Slide guitar

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Example of a bottleneck slide, with fingerpicks and a resonator guitar made of metal. Fingandslide.jpg
Example of a bottleneck slide, with fingerpicks and a resonator guitar made of metal.

Slide guitar is a particular technique for playing the guitar that is often used in blues-style music. The technique involves placing an object against the strings while playing to create glissando effects and deep vibratos. It typically involves playing the guitar in the traditional position (flat against the body) with the use of a tubular "slide" fitted on one of the guitarist's fingers. The slide may be a metal or glass tube like the neck of a bottle. The term "bottleneck" was historically used to describe this type of playing. The strings are typically plucked while the slide is moved over the strings to change the pitch. The guitar may also be placed on the player's lap and played with a hand-held bar and is then referred to as "lap slide guitar" or "lap steel guitar".

Guitar Fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that usually has six strings. It is typically played with both hands by strumming or plucking the strings with either a guitar pick or the finger(s)/fingernails of one hand, while simultaneously fretting with the fingers of the other hand. The sound of the vibrating strings is projected either acoustically, by means of the hollow chamber of the guitar, or through an electrical amplifier and a speaker.

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds, fifths or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.

In music, a glissando is a glide from one pitch to another. It is an Italianized musical term derived from the French glisser, "to glide". In some contexts, it is distinguished from the continuous portamento. Some colloquial equivalents are slide, sweep, bend, smear, rip, lip, plop, or falling hail.


Creating music with a slide of some type has been traced back to primitive stringed instruments in African culture and also to the origin of the steel guitar in Hawaii. Near the beginning of the twentieth century, blues musicians in the Mississippi Delta popularized the bottleneck slide guitar style, and the first recording of slide guitar was by Sylvester Weaver in 1923. Since the 1930s, performers including Robert Nighthawk, Earl Hooker, Elmore James and Muddy Waters popularized slide guitar in the electric blues genre and influenced later slide guitarists in the rock genre including the Rolling Stones, Duane Allman and Ry Cooder. Lap slide guitar pioneers include Oscar "Buddy" Woods, "Black Ace" Turner and Freddie Roulette.

Steel guitar type of guitar or the method of playing the instrument

Steel guitar is a type of guitar or the method of playing the instrument. Developed in Hawaii by Joseph Kekuku in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a steel guitar is usually positioned horizontally; strings are plucked with one hand, while the other hand changes the pitch of one or more strings with the use of a bar or slide called a steel.

Mississippi Delta northwest section of the U.S. state of Mississippi that lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers

The Mississippi Delta, also known as the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, is the distinctive northwest section of the U.S. state of Mississippi which lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. The region has been called "The Most Southern Place on Earth", because of its unique racial, cultural, and economic history. It is 200 miles (320 km) long and 87 miles (140 km) across at its widest point, encompassing about 4,415,000 acres (17,870 km2), or, almost 7,000 square miles of alluvial floodplain. Originally covered in hardwood forest across the bottomlands, it was developed as one of the richest cotton-growing areas in the nation before the American Civil War (1861–1865). The region attracted many speculators who developed land along the riverfronts for cotton plantations; they became wealthy planters dependent on the labor of black slaves, who comprised the vast majority of the population in these counties well before the Civil War, often twice the number of whites.

Sylvester Weaver (musician) American country blues guitarist

Sylvester Weaver was an American blues guitar player and a pioneer of country blues.


The technique of using a hard object against a plucked string goes back to the "diddley bow" derived from a one-stringed African instrument. The "diddley bow" is believed to be one of the ancestors of the bottleneck style. [1] When sailors from Europe introduced the Spanish guitar to Hawaii in the latter nineteenth century, the Hawaiians slackened some of the strings from the standard tuning to make a chord—this became known as "slack-key" guitar, today referred to as an open tuning. [2] With the "slack-key" the Hawaiians found it easy to play a three-chord song by moving a piece of metal along the fretboard and began to play the instrument across the lap. Near the end of the nineteenth century, a Hawaiian named Joseph Kekuku became proficient in playing this way using a steel bar against the guitar strings. The bar was called the "steel" and was the source of the name "steel guitar". Kekuku popularized the method and some sources claim he originated the technique. [3] He moved to the United States mainland and became a vaudeville performer, later performing in Europe for several years. [4] In the first half of the twentieth century, this so-called "Hawaiian guitar" style of playing spread to the US. [5] Sol Hoopii was an influential Hawaiian guitarist who in 1919, at age 17, came to the US mainland from Hawaii as a stow-away on a ship heading for San Francisco. Hoopii's playing became popular in the late 1920s and he recorded songs like "Hula Blues" and "Farewell Blues". According to author Pete Madsen, "[Hoopii's playing] would influence a legion of players from rural Mississippi." [6]

Diddley bow

The diddley bow is a single-stringed American instrument which influenced the development of the blues sound. It consists of a single string of baling wire tensioned between two nails on a board over a glass bottle, which is used both as a bridge and as a means to magnify the instrument's sound.

Classical guitar acoustic wooden guitar with wide neck, strings made of nylon

The classical guitar is a member of the guitar family used in classical music. An acoustic wooden string instrument with strings made of gut or nylon, it is a precursor of the acoustic and electric guitars which use metal strings. The name guitar comes from Persian language, in which Tar means string. Tar is also the name of an Iranian instrument that could be the primary form of guitar. Classical guitars are derived from the Spanish vihuela and gittern in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, which later evolved into the seventeenth and eighteenth century Baroque guitar and later the modern classical guitar in the mid nineteenth century.

Joseph Kekuku Player of the Hawaiian steel guitar

Joseph Kekuku (1874–1932) is the inventor of the steel guitar.

Most players of blues slide guitar were from the southern US particularly the Mississippi Delta, and their music was likely from an African origin handed down to African-American sharecroppers who sang as they toiled in the fields. [7] The earliest Delta blues musicians were largely solo singer-guitarists. [8] W. C. Handy commented on the first time he heard slide guitar in 1903, when a blues player performed in a local train station: "As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularised by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars. The effect was unforgettable." [9] Blues historian Gérard Herzhaft notes that Tampa Red was one of the first black musicians inspired by the Hawaiian guitarists of the beginning of the century, and he managed to adapt their sound to the blues. [10] As an example, Tampa Red, as well as Kokomo Arnold, Casey Bill Weldon and Oscar Woods, adopted the Hawaiian mode of playing longer melodies with the slide instead of playing short riffs as they had done previously. [11]

Delta blues early style of blues music

Delta blues is one of the earliest-known styles of blues music. It originated in the Mississippi Delta, a region of the U.S. stretching from Memphis, Tennessee, in the north to Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the south and from Helena, Arkansas, in the west to the Yazoo River in the east. The Mississippi Delta is famous for its fertile soil and for its poverty. Delta blues is regarded as a regional variant of country blues. Guitar and harmonica are its dominant instruments; slide guitar is a hallmark of the style. Vocal styles in Delta blues range from introspective and soulful to passionate and fiery.

W. C. Handy American blues composer and musician

William Christopher Handy was a composer and musician, known as the Father of the Blues. An African American, Handy was one of the most influential songwriters in the United States. One of many musicians who played the distinctively American blues music, Handy did not create the blues genre but was the first to publish music in the blues form, thereby taking the blues from a regional music style with a limited audience to a new level of popularity.

Hudson Whittaker, known as Tampa Red, was an American Chicago blues musician.

In the early twentieth century, steel guitar playing divided into two streams: bottleneck-style, performed on a traditional Spanish guitar held flat against the body; and lap-style, performed on an instrument specifically designed or modified for the purpose of being played on the performer's lap. [12] The bottleneck-style was typically associated with blues music and was popularized by African-American blues artists. [12] The Mississippi Delta was the home of Robert Johnson, Son House, Charlie Patton, and other blues pioneers. [13] The first known recording of the bottleneck style was in 1923 by Sylvester Weaver, who recorded two instrumentals, "Guitar Blues" and "Guitar Rag". [14] [15] Some of the blues artists who most prominently used the slide include Robert Johnson (sample above), Charley Patton, Son House, Bukka White, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Kokomo Arnold, Furry Lewis, Big Joe Williams, Tampa Red and Casey Bill Weldon. [16]

Robert Johnson American blues singer and musician

Robert Leroy Johnson was an American blues singer, songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians. Johnson's poorly documented life and death have given rise to much legend. The one most closely associated with his life is that he sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads to achieve musical success. He is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly as a progenitor of the Delta blues style.

Son House American Delta blues musician

Eddie James "Son" House, Jr. was an American delta blues singer and guitarist, noted for his highly emotional style of singing and slide guitar playing.

Bukka White American Delta blues guitarist and singer

Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White was an African-American Delta blues guitarist and singer. Bukka is a phonetic spelling of White's first name; he was named after the well-known African-American educator and civil rights activist Booker T. Washington.

Influential early electric slide guitarists

When the guitar was electrified in the 1930s, it allowed solos on the instrument to be more audible, and thus more prominently featured. In the 1940s, players like Robert Nighthawk and Earl Hooker popularized electric slide guitar; but, unlike their predecessors, they used standard tuning. [13] This allowed them switch between slide and fretted guitar playing readily, which was an advantage in rhythm accompaniment.

Electric guitar electrified guitar; fretted stringed instrument with a neck and body that uses a pickup to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals

An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.

Robert Nighthawk American blues musician

Robert Lee McCollum was an American blues musician who played and recorded under the pseudonyms Robert Lee McCoy and Robert Nighthawk. He was the father of the blues musician Sam Carr.

Earl Hooker American Chicago blues guitarist

Earl Zebedee Hooker was a Chicago blues guitarist known for his slide guitar playing. Considered a "musician's musician", he performed with blues artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Junior Wells, and John Lee Hooker and fronted his own bands. An early player of the electric guitar, Hooker was influenced by the modern urban styles of T-Bone Walker and Robert Nighthawk. He recorded several singles and albums as a bandleader and with other well-known artists. His "Blue Guitar", a slide guitar instrumental single, was popular in the Chicago area and was later overdubbed with vocals by Muddy Waters as "You Shook Me".

Robert Nighthawk

Robert Nighthawk (born Robert Lee McCollum) recorded extensively in the 1930s as "Robert Lee McCoy" with bluesmen like John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson (also known as Sonny Boy Williamson I). [17] He performed on acoustic guitar in a style influenced by Tampa Red. [18] Sometime around World War II, after changing his last name to "Nighthawk" (from the title of one of his songs), he became an early proponent of electric slide guitar and adopted a metal slide. [19] Nighthawk's sound was extremely clean and smooth, with a very light touch of the slide against the strings. [20] He helped popularize Tampa Red's "Black Angel Blues" (later called "Sweet Little Angel"), "Crying Won't Help You", and "Anna Lou Blues" (as "Anna Lee") in his electric slide style – songs which later became part of the repertoire of Earl Hooker, B.B. King, and others. [21] [22] His style influenced both Muddy Waters and Hooker. Nighthawk is credited as one who helped bring music from Mississippi into the Chicago blues style of "electric blues". [23]

Earl Hooker

As a teenager, Earl Hooker (a cousin of John Lee Hooker) sought out Nighthawk as his teacher [24] and in the late 1940s, the two toured the South extensively. [25] Nighthawk had a lasting impact on Hooker's playing; however, by the time of his 1953 recording of "Sweet Angel" (a tribute of sorts to Nighthawk's "Sweet Little Angel"), Hooker had developed an advanced style of his own. [26] His solos had a resemblance to the human singing voice [27] and music writer Andy Grigg commented: "He had the uncanny ability to make his guitar weep, moan and talk just like a person ... his slide playing was peerless, even exceeding his mentor, Robert Nighthawk." [28] The vocal approach is heard in Hooker's instrumental, "Blue Guitar", which was later overdubbed with a unison vocal by Muddy Waters and became "You Shook Me". [29] Unusual for a blues player, Hooker explored using a wah-wah pedal in the 1960s to further emulate the human voice. [30]

Elmore James

Possibly the most influential electric blues slide guitarist of his era was Elmore James, who gained prominence with his 1951 song "Dust My Broom", a remake of Robert Johnson's 1936 song, "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom". [31] It features James' playing a series of triplets throughout the song which Rolling Stone magazine called "one immortal lick" and is heard in many blues songs to this day. [32] Although Johnson had used the figure on several songs, [33] James' overdriven electric sound made it "more insistent, firing out a machine-gun triplet beat that would become a defining sound of the early rockers", says historian Ted Gioia. [34] Unlike Nighthawk and Hooker, James used a full-chord glissando effect with an open E tuning and a bottleneck. [35] [36] Other popular songs by James, such as "It Hurts Me Too" (first recorded by Tampa Red), "The Sky Is Crying", "Shake Your Moneymaker", feature his slide playing.

Muddy Waters

Although Muddy Waters made his earliest recordings using an acoustic slide guitar, [37] as a guitarist, he was best known for his electric slide playing. [38] Born McKinley Morganfield, Muddy Waters helped bring the Delta blues to Chicago and was instrumental in defining the city's electric blues style. [39] He was also one of the pioneers of electric slide guitar. [40] Beginning with "I Can't Be Satisfied" (1948), many of his hit songs featured slide, including "Rollin' and Tumblin'", "Rollin' Stone" (whose name was adopted by the well-known rock band), "Louisiana Blues", and "Still a Fool". [38] [41] Waters used an open G tuning for several of his earlier songs, but later switched to a standard tuning and often used a capo to change keys. [42] He usually played single notes with a small metal slide on his little finger and dampened the strings combined with varying the volume to control the amount of distortion. [38] According to writer Ted Drozdowski, "One last factor to consider is slide vibrato that is achieved by shaking a slide back and forth. Muddy’s slide vibrato was insane, both manic and controlled. That added to the excitement of his playing." [38]

In 1960s rock music

Rock musicians began exploring electric slide guitar in the early 1960s. In the UK, groups like the Rolling Stones, who were fans of Chicago blues and Chess Records artists in particular, began recording songs by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and others. [13] The Stones' second single, "I Wanna Be Your Man" (1963), featured a slide guitar break by Brian Jones which may be the first appearance of a slide on a rock record. [43] Critic Richie Unterberger commented, "Particularly outstanding was Brian Jones's slide guitar, whose wailing howl gave the tune a raunchy bluesiness missing in the Beatles' more straightforward rock 'n' roll arrangement. [44] Jones also played slide on their 1964 single "Little Red Rooster", which reached number one on the British charts. [45] [46] [47] Jones' successor playing slide in the Stones was Mick Taylor, a 20 year old virtuoso who performed on Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street . The album Let It Bleed features Keith Richards on slide guitar for the majority of the album.

In Chicago, Mike Bloomfield frequented blues clubs as early as the late 1950s– by the early 1960s Muddy Waters and harmonica virtuoso Little Walter encouraged him and occasionally allowed him to sit in on jam sessions. [48] Waters recalled: "Mike was a great guitar player. He learned a lot of slide from me. Plus I guess he picked up a little lick or two from me, but he learned how to play a lot of slide and pick a lot of guitar." [49] Bloomfield's slide playing attracted Paul Butterfield [49] and together with guitarist Elvin Bishop, they formed the classic lineup of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. [50] [51] Their first album, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965), features Bloomfield's guitar work and his slide playing on the band's adaptation of Elmore James' "Shake Your Moneymaker" and shows his well-developed slide style. [52] Around the same time, he recorded with Bob Dylan for the Highway 61 Revisited album [48] and contributed the distinctive slide guitar to the title track. On the second Butterfield album, East-West (1966)], songs such as "Walkin' Blues" and "Two Trains Running" include slide playing that brought him to the audience's attention. [52]

Ry Cooder using a glass slide in 2009 Ry Cooder playing.jpg
Ry Cooder using a glass slide in 2009

Ry Cooder was a child music prodigy and at age 15, began working on bottleneck guitar techniques and learned Robert Johnson songs. [53] [54] In 1964, Cooder, along with Taj Mahal, formed the Rising Sons, one of the earliest blues rock bands. [55] His early guitar work appears on Captain Beefheart's debut Safe as Milk album (1967) and several songs on Taj Mahal's self-titled 1968 debut album. [56] Cooder's slide playing is featured on songs such as "44 Blues" (which he later recorded with Little Feat for their 1971 debut album), "Sure 'Nuff 'n Yes I Do" (a "Rollin' and Tumblin'"-style song), "The Celebrated Walkin' Blues" (an adaptation of Muddy Waters' "Walkin' Blues"), and "Statesboro Blues" (later adopted by the Allman Brothers Band). In 1970, he recorded his own self titled debut album, which included the Blind Willie Johnson classic slide instrumental "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" (re-recorded in 1984 for the soundtrack to Paris, Texas ). Recognized as a master of slide guitar by 1967, [57] Cooder collaborated with the Rolling Stones on recording sessions and is credited with showing Keith Richards the open G tuning, which Richards then adopted in songs such as "Gimme Shelter", "Jumping Jack Flash", "Start Me Up" and "Brown Sugar". [54] [58] In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at number eight on their list of the "100 Greatist Guitarists of All Time". [54]

Duane Allman played a role in bringing slide guitar into Southern rock with the Allman Brothers Band, and with Eric Clapton's Derek and the Dominos on the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs album. [13] Allman, who died in a motorcycle accident at age 24, was referred to by NPR's Nick Morrison as "the most inventive slide guitarist of his era". [40] He extended the role of the slide guitar by mimicking the harmonica effects of Sonny Boy Williamson II, most clearly in the Allman Brothers' rendition of Williamson's "One Way Out", recorded live at the Fillmore East and heard on their album Eat a Peach . [36]


The slide guitar, according to music educator Keith Wyatt, can be thought of as a "one-finger fretless guitar". [59] The slide functions as a finger, and is a hollow tube usually fitted over the ring or little finger, to allow a traditional guitar to mimic the sound of a steel guitar. The slide is pressed lightly against the strings to avoid hitting against the frets, and is kept parallel with them. The frets are used only as a visual reference, and playing in tune without them requires additional skill. In this playing technique the player's remaining fingers and thumb still have access to the frets, and may be used for playing rhythmic accompaniment or reaching additional notes. [60] The guitar itself may be tuned in the traditional tuning or an open tuning. Most early blues players used open tunings, but most modern slide players use both. [13] The major limitation of open tuning is that usually only one chord shape is easily available and is dictated by how the guitar is originally tuned. Two-note intervals can be played by slanting the slide on certain notes (see photo). [61]

In the sixteenth century, the notes of A–D–G–B–E were adopted as a tuning for guitar-like instruments, and the low E was added later to make E–A–D–G–B–E as the standard guitar tuning. [62] In open tuning, the strings are tuned to sound a chord when not fretted, and is most often major. [63] Open tunings commonly used with slide guitar include open D or Vestapol [lower-alpha 1] tuning: D–A–D–F–A–D; and open G or Spanish tuning: D–G–D–G–B–D. The latter is the tuning introduced to Keith Richards by Ry Cooder. [58] Open E and open A, formed by raising each of those tunings a whole tone, are also common. Other tunings are also used, in particular the drop D tuning (low E string tuned down to D) is used by many slide players. This tuning allows for power chords, which contain root, fifth and eighth (octave) notes in the bass strings and conventional tuning for the rest of the strings. [65] Robert Johnson, whose playing has been cited by Clapton, Richards, Hendrix, and Winter as being a powerful influence on them, used tunings of standard, open G, open D, and drop D. [66]

Resonator guitars

The National String Instrument Corporation produced the first metal-body resonator guitars in the late 1920s (see image at beginning of article). [67] These instruments were popular with early slide players. The resonator is a large aluminum cone, resembling an inverted loudspeaker, attached under the bridge of a guitar, mandolin, ukulele or similar instrument to increase its volume. [68] It was patented in the late 1920s by the Dopyera brothers and became widely used on many types of guitars. Tampa Red played a gold-plated National Tricone style 4, and was of the first black musicians to record with it. [69] Delta blues pioneer, Son House, played this type of guitar on many songs including the classic, "Death Letter". [68] A resonator guitar with a metal body was played by Bukka White ("Parchman Farm Blues" and "Fixin' to Die Blues" [lower-alpha 2] ).

Lap slide guitar

Wooden resonator guitar played with a steel, angled to form a chord unavailable from straight open tuning. Lapstyle.jpg
Wooden resonator guitar played with a steel, angled to form a chord unavailable from straight open tuning.

"Lap slide guitar" does not refer a specific instrument, but refers to a style of playing guitar with the instrument resting on the performer's lap or otherwise supported, and the term usually indicates blues or rock music. The horizontal position is also known as "Hawaiian style" [71] There are various instruments specifically made (or adapted) to play in the table-top position, including:

Proper terminology for the hand-held bar used is "steel" or "tone bar" rather than "slide". [3] The term "lap slide" coexists with "lap steel" to describe the same lap-played instrument, [72] but "lap slide" usually connotes blues or rock music, while "lap steel" could encompass any musical genre. That said, not even the manufacturers and players of the many variants of these instruments agree on basic terminology. [73] These types of instruments may differ markedly in external appearance – some resemble a traditional guitar, while others are made in a solid rectangular block.

Lap slide guitar pioneers

Buddy Woods was a Louisiana street performer who recorded in the 1930s. He was called "The Lone Wolf" after the title of his most successful song, "Lone Wolf Blues". Between 1936 and 1938, he recorded ten songs which are today considered classics, including "Don't Sell It, Don't Give It Away". [74] Woods recorded five songs for the US Library of Congress in 1940 in Shreveport, Louisiana, including "Boll Weevil Blues" and "Sometimes I Get a Thinkin'". [75] [76]

"Black Ace" Turner (born Babe Karo Turner), a blues artist from Texas, was befriended and mentored by Buddy Woods. Historian Gérard Herzhaft stated, "Black Ace is one of the few blues guitarists to have played in the purest Hawaiian style, that is, with the guitar flat on the knees." [71] Turner played a square-neck National "style 2" Tri-cone metal body guitar and used a glass medicine bottle as a slide. Turner was also a good storyteller, which enabled him to host a radio program in Fort Worth called The Black Ace. [77] His career effectively ended when he entered military service in 1943. [71] His album, I Am the Boss Card in Your Hand, contained Turner's original 1930s recordings as well as new songs recorded in 1960. Turner was featured in a 1962 documentary film entitled The Blues. [77]

Freddie Roulette (born Frederick Martin Roulette) is a San Francisco-based lap steel blues artist who became interested in the lap steel guitar at an early age and became proficient enough to play in Chicago blues clubs with prominent players. [78] He earned a spot in Earl Hooker's band and recorded with Hooker in the 1960s. [79] Roulette had played lap steel in other genres before focusing on blues – he said this helped him add more complex chords to the basic blues played by Hooker, and said, "it worked". [80] Roulette was recruited to San Francisco in the mid 1970s by blues hall-of-famer Charlie Musselwhite. [81] In 1997, he recorded a solo album, Back in Chicago: Jammin' with Willie Kent and the Gents, which won Best Blues Album of 1997 by Living Blues Magazine. [82] Roulette's contribution to the lap slide guitar was to prove that a lap-played instrument was capable of holding its own in Chicago blues style. [61]

Slides and steels

A collection of various guitar slides. On the left is a "steel" used in lap playing. The next two are Coricidin medicine bottles from the late 1960s; followed by a polycarbonate tube and three metal tubes Coricidinslides.jpg
A collection of various guitar slides. On the left is a "steel" used in lap playing. The next two are Coricidin medicine bottles from the late 1960s; followed by a polycarbonate tube and three metal tubes
A glass slide on the ring finger Glass guitar slide on the ring finger.jpg
A glass slide on the ring finger

A slide used around a player's finger can be made with any type of smooth hard material that allows tones to resonate. Different materials cause subtle differences in sustain, timbre, and loudness; glass or metal are the most common choices. [83] Longer slides are used to bridge across all six guitar strings at once, but take away the fretting ability of that finger entirely. A shorter slide allows the fingertip to protrude from the slide and allow that finger to be used to fret. [84]

Improvised slides are common, including pipes, rings, spoons, and glass bottle necks. Duane Allman used a glass Coricidin medicine bottle. Blues guitarist CeDell Davis used a butterknife. [85] Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett was fond of using a Zippo lighter as a slide, but this was largely for special effects. [86] Hendrix also used a cigarette lighter for part of his solo on "All Along the Watchtower". [87] It is one of the few recordings with Hendrix on slide, and biographer Harry Shapiro notes he performs it with the guitar on his lap. [87]

For guitars designed to be played on the lap, the performer uses a solid piece of steel rather than a hollow tube. The choice of shape and size is a matter of personal preference. [61] The most common steel is a solid metal cylinder with one end rounded into a dome shape. Some lap slide guitar players choose a steel with a deep indentation or groove on each side so it can be held firmly, and may have squared-off ends. The better grip may facilitate playing the rapid vibratos in blues music. This design facilitates hammer-on and pull-off notes. [61]

See also


  1. "Vestapol" was the name of a song written in open D tuning for parlor guitar in the 1850s. The name of the song became associated with that tuning. [64]
  2. The song "Fixin' to Die Blues", recorded by Bukka White in 1940 in Chicago, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012 [70]


  1. Tracy & Evans 1999, p. 65.
  2. Ross, Michael (February 17, 2015). "Pedal to the Metal: A Short History of the Pedal Steel Guitar". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  3. 1 2 Ruymar, Lorene. "The History of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar". Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association. Archived from the original on March 16, 2018. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  4. "Polynesian Cultural Center Unveils Statue of Joseph Kekuku, Inventor of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar". . Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  5. Ruymar 1996, p. 48.
  6. Masden 2005, p. 6.
  7. Kopp, Ed (August 16, 2005). "A Brief History of the Blues". . Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  8. Morrison, Nick (July 13, 2009). "Mississippi Delta Blues: American Cornerstone". . Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  9. "W.C. Handy Encounters the Blues". Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  10. Herzhaft 1992, p. 334.
  11. Moore 2003, eBook.
  12. 1 2 Volk 2003, p. 9.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Sokolow 1996, p. 3.
  14. Russell 1997, p. 12.
  15. Fetherhoff 2014, eBook.
  16. Erlewine 1996, p. 372.
  17. Aldin 1997, pp. 7–8.
  18. Herzhaft 1992, p. 272.
  19. Aldin 1997, p. 9.
  20. Herzhaft 1992, pp. 272–273.
  21. Herzhaft 1992, p. 273.
  22. Dahl 1996, p. 202.
  23. Koda, Cub. "Robert Nighthawk – Biography". . Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  24. Danchin 2001, p. 16.
  25. Danchin 2001, p. 24.
  26. Danchin 2001, p. 56.
  27. Danchin 2001, p. 131.
  28. Grigg 1999, p. 6.
  29. Inaba 2011, p. 191.
  30. Danchin 2001, p. 36.
  31. Oliver 1988, p. 109.
  32. "100 Greatest Guitarists – #30. Elmore James". . December 18, 2005. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  33. Wald 2004, p. 139.
  34. Gioia 2008, p. 313.
  35. Danchin 2001, p. 168.
  36. 1 2 Dicaire 1999, pp. 99–103.
  37. Gordon 2002, p. 38.
  38. 1 2 3 4 Drozdowski, Ted (April 4, 2011). "An Insider's Guide to Muddy Waters' Guitar Sound". . Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  39. Kemp, Mark. "Muddy Waters Bio". . Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  40. 1 2 Morrison, Nick (April 14, 2009). "Greasing Strings: Slide Guitar, Past and Present". . Retrieved October 15, 2017.
  41. Whitburn 1988, p. 435.
  42. Rubin 2007, pp. 44, 46.
  43. Prown & Newquist 1997, p. 29.
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