7 Reasons Why You Quit Playing Slide Guitar

With the rise in popularity of Slide Guitar, partially due to Derek Trucks, many people are now wanting to play this expressive way of playing the guitar.  Playing slide guitar is as close to the human voice as you can get I think.  If you want to play a soulful melodic sound, then there’s no better way to do it than with a slide.

If you go to a blues jam and play slide, you will definitely be a standout.  There’s just not a lot of people who are playing slide compared to standard blues guitar.

So how do you get started?  Well, many people who start out with high hopes of learning Duane Allman and Derek Trucks style slide never realize their potential and often give up.  I’ve talked to many people who said, “It’s just too hard!”

I’ve put together this list of 7 reasons people quit playing slide guitar.  If you don’t do each one of these things, then I can pretty much guarantee that you will not stick with it and you’ll  become just another statistic on the slide guitar hit list.

Here are the 7 reasons

  1. You didn’t raise the action on your guitar – This is probably the biggest reason that people quit playing.  If you don’t raise your action, and you’re a total beginner, then you might as well forget about ever being able to play.  You will get frustrated and quit.  Watch this video to see how high I set my action.  Watch it now.
  2. You didn’t put bigger strings on your guitar – If you’re playing .009s and are serious about playing slide guitar, then you must put .010s or preferably .011s if you’re a beginner.  If you’re using .009s, then you will never be able to get a grasp on slide.  You’ve  got to use bigger strings.  Read this post on what kind of strings I recommend.
  3. You didn’t learn how to use your fingers –  If you’re trying to use a pick, and you want to learn how to play like Duane or Derek, then you are shooting yourself in the foot.  Using a pick will let all those unwanted strings to ring out all over the place if you don’t know what you’re doing.  And yes, it will sound very bad!  Throw down that pick and start using your fingers.
  4. You didn’t try an Open Tuning – While standard tuning slide has great potential, playing in an Open Tuning such as E or G will be easier for beginners in my opinion.  When playing in Open  E Tuning, a lot of familiar patterns and riffs can be found right next to each other.  This means you won’t have to move the slide around all over the place.  In standard tuning, you will be moving around to different frets more often, which requires more skill in the beginning.
  5. You didn’t find a slide that fits – Please take the time to try out a few different slides when you start out.  You’re going to need one that feels comfortable to you.  Be sure to find one where the slide stays above your middle knuckle.  I find you will have a lot more control if you use one that fits like this.
  6. You didn’t learn how to mute the strings – Let’s face it, without muting the strings, everything you play will sound bad.  Yes there are exceptions, but most of the time you will need to mute unwanted strings with your fingers or your palm when using a pick.
  7. You didn’t learn how to hold the slide properly – It really does help if you hold the slide right.  If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, then you will angle the slide, and not play on top of the frets.  You also don’t need to press the slide down hard on the strings.  Your entire arm should be relaxed.  If it’s not, then you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re already doing all the above, then you’re off to a great start!  It will just take some practice,  and then learning what scales and licks sound good when playing slide.  If you would like to improve your slide guitar skills I have developed a Slide Guitar Course in Open E Tuning that will dramatically improve your skills, IF YOU PRACTICE!  Click here to learn more.

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7 thoughts on “7 Reasons Why You Quit Playing Slide Guitar”

  1. Absolutely right! All of these points are right on. The only thing I might add is open G tuning is great to play with too, and it has a beautiful sound. I used to marvel at the tones people were geting and then I learned open G…it opened up a whole new world.

  2. All great points for sure.

    My two cents I would add from my experience are:

    Get John’s lessons and expect to put in the time to go through them.

    Patience. Plan large goals in months not weeks or days.

    You will get frustrated. Find ways to get through it. Possibly taking a small break or go to something completely different to try and learn for a bit. I find myself playing the same thing over and over wishing I could move on and then almost out of no where I get something. It clicks and finally makes sense.

    Ask. I have found others here learning slide with John’s lessons or otherwise and all have been very helpful when I have questions as well as John. He has always been very helpful with email responses to my questions.

    Good luck and keep on sliding!

  3. Great reading John, the new site is awesome. Whoever did the redesign is almost as good as I am..haha.

    I have a different reason for not continuing to play slide guitar and any other method as well. Health reasons. It’s been close to 20 months since I hurt my left hand. Still don’t know what I did to hurt that joint and every time I pick up a guitar I get the sharpest pain I have ever felt in my left fretting hand. It pain emanates from the lower joint of the thumb on the inside. There isn’t much I can really do about without health insurance so it is what it is. I hope to get back in the game soon because I know darn good well I am rusty and need to practice again. I had made real good progress until that time with your lessons.
    Continued good fortune for you John.

    • Hey Steve, I know it’s a bummer when health issues interfere with your playing but I just want to say don’t give up. Both of my hands are locked in a half fist position with no finger movement. Fingers are curled and deformed and I thought I would never play again. But then two things happened. I discovered the lap steel and John’s lessons. I put a slide on my left thumb and a pick on my right thumb,(have some movement in thumbs still) tuned the lap steel to open E and never looked back.
      I’m not saying this is the solution for you, just that, where there’s a will there’s a way. Of course, the best solution for you would be to get that thumb issue looked after. Good luck and hope you are able to get back to playing again.
      And btw, thanks for this John, all good points although the one about using a pick doesn’t apply since I really have no other option.

  4. I never took any lessons.

    I just picked up a slide after about 3-4 years of playing and ran with it.
    (I play an Ibanez Artwood)
    Of course I did add a little piece of cardboard under the bridge to push it up 1/8-1/6 of an inch, but other than that the action wasn’t raised.

    I started in Open G but since I didn’t like the sound of G to much I tuned it down to Open F.
    C F C F A C
    Which sounded alot better for me personally.
    Used to use .13 gage Ernie Ball acoustic slinkies but I switched to the .12 which give me more fingering capabilities and allow for the use of the slide still.

    But truth be told, all it takes is practice and dedication.
    Wanna know the real reason why “you” never got good?
    You gave up.

  5. There are no stupid questions….just stupid people, right? Okay, here’s mine. I don’t play guitar at all now but want to learn and am willing to devote an hour a day, every day, to practice. Since I have always loved the sound of a slide guitar that’s where I want to end up. No illusions about playing in a band or achieving some superior level of play. I would just like to enjoy playing on my front porch at the end of the day.

    So what is the path a non-playing player who wants to play slide guitar should take and given my practice commitment what would be the time frame in order to get moderately competent with it?

    Thanks.

    • If you’ve never played guitar before, then you should find a private teacher in your area to get the basics down first before attempting slide guitar. Hope that helps.

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