The slide is an often underrated and underutilized part of the guitar’s repertoire. It’s versatile enough that you can use it for both rhythms and lead playing, technically diverse to where a beginner can make it sound great with ease, yet there’s tremendous scope to take it to higher levels of difficulty. It can also just provide a nice reprieve from traditional guitar playing.
Whatever your reason for picking up a slide, finding some good songs to play to introduce you to the style is very important. That’s why today we’ve gathered up 15 of our favorite, and most importantly EASY, slide songs that you can learn on guitar, regardless of skill level.
- In My Time of Dying by Led Zeppelin
- Statesboro Blues by The Allman Brothers Band
- Dust My Broom by Elmore James
- Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
- Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top
- My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
- Layla by Derek and the Dominos
- Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh
- Sahib Teri Bandi by Derek Trucks
- The Joker by Steve Miller Band
- Ballad of Curtis Loew by Lynard Skynard
- Draw the Line by Aerosmith
- Give Me Love by George Harrison
- Highway 61 Revisited by Johnny Winter
- No Expectations by The Rolling Stones
In My Time of Dying by Led Zeppelin
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This song was originally written by Blind Willie Johnson as a gospel blues song which garnered popularity because of Willie’s gritty and raspy voice in tandem with his stellar guitar chops. This went on to inspire several renditions from notable artists such as Bob Dylan and of course, Led Zeppelin. Their version of the song runs a whopping 11 minutes long, which is their longest track ever.
The tuning used on the original song is called ‘Open A’, which is as follows: E A E A Csharp and E. For many players, this poses an issue, as you have to raise certain strings above standard tuning. So it’s become very common (and Led Zeppelin also does this live) to play the song in an open G tuning, which means you are only ever tuning strings lower than standard. Open G tuning is D G D G B D.
Statesboro Blues by The Allman Brothers Band
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Originally written in 1928 by Blind Willie McTell, his rendition inspired the version that most people think of, by The Allman Brothers Band. Released in 1971 as part of their album At Fillmore East (recorded at the famous rock venue by the same name). It’s now considered a quintessential Allman Brothers song and has even been ranked as one of the Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone.
It has a tremendous amount of lead playing and will give you a good workout on both your left-hand fingerpicking and right-hand slide skill. Fortunately, it all sits comfortably within minor/blues ,so even a beginner will be able to navigate their way around this without issue.
Dust My Broom by Elmore James
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Sticking with the theme of popular slide songs that are in fact re-recordings or re-imagining of older songs, this was originally recorded in 1936 by Robert Johnson. It wouldn’t be until the early ’50s that Elmore James would re-record the song. These days, most people associate the track with Elmore’s version. It’s considered one of the most famous slide guitar pieces of all time and is commonly used as a blues standard by many musicians.
This song uses an open D tuning which is D A D Fsharp A and D. There are lots of big, sweeping movements in here, where the energy and excitement you put into the part ends up being more important than the clinical precision of hitting the right notes. Because of this, it’s a great choice for beginners to jump in on and have some good fun.
Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
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Because of its popularity and simplicity, this song is a common choice for beginners to learn at least the main riff of. But as this song progresses, the parts that we might mistake for just being regular barre chords (sitting over a simple bass line) are actually played with a slide. So this is a great chance to dip our feet into the world of slide guitar with something that may very well already be familiar. Or at the very least is super simple to play.
We have to adjust the tuning of the guitar slightly to E, A, E, A, Csharp, and E. This requires tuning a few of the strings above standard. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, feel free to use the open G and then possibly a capo on the second fret so you can hit the right pitch without ever needing to tune up, only down.
Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top
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Fortunately, you don’t need the beard to get permission to play this song, but you do need a slide! This is an extremely popular blues rock song from ZZ Top’s incredible 1983 album Eliminator. In fact, Guitar World ranked the solo of Sharp Dressed Man one of the Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time. It’s also been covered by a tremendous amount of notable artists including Nickelback.
This is not only a great opportunity to improve your lead playing (and perhaps improvisation), it’s also got some killer rock riffs to boot. As the slide is only used during the solo, you’ll just be in standard tuning here, which means you have to be a little more aware of your pitch when playing with the slide. But it’s nothing that even a beginner to guitar solos can’t handle.
My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
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Heading to the ’70s next with a fantastic folk/gospel-inspired track. This was also George’s first outing as a solo artist after his departure from The Beatles. Of course, the song was a great success, becoming the best-selling single during its year of release. The song was written in praise of Krishna, a Hindu Deity of which George was a big follower.
The majority of the rhythms in this song are covered by regular strummed chords. You’ll want to keep that slide ready to go on your third finger at a moment’s notice, though, because as the song progresses there are lots of small lead lines and inflections being executed using it. This song is in standard tuning due to the need to be able to strum the standard chords, too.
Layla by Derek and the Dominos
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Most people probably know this for the Eric Clapton version, but the original was written by Derek and the Dominos from their first (and only) album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Seeing as we’re only interested in slide guitar today, we’re going to focus on that one. The song has been named by many publications as one of the greatest songs of all time, and we agree!
How you use the slide here might be considered a little unique. Instead of wearing it on your third finger (although you can do that), it’s actually held in the fingers and used very high up the next almost as a textural element in tandem with the other guitars. This song is a great example of the versatility of the slide and that you don’t need to use it in the same way every time.
Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh
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Joe Walsh said he was inspired to write this song during his time in Colorado. While mowing his lawn, he noticed a beautiful Rocky Mountain range in the distance, topped with snow. He found it so breathtaking he went on to write this solid blues-rock track that incorporates classic rock rhythms with plenty of slide guitar goodness during the lead parts.
Most of the slide parts are centered around the minor pentatonic scale. This offers a great chance to get accustomed to getting that slide exactly right on pitch by moving the point of contact directly over the fret, as opposed to in the middle of the fret which is where we’d place our fingers if there was no slide involved.
Sahib Teri Bandi by Derek Trucks
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Derek Trucks is considered one of the best slide guitarists (or just overall guitarist in my opinion) of all time, well known for exceptional phrasing, tone, and pitch while using a slide. This song is from his fifth studio album and while it wasn’t released as a promotional single, it’s well known for its exceptional guitar playing while remaining accessible enough for beginners.
We’ll be using the open E tuning which is E B E G Sharp B and E here. Many of the lines might sound quite difficult to play, but as they are all single-note melodies it’s just a case of practicing them at a slower speed until you can play them at tempo. Derek also likes to rake down the strings with his finger to create this additional percussive sound when he picks.
The Joker by Steve Miller Band
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Heading to the early ’70s now with some classic slide-guitar work on Steve Miller’s single The Joker, which is the lead single from the album of the same name. The song was able to reach the number 1 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. Not only that, 16 years later the song was suddenly pushed to the number 1 spot once again after its feature in an advertisement for Levi’s jeans.
While there’s nothing too intense going on with the song from a technical perspective, there are two slide solos that both utilize great phrasing and confident technique. So you can treat this less as an opportunity to learn something skillful and more as a chance to focus on producing a great tone.
Ballad of Curtis Loew by Lynard Skynard
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Slide guitar has always been a staple of southern rock and country music. So this is a great chance to dip your toes into that world if you haven’t had a chance to do so yet. This is a single from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s sophomore album Second Helping. This song details the story of a young boy who gives the fictional character Curtis Loew some money, who in turn plays blues songs for him.
The nice thing about this song is that all the slide usage is very slow. This gives you a lot of mental space and breathing room to focus more on your pitch and control. This is an easily overlooked yet essential technique that is worth taking the time to master.
Draw the Line by Aerosmith
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Taken from the album of the same name, this is a departure from the country and blues songs that dominate this list. Instead, we now get to dabble in some hard rock. This song has a huge focus on its guitar work and is really going to verse you well on how good slide guitar can translate into heavier styles of music.
This song is just in standard tuning, and we’ll be playing what are fundamentally rock guitar licks. But when combined with the slide, our phrasing changes slightly. Instead of bends, we’ll mostly be sliding up the fretboard. This gives this hard rock style of guitar playing a unique spin and flavor you couldn’t otherwise achieve.
Give Me Love by George Harrison
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Also commonly referred to as Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth), it’s the opening track and first single released for Harrison’s album Living in the Material World. Despite no longer being a part of The Beatles, this song became his second number 1 single, pushing other former Beatles member Paul McCartney off of the charts.
For this song, we need to use an Open D tuning, which incorporates that traditional drop D while still maintaining the open intervals to where we can pick two strings on the same fret and have them sound musical. The notes for this are D, A, E, G, A sharp, and D sharp.
Highway 61 Revisited by Johnny Winter
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Although originally written by the legendary Bob Dylan, Johnny’s version was very highly regarded in its own right, becoming a signature track that he’ll often perform live. The song is known for its creative and eccentric use of slide and he will sometimes perform 10 minute long extended versions live, giving us more of that classic blues slide-guitar goodness we all want.
One of the things that makes this so ideal for beginners is that many of the slide-guitar passages or licks are intended to be played while singing. As such, they’re very easy to play and should be a breeze if the only thing you are focusing on is playing the guitar. We’ll again be using the open D tuning: D, A, D, F sharp, A, and D.
No Expectations by The Rolling Stones
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Let’s wrap things up with a nice, slow, and easy track. This is a bluesy slow ballad written by Mick Jagger and Keith, featured on their album Beggars Banquet. Despite not being a credited songwriter, guitarist Brian Jones’ signature slide guitar contributions to the song are what made it so memorable and really represent what he was able to bring to the table within the band.
As we mentioned, this is a slow blues ballad, so everything is very slow and easy to play. There’s nothing in here that will challenge a beginner from a technical perspective, but it’s important to pay close attention to pitch and make sure that when you slide up you do so at the correct speed. Because of its slow nature, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of playing everything too fast, which will end up spoiling the vibe of the song.