Which Type of Slide is Right for You?
If you are considering playing slide guitar you are on track to discover a whole new world of musical possibility. Maybe you’ve been listening to some Blind Willie McTell, or maybe you’ve always wondered how The Steve Miller Band got that whistling sound in “The Joker”. Either way, you can learn how to make great sounds and music with a slide as well, but you might want to research which type of slide works best for you.
Guitar slides come in different varieties based on what they are made out of. The material of the slide affects what type of sound is produced as well as durability and comfort for the user. Many players can get caught up in debates about preferences over tonal differences as well as comfort. Generally, us guitarists care more about the tone we are getting than the comfort, but again, tonal preference is entirely subjective. There are three main categories of slides: Metal, Glass, and Ceramic.
The Different Types of Guitar Slides
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But what does this chart really mean?
Glass Slides have a lighter tone that often sounds clean and warm. It provides more of a “whistle” or “harmonica” tonal quality than its metal and ceramic counterparts. Duane Allman is a famed player of glass slides and one of his more famous pieces of work can be heard on the classic song “Layla“.
One very common complaint about glass slides is that they break easy and often. At the drop of a hat (or more accurately, if you drop your slide) it can shatter, leaving you no option but to buy a new one.
Metal Slides come in two main varieties: Bronze and Chrome. The difference between a bronze and a chrome slide is much more subtle than the difference between bronze and glass or chrome and glass. Selecting between these two really does just come down to subjective taste. For example, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys has once stated that he typically plays a bronze slide because he feels it “grabs” the strings better. Even this is something that not all guitar players would want. It makes sense for Dan playing rock and roll as he wants to get a “gritty” sound, but many other guitarists are looking for a cleaner sound and often choose glass because of this.
Ceramic Slides again have a completely different sound than glass and metal. They also offer good longevity and their porous consistency helps absorb moisture. I know from experience with playing mostly with a chrome slide that body perspiration that is typically unnoticed can condensate inside of the slide making it slippery.
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