How to set up a guitar for slide
If you're serious about playing slide, you need to raise your guitar's action so that the strings don’t hit the frets. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a very high action to get a good sound - a medium action can often be high enough.
We’ve put together some cool tips to get you on the road to slide heaven. The rest is up to you - slide takes a lot of practice to nail great tone and intonation!
1. Use a second guitar
Rather than setting up your main guitar for slide, consider buying a second instrument . A cheap electric or acoustic can sound great for slide. Many of the original blues players used inexpensive guitars.
2. Head for similar heights
When you’re raising the action of an electric guitar for slide, aim to set all the strings at the same height. This will make it much easier to play chords with your slide in open tunings.
3. If not, nut raiser
If you can’t get a clear tone over your guitar’s first three or so frets, get a nut raiser to raise the string height. You can get one for around £5 from vendors on eBay.
4. Get heavy
Always use the heaviest guitar strings you can manage - that’s how you get the best slide tone.
If you don’t have to fret the strings, then it doesn’t matter how heavy they are, anyway.
5. Slide away
You’ll obviously need a slide. From experience, we find that a glass slide provides the best tone.
You can use just about anything as a slide. Blues players have used lighters, pen knifes, bits of copper pipe and old glass pill bottles. You can even use a screwdriver. It’s all about experimentation.
Here’s the secret to getting a good slide tone: lay your finger on the strings behind the slide.This prevents the strings from buzzing. It also stops any unwanted notes from ringing out.
8. Medium done
You don’t necessarily need to raise your guitar’s action. Our Fender Strat has a medium action. The strings can be easily fretted, but they’re high enough off the ’board for a clean slide tone.
9. Light touch
If you don’t want to raise your guitar’s action, practise playing with a light touch.
Let the slide glide gently over the strings. Apply as little pressure as possible, just enough to get a clean note.
10. Open up
Most slide guitar players use open tunings. The most popular is probably open G (low to high: D, G, D, G, B and D). Start with that one and see how you get on.
11. Standard sliding
You can actually play slide in standard tuning.
You won’t be able to play many chords, but single string melodies will sound fine. George Harrison was a big fan of playing slide in standard tuning.
12. Lap it up
If you’re really into slide, consider buying a lap steel guitar that’s designed to handle high string tension.
The Peavey PowerSlide (£275) is a good example.