It’s always obvious when a song uses a guitar slide because it creates such a distinctive sound. The great thing about guitar slides is that they’re easy to learn.
Even if you’ve never picked up a guitar slide before, with a bit of practice you will be able to play all of the songs in this list. Some of the songs are perfect for beginners to try out, while other songs will require most practice to master.
Here are some of the top slide guitar songs to learn with Guitar TAB of some interesting slide guitar licks from each song. I’ve also listed the guitar tuning for each song because many slide guitar songs don’t use standard tuning.
I’ve also included a list of other slide guitar songs to check out at the end of this guide.
Read through this lesson to learn how to correctly hold and use a guitar slide. If you haven’t played with a guitar slide before, I highly recommend you go through the lesson before attempting any of these songs.
Note: I’ve grouped the songs together based on tuning, so if you change your guitar to an open tuning, you can try a few of the listed songs in that tuning. Find out about open and other alternate tunings in this Guide to Alternate Guitar Tunings.
If you are unfamiliar with reading Guitar TAB, check out this lesson on How to Read Guitar TAB. It includes a list of common TAB symbols and what they mean.
If you don’t have a guitar slide, check out my Ultimate Guide to Guitar Slides to find a guitar slide right for you. The guide includes a sizing chart to help you find the right size guitar slide for your fingers.
In My Time of Dying by Led Zeppelin
The great thing about this song is that the slide licks are easy enough for anybody just getting started with a slide to be able to play the entire song.
From the opening riff, the entire song is based around the guitar slide. This makes it a great song to learn to develop your slide guitar skills.
The only downside to learning this song is that you’ll need to change your guitar into Open A tuning. But it’s a great example of how fun open tunings are with a guitar slide.
If you want to try and get a similar guitar tone, the easiest way is to use a phaser pedal. Find out more about phasers and the best phaser pedals in this guide.
Guitar Tuning: Open A (E A E A Db E)
Here is the slow opening riff in Guitar TAB:
The key to getting this riff to sound good is to smoothly glide between the fret positions. Aim for a smooth and controlled slide back and forth between the fret positions.
After the 12th fret (add some vibrato if you can), mute the strings with your picking hand to give you a chance to move your hand back to the 3rd fret without hearing a sliding sound.
As this riff uses the open strings, you will need to practice taking the slide on and off of the strings. You will hear a noise as the slide touches the strings, so practice timing your picking to strum the strings at the exact time your guitar slide touches the strings.
Here are some more songs by Led Zeppelin that use a guitar slide:
- Travelling Riverside Blues
- You Shook Me
- Dancing Days
- Hats Off To (Roy) Harper
If you’re a die-hard Zeppelin fan and want to learn their songs, check out this hardcover Led Zeppelin Guitar TAB book (link to Amazon) with all of their songs in Guitar TAB. One of my students has this book and it’s awesome. There’s a handy table of contents with all of their songs in alphabetical order and a good write-up of each album.
Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
If you are just getting started learning how to play slide guitar, this song is an easy starting point. It may not be obvious that a slide was used in this song, but during the chorus or heavy section, it is used.
The main slide riff in this song is easy and will give you plenty of practice before you move on to more complicated slide songs.
Guitar Tuning: Open A (E A E A Db E)
Here is the main riff in Guitar TAB:
Start slowly and focus on smoothly gliding between the different positions. This riff requires you to be quick and accurate in moving between the positions. That quick slide from the 7th to the 10th fret is what gives the riff character, so really focus on how you get it to sound.
Pay attention to the rest symbols and use your picking hand to mute the strings when needed. Muting the strings is important to get this riff to sound right.
You don’t want all of the notes to be connected together by sliding back and forth, so muting the strings gives you a way to quickly move between positions without adding in a sliding sound.
Tip: if you don’t want to change your guitar into Open A tuning, you can get away with only changing the G string (tune it up to A) and the D string (tune it up to E). This riff only uses three strings, so you can try it out with your guitar slide without having to completely change to Open A tuning.
Here are some more songs by The White Stripes that use a guitar slide:
- Death Letter (original song by Son House)
- Sister Do You know My Name?
- I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s Heart
- Catch Hell Blues
- Little Bird
This Guitar TAB book for the Elephant album is a good starting point if you want to learn more about Jack White’s style of playing.
Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top
While the fuzz-saturated riff in this song may be more fun to play than the slide solo, it’s a great example of how to use a slide in standard tuning.
If you want to try and get closer to the guitar tone you hear in this song, you’ll need a fuzz pedal. Check out the Best Fuzz Pedals here with advice on what to look for.
Guitar Tuning: Standard (E A D G B E)
Here is the first part of the slide guitar solo in Guitar TAB:
The first half of this section is pretty straight forward and you only need to practice sliding back and forth between the 3rd and 5th frets. Listen to the song to get a feel for the rhythm and practice it slowly.
The second half requires you to use good muting techniques. Keeping the other strings quiet while you pick these individual notes is important when playing slide guitar in standard tuning. Use your picking hand’s fingers to keep the adjacent strings muted while you play these notes.
Here are some more songs by ZZ Top that use a guitar slide:
- Dust My Broom (original song by Robert Johnson)
- Just Got Paid
If you want to learn more about Billy Gibbons’ style of playing, check out this ZZ Top Guitar Anthology Guitar TAB book for a good range of songs including Sharp Dressed Man and Tush.
My Sweet Lord by George Harrison
Most of the slide guitar parts in this list play multiple strings at the same time. The intro melody in this song shows how single-note melodies can sound amazing with a guitar slide.
This is a great song for a beginner slide guitarist to learn because it is slow and gives you plenty of practice of muting and controlling the slide.
Guitar Tuning: Standard (E A D G B E)
There are two guitars recorded playing almost identical parts. If you listen to the song, you will hear towards the end of the part the two parts diverge. Here is the guitar TAB for one of the slide guitar parts:
Take some time listening to the song before you try to play this part. Study the TAB as you listen to the song and think about when you will use your picking hand to mute the strings.
When playing slide guitar in standard tuning, you need to be careful to mute the other strings you’re not playing. Use your picking hand to keep all the other strings muted while you play.
Pay close attention to the speed of the slides in the first bar. You will hear that the first slide (from 14th to 16th fret) is much faster than the second slide (14th to 12th fret). Focus on each slide and try to match it to what you hear in the song. Getting the phrasing right is what makes slide guitar parts like this shine.
George Harrison as a great way of composing slide guitar parts and if you enjoy playing this part you may want to check out his other slide guitar work. Apart from his solo albums, he has featured on many other musician’s songs using slide guitar in solos.
Here are some more songs by George Harrison that use a guitar slide:
- Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)
- Isn’t It a Pity
- The Light That Has Lighted the World
- Marwa Blues
- Leave a Light On by Belinda Carlisle (George has said in interviews that the solo in this song was his best slide guitar work)
This George Harrison Anthology Guitar TAB book covers a few of the above songs as well as some of George’s best guitar work.
Layla by Derek and the Dominos
While there is a great minute-long slide guitar solo in this song by the amazing slide guitarist Duane Allman, you may be surprised to hear that the main lick features a slide guitar from the very beginning.
Listen closely to the start of the song and you’ll hear that there is a slide guitar layered in with the other lead guitar track. If you already know how to play the main Layla melody, I highly recommend learning how to play it with a guitar slide.
Learning how to play this part using a slide instead of bending the note is a great way to re-think the way you play guitar. You can use a guitar slide to replace bends and add something interesting to normal guitar parts. After you learn how to play this intro lick with a slide, try re-learning other lead guitar parts and replace any bends with slides.
Guitar Tuning: Standard (E A D G B E)
Here is the opening lead line played with a slide guitar in Guitar TAB:
The hammer-ons and pull-offs are still played with your fingers, so this part will give you good practice of alternating between playing with the slide and playing with your fingers.
Listen closely to the song and try to mimic the slides to sound like the bends you hear from the other guitar part in the song. With some practice, you should be able to make it sound almost as if you were playing normal bends.
As with most slide guitar parts that use single notes in standard tuning, use your picking hand to keep the other strings muted.
If you are able to play this part with a guitar slide, you will find the slide guitar solo later in the song very easy to learn. I highly recommend spending time learning it as it’s a great example of expressive slide guitar playing. Listen closely to the song to get an idea of how Duane uses subtle vibrato to add feeling to some notes.
More Great Slide Guitar Songs
Once you feel confident in the techniques and ideas from the above slide guitar songs, you can take a look at how other guitarists use the slide.
The below list includes some of the best slide guitar songs by some amazing slide guitarists:
- Statesboro Blues by The Allman Brothers Band
- Dust My Broom by Elmore James
- Rocky Mountain Way by Joe Walsh
- Sahib Teri Bahi by Derek Trucks
- Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd
- The Joker by Steve Miller Band
- I Ain’t Superstitious by Jeff Beck
- Ballad of Curtis Lowe by Lynard Skynard
- Howlin’ Wolf by Muddy Waters
- Draw the Line by Aerosmith
There are plenty of amazing slide guitar songs out there, but the above list gives you a good starting point from some great slide guitar players.
Check out my Ultimate Guide to Guitar Slides to learn more about guitar slides and different types you can get.
To start playing around with a guitar slide on alternate tunings, check out this Guide to Alternate Tunings. The guide includes a list of common open tunings and other tunings that work well with slide guitar playing.