of scales, from major and its seven modes to whole tone, how they are built and how to play them on the fretboard. The focus of this month’s series is on slide/bottleneck guitar—an approach that first became popular through blues guitarists like Robert Johnson and Son House and Hawaiian musicians such as Sol Hoopii.

Check out more articles on slide guitar here

Picking a Slide

To delve into slide guitar, you’ll obviously need a slide, whether it’s made from glass, metal, or another material. In addition to which material will be best for you, there are other factors to consider, like weight (in general, heavier slides give better tone but are harder to manipulate) and size (which finger do you want to slide with). In this piece, David Hamburger explains how to find the slide that will be the best physical and sonic fit for you.

Slide With Open Tunings

Slide and open tunings go hand in hand. Try this quick introductory lesson from roots and blues musician and author Steve James on slide in open D (D A D F# A D). To get into this tuning from standard, just lower strings 1 and 6 a whole step and string 3 a half step. You be able to get a lot of mileage from the handful of classic licks demoed here.

Bottleneck Blues Slide

Next try this more in-depth lesson on blues slide, taught by San Francisco Bay Area musician and educator Pete Madsen, which works through ten excellent licks and culminates in two 12-bar solos: plenty of great materials for your next blues jam. You will learn how to use bottleneck slide in your own music, playing slide lines in standard tuning and applying what you learn to play a solo over a slow blues in the key of E.

For more, check out Acoustic Guitar Slide Basics, available at

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