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Guitar Sliding Technique - Fluid, Faster and Freer Soloing

Note: this lesson is about sliding as a standard finger technique, commonly known as legato slide, not the kind of sliding done with a bottle neck or other implement. The latter is often referred to as slide guitar, whereas this lesson is about sliding using your finger tips.

Sliding is a type of legato playing and, along with hammer-ons and pull-offs, is an essential part of every lead player's repertoire, whatever style you play.

There are two main applications of a slide - sliding into a note (hear example) or sliding out of a note.

This lesson will take you through the necessary steps for applying the guitar sliding technique properly. Using slides will instantly inject life into your soloing phrases, give your solos more fluidity (playing "through the frets" rather than dancing over them) and allow for more economical fingering when moving across large areas of the fretboard (e.g. sliding between patterns/positions).

The Basic Sliding Technique

Some slides will span just one fret. Others will span a lot more of the neck. You should be confident with long and short slides.

Sliding Into A Note

Start with this simple exercise.

Fret the G string at the 1st fret using your index finger. This will be our starting position for the slide.

Next, choose your target note. This is the note you want to accent as part of your solo. The starting note won't register as much because in most cases you'll be sliding out of it immediately.

I'm going to target the 2nd fret (same string!).

So, pick your starting note and immediately slide to the 2nd fret (so that's a half step slide). Once you reach that 2nd fret target note, hold your finger there as if you're playing the note as normal...

Listen to that held target note. It should resonate cleanly and clearly, just as it would if you'd picked it.

To make sure it resonates cleanly, the slide needs to be quick and smooth, with a constant pressure on the fretboard.

You also need to make sure your finger comes to rest in the same position it would if you were fretting the target note as normal - just behind the fret wire.

Try not to press down harder or softer as you slide.

Keep your fingers and hand relaxed.

Here's how the above would be presented in a tab. We use a  /  forward slash for sliding up the fretboard and a  \  back slash for sliding down.

So 1 / 2 means "slide up from the 1st to 2nd fret".

Next, try a whole step slide. That's the equivalent of two frets. So, starting at the same position (1st fret), this time we're sliding up to the 3rd fret...

We don't have to move off the starting note that quickly, however. We could hold the starting note a bit longer and still use a slide to the second note...

Exactly the same pointers from before apply to longer slides. Quick, smooth and constant pressure.

You can probably guess where this exercise is going!

Increase the distance of your slides by one fret at a time, until you reach the octave of the starting note (13th fret in this case)...

sliding from the 1st to 13th fret on the G string

Now, most of these are unusually large slides and unlikely to be used in a solo, but what this exercise does is train you to slide to any given target note accurately. This is about hand-eye co-ordination.

Once you can do this comfortably, without mistakes, try the same exercise using your other fingers, as there'll be times when you need to slide using your middle, ring and even your pinky finger.

You should try the same exercise on the other strings.

We can also slide down the neck into a target note.

This time, our target note will be at the 7th fret.

Similar to the process before, try sliding down to that note from one, two, three, four etc. frets above it...

Remember, try both sliding as soon as you've picked the starting note and holding the starting note before you slide.

Sliding Out Of A Note

This is less about specific target notes, but it gives your solos a little extra spice.

Start higher up the fretboard for this exercise. For example, the 12th fret will do.

Pick the note as usual. Hold it for a second or two (add a vibrato if you want) and then slide down the fretboard towards the headstock...

It's up to you how long you make this downward slide, but try taking it down to the 1st fret.

You'll most often want to mute the string once you reach the end of your slide out. To do this, simply mute the string by touching it with any part of your pick hand.

However, if you want to give your slide out a new target note, slide down to that fret and hold your finger in that position. The note, again, should sound cleanly.

Basic Guitar Sliding Exercises

In another lesson, we'll look at how to apply slides in the context of scales and note selection. But for now, try the below exercises to help you get physically comfortable with sliding.

Click the tabs to hear examples. Fingering in blue.

First, a technique whereby we use slides to repeat a picked target note. You could call this "slide to repeat"!

slide and repeat exercise

Next, a single string exercise where we're alternating our ring and index fingers for each slide as we work our way up the fretboard - great for moving between scale positions.

sliding up the fretboard on the B string

Using this technique alone can give your solos a very unique sound.

This next exercise shows you how you can use up and down slides to move through pentatonic scales in a more interesting, slurred way...

slide down the pentatonic scale

Below I've used a slide as an alternative to a hammer-on/pull-off sequence. Some (like me) prefer to use slides when playing legato within the space of one or two frets, as it sounds smoother. We slide up and then immediately back down to the starting note, creating a kind of "knee jerk" movement...

using slides as alternatives to hammer ons and pull offs

Some final things to think about...

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Next Part:  More Advanced Legato Slide Techniques

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