The Best Electric Guitars for Slide Playing (An Honest Truth)

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Editor's Choice
Fender Stratocasters
  • Easy to setup and ensure perfect playability for slide
  • A versatile sound that is perfect for blues, country, and rock
  • It's an easy guitar to find, and they fit any budget
For Rock N' Roll
Gibson Les Pauls & SGs
  • A classic style of guitars that has excellent looks, playability, warmth, and sustain
  • Get that tone of classic rock and blues
  • Channel the spirit of some of the greatest blues and rock players of all time
Best Alternative
P90 Guitars
  • Get a more aggressive and immediate sound for slide playing
  • P90 tone cuts through busy mixes
  • Great option for more hard rock and modern music

If you love the soulful style of blues and are looking for a great way to express that passion through your guitar playing, slide playing is an incredible option.

This unique style of guitar playing needs specific features and instrument setup to unlock the full potential of a slide. That’s why I’ve created this much-needed guide to help you decide the best electric guitars for slide playing.

So grab your favorite beverage and get ready for a journey to finding the best electric slide guitar!

What makes a great electric guitar for playing slide?

The question, “what is the best electric slide guitar?” is often the wrong question. It stems from wanting to sound like certain slide guitarists you admire and aspire to play like.

The truth is that you can play electric slide guitar with just about any brand, model, and construction.

With that said, certain guitars will help you get those classic slide tones and be better options for a great playing guitar.

The set up is the most crucial thing to consider in an electric guitar to play slide. If you try to use a slide on your electric guitars that are set up for regular fretting, you’re setting yourself up for frustration.

The slide will slide across frets and press upon certain strings harder than others. This will result in annoying fret buzz and intonation problems.

To avoid this, you will want to set up your electric guitar to have slightly higher action to accommodate the slide while still being able to fret. For this reason, the most crucial consideration you should make when buying a guitar for slide playing is the type of bridge used.

Why the guitar bridge matters

To get the optimal performance out of a guitar for slide playing, you may need to adjust the action of individual strings. Some bridges, like the Tune-o-matic found on Les Pauls, aren’t as easy to adjust individual saddles.

On the contrary, Fender uses fixed bridges on many models with screws to easily adjust each saddle’s height.

When purchasing a guitar to play slide, consider what will be the easiest for you to adjust and tweak to get the slide sound your after.

The type of guitar slide you use matters

The type of guitar slides you choose to use will either set you up for success or failure.

Suppose you are a guitarist who doesn’t want to mess with a guitar set up too drastically to play slide guitar. In that case, you will want something lighter like a glass slide. Glass slides won’t push the string down as efficiently, reducing fret buzz and other nasty artifacts.

This is also critical if you use open tunings instead of standard tuning. Open tunings will further reduce tension in the strings causing issues with fret buzz.

You’ll often see many slide guitarists use metal slides. Still, chances are these players are using heavy gauged strings to increase string tension and have their guitars set up with higher action.

I’ve heard of some slide guitar players who use Baritone strings for the low strings and standard heavy gauge strings for the high strings.

Either way, it’s best to leave metal slides to the acoustic slide guitar players and go with a glass slide.

The Best Electric for Slide Guitar Playing | Fender Stratocasters

If you’re looking for a guitar for slide that will give you classic and versatile tones and is easy to adjust, then go with a Fender Stratocaster.

Countless classic electric guitarists use Stratocasters for amazing slide riffs, such as Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Sonny Landreth, and Rory Gallagher.

While most Stratocasters come with single-coil pickups, which produce a more jangly and frantic sound, it’s not hard to find an HSS setup for a bit of focused warmth in the bridge pickup.

With Squier by Fender and Mexican Stratocasters being very well made and affordable, you owe it to yourself to add one of these to your guitar quiver as your best electric guitar for slide.

Best Rock n’ Roll Electric to Play Slide Guitar | Gibson Les Paul or SG

I understand; there’s something inherently more rock n’ roll about a Gibson Les Paul (or Epiphone, for that matter). Most Gibson guitars come equipped with humbucking pickups with warm tones and creaminess that sing as slide guitars. 

You can’t ignore that some of the greatest slide players use Gibson guitars. Players like Derek Trucks, Gary Rossington, Duane Allman, Mick Taylor, and Johnny Winter, to name a few.

The most common axe you often find with these players is the Gibson SG and a Les Paul. These classic rock guitars have a focused, warm tone and great sustain.

The challenge with these guitars is their bridges are built for the neck radius of the guitar. You can raise the bridge as an entire unit. Still, suppose you want to adjust each individual saddle. In that case, you should consult a professional luthier to do the work. Gibsons are costly, and the last thing you would want to do is accidentally ruin your bridge by trying to create the perfect slide guitar.

However, if you’re after the punchy, thick, great tone of classic rock and blues, then you aren’t going to get closer than a good Gibson electric guitar.

Honorable Mention | Guitars with P90 Pickups

You can’t mention electric slide playing without talking about that Bad to the Bone riff. That thing has swagger, aggressiveness, and urgency. While the old saying goes, “Tone is in the bone,” you have to give some credit to the P90 pickups you see George Thorogood using.

P90 guitars have a sharp and more aggressive presence. The sound sits forward in a mix and if you’re looking for that epic slide playing to jump out of the speakers, consider a guitar with P90 pickups.

There are countless options for you to choose from. The one you choose will come down to personal preference, but I made an article that explores some of the best P90 guitar choices for you to check out here.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the best electric guitar for the slide can be easier than you think. It’s more critical to consider how easily you can adjust the action and how much tension your particular instrument can handle.

Quickly adjusting the individual saddles of your instrument for optimal string height and the ability for your guitar to hold proper tension with heavier gauge strings is critical to having a great playing slide guitar.

However, if you want to go with the classic tones, look no further than a Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul or SG.

Remember, regardless of what instrument you choose, have fun with the process of writing, and don’t get bogged down in gear.

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Choice
Fender Stratocasters
  • Easy to setup and ensure perfect playability for slide
  • A versatile sound that is perfect for blues, country, and rock
  • It's an easy guitar to find, and they fit any budget
For Rock N' Roll
Gibson Les Pauls & SGs
  • A classic style of guitars that has excellent looks, playability, warmth, and sustain
  • Get that tone of classic rock and blues
  • Channel the spirit of some of the greatest blues and rock players of all time
Best Alternative
P90 Guitars
  • Get a more aggressive and immediate sound for slide playing
  • P90 tone cuts through busy mixes
  • Great option for more hard rock and modern music
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AUTHOR
Brad Johnson
Brad is the creator of Song Production Pros. He writes songs and surfs on the weekends when he's not too busy with family or this website. He writes music under the moniker FJ Isles, and can be heard on all streaming services.