Almost every week, someone asks me what kind of strings I use on my SG. In this post I want to let you know what I believe are the best strings for playing slide. Is this answer set in stone?
No. If you find something you like better, then by all means use them. These are the strings I have found to stay in tune, get the tone I like and also last a good while before having to change them.
To play slide guitar, the strings should be a little bigger than what you would use to play standard guitar. If you only want to play slide guitar on the guitar you’re using, then put some .011’s on. They are fairly big strings but stay in tune well. You can still play other guitar styles, but it will be significantly harder.
If you’ve played slide guitar some and want to be able to switch back and forth, then I think .010’s is the way to go. Although it will be harder to get the strings from buzzing. With that said I don’t recommend any strings smaller than .010’s. It will simply be too hard. If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend .011’s. It will make your life a lot easier.
What about the action?
Now that you’ve got some bigger strings, you’ll need to raise the action of the guitar so you don’t get fret buzz. Once again, if you’re only using this as a slide guitar, then you can have the action pretty high. If not, just raise the action a little and try to find a balance between the height of your strings, and the playability of both styles of guitar. There is no exact height that the strings must be. You will just have to play around with the height until you find something you are comfortable with.
A Rule of Thumb
If you can slide into the 3rd fret on the high E string without buzz, then you have it high enough. If you’re getting buzz, then raise it a little higher. Also the touch you use will get better with time, so you might can lower the action as your touch of the string to the slide become more natural.
If you’re playing in open e tuning, you will also need to adjust your truss rod a bit to get the intonation right. Depending on the size of the strings, and how high you have raised the action, it probably won’t take but a small turn. You should be careful when doing this if you don’t know what you’re doing though. If you’re not sure, take it to a pro and have them set it up. It won’t cost that much, and you will be able to actually play slide with it now.
If you don’t have your guitar properly setup for slide, you will fail before you even begin. If you’re serious about slide guitar, you MUST set up your guitar for slide or you will probably end up quitting before you even get started.
This question always comes up, so I’ll let you know what I have used.
- GHS Boomers – These are great strings that last, are not overly bright, and have a big .050 for the low E for some serious bass. I have been using these strings for about 15 years and I really like them for slide. Kinda dark, meaty, but with a lot of bite.
- DR Pure Blues– I have just started using these strings over the past couple of years and I must say that they are excellent! They’re a little thinner sounding to me than the GHS but nothing major. Maybe a little brighter. These strings have become what I use on my strat and 335 for regular guitar all the time. I put .010’s on these guitars though.
Well that is a little bit about the strings I use and why. Disagree? What kind of strings do you like?
Let me know right below what has been your experience with strings when playing slide guitar.