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3 Mistakes to Avoid on Slide Guitar

Lesson ID: TB054

The most rewarding things on the guitar are most difficult to learn.

For me, this was painfully apparent when I began learning how to play slide. I must have attempted to learn slide guitar four or five times before I really started to ‘get it’. I wish I could tell you I’m a natural, but I’m not.

This style of playing took work for me.  A lot of work.

My toils are your benefit…

What Not To Do When Learning Slide Guitar

If you’ve followed this Open G Slide lesson series, you’ve picked up a few things from the lessons that will help you avoid some of my mistakes.

Indulge me for a second.

Don’t Fret the Notes

This is probably completely intuitive to most, but it wasn’t for me. Since you can place the slide anywhere to ‘fret’ a note it’s very easy to play out of tune.

This became immediately apparent to me after I listened to a recording of a slide solo I laid down a few years ago. I thought I nailed it.


After listening to the play back, I was out of tune on just about every note. How can you play out of tune with a slide? Easy.

If you play the note with the slide just behind the fret, as you would with your fingers on the fretboard, you will be out of tune. Play in tune with a slide by playing directly over the fret. In other words, if you want to play a note on the 8th fret of the 2nd string (like in bar 4 of this lesson), then you need to place the slide directly over the 8th fret. Not behind it!

Maybe this is obvious, but if your just starting out with slide after playing regular guitar for a while, this might be a habit you have to break like I did.

Don’t Take On Too Much at a Time

Many instructors will guide you to jump right in with open tunings. While I admit that open tunings sound amazing on slide guitar, I’d rather you not get distracted. If you’re just starting out on slide, focus on getting good clean notes not relearning the fretboard for an open tuning.

There will be plenty of time to explore open tunings, but for the brand new slider, I’d encourage you to keep your guitar in standard tuning and just get started. Check out this lesson for a little help with slide in standard tuning:

Why you should learn slide guitar in standard tuning

Don’t Use the Slide on Every Note

In my early days with a slide, I naturally wanted to play each and every note with the slide. But just with any guitar technique, overuse is abuse.

You have to use a sound or technique sparingly to make it effective. The same goes for slide playing. Just as in the piece we’re studying in this Open G lesson series, you simply have to play some notes or rhythms without the slide just to keep things interesting.

I’ll reference Crossroads again…

Shake it up!

Now that you have a view of the pitfalls of slide, let’s get started with today’s lesson.

Get Started with Open G Slide

Tuesday Blues lesson #54 is a continuation of a full 12 bar blues progression in Open G. I highly recommend checking out these related lessons before tackling this one:

Having these lessons in your back pocket will make just about everything we cover in this lesson much easier to tackle.  In this lesson, we’ll focus on slide licks you can play over the IV Chord to keep things interesting.

Nail the Licks for the IV Chord

Slide guitar players blend rhythm and lead playing into one harmonious piece like nobody’s business. Since we already know how to play the shuffle rhythm, it’s time to start putting some licks in your slide playing.

In the key of G the IV chord is a C Chord.  Keep in mind that with your guitar tuned to Open G, you can now make a chord just by barring all six strings across a given fret.  With a slide on your finger, you’ll just place the slide directly above the fret – the 5th fret for a C Chord.

This 5th fret area will serve as home base for our licks. This lesson will be full of notes from this area but we’ll borrow a couple of notes from the 3rd and 2nd frets to keep things interesting.

Be sure to join BGI and GRAB the TAB to get the exact notes and good luck to you!

Play On!


When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

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