Steel Guitar Vs Slide Guitar [Difference & Which is Better]

Guitars are one of the major instruments for music and therefore you will witness different variations, types, and ways of them. Likewise, steel and slide guitars are two types of guitars that are different from each other.

Yet if we compare steel guitar Vs slide guitar, the differences might not seem bigger. You might think that a guitar is a guitar no matter what name they are being called. But for serious musicians, even the slightest difference can seem huge and change their perspectives.

The Primal Difference in Short –

The fact that makes steel guitar different from slide guitar is the former is a little bit more complicated in construction and style than the latter one. And you can easily make a slide guitar out of your ordinary guitar. But a steel guitar with its several kinds is not entirely equal to any ordinary guitar. They carry more than 8 to 9 strings in a single neck and the strings are comparatively heavier than slide guitars.

Steel Guitar Vs Slide Guitar

A comparison table is added below for your better understanding.

Comparison Table:

Features =>

Steel Guitar

Slide Guitar




Playing Method

A heavy bar

A tube-shaped slide






Not heavy

Number of Strings

10 or more


Other Names

Lap steel, pedal steel, dobro




Not much

Slide vs Steel Guitar Review:

People with a general musical sense can question steel guitar and slide guitar because they are not any instruments for common places. An ordinary acoustic or electric guitar is seen in a small gig, but these guitars are for serious players in most cases. That’s why you should learn about these two types of guitars individually.

About Steel Guitar:

Steel Guitar

There is a reason behind the name steel guitar. It is because this guitar is played by a metal or steel bar and that approves the name of the guitar. However, this steel guitar is also known as a lap guitar as it sits on your lap and then you play it.

It has other many names including Dobro slide guitar and pedal steel guitar. The specialty of the guitar that makes it different from other conventional guitars to a great extent is you don’t use the frets while playing it and it has up to 10 strings or more.

If you are playing a steel guitar, you need to have some set of ideas about it like its sound quality and the style of playing it. The instrument requires only one finger to play it. You need to slide the bar from one pitch to another and pluck the strings and not strum them.

This very process is known by the Italian term “Portamento”. The sound quality of this guitar is very much exceptional from any ordinary guitar as the strings are heavy. It produces a sound of sinuous crying perfect for blues or country music.

Things We Liked about / Pros –

  • You get to choose a comfortable guitar as steel or lap guitars come in different variations
  • Get metal amplifiers for more of a naturally amplified sound by their resonator guitar
  • Offers immense pleasure and fun with the versatility of steel guitar as they come with more than ten strings and several necks with exceptional sound quality
  • Interesting that lap steel guitars come from a very reasonable price range to a higher price range

Things We Didn’t Like About / Cons –

  • The guitar is very complicated in style and requires immense skill to grasp the proper knowledge of playing it

About Slide Guitar:

Slide Guitar

One thing that is common about a slide guitar is that you play it in an ordinary or conventional manner like you play an ordinary guitar. Slide guitars are mostly known for their amazing ability to cope with the music genre “blues”.

This guitar also requires a hard metal or steel-made tube or slide to slide from one pitch to another. The sound effect this guitar creates is named “glissando”. It is an Italian music term and it means gliding from pitch to pitch to cover musical notes.

The sliding is done using one of the fingers of your left hand. You need to put the finger into the tube of the metal slide and then play it. Also, you are not supposed to strum the strings, but rather pluck them. This method of playing a slide guitar is also known as “bottleneck”.

It is good that the strings of slide guitars are not heavier and they provide comfort in this way. Also, it would not be justified if we don’t mention the fact that a slide guitar is a creation clearly inspired by a steel guitar.

Things We Liked about / Pros –

  • You can play comfortably following the traditional way of playing guitar keeping it flat on your body
  • The strings are not heavier and the steel, metal, or glass-made bar makes it easy to slide from pitch to pitch
  • It’s not very different from playing any ordinary guitar since there are only six strings and not complicated in the system
  • You can get the pleasure of playing a slide guitar since tuning is easy and a thorough slide makes a clearer sound perfect for playing blues

Things We Didn’t Like About / Cons –

  • Not as versatile as steel guitars

Differences Between Steel Guitar Vs Slide Guitar:

Even though they both are guitars, an instrument most players play, their construction and style of playing are very different from each other. Besides, their dissimilarities in features reveal more of their differences.

1) Structural Difference –

The primal difference between a steel guitar and a slide guitar is their structure. They are both named guitar but the close view reveal that steel guitars are much more complicated in structure than slide guitars. The former ones are bigger in width and length than the latter.

But there can be some exceptions too. Besides, a steel guitar can have several necks too. The pedal steel guitars can have two or three necks constructed. This must seem complicated to you. But in slide guitars, there is only one neck, just like an ordinary or regular guitar.

2) Playing Method –

playing methods

You will see less difference in the playing method of both steel guitars and slide guitars. But there are differences in the slide with which you will slide the strings of the guitar. For steel guitars, you need to use a heavy bar-shaped object for sliding. It can be made of metal, steel, brass, or any solid material.

On the other hand, the slide you use in a slide guitar is tube-like. You need to fit it in one of your fingers properly and tightly. It has to be snugged into your finger for a proper way of playing. This object can be made of glass, steel, or anything. Apart from that, both guitars require plucking, not strumming.

3) String Number –

A guitar without strings is just useless. Also, a guitar with several strings is full of variations in tone. You will notice a distinguished difference in strings of both steel guitars and slide guitars. The former one carries up to 12 strings in a single neck.

If a player happens to play a pedal steel guitar with two or three necks, then each neck carrying 12 strings will marvel you for sure. The strings are heavy as well. Conversely, a slide guitar has six strings at best like the regular ones. Besides, they are not heavy like the former one.

4) Effects on Pitch –

As string number differs in the two guitars, their sound effects also differ from each other. The effect steel guitars impose upon the pitch is named “portamento”. And for slide guitars, this effect is named “glissando”. Both are Italian music terms.

5) Sound Quality –

A steel guitar is much more capable of producing twisted, sinuous, and deep sounds because of its smooth gliding method of playing. Besides, the resonator guitar helps in amplifying sounds naturally. Conversely, slide guitars are famous for their sharp, clear, and bright tones. This tone is perfect for blues.

6) Pickup Systems –

Pickups System

In steel guitars, the pickup comes with more output. To lessen the high end and increase turn it comes with more DC resistance. It allows the guitar to have more midrange. For slide guitars, the pickups come with less midrange and that makes the sound crystal clear.

7) Versatility –

Playing a steel guitar is complicated yet more fun just because of its immense versatility. It comes with several necks, many strings, and different ways of playing it. You can get a cheaper steel guitar to a very expensive one seeing their diversity in construction.

But a slide guitar is like a very regular one. Even the regular guitar can be modified to play like slide guitars. So, there is less versatility.

So, which Type of Guitar is better?

Seeing the dissimilarities, it is clear that steel guitars are superior in construction and require more patience for learning. Conversely, slide guitars are not so complicated and require some practice to skill it. The rest depends on you how you want to play the guitar.

FAQs –

Question-1: Is a steel guitar easier to play?

Answer: It is not entirely easy to play a steel guitar until you are a genius. It requires immense patience and hardworking skill to grasp the notes of several strings of the guitar.

Question-2: What makes the slide guitar different than a regular guitar?

Answer: You use a tube-like slide made of glass or steel in a slide guitar which you don’t in a regular guitar. Besides, you only pluck slide guitars while you do both strums and pluck in a regular one.

Question-3: Is a glass or metal guitar slide better? 

Answer: Glass is a better slide since it slides smoothly and roundly. But a metal guitar slide tends to produce a raspy sound. Now, between Steel Guitar Vs Slide Guitar, which guitar do you want to play?

Last Updated on December 8, 2022 by Perry Garner

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