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Kirk's brass slide

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I have a Jim Dunlop 224 brass slide that is 60mm long and weighs about 120gm. It seems a bit clunky to me so I am thinking of shortening it a bit to make it a bit lighter also. It's 22mm internal which is a little large but it does leave room for a little padding which is nice.

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As with most things, slides are a personal preference. What works for one player might not be at all what the next player wants.

I live in a large city which made my acquisition of a slide somewhat easier though it also posed many more options as I visited the various music stores in the area. I made my purchases and I tried out each slide while considering just what I wanted from "the perfect" slide.

In a slide, IMO, it seems "mass" and "density" are two desirable qualities which will appeal to many players seeking the perceived tone and sustain these two values offer independent of one another. Of course, for some players, "mass" will mean there is too much weight to move and to stop accurately when quick, accurate movements are desired. So there is always a trade off of pros and cons when making your decisions.

Of course, you can quickly reach a point of diminishing returns where continuing to add more and then again more mass does little to effect the end result. Therefore, do not consider mass alone as the be all and end all for your slide.

In general terms, "mass" as it exists in any material is slower and concomitantly more difficult to excite into a ringing resonance though, once that resonance has been started into motion, it is much slower to decay than is a less massive but equally dense material. "Density" reacts in its own manner though no one selects lead for their slide (or for a bell) for what should be obvious reasons.

If you feel a brighter, more crisp and a "chirpier" sound is what you want from your slide, brass is not the material to work with. Brass used as a slide material will give you what we would refer to as a thicker, warmer and a "more flavorful" sound all around than will glass or ceramic and most certainly more so than will a chromed slide. The more mass you can add to your brass slide (within reason), the more pronounced those virtues will become.

And, to note, I am discussing a slide used on a purely acoustic, non-amplified guitar since I tent to consider an electric guitar played through various tone shaping devices to be more subject to the whims of the player and the ability of their equipment to alter the original signal. For example, if you can build and enhance sustain through your electronics, possibly this is not a value which will be so highly sought out in the slide itself. Those are the decisions you need to make when settling in on a usable slide for your own playing style.

If you decide you prefer the merits of a heavier, more massive brass slide, I would suggest you find a dealer who retails pipe to the construction industry. Here in Dallas that was a fairly easy lift for me.

I determined the internal diameter I required and at the city sales desk of a local retailer I asked for several chunks of brass pipe cut to length. Within about ten minutes the pipe had been cut and paid for and I had the rudimentary materials for two slides for my own use and two to give away to friends. Cost was under $10 for everything.

Internal diameter of the pipe will determine the available external diameters which will in turn set the final mass for the slide. If you go this route, you'll probably have a few O. D.'s to choose from so have an idea of what you're searching for before you have the pipe cut - though, this is a pretty inexpensive way to go so you can experiment.

Since I had Dremel tool and its assorted tips available, the rest of the production work was fairly easy and not really that time consuming. I ground down all of the cut edges to make the slide more comfortable on my finger and to eliminate any chance of catching the slide as it moved across the strings. Then in order to finish the work, I lightly buffed the brass to a bright finish inside and out in order to remove any sludge and grime from the manufacture and storage of the pipe material. This took about 20-30 minutes for the first slide.

The same effect could have been produced without the aid of the Dremel using simple and inexpensive hand files and steel wool though the time element would naturally have been slightly increased. As with virtually any diy project, the first try will always take the most time as you make decisions regarding just what you desire in a final product. The second, third and fourth slides came with fewer decisions and in less time.

Once I was satisfied with the fit of the slide, I used a piece of thin, self-adhesive moleskin (purchased from the drugstore's foot care shelves) as a liner inside the slide. This last step was mostly for further comfort but also to make the slide more responsive to my input over the course of a night's playing time and to keep the brass from discoloring my finger after a few hours of play. Without the moleskinned brass, the perspiration from your finger inside the slide can be bothersome.

I have no idea just how much these slides weigh but they are, without a doubt, the heaviest slides I have used. I give them five stars for their performance. The two friends who received a slide apiece have been using their slides on stage ever since. One friend replaced her cherished (but no longer in production) slide which she had been using for several decades with this diy model. She has remarked on several occasions on the great all'round sound this diy slide produces.

There is more than enough mysticism and snake oil surrounding slides to keep you guessing and buying for months if not years. And I obviously cannot guarantee you that this diy slide is the prefect answer for your needs.

I went this route after auditioning several slides purchased from local and on line retailers and taking note of the pros and cons I found in each slide I tried. The Dunlop brass slide certainly offered good tone though I felt there was much more to be had by increasing the amount of brass being used. In other words, by increasing the mass several times over.

Between the Dunlop and the diy, I can't say there is a difference in how I use the slide and each is as responsive as I require of a slide. However, the difference in tone and, in particular, in the sustain I can achieve with the diy slide is easily and readily noticeable.

IMO the differences between the various material offerings is minimal when considering tone alone. Glass tends to sound like glass no matter what the glass is and chromed socket wrenches tend to sound like chromed socket wrenches IMO. Ceramic has its own qualities and the raw materials of the ceramic are secondary to the fact you are using a ceramic slide. Of course, both glass and ceramic can be shaped inside and out where a brass pipe is a brass pipe and it will be straight sided both inside and out - which may not suit your particular playing style.

The player's skills and talents have, IMO, far more effect on tone once a material has been selected than will minor changes in the materials themself. This doesn't come down to the difference between a $500 guitar and a $3500 + guitar, this is the difference each player could create with any single, quality instrument.

Comfort, for me, is a determining factor along with the ability to move the slide quickly and accurately when required. If you have decided your vibrato technique will benefit from a brass slide's mass and density, IMO this diy approach is one of your best, and in the end, least expensive options.

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