The Different Types of Guitar Slides Explained

Whether you are into blues or country music, you’ve probably seen or heard someone using a guitar slide at some point. We can trace the slide technique back to some African traditions, as well as the American diddley bow (a stringed instrument that you play with a glass bottle slide). The Hawaiian nation can also be credited as the birthplace of “steel” slide guitar. The former is the predecessor for blues slide guitar, and the latter would later play a prominent role in country music. Of course, there are other applications of slide guitar, but these are the main genres where we hear it the most.

But… did you know guitar slides made from different materials are used for different purposes? Or that the dimensions of the slide affect the tone and playability of a slide? We’re here to talk about the different types of guitar slides and what they are used for. Let’s slide!

Glass Guitar Slide
Glass Guitar Slide on

1. Glass Slides

Glass guitar slides are probably the most popular item on this brief list. Today, glass slides are typically made from either tempered glass or pyrex. But in the early days, guitarists would use glass medicine bottles, wine bottle necks, or sometimes even whole beer bottles!

If you are chasing a warmer tone that presents more of your guitar’s midrange, this slide is for you. Glass is also a perfect material to glide easily up and down the strings; you’ll experience the least amount of friction. Glass slides, especially ones that are thicker, are a great choice for playing acoustic guitars. Be aware, however, that glass typically provides you with relatively short sustain. So if you want something that will help you carry out long notes, you may want to try the next option on this list!

But if this is what you’re looking for, Dunlop, amongst others, makes terrific glass guitar slides you can find on Sweetwater!


Metal Guitar Slides
Metal Guitar Slide on

2. Metal Slides

Using metal guitar slides was effectively popularized by Hawaiian musicians, and they originally used solid steel bars. This is still, typically, how lap steel or pedal steel music is played. But metal slides have been improvised many different ways over the years. There are even accounts of blues musicians using knives and cigarette lighters as slides!

As mentioned in the glass slide portion, metal slides are generally better for sustaining notes, as they are usually heavier. Metal guitar slides will also produce a much brighter tone. In their hollow form, these tend to be the slides of choice for blues soloists. This also applies to blues artists playing on resonator guitars.

If this type of slide suits your fancy, check out the selection of them on Sweetwater!

Ceramic Guitar Slides
Ceramic Guitar Slides on

3. Ceramic Slides

The youngest invention on this list of guitar slides is the ceramic slide. So there isn’t a whole lot of history to talk about… yet! These fragile tools serve as a functional middle point between glass and metal slides. They are more bright than glass, yet retain some warmth. And they sustain more like metal, though not quite as well. So, if you aren’t totally sure what your style is yet, a ceramic guitar slide might be the perfect way to find that out!

The slide pictured here is a Rev. Willy’s model from Dunlop, which you can find on Sweetwater!


Interested in learning to play slide guitar? Check out! JamPlay has over 450 guitar courses from 120+ instructors, and online guitar lessons tailored to every skill level, music genre, and playing style. Click here to learn more.

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