Can You Play Slide Guitar on Nylon Strings? (Suprising Result)

Yes, you can play slide guitar on nylon strings.

It does not give the same twangy sound you get from sliding on steel strings, and there are some things to be aware of in terms of how hard you press on the strings. But it is absolutely possible to do, and a great way to experiment with different sounds and techniques without having to buy more guitars.

You can even use normal household items to try it (knife, lighter, screwdriver).

Throughout this article, we explore the pros and cons of using a slide on a nylon string guitar, technique suggestions, and what you should be wary of to avoid damaging your strings and fretboard.

We have also collated some examples of performances of slide on nylon string (classical and blues) for your inspiration.

Pros of Playing Slide on Nylon Strings

No Need To Purchase a New Guitar

If you already own a nylon string acoustic guitar and just want to experiment with slide guitar, then the fact that you can use a nylon string guitar means you don’t need to buy any additional equipment. You can still have a lot of FUN with a slide on nylon string and do some experiments,

Unique Sound

The sound of a slide on nylon strings is unique, and different to the conventional sound, and can even be incorporated into traditional nylon-string performances. Check out the performance videos listed below to see how some professional players integrate slide into traditional classical nylon string performances.

Cons of Playing Slide on Nylon Strings

Sounds Very Different

You will not be able to replicate a standard ‘slide guitar’ sound on nylon strings, because it is the interaction between the slide and steel of the strings that have a big impact on the nature of the sound. It doesn’t have the same sustain sound that a lot of people like about slide guitar.

Strongs Are Close to Frets

With slide guitar you do not want to push the string into the fret, just hover above. However when playing on a normal nylon string guitar the action is typically quite close (strings are close to the fretboard), so you need to press very gently which can take some time to perfect.

Will Slide Guitar on Nylon Strings Ruin The Strings?

If you have a decent slide guitar technique, then playing slide on nylon strings should have a negative impact on the strings and even your frets. A lot of people new to slide guitar think the slide needs to be pressed down against the fretboard and dragged up over the frets, but this is incorrect.

With slide guitar, the slide acts as the fret, so you are just supposed to touch down on the string lightly and not push it down to the fretboard.

If you do this your strings will not be damaged, but if you push the nylon strings down and drag the slide across frets there is potential that you will cause some damage to your strings.

Example Of Someone Playing Slide Guitar On Nylon Strings

There are some really interesting and amazing sound examples of professional classical guitar players playing slide guitar on a nylon string guitar and also someone playing a more blues type sound.

I have collected three of the most interesting ones I could find, making a variety of sounds and playing different types of classical. It is definitely worth taking a look and getting inspired about what you can do with a slide on nylon strings.

Which Slide Should I Use to Play on Nylon Strings?

There are a few things to think about when choosing your guitar slide including length, material and diameter. But also make sure whatever slide you end up choosing fits on your fingers, as not all of them do!

Does A Glass Or Metal Slide Sound Better on Nylon Strings?

There is no definitive answer as to whether a glass or metal slide sounds better on nylon strings. In the video examples below of people playing with slides on nylon strings, most are using a glass slide. I personally prefer a glass slide, and many others recommend a glass slide as it does not produce the same scratching sound that can come from metal.

How Guitar Slide Length Impacts Playing

There are two main options, full length which covers all strings, or shorter half-length which will cover 2-3 strings. Sometimes the shorter ones are good, especially for less experienced players. You can still get nice chord sounds by playing three strings at a time, but you are less inclined to get as much interference on the other strings which can be helpful while you are building your skills and experimenting.

Slide Diameter/Thickness

In general, my personal preference is for a thicker glass slide, with a larger diameter. I find this produces a better tone and is easier for me to work with. Some others prefer thin and less diameter though, so ideally you build a collection of slides and use them for different purposes.

If you have some musician friends who have slides it would be ideal to borrow a few of theirs and see which one you like the best. If not then head into a music store and try a few on your finger, and maybe play on a guitar if you are able to, but if you need to buy them online then it isn’t a huge investment to risk (circa $20).

What Tuning Is Best To Play Slide Guitar on Nylon Strings

If you are a beginner you might have the most fun with open tuning. With an open tuning, you will get some nice chords sounds and be able to transition them up and down the fretboard easily. Compared to if you are trying to pluck out single notes.

But you can also have a lot of fun with standard tuning and using the slide for extra flavour on top of your normal playing style.

Technique Tips for Playing Slide Guitar on a Nylon String Guitar

The technique tips for playing slide guitar on a nylon string guitar are similar to those for playing slide on any guitar.

Some basic slide guitar technique suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Very light touch with slide
  • Don’t push slide too hard to touch frets/fretboard
  • Mute strings you aren’t playing
  • Have fun and experiment