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Dating all the way back to the 1920s, slide guitar made its first appearances in the blues scene and became a fast favorite due to its smooth pitch transitions and dramatic vibrato. Those same qualities eventually brought the slide to the country and rock genres, where the technique has been used by bands as legendary as The Doors, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. If you're just breaking into the world of slide guitar, the first thing you should know is that all slides are not created equal. Just like guitar strings and tonewoods, the material of a slide will have an important impact on the way it sounds. In this case, the difference between materials has to do with the way the slide reacts to the vibrating strings—and the biggest difference there is the material's hardness. Glass is one of the preferred materials for guitar slides, since it sits in a sweet spot of being not too hard and not too soft. When compared with other slides, glass has a smoother and warmer tone that even sweetens distortion-heavy sounds: just listen to Duane Allman for an example. The buttery sound of glass slides makes them a particularly good match for acoustic guitar.Glass slides come in many shapes and sizes, and preference is a big factor in figuring out which is right for you. Take a look at the thickness of the glass—thicker glass will bring out depth and richness in the tone, while a thinner slide keeps the sound light and lilting. For an acoustic guitar in particular, consider a thicker slide in order to maximize your sustain and volume. Fit is also important, so pay attention to the inside diameter of the slide to pick one that'll fit your preferred finger snugly. New to the slide and don't have a favorite finger yet? It's a good idea to wear the slide on your pinky—this will free up the rest of your fingers to play other chords when the slide is lifted, especially if you choose a slide that fits snugly so you don't have to worry about holding it in place with neighboring fingers.An experienced slide guitarist will, of course, have his or her favorite slide—maybe even different ones for different guitars, different string heights and gauges, amplifier setup and setting. If you're just starting out with the slide, only your ears will be able to tell you for sure which slide (or slides) will be the best fit for you. Go ahead and try a few: a little experience will point you in the right direction.
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