Tech Tip:What Can You Do to Adapt an Electric Guitar for Playing Slide?

When you play your guitar with a slide, heavier gauge strings sound better and provide more resistance for a better feel. Gauges 11-54 or 12-54 are good. If you also want to bend strings some of the time, you can compromise by using strings one gauge higher than you usually play. If your guitar is was made to use light-gauge strings, you may need to widen the nut slots enough to fit the heavier strings.



It also helps to raise the guitar's action. Adjust the bridge saddles until the strings are high enough that they won't rub against the frets under pressure from the slide. On some electric guitars, the action is already as high as it will go, so check out the guitar first, to make sure it's appropriate for slide playing. Raising the strings also helps compensate for having a curved fretboard.



If the heavier gauge strings put too much tension on the guitar's neck, you may need to tighten the truss rod for more support. If you use lighter gauge strings and raise the action, you may need to loosen the truss rod to relieve the neck.



If the slide you use isn't curved, flattening the string radius slightly can compensate for a rounded fretboard.



After raising the action, lower the bridge pickup a little if the strings get too close to the pole pieces of the bridge pickup when you press down hard with the slide.



You may also want to retune your guitar, although some slide players retain the standard guitar tuning. Stay tuned for next week's Music123 Helpful Tip about tunings for slide guitar.



Music123 carries a wide selection of electric guitars, guitar slides, and instructional materials for slide styles. Visit and have a look around.