Slide Ukulele

slide ukuleleI couldn’t take a look at Robert Johnson without covering slide playing. And using the slide on the ukulele seems to be a trend of late. Just in the last few months I’ve seen videos of it used by James Hill, Tomotaka Matsui (of the Sweet Hollywiians), Peter Madcat Ruth and plenty of other people. And it’s not hard to see why. It’s a lot of fun to do, you can pick up a guitar slide very cheap from almost any music shop (or on eBay) and, once you’ve got the basics under your belt, it’s a very intuitive and natural way to play.

The only problem is there aren’t any materials out there for people to learn it. So I’ve put together a mini-ebook outlining the tricks and techniques for slide playing with videos, photos, tabs and mp3s.

It’s focussed on the lap style of playing (that James Hill and Tomotaka Matsui are using) but, since I’m assuming you don’t have one of the world’s three Beltona lap steel ukuleles, it’s geared towards doing it on a standard ukulele (and re-entrant tuning).

Here are a few of the longer examples from the book:

Blues Flavored Tune

MP3

Blues Riff

MP3

Island Flavored Tune

MP3

The ebook focuses on techniques more than tabs, so it’s not really suitable for people who are new to the ukulele. I had in mind that it would be good for people who had read my blues ukulele ebook (or who were familiar with that sort of thing) and wanted to start playing around with the slide and improvising with it.

How to Play Slide Ukulele

Price: $7

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If you haven’t bought one of my ebooks before, check out my FAQ page to find out the process. If you have any other questions you need answering, you can contact me here.

Slide Ukulele Tips

For those of you that don’t want to shell out for the ebook, here are the top tips to get you started:

Find a uke with high action: If you use one with low action, you’ll always be clattering the slide against the frets. If you plan on doing a lot of slide work, it might be worth raising the action on one of your ukes.

Muting: The most important part of slide playing. Make sure you mute the strings behind the slide with your fretting hand or you’ll get all sorts of nasty overtones. You’ll also have to mute the strings that you don’t want to sound with your picking hand.

Use an open tuning: You can only play one fret at once, so it helps to tune it to an open chord. I started out with open C tuning – GCEG – but decided it was a waste having two strings tuned the same (cutting down your note choices even further). In the end, I settled on C7 tuning: GCEBb (i.e. the A string tuned up one fret).

Over the frets: Rather than putting the bar where you would if you were fretting the uke normally, you have to place it right over the frets themselves. And make sure that the bar is parallel with the frets or some of the strings will sound out of tune.

Play very lightly: You don’t want to be pushing down on the slide at all.

Upright or Lap: If you want to play fretted notes as well as slide notes, you’ll have to go upright. But I prefer playing lap style – it allows for some slide techniques that you can use when you’re playing it upright.

How to Play Slide Ukulele

Price: $7

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22 Comments

  1. mictoboy April 15th, 2009 4:55 pm

    haven’t bought the ebook yet, will do tonight. I’m looking forward to reading it.
    I do love a bit of slide uke and have a reso for the purpose. I use low g and then tune my ‘a’ string down to g, so i get two different g notes. It sounds lovely and rich. :)

  2. Donnie Bubbles April 15th, 2009 6:30 pm

    Al,

    Flipped through the book at lunch today – looks great! Can wait to buy a slide….

  3. Woodshed April 15th, 2009 10:02 pm

    mictoboy: Thanks. hope you like it. I tried tuning the A to G, but it’s a bit restrictive on re-entrant uke. I went with GCEBb for the blues tunes. Works well I think.

    Donnie: Thanks! I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun with it.

  4. Micheal April 15th, 2009 10:34 pm

    Hello Al , Great to see some more titles and blues and / or slide is fantastic on the uke.Keep up the good work.Cheers from Micheal.

  5. HoldinCoffee April 16th, 2009 6:44 am

    I spent the afternoon with this e-book, my fluke (retuned as suggested in the book) and an old glass spice bottle for a slide. Great fun! I got a lotta-mo practice before I reach the abilities of tHeDirTyJoHnsoN or some of the other slide-ukers out there, but this book is a great tool in the darker arts of blues!

  6. mictoboy April 16th, 2009 10:04 am

    Just to echo the above comments. great intro to the subject, clearly laid out and easy to follow. :)

  7. Tamster April 17th, 2009 3:20 am

    Seems great.
    How come you use Paypal and no longer Click bank?
    In the past when I have tried to buy things through Paypal, after I fill out the info and click enter or continue with order it always said I had to get an account, which I don’t want.

  8. Franny April 17th, 2009 4:01 am

    This is great! I was hoping you would do something like this. I bought your blues book a while ago and it was fantastic! This will give me more incentive to practice with my slide (which has sadly been gathering dust lately.)

  9. Woodshed April 17th, 2009 5:11 pm

    Michael: Thanks. Hope you enjoy it.

    HoldinCoffee: Glad you’re finding it helpful.

    mictoboy: Cheers!

    Tamster: You should have an email from me.

    Franny: Thanks. I hope you do some more slide videos – I loved your version of The Love I’m Searching For. (Assuming it’s the same Franny).

  10. Baron April 20th, 2009 4:16 pm

    This is great! I have been fooling around with a slide for a couple years now; thought I was the only goofball doing this! Just bought your E-Book – KOOL!

  11. nowuh April 21st, 2009 6:09 am

    Nicely done once again woodshed! I have never had much luck with the slide, partially because I think I was lazy with tuning my guitar to an open tuning and back all the time. But with my recent conversion to uke all the time, and only having to tweak that A string – I’m in old school blues heaven AGAIN. (the first was when I picked up your blues uke book)

    GOOD STUFF!

  12. Woodshed April 21st, 2009 11:48 am

    Baron: It looks like all the cool kids are trying it!

    nowuh: Thanks. And standard tuning works really well for Hawaiian tunes – even better for us lazy ones.

  13. Chongolio April 28th, 2009 1:42 am

    Mahalo for putting this together. I spent the last week learning the tunes and replaced the bic lighter I was using for a brass slide so now the songs sound even better. Fun stuff wouldbe nice to see more songs and techniques in future

  14. Woodshed April 28th, 2009 10:02 pm

    Chongolio: Glad you liked it. And glad you didn’t start any fretboard fires!

  15. UkeDude April 27th, 2011 8:23 am

    A very usefull and good workshop. Well done.

    Where I get so slide tabs for other blues or hawaiin songs?

    regards
    UkeDude

  16. Woodshed April 30th, 2011 9:32 am

    UkeDude: Thanks. There isn’t much slide tab available, I’m afraid. In fact, I don’t know of any outside of the ebook.

  17. Gerry December 5th, 2011 7:28 pm

    Hi there I found your site on my comp.Bought your book LOVE IT I’ve been playing the Uke.for a while but I want to do the slide thing..I have a rather small guitar that I will set up by raising the nut (don’t want to mess with my Uke) What type of strings would you recommend?

  18. Gerry December 5th, 2011 8:07 pm

    ooopppsss sorry for the double nervous I guess

  19. Woodshed December 6th, 2011 7:48 am

    Gerry: For guitar? Sorry, I’ve no idea.

  20. Rodney December 30th, 2011 2:19 am

    Hi – after the 2011 Cairns Ukulele Festival and watching The Sweet Hollywaiians I decided to get a slide uke. Current market slide ukes were uninspiring and very expensive so I decided to make one !
    Using a 1920s bell shape uke and obtaining slide guitar fittings thru eBay (and making my own), I obtained a custom wound pickup annd wiring harness from Bill Arnsparger in the US – the result is fantastic played through a Roland Cube Street amp and surpasses my expectations.
    Uke is constructed using a combination of West Australian Jarrah hardwood and Fijian Mahogany and is ‘semi-acoustic’ which meanns I can easily practice without am amp.
    I have initially tuned GCEG and I am looking forward to going through your eBook which I have just downloaded.
    Happy to put up some photos – if I can find out haw to do it !

  21. Ondrej July 11th, 2012 12:54 pm
  22. Bob July 28th, 2013 5:24 pm

    i just lost the tip of my left ring finger in an accident. I am right handed. I was playing chords on baritone and tenor ukes and having a lot of fun. I am intriqued by lap uke and appreciate your book. If anyone can help me in other ways or with other advice or thoughts ( I would say “tips” but only need one of those) I would really appreciate it. i have no intuitive musical knowledge or understanding so i am starting from scratch again I suppose.
    Thanks.

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