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Slide Guitar Tips and Skills Notes

We've developing a series of slide guitar tips and skills building, but we'll also link out to others on the Web.

Slide Guitar Z2A Tip #1  - Play with a Strap – Always!

By Dirk Johnson

Bio at end of article

Our first tip is easy to do, and it just might make a HUGE difference in comfort and technique when playing slide guitar.

It’s simple? Just use a guitar strap, even when sitting down.

I actually recommend a strap to ALL of my students, slide or no slide, but it especially applies to slide, since you will be playing up the neck a lot. The strap provides you much better access up the neck.

Correct Guitar Playing Position

First, the proper position to play guitar was established a couple hundred years ago, by the original guitar players in Spain.

That has evolved into the formal classical guitar position, with the body bout sitting on the left leg (assuming right-handed guitar playing), and a foot rest under the left leg. The head of the guitar is positioned quite close to the face.

If you try it, you will find that this is truly the most comfortable position to play a guitar. In the classical position, there is a lot less stress on the back of the fretting hand, and you can see the entire fretboard.

Compare That to “Cowboy Position”

Compare that to sitting in a chair and putting the bout on the right leg and “reaching out” with the left fretting hand. Make a barre chord, and you’ll now feel stress on the backside of the fretting hand, and you will have much harder time seeing the fretboard and reaching the upper frets.

Like I said, they figured this out a few hundred years ago.

Use A Strap - Standing and Sitting

Now, granted, a foot rest and a proper seat is not something that we all want to haul around. We’re not classical guitar players and this has to be easy.

We can DUPLICATE the proper classical guitar position very easily, just by using a strap. Preferably, use a strap that connects to the body of the guitar at the neck via a strap pin. Avoid straps that wrap around the head at the nut. These just get in the way.

Add a strap pin to your guitar if you need. It’s easy. A drill is all it takes.

What the Strap Does

If you are sitting down with your guitar, then the strap, when adjusted correctly, lifts the guitar off of your left leg and into the “classical position”, allowing your head to be up close to the upper neck of your guitar.

Now, in this position, you can reach around to the fretboard with little stress on your fretting hand. Plus, you can now see the entire fretboard, and you can easily reach the upper frets of the guitar at the 12th fret and above, without straining.

What’s more, when using a properly adjusted strap, the sitting position and the standing position with your guitar is now EXACTLY THE SAME, with respect to your guitar’s position relative to your body. You no longer have to make adjustments between the sitting or standing. It’s the same setup.

That’s it. It is that simple. A strap, properly adjusted, will provide you with the classical guitar position, making playing much easier. A strap is an essential piece of equipment, when sitting or standing.

Try it! I think you’ll like it.

Author Bio

Dirk Johnson has been teaching private lesson guitar for over ten years. His focus in on various acoustic styles, including blues fingerstyle and slide, folk, country, and acoustic rock.

He prefers older youth and adult beginners and “frustrated intermediates”, having been one himself. He uses a song-based approach to learning, while demanding an adherence to fundamental skills development.

He offers online lessons, and can be reached at or see his website at

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