What kind of Guitar for slide playing?
Hi all, I'm a slide beginner but want to learn how to play stuff from the Paris Texas album, am I right in thinking a 'resonator' would be a good choice? Also Is it best to have a flat neck guitar? I tried tinkering about on a Fender CD-60 acoustic and found it difficult to play as the neck is slightly curved.
Im by no means skilled at slide, but I do enjoy it very much, and I really need to work on it more.... that being said, Ive played slide on all my guitars. All work well, and play nicely. BUT... they all sound different. Resonator gives the more ragged blues sound. Awesome sound... but there are others. Flat top acoustic sounds nice... a little smoother sound. softer. Electric is a little more haunting. Eerie sounding a lot of the time. Ry Cooder used all three, but Im not sure on what albums/songs. I say learn on what you have, and go from there.
You'll find that neck flatness or arc can complicate slide playing depending on what kind of slide you have. The neck setup also has an effect. For slide only players, the neck setup will commonly have the strings with significant height above the frets, the idea being to keep the strings from touching the frets at all. Most lap player guitars are set up this way.
In contrast, there are the other two types of setup, combo and low. All of my slide guitars are setup somewhere in the combo range where playing slide alternating with fingerstyle is possible. This can have an effect on intonation when playing fingerstyle as the extra depression distance causes the tones to go slightly sharp. It is a compromise but allows the playing of slide and fingerstyle on the same instrument. A low setup keeps the intonation optimal during fingerstyle only play, but complicates slide playing because it is more difficult to control the slide without making the strings contact the frets.
Slides come in different varieties. I have a wide variety of slides but own two that I'll make the next point with. The Mighty Mite is brass, large, & heavy and its tube walls are flat and perpindicular to its ends completely. In contrast, the AcoustaGlides that I have are curved a bit which matches the curve on non-flat neck guitars. This makes matching said arc to string contact more uniform during the process. The AcoustaGlides are not perhaps as arced as some glass bottleneck slides. I also have some glass slides that mimic the geometry of the two brass slides mentioned above that aren't made from bottle necks. The glass sounds different than the brass, are lighter, and if you're beginning, easier on the finger and hand using them.
I started out with glass slides and switched to brass. The first time I used the MightyMite and recall that I was ok with the first two verses of a slide intensive piece I was working on, but by the third verse, the slide weight was making my hand cramp big time. Anymore, I don't notice it even when playing a full set.
I have several resonators, one is brass, the others are wood. All are biscuit and have slightly curved necks. Since they are all setup combo, I can and do play them with the Mighty Mite which does not match the arc of the strings as well as the AcoustaGlide. I have to use a lighter more controlled touch to keep the bang and other extraneous sounds down while moving the slide about, unloading it from one fret position to loading it on another. This technique skill makes using the AcoustaGlide on these instruments more effortless.
Having said all this, you can play slide on any guitar. The degree of success or ease of play will vary by slide type, setup, and instrument material composition. Nice thing about metal resonators is even if you don't play slide on them, their volume can punch through in acoustic play only groups where other, typically louder (banjo) instruments, or players are present. Even my non-metal resonators seem to be somewhat louder than they would be without the resonator cone. Of course any of that can be accounted for if they are plugged into electronics.
The more guitar and slide type combinations you are exposed to, the more you will find that you like one combination over another, and some will be downright difficult to play well at the very least.