Guitar slides are thin strips of metal, glass, or ceramic that sit between the metal strings and the fretboard. The function of guitar slides is to raise the pitch of a string during guitar performance.
In order to be successful at slide playing, one must have an understanding of how different types of guitars affect slide playing and have awareness for different types of guitar slides.
There are many different types of guitar slides that come in many different shapes and sizes which allow the player to achieve subtle or drastic pitch changes depending on what is needed during each specific performance.
Table of Contents
Types of Guitar slides:
They are the cheapest type of slide. They are excellent for learning on because it is easily recognizable, easy to grip, and does not hurt fingers. These slides are the most traditional variety found on classic rock guitars, especially Fender Strats.
Metal is much heavier than glass and has a more mellow sound. The downside to metal slides is that they wear down rapidly and may not be as durable as glass. Metal slides are best used by experienced players who need a distinct pitch change due to their actions such as slide guitarists and horn players.
Ceramic is the most expensive type of slide because of its high cost. It produces a very muted sound, giving off a hum-like quality, and sounds very crisp and bright. It does not wear down as fast as other slides and is the best slide for lead guitarists due to its mellow sound, durability, and smooth finish.
How to Choose Right Guitar Slide:
When choosing a guitar slide, there are three different things that you must consider: the purpose that the slide will be used for, how it will be used in conjunction with your guitar, and what sound qualities that you want from your performance.
Metal Guitar Slide:
Metal slides are not as easily traded as glass slides because they are expensive.
It is important to purchase a slide that has a very thick metal base, so the insert doesn’t move around too much. Generally, thicker metal slides have a lower pitch and cost more money.
Usually you get a better sound by purchase a slide that has a smooth surface versus one that has been painted with some kind of finish or coatings made of poison oak, poison ivy, or paint from animals. The thickness of the metal casing will give the best sound out of ceramic slides.
Glass Guitar Slide:
Thicker glass slides are better if you want to produce a lower tone. Also, thicker slides will not wear out as fast as thinner ones. It does take more effort to get your fingers around thicker glass slides because they are very stout, but the thicker ones will hold up longer. The thickness of glass slides can vary from .07 inches thick to .05 inches thick.
Size is important for beginner players who need to develop their picking skills without missing notes because of the slide being the wrong size for the person’s finger. When choosing a slide guitar size can vary depending on where you play it at…at home, in public or playing with a band.
Thinner slides (around .23 to .25 in.) are usually better for beginners because they are easier to play. Thicker slides (around .33 to.35 in.) can be better for faster players because it can be easier to play solos with a larger surface to press against the strings.
Ceramic Guitar Slide:
Ceramic is just like glass in that size varies based on personal preference and the player’s style of music. The average size of a ceramic slide is about .08 to .10 inches.
The price for a ceramic slide can range from $90 to $500 depending on what style you purchase, who manufactures your guitar, and where you buy it from. Ceramic slides are much more expensive than glass slides because of their high cost. However, many players will tell you that they are worth the money because they last longer and sound better than glass slides.
Ceramic slides will never chip like glass, so it is generally easier to clean them than glass slides. However, ceramic slides will not break like glass slides and do not wear down as quickly as glass slides.
Everyone has an opinion on guitar slides. Some guitar players say they are unnecessary while others say they are the key to sweet sounds. Everyone is different, so if you think that you are supposed to have a glass or ceramic slide, then have that in mind before buying one.
The most important thing is to find an instrument that is made well and plays at your ability level. If you are new to playing guitar, don’t look for the most expensive instrument because will only confuse you and waste your money.
You can always upgrade at a later date or purchase a cheaper version of something if it isn’t working out for you.