In the first part of the bottlenecks & tone bars overview, I focused on the most standard materials. Some manufacturers were more adventurous, and they achieved to make some barely imaginable slides. Here are some of these unconventional bottlenecks, and tone bars for the adventurous slide guitarist.
Can You Slide with Plastic?
Yes you can! Actually the first patent for a tone bar made of plastic was registered in 1937 by Nick Manoloff (check the patent for a bakelite tone bar). These bakelite bars are not made anymore. Some plastic tone bars such as the Black Radjah are even collectible items nowadays. If you are looking for something close to these slides but modern, you will have to look at Tribo-Tone Tone Bars for example. These are high end items with a serial number on each tone bar produced. They even make a slide dedicated to Indian music.
The use of plastic materials is supposed to reduce hiss, grind, and squeak noise created by dragging the slide across the guitar strings. If just like me you claim the right for these parasitic noises (which is convenient for those who want to hide the imperfections of the their technique) maybe this wouldn’t be the best investment (mostly because you’ll then have to play it right). Nevertheless I sure will have a close look on one of these babies sooner or later.
Bottlenecks made of wood are even more surprising than plastic slides!! Dugain who is the expert of wood picks also make slides from various species of wood. As usual with Dugain, this is a very beautiful work. People who tried theses slides say that the tone you get from them is special. To sum it up, it is softer with a lot less sustain as you would expect it to be.
Unusual Shapes: And Yet They Slide!
If you are a regular reader I think that now you know that I like disruptive experiments. So here are some of the most interesting. Indeed, even the bottleneck gave rise to some interesting innovations that took it far from the traditional bottleneck shape.
The most noticeable innovations in that field were made to easily approach the slide guitar playing for the guitar players who are not 100% sliders but still want to slide some notes in their riffs, and solos. That’s why most of these innovative slides are not that popular with the purists slide players mostly because they have their own techniques, and habits. Yet some these experimental “bottlenecks” open the door to the most excentric performances.
People who would play in open tuning but still want all their fingers more or less free should look for alternative slides such as the Bird of Paradise or the Shubb Axys. Both are bottlenecks with only one sliding facet to slide across the guitar strings. Both are rotatable so that the sliding side goes to the back of the finger which is now free for standard playing. The Jet Slide is based on the same principle but it is closer to a thin tone bar fixed on a ring. Once you rotate it you can put between the fingers, and use your fingers for standard playing. The problem of these rotatable bottlenecks is that they require to be fast, and dexterous to correctly turn them during the playing. That might be an issue sometimes.
People who would rather not mix with open tuning, and would stick to standard tuning but still want to slide some notes into their melodic phrases should first have a look on reduced size bottlenecks. Most slide manufacturers build smaller models (either metal or glass) derived from standard bottlenecks. But if you look for something more original here are two interesting items you should look for. The Dunlop Shy Slide is based on the mini-slide concept except it has only one sliding facet to slide on the strings. It is attached to the finger via a velcro strap. Another interesting variation around the mini-slide concept can found at Peaceland Guitar Slide Rings. No doubt that the guitar ring is not made for traditional slide players (they can use it though). Indeed, it is mostly designed for the most adventurous guitarists who would slide out of the traditional ways either on guitar or on lapsteel (check the videos below if you need proof).
I have to admit, I love Blues, and many slide music styles but I always wondered if it was possible to bring the bottleneck into the most extreme musical territories! The creator of the Peaceland guitar ring shows us that it is totally possible with that Opeth tune! Opeth with slide! I’d never thought it could be!
If you want to hear something more usual to the sliders ears, here is some lapsteel played with several guitar rings at the left hand! I admit that it opens a lot of possibilities in terms of expressivity, and playing techniques.
During the search for these articles I’ve found some of the weirdest tone bars, and slides that I’ll probably blog about later. Maybe in a different category dedicated to the weirdest accessories or those accessories that could have been a success but didn’t!
In the third part of the Sliding Stories I will blog about… Nei! You’ll see what I’ll tell you about! No teaser this time!