Best Tuning For Slide Guitar

While standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning can be used for slide guitar, several guitarists prefer alternate tunings, like Drop D tuning for a lower tone, Open G (D G D G B D) for a traditional bluesy feel, and Open E (E B E G# B E) or Open D (D A D F# A D) for varied blues and rock music expressions.

TuningTypeBenefitsChallengesFamous Users
Standard (EADGBE)StandardPlay any melody with the slide, seamless slide parts in regular playingSome slide licks can be challenging due to the guitar’s intervallic layout
Open D (DADF#AD)OpenAllows full and harmonious chords, creative explorationFrequent re-tuning, less versatileBob Dylan, Elmore James
Open G (DGDGBD)OpenAllows full and harmonious chords, creative explorationFrequent re-tuning, less versatileSon House, Muddy Waters, Ry Cooder, Sonny Landreth
Open E (EBEG#BE)OpenAllows full and harmonious chords, creative explorationFrequent re-tuning, less versatileDuane Allman, Derek Trucks
Dropped D (DADGBE)AlternateVersatility and different harmonic optionsNeed to relearn chord shapes and scales, additional wear on strings
DADGADAlternateVersatility and different harmonic optionsNeed to relearn chord shapes and scales, additional wear on strings

Open E Tuning For Slide Guitar – Basic Slide Guitar Techniques

The Art of Slide Guitar Tuning

Overview of Slide Guitar

Slide guitar is a method of playing that involves sliding a piece of material (like glass or metal) across the strings to create a smooth, sustained sound. This unique playing style brings an ethereal, singing quality to notes that you just can't get from traditional fretting.

The Importance of Slide Guitar Tuning

Proper tuning is absolutely critical in slide guitar. Unlike traditional playing, where you can bend strings to adjust the pitch slightly, the pitches you get in slide playing are entirely dependent on the guitar's tuning. So, making sure your guitar is perfectly tuned is your first step to mastering this style.

Different Types of Slide Guitar Tunings

Let's take a look at some of the most commonly used tunings for slide guitar, their benefits, and potential challenges.

Standard Tuning (EADGBE)

Benefits of Standard Tuning

  • You can play any melody you already know with the slide
  • Great for seamlessly incorporating slide parts into regular playing

Challenges of Standard Tuning

  • Some slide licks can be more challenging to play due to the guitar's intervallic layout

Open Tunings

Overview and Rationale

Open tunings are when the strings of a guitar are tuned to form a open chord, making it easy to play harmonious music with the slide.

Open D (DADF#AD)

An ideal choice for country-blues styles, artists like Bob Dylan favor this tuning.


Favored by artists like Son House, Muddy Waters and Ry Cooder, it brings a groovier blues flavor to your sound.

Open E (EBEG#BE)

If you have strong strings and aren't afraid to pump up the tension on your guitar, this tuning can add an incredibly bright, resonant quality to your slide playing.

Benefits of Open Tunings

  • Allows you to play full and harmonious chords easily
  • Enables creative exploration due to the different interval layout

Challenges of Open Tunings

  • Requires frequent re-tuning
  • Can be less versatile than standard or drop tunings

Alternate Tunings

Overview and Rationale

Alternate tunings are interesting for slide guitar as they offer a slightly augmented take on the standard tuning, adding a refreshing twist to well-known scale shapes.

Dropped D Tuning (DADGBE)

By dropping the only the low E string down to D, it gives your guitar a deeper, richer base tone, which is lovely for that warmer blues sound.


This tuning is somewhat in between an open tuning and standard which has an almost mystical tone and is versatile for many genres aside from blues.

Benefits of Alternate Tunings

  • Offers versatility and different harmonic options
  • Slight deviations from standard tuning feel familiar yet intriguing

Challenges of Alternate Tunings

  • Need to relearn chord shapes and scales
  • Changing tunings often can cause additional wear and tear on strings

Tips on Mastering Slide Guitar Tuning

Ensuring Proper Tuning

Use a Tuner

This one's simple, yet crucial. Make sure to use a good quality tuner to get your guitar perfectly in tune.

Understand Harmonics

Harmonics can give you an idea of whether your guitar is in tune or not, giving a benchmark to cross-check your tuning.

Practice the Scales

Why Scales are Important

Scales are the ABCs of music. They help you understand the fretboard layout in your chosen tuning and form the foundation of your solos.

Practicing Major and Minor Scales

Practicing immersive major and minor scale exercises can make slide runs feel more instinctive and less like a mental workout.

Handling the Slide Effectively

Slide Material Choice

Whether you prefer the vibrancy of a glass slide or the silky smoothness of a steel slide, the material you choose will make a substantial difference to your tone.

Slide Handling Techniques

From damping techniques to optimum slide angles, mastering the handling of the slide is a complex but rewarding journey.

How String Gauge Affects Slide Guitar Tuning

The guitar strings you choose will impact your tuning stability and tonal quality. Heavier gauge strings can better withstand the increased tension of open tunings like Open E, and they tend to resonate longer, giving your slide notes that extra bit of sustain.

Must-Know Slide Guitarists and their Preferred Tunings

Every artist brings their unique style to slide guitar, often influenced by their choice of tuning.

  • Duane Allman (Allman Brothers) – Often used Open E tuning.
  • Derek Trucks – Known for his use of Open E tuning.
  • Sonny Landreth – Frequently uses Open G and Standard tuning.
  • Elmore James – Famously used Open D tuning.
  • Muddy Waters – Often played in Open G.

Conclusion: Finding Your Best Tuning for Slide Guitar

Experiments with Different Tunings

Try out each of these tunings to see what feels and sounds best to you. There's no absolute 'right answer' here – it's all about discovering your personal preference.

Being Comfortable with Your Tuning

Always remember that the most important thing is comfort and musicality. Choose the tuning that feels "right" under your fingers and sounds great to your ears.

Frequently Asked Questions on Slide Guitar Tuning

Feel free to drop in your queries in the comments below, and let's help each other out in our slide guitar tuning journeys! Who knows, your question might lead to a new discovery or insight. Let's keep the strings ringing!

Key Takeaways:

  • The most dominant tuning for slide guitar is the open G tuning.
  • Open G tuning involves changing both E strings down to D, and the A string down to D, creating the notes D G D G B D.
  • Some well-known artists who preferred open G tuning include Son House, Muddy Waters, and Ry Cooder.
  • Open A tuning parallels open G but is shifted up a whole step, commonly used in blues and rock music.
  • Open E tuning involves retuning A and D string up a whole step, G string up a half step, and B string down a whole step, giving us E B E G# B E.
  • Just like open E, open D tuning is used frequently in blues and country music but is two frets lower.
  • Standard tuning can also be implemented for slide guitar to allow for conventional melodies to be played with a slide.
  • The chosen slide guitar tuning mainly depends on your personal preference and the specific sound you desire to produce.

My Favorite Slide Techniques (and your other questions)

Additional Questions

What tuning do you use for slide guitar?

The tuning commonly used for slide guitar involves adjusting the A and D strings up a tone, while the G string is tuned up a semitone. Open E tuning is particularly popular among electric slide guitarists, with greats like Duane Allman and Derek Trucks favoring this tuning when playing slide.

What is the most popular slide guitar tuning?

The most popular tunings for playing slide guitar are open E, D, G, and A. However, open E tuning, often preferred by renowned slide players Duane Allman and Derek Trucks, has become particularly synonymous with slide guitar music.

Do you play slide guitar in standard tuning?

Yes, it's possible to play slide guitar in standard tuning. Even though open tunings are typically used in slide guitar, with the correct approach, you can achieve versatility in standard tuning.

What is the basic slide guitar standard tuning?

The basic standard tuning for slide guitar is EADGBE. However, various different open tunings, like open E and open D, are also commonly used in slide guitar music. This allows guitarists to exercise their creativity and experiment with different sounds.

Related Videos

TOP 10 GUITAR TUNINGS to Make Slide Playing EASY


I'm Johnny, the guy behind Guitar Manifesto. I've been playing guitar since my teens and now that I'm in my 40s, I'm all about sharing what I've learned to help you become a better guitarist.

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