The guitar slide is a much more complex accessory than most people give it credit for. The best guitar slide can mean a lot of different things depending on your style, guitar, finger size, and genre. But choosing one is not that hard once you understand how it’s made and why it’s made that way.
10 Best Guitar Slides for Ultimate Performance
Check out some of my top picks and find out which type of slide would best suit your personal preferences and gear.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Guitar Slides for Ultimate Performance
- 1. Fender FSSC Steel Slide
- 2. Ernie Ball Glass Slide
- 3. Dunlop 222 Brass Slide
- 4. Dunlop 243 Moonshine Ceramic Slide
- 5. Ernie Ball Heavy Steel Slide
- 6. Dunlop 220 Chromed Steel Slide
- 7. Fender FBS2 Large Slide
- 8. Dunlop 218 Tempered Glass Short Slide
- 9. Star Singer Slides Jet Black Ceramic Slide
- 10. Be Valiant Slide Set
- Understanding Weight
- How to Approach the Feel
- The 3 Most Common Materials
- Finding the Right Fit
The Fender FSSC medium steel slide is very durable and reliable, if it fits your finger. The medium size version is about 19mm in overall diameter.
For most male guitarists, this slide would probably offer a good fit on the pinky finger. However, due to its size, it may not cover the entire width of the fretboard.
I tend to recommend this Fender steel slide for guitar players with longer and slenderer fingers.
In terms of acoustic properties, the FSSC is capable of a very nice ringing sustain that’s not too warm and not to crisp either. It does a great job of accentuating both bluesy and country licks. You may also find the low price tag appealing.
Ernie Ball offers small, medium, and large glass slides at competitive prices. If you’re a blues guitarist, this slide design may be the one for you.
These slides all come with a very thin 4mm wall regardless of size. The tone is warm but you can get plenty of ringing too with the proper technique.
When it comes to glass slides, this is nowhere near the most fragile. The 4mm thick Pyrex glass can take quite a bit of pounding. Even if you were to drop it, Pyrex is famous for its high break resistance and shatterproof property.
All in all, I really like how great the slide is for voicing, even if that’s to be expected with the smooth surface. It creates a clear sound that can lend itself to various genres over and beyond blues.
The edges of the cylinder are very smooth so there won’t be any issues sliding your finger inside. But, note that the edge of the slide is not beveled so if it’s a very tight fit, it may not be too comfortable to play with.
The Dunlop 222 is one of my favorite brass slides. It can be used on acoustic and electric guitars, especially if you’re using thicker-gauge strings.
I like that it offers plenty of resonance and volume without excessive ringing. The tone is in fact warm and consistent, which makes it a suitable choice for beginners as well as professional guitarists.
The medium wall thickness improves the feel while also providing enough weight to get the most out of the slide on an acoustic guitar.
At 60mm long, the slide should work on most guitar necks, although it may work better with narrower or soloist necks.
The medium version should accommodate ring fingers of sizes 9 and 10, with 9 perhaps the best fit here.
The Dunlop 243 Moonshine is a ceramic guitar slide that’s more of an acquired taste. It’s not a new model but it is slightly pricier than most and the interesting texture may not play to everyone’s strong suits.
That said, it’s available in sizes medium and large at almost the same price. Both the medium and large slides are on the longer side, which means that there shouldn’t be any issue with covering all six strings.
You should also know that the playing surface is right between soft and harsh. As such, the tone is somewhat unique, which I find better suited for rock and roll and country licks, as opposed to blues, bluegrass, and the likes.
Another thing you might want to keep in mind is that the slide may be too much for a mandolin or banjo.
The Ernie Ball Steel Slide is something I recommend to professional guitar players. Not just because of the higher price tag but also because it’s a heavy slide that requires some skill to use properly (there's a lighter 'medium' version too).
The round nose design can help to correct some errors in technique while the beveled back edge makes the slide more comfortable to wear and use overall.
Both the medium and large slides are on the heavy side, which means that this model is not suitable for electric guitars. That said, it will perform well on just about any acoustic guitar strings, nylon or metallic.
The combination of hard steel and chrome makes for a heavy-duty slide. The levels of volume and sustain you can get with this is more than impressive. But, due to its size and weight, you should probably use it with your ring finger.
This means that it may limit you in terms of soloing freedom.
This is a size 9 steel slide. It’s not for your pinky or ring finger of any other sizes. The sizing is quite precise, which can be good or bad. Personally, I don’t have a problem with a slightly tighter-fitting slide.
In fact, you may find that it offers higher control and confidence in your sliding. However, if you’re prone to finger swelling after long bouts of playing, this may not be the ideal pick for you.
That said, the Dunlop 220 slide has a pleasant resonance and good sustain. It may offer some much-needed volume to acoustic guitars when needed, yet it’s light enough to create a pleasant tone on the electric guitar too.
The medium wall thickness may also facilitate a better feel, which is probably more important for professional guitarists, in my opinion.
If you’re in need of something that can accommodate big fingers, you could try the Fender FBS2. This is a large brass slide made for big players.
The wall is medium to thick, which facilitates a richer tone. There’s enough warmness to please most players, and the volume when playing on an acoustic is nothing short of impressive.
While not ideal for electric guitars, the FBS2 is an affordable and durable option for acoustic guitar players. But I should warn you that this slide needs proper breaking in.
Once you get the coating to come off with use is when you’ll start producing a very cool tone. Until then, it may not sound too impressive to a seasoned guitarist.
The Dunlop 218 has a much warmer tone than most glass guitar slides. That said, this is a short slide that’s not intended to cover all the strings.
It’s a great little glass slide but it also comes with a higher learning curve. This is an ideal slide for lead guitarists and can easily be used on an electric guitar due to its average weight and medium wall thickness.
The flawless external glass surface maintains sonic clarity. At the same time, this will also make any mistakes clearly audible, so consider yourself warned. The Dunlop 218 is also one of the cheapest glass slides available, and one that’s capable of a flawless tone.
This guitar slide is rated for ring size 9 though it does offer a bit of give. If you don’t care for a super tight fit, this may be the one for you.
Made out of ceramic, the Star Singer Jet Black is a very interesting choice. It’s not as gritty as you would expect, considering it’s a handmade slide. The artwork and finish are really cool, especially with the white and gray crackle patterns.
What’s interesting is that no two slides come out with the same pattern. This makes the high price tag worth it if you want a slide that offers a unique personality.
In terms of tone, it’s warm with just a bit of ring to it – though nothing too bright. The finish and the wall thickness make this slide suitable for both electric and acoustic guitars.
If you’re new to playing with a guitar slide or if you’re not sure about the material, then this guitar slide set may be perfect for you.
You’ll be getting a brass, a steel, and a glass slide each, so you’ll have plenty to experiment with. On top of that, you’ll be able to learn different sliding techniques for various genres and all types of guitars.
I also recommend this set for those who wish to try out some finger picks too. The celluloid finger picks are durable and produce a warm tone, much like the slides.
Normally, I would recommend these for young players or anyone who uses the slide on their little finger. Although the external diameter may seem large enough, it’s really not when you consider the thick wall.
As far as guitar slides are concerned, there are two ways to look at the weight. First of all, the heavier the slide the better it will be for an acoustic guitar. That’s because the strings are harder and acoustic guitars aren’t naturally amplified. Heavier sliders offer more sustain and better fit the natural acoustics of a standard guitar.
The second thing that you should consider is that a heavy slide offers less buzzing, a generally warmer tone, more sustain and volume, and higher pressure on the strings. Because of this, you don’t want to use a slide that’s very heavy on an electric guitar.
How to Approach the Feel
You might be thinking that it’s impossible to feel with a slide. After all, your covered finger won’t actually touch the strings. In reality though, there’s a big difference between playing with a thick-walled and a thinner-wall slide.
In most cases, you’re going to feel more in control with slides of thinner walls. If the specifications gloss over the wall thickness, you can approximate it by looking at the weight. Barring a big difference in material, a lighter slide indicates a thinner slide, or a smaller difference between external and internal diameters.
The 3 Most Common Materials
Glass is the oldest material used for guitar slides. It’s very easy to slide up and down the fretboard and it offers a very warm tone. But, it’s also more fragile and lacks a bit of sustain.
Ceramic slides are somewhat newer and can vary wildly in price. Depending on the particular ceramic material, ceramic slides can be on the smooth side, on the gritty side, or somewhere in between.
These are some of the harder guitar slides to compare, without actually testing them out. But, the malleability of the material makes them highly versatile. That said, some ceramic slides can break easier than borosilicate glass slides.
Metal guitar slides are perhaps the most recognizable and widely used worldwide. They’re usually steel or brass, both boasting impressive longevity and durability. For blues and country, metal slides are the go-to choice.
While both steel and brass may offer a similar sustain, brass is notably louder and the material a bit softer. Needless to say, neither material offers the long-lasting smoothness of glass slides.
Finding the Right Fit
Not all slides come with the measurements and even there, the specs might be off. Many of them simply use finger designations as you can use any finger except your thumb for sliding purposes.
I recommend the pinky always. Although the ring finger is the most comfortable finger to use, it limits what you can do with your left hand.
With the slide over your pinky, you’ll still have three fingers at your disposal to play notes, hold chords, and so on.
Besides the fit, you should also look at the full length of the slide. Generally speaking, it’s best that the length doesn’t exceed the width of your fretboard by too much. A slide that’s too long can have an uneven effect on the tone.
Own Your Own Style
As you can see, guitar slides come in plenty of variety. There’s no chance of you not being able to find one that fits you really well and that can produce the sound you’re looking for.
The guitar slides in this article span all materials, prestige levels, and build variations, but one thing is constant – they all sound great.