Considerations for Selecting a Bottleneck Slide for Guitar

Considerations for Selecting a Bottleneck Slide for Guitar


Glass - In my opinion, glass tends to offer the best tone due to it's density. Thick wall quality glass from a wine bottleneck has a desirable heavier weight than the lighter glass found on beer bottles.

Metal - Brass or steel are the most common. Metal has the advantage of not breaking if accidentally dropped. Avoid light weight thin wall slides. They tend to float on the strings, instead of riding correctly and produce a weak tone.

Bone - Serious Mojo factor. Bone tends to be slightly softer / not so bright, but with more of a haunting tone. Mississippi Fred McDowell wore a beef bone ring.


Ceramic/Porcelain - The material varies. Usually lighter in weight, but still dense. They tend to be surprisingly bright.


I prefer a snug fit. Some like it loose and floppy. Knowing my pinky ring size is a 9 (3/4") makes selecting possible options for slides easy by simply measuring the opening for my finger. BTW: Never stick your finger in a bottle. The vacuum will cause your finger to get stuck. LOL


I like the slide to be long enough that it is possible to bar across all the strings. Cigar Box guitars with 3 or 4 strings have fingerboards not as wide as a standard 6 string. A stubby slide may be better.

Which Finger?

I would suggest using the pinky or ring. This allows for usage of the other fingers to play notes and bar chords. Although, if you were going to be playing mainly lead guitar while being backed by a band, the middle or index can work too.

Making your own Slide

Search the internet for other instructions. Laying the bottle on it's side, I simply drew a line around the bottleneck where I wanted to cut it. Using a hacksaw, I cut while turning the bottle round and round. After a long time, this created a stress point and the bottle just snapped. Then using crocus cloth, I polished the lip smooth. There are much better easier methods, but this worked for me.


My Collection

A - Vintage Mateus Wine: Made by me in the 1980s.

B - Keni Lee Model: Made by Search: willy's slides

C - BonerZ: Made by Search: bonerz slide

D - Mojobone Works: Made by Search: Randy Bretz

E - Titanium Bottleneck: Made by Bill Helferich

F - 3/4" Deep Well Socket: Cut down to reduce weight by Bill Helferich

G - Dunlop Rev Willy's: commercially available

H - Vintage Brown Glass Pill Bottle: Flea market find

I - 1970s Brass: Made by Mighty Mite (like used by Sam Mitchell)


Instructional Video CDs with email student support

CD 1 - CD 3: Open D and G tuning on 6 string guitar (CD 1, 3 string CBG too)

CD 4 - CD 6: 3 and 4 string Cigar Box guitar Search: keni lee

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Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on July 4, 2015 at 5:43pm

Sockets are okay, but they can be a little too heavy. Bill took my deep well socket and cut some metal off at the connection end. Considering slides are relatively inexpensive, experimenting is a fun game. LOL Enjoy.  

Comment by flatsville on June 3, 2015 at 7:07pm

Keni - I'm using Craftsman sockets as slides.  I can get a great fit in the mm sizes.

Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on September 21, 2012 at 10:00pm

Well Emmy you are at the right place. Post your question as a discussion and I am sure you will get more information then you will ever need. LOL   

Comment by Emmy DePolo on September 21, 2012 at 7:50pm

Hi Keni...don't know how to lower nut and bridge. Guitar came with extra light strings and is tuned GDG

Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on September 21, 2012 at 6:35pm

Hello Emmy,

You need to lower the string height (known as action) at the nut and bridge and bring the strings closer to the fingerboard. If you try to fret notes with high action, the string bends and plays out of tune. / The string height for regular playing (fretting notes, chords, etc) is about the same for bottleneck slide. "Possibly a little higher, but you still want to fret notes over the entire fingerboard easily". The "correct string tension" for the slide to ride on the strings correctly so you don't bottom out and hit the frets is a balance between string gauge and tuning. Use at least medium gauge strings. Lower tunings below standard tuning (EADGBE) like Open D (DADf#ad) use heavier strings. On CBG - GDg or DAD. Higher than standard like Open A (EAEac#e) use lighter strings to take the pressure off the neck. On CBG - this would be AEa or EBE. I hope this helps. Enjoy, Keni Lee     

Comment by Emmy DePolo on September 21, 2012 at 5:35pm

My strings are high off the neck. They sound muted when played without a slide. How do I play leads, cords etc

Comment by Keni Lee Burgess on May 4, 2012 at 11:19am

You should also mention that in addition to slides, you make bone picks, bridges, nuts...etc. Check it out!

Comment by Randy S. Bretz on May 4, 2012 at 6:26am

Also Mojobone Works " half n half " slides, bone on exotic wood, gives you the brightness of a bone slide with the softer tone of a wood slide all in one slide. C.B.Gitty has a full selection of these slides on his web site.

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