I learned the jist of slide guitar technique very early on in my playing days. Keep the slide parallel to the fretboard, don’t put it behind the fret like you would with your finger, put it directly over the fret and don’t push down into the fretboard. Use the fingers behind the slide to slightly mute the strings so they don’t buzz like nuts. Pick with your fingers and try to sit on the strings you’re not playing, again to keep them from ringing and buzzing in ways you don’t want to hear.
I was never that much of a fan of playing slide though for two reasons. One, because it sort of felt like I was wearing handcuffs. I mean having four fingers to fret with is struggle enough, now I want to play with effectively one? I think that’s a legit reason to not enjoy playing slide, but the bigger reason has always bothered me and frankly it pisses me off.
The second reason is intonation. For some reason my eyes looking at the slide’s position over the frets and my ears hearing whether I am in tune or not just cannot for the life of me get together and agree. The result is that when I try to play slide I end up horribly out of tune. It’s infuriating to me. Why? I bend strings constantly and my ear is always always always able to tell my fingers when to stop bending. I’ve always been able to do it. No one ever taught me how to bend and stay in tune, I have just always done it. If you hear me bend a string and it goes out of tune, 99% of the time it is because there is something wrong with my fingers and I am unable to put the string where it needs to be. I am able to stay in tune when I bend without any extra thinking or effort on my part. Why then can I not do it with a slide? What’s the difference? Come on, ears. Do your friggin’ job.
Over the last couple of days I’ve been thinking about trying to learn some new techniques on the guitar. Push myself a little, you know? Last night I started looking at slide tutorials on the youtubes. I figured I could learn some Elmore James tunes and see what happens.
Now I am not saying this is going to happen. It’s just a thought. More like just a fantasy. Failing to stay in tune with a slide pisses me off, and it pisses me off quickly which means I am unwilling (mentally unable?) to practice and thus get better. Playing in alternate tunings also tends to get under my skin and make me want to stop and do something else. So slide in an alternate tuning might be a double whammy that sends me packing right fast.
I don’t know. Maybe we’ll see what happens.