Choosing the right bottleneck for how you play is as personal as choosing the right guitar. Most of us at a young tender age will walk into the nearest guitar shop and buy the biggest, thickest, heaviest and meanest looking slide we can find, thinking it has the 'best tone' - only to find when we get it home, it is completely unusable or controllable so it gets put in the cupboard never to be used again! The US company Songhurst Guitars, however, is giving you a fighting chance of finding the perfect bottleneck by giving you a large choice to suit all playing styles and finger sizes, all under the name of 'The RockSlide'.
We were sent a box of samples to dip into and see how we found them. It wasn't the entire RockSlide range which, if you look at the manufacturer's website, ranges from quite simple and inexpensive slides to the professional kind, which is what we were looking at. Oh, and professional? Did we mention that RockSlide users include Miles Kennedy, Pete Anderson and Dave Keuning?
So what do you look for when choosing? Well it would probably start with what finger you decide to use. If for example you decide to use your little finger, then it makes sense that the slide of choice would be smaller and maybe lighter than if you used your 1st, 2nd or 3rd finger. Maybe you are blessed with fingers like the incredible Hulk, then you need a bigger width slide that you can actually get your finger in. One very innovative and thoughtful feature of The RockSlide is the fact that the inside is tapered toward the tip of your finger, so it feels and fits like a comfy shoe, stopping any unwanted movement on the finger. This by itself is a huge selling point and has my attention.
The next thing to think about is your guitar and how it will cope. My guitars generally all have a medium to low slick action with light strings and stay in regular tuning when I decide to have a slide moment. Therefore I need to have the lightest touch to make it work, so I gravitate towards very light glass slides. A huge thick heavy brass slide on my guitars would be a big mistake. But if you play Seasick Steve, cigar box, diddly bo style, then you could basically use any bad ass type bottleneck to add to the vibe. Maybe you might want to tune to open chords, raise your action and use heavier strings? In that case, the more substantial RockSlides brass or steel variety that fits snug on the finger becomes a good choice for a brighter 'Delta Blues' style sound. The RockSlide has the bottleneck for you, but it does help if you know what it is you are going for.
If the tapered insides that fits snug on your finger isn't enough innovation over the average slide, each RockSlide has a cutaway where you might want to bend your finger so it doesn't pinch. This actually adds a lot to the comfort and control when in use, and control is everything when it comes sounding convincing. To add even more to the mix, there is a place at the top of the slide to rest your adjacent finger hard against the actual bottleneck. This is always in the right place due to how the slide sits on your finger with the cutaway at the bottom. This nice touch probably only comes into play if you use your 2nd or 3rd finger, but it does depend on the length of each your fingers and how they sit next to each other.
The RockSlide also comes in a comprehensive choice of material and finish which includes glass, chrome, gold, polished and aged brass. The glass ones even come with a warning that this is glass and if it breaks and you cut yourself, it's your own fault and not the manufacturer’s. I've broken many a glass slide over the years and still have all my fingers, fortunately!
We had a box of RockSlides to play with and that's the key here. The RockSlide is probably as good as a slide can get and you need to take time to find the right material, shape and size for you. The big sell for me is the tapered interior and the cutaway where it sits on your finger, which are really nice touches. Check the video to hear and see these for yourself. They aren't the cheapest but they are certainly among the very best!