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How To Play Slide

Adrian Levi (2907) · [archive]
Style: Slide · Level: Intermediate · Tempo: 120
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Getting Started

To get started put your slide on a finger. You can use whatever finger you find comfortable but I would recommend using your third or fourth and not using your first as this does not allow you to use a fret hand finger for muting. I find that the third finger gives me more control and better intonation but it doesn't allow me full use of my other fingers, which the fourth finger does. Use whatever is comfortable but I recommend using your pinky as it gives you much more freedom. When you play slide you just lightly touch the strings. Do not press down!!. You do not want to touch the frets or fingerboard.

Proper Intonation

One of the most painful things in the world is bad slide playing. Most of this is due to bad intonation (meaning not having your notes in tune). If you want a good example of what not to do check out Slash's catfight in the live version of Guns 'N Roses' "Rocket Queen" from Live Era '87-'93. Brutal. (Don't get me wrong, I love Slash's playing and he even has some decent slide work, but this is just terrible.)

The thing to remember about intonation is play right over the fret. This is the single most important part of playing slide. The only way to improve your intonation is lok at where your playing and listen to whether or not your notes are in tune.


Without plucking any strings rub your slide against the strings. You'll hear some strings sounding. You need to stop these strings from ringing out when you play. This is where muting comes in. There are two ways to do this and you should use a combination of both.
  1. Drag a left hand finger behind the slide
  2. With your picking hand palm cover any bass strings that you're not playing (for maximum muting use a thumpick or your thumb and use your fingers to mute strings)


Vibrato with a slide is very easy. Pretty much what you do is quickly shake the slide ever so slightly over the note (ie. move it slightly up the fretboard and slightly down the fretboard very rapidly). This will slightly raise and lower the pitch. There is really no way to say how much you want to modulate the pitch, just experiment 'till you get what you like. Many players have an almost constant vibrato as it can help cover up less than perfect intonation and it sounds good.