What Kind of Slide Bar for Lap-Steel Guitar Is Best for Beginners?

Written by eric linkenhoker
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What Kind of Slide Bar for Lap-Steel Guitar Is Best for Beginners?
Steel slides change notes on lap-steel guitars (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Steel lap guitars, most commonly called lap-steel guitars, sit on a stand or are held in the player's lap. Although the neck looks like a normal guitar neck, the player uses a slide to produce notes instead of pressing the strings down. Beginners need to consider four things when choosing a slide bar.

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Material

Slide bars come in a variety of materials. Stainless steel bars work well, but make the most noise when moved across the strings. Chrome-plated steel slide bars are a step up from the stainless steel by offering a chrome plated finish. The chrome not only looks different, it also makes less noise resulting from its lower friction level on the strings. Tribotone slides offer new technology for steel guitarists. The material makes the least amount of noise. Play with each to see which you prefer. Beginners often choose a lower-priced slide bar in case they decide to stop playing.

Length

Slide bars come in varying lengths. The right slide choice depends on the number or strings on the lap-steel and the spacing of the strings. The slide bar needs to cover all strings and have extra length for angling the bar. A short bar will not allow access to all the notes needed. A bar that's too long adds weight and slows down the player. Beginners need just the right bar length to facilitate learning.

Diameter

Choosing the proper diameter depends on feel and the size of the player's hands. Small hands need a thinner slide bar and large hands work best with thicker slide bars. Trying different sizes before buying a slide bar allows the beginner to find the right fit and choose which diameter feels best.

Weight

Slide bar weight is determined by material and size. A heavy bar sacrifices playing speed but delivers a good sound and sustain. A light bar easily slides but may not apply enough weight on the strings. Experimenting with different slide bars will help find the right balance. A good music store will allow a lap-steel player to try many slides and help choose the right fit for a beginner.

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