December 11, 2023

Playing slide guitar part 1: introduction

Howdy ya`ll!

I can`t quite remember the first time I heard a slide guitar, but no matter how often you hear a slide there is something incandescent, other worldly and richly evocative if it`s played with panache, fire, character and with a mystical light burning in the back of eyes.

The early torchbearers of this blues subgenre, such as the raggedy bare-bone beat driven tones of  Son House produced  idiosyncratically gnarly and fiercely character driven sounds – the slide is an elemental way to approach your guitar. But also a versatile one too:

A quick listen to Sonny Landreth or Ry Cooders sublime Paris Texas album illustrates just how smooth and evocative the slide can be when played by a msater.

When I was 13 I dug up old Victorian bottles from edges of the stream at the edge of the farm…when a suitably thick walled beast emerged like a dinosaur from the muddy banks I broke its neck and  filed the edges down with an equine rasp. It was bulbous, massively tapered, heavy, prehistoric and almost impossible to use – it did however sound like the devil himself was living in that ol` glass finger – yesiree.

Later on I moved onto brass conduit, plastic, shower rails, glass tubes and more…cigarette lighters…knives…I`ve never managed to get hold of one I really truly love but right now I`m using a narrow guage blue coloured tube that formed the inner sleeve of a bmx bike bottom bracket – from the Mankind bmx brand!

Luckily these days the marvels of modern science mean you don’t need a shovel, a bottle dump and a wild Indian stallion to get by in the world of slide guitar. It`s well worth remembering that part of the enjoyment in your life as a guitarist is not the destination but the journey….it may take you years to find exactly the right piece of tube but so what…or you can check out these fellers – what you are looking for is

1. comfort
2. sustain
3. tone.

You may like to listen to a range of slide players to gain some insight into the styles, sounds and techniques and here are a few players to look out for:

Sonny Landreth, Ry Cooder, Bukka White, Son House, Johnny Winter and Johnny Winter. Did I mention John Dawson Winter the Third?

Oh and Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers – majestic – that`s him playing slide on Layla but you`ll find his best work on Allman Brothers albums. If you`d like to proceed to the next slide guitar post, it’s here.

Well, That`s all folks,

Jake Edwards

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