[SOLVED!] Slide Guitar Vs. Steel Guitar: Which Instrument Suits You Most?


Guitars come in all shapes and sizes nowadays so guitarists should be able to find something that fits their preferences. That being said, the process of determining the suitability of a guitar is not a walk in the park and may get annoying at times. Frustrated by the fact that you cannot make up your mind once it comes to slide guitar vs. steel guitar? In that case, my article is going to be of use to you.  


Whenever someone mentions the term “guitar”, the image of a guitarist fretting the string using their fingers or a guitar pick usually comes to mind. However, this is not the case for neither the slide nor the steel guitar as they both require a specialized tool to play.

Slide Guitar

Unlike regular guitars, a slide guitar is often played using a slide which is a tube that fits over a finger (usually the ring finger or little finger). In the hand of a slide guitar player, this little accessory is moved over the strings instead of pressing them against the fret. The result is a sound similar to that of a human voice with varying pitch. Due to this unique style of playing, people can play special harmonics that are otherwise difficult to achieve with normal methods.

Steel Guitar

As its name suggests, a steel guitar is played using a steel or metal bar but similar hard objects also work. Commonly referred to as a lap guitar, steel guitar is positioned on the guitarist’s lap as they play. This particular guitar is vastly different from others as it can possess up to 10 or more strings while the frets are entirely unused. Mastering the steel guitar takes a lot of time and effort but when you do, the sounds you can produce are nothing short of exceptional.



With the exception of the tube accessory, a slide guitar is not actually all that different from a normal guitar. There are only six strings and a single neck so it has some flexibility in relation to normal guitars:

  • With a little tweaking, you can turn just about any ordinary guitar into a slide guitar.
  • You can play a slide guitar directly using your fingers as you would a normal guitar.
  • You can freely place it flat on your body like a normal guitar.
  • The strings are not heavy which makes it smooth to play and adjust.

Meanwhile, steel guitars are a lot more specialized and this is clearly shown in their structure. On top of having over ten strings, a steel guitar can have two or even three necks. Aside from that, compared to the slide guitar, the average steel guitar is noticeably bigger in terms of width and length. 

  • Complicated build means it is harder to learn.
  • Steel guitars come in many different variations to cater to specific playstyles.
  • Having more strings multiplied by more necks grants more versatility when it comes to producing sounds.
  • The strings are noticeably heavier than that on most guitar types.


Strangely enough, if you take their differences in builds and tools out of the picture, both slide and steel guitars have a very similar playstyle. 

  • Each of them requires a specialized object.
  • They are ultimately both played by sliding their respective tool across the strings. 
  • The strings are plucked, not strimmed for both guitar types.


Due to their vast differences in structure, the sounds they produce are also very dissimilar. 

For slide guitar:

  • It produces smooth sounds with sharp, clear and bright tones that resemble the human voice in some cases.
  • Since you can turn mostly any guitar into a slide guitar, you can achieve different sounds depending on which guitar type is used as a base.
  • It pairs well with overdrive effects.
  • The slide guitar is often used in blues, bluegrass and country music, as well as Indian folk music and Hawaiian music. 

For steel guitar:

  • It glides smoothly between notes, producing twisted, sinuous, and deep sounds akin to the human voice.
  • It possesses higher sound quality due to heavier strings.
  • It is extremely versatile when playing notes with a large number of strings and necks.
  • It works great with metal amplifiers.
  • The steel guitar is often seen in blues, rock and modern country music, and even gospel music.
Slide GuitarSteel Guitar
BuildOrdinaryBigger, More Complex
Number of Strings610 or More
AccessorySmall Tube Wrapped Over A FingerSteel or Metal Bar
PlaystyleStrings Are Plucked Using ToolStrings Are Plucked Using Tool
SoundSharp, ClearDeep, Versatile