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fireslide Guitar Slide

A new way to burn on guitar

 


by Phil O'Keefe



Slide guitar has very humble roots. The first slide players had to fashion their own slides, and used a variety of different materials to do so - beer bottles, the back edge of a knife, the sawed-off neck of a wine bottle, a socket from a socket wrench set - all kinds of things have been used as slides. One that many players have probably experimented with at one point or another is the common BIC ® lighter. But as anyone who's tried one hasdiscovered, they don't work very well. Now a new product is available that attempts to overcome some of the limitations of the humble BIC when used as a slide. Let's see how it performs.





What You Need To Know

  • The fireslide is the brainchild of Doug Gifford, a longtime Harmony Central member who is active on the forums under the user name pogo97.

  • The fireslide uses the body of a real BIC ® lighter that has been cut down slightly. The review sample measures 2 - 1/4" long; it's just a hair over 1/2" thick and almost 1" wide, just like a standard BIC lighter case. I've included a side-by-side picture if it next to an unmodified BIC lighter for comparison.




  • Available colors depend on whatever Doug has on hand, but he will try to accommodate customer color requests. Also if you have a BIC that is special to you (such as one you used to light your wedding cake), it can be sent to Doug for conversion into a fireslide, but you'll need to make sure it's empty first.

  • The top / cut-off area is covered and sealed with a black glue cap that has a suede leather material over the top of it that helps you grip the slide.




  • If you've ever tried to use a BIC lighter as a slide you know that the biggest issue with it is that it's way too light to use for that purpose. While a full BIC weighs about 22 grams, an empty one weighs in at only 17 grams. The fireslide is much, much heavier - about 110 grams. I'm told that figure may fluctuate +/- 5 grams.

  • Since it's so heavy I suspected the fireslide is filled with lead pellets, but shaking it didn't result in any rattling, so I knew whatever is packed in there is packed good and tight. When I asked Doug he informed me that they're actually filled with molten lead, which allows him to fill the lighter body completely. This maximizes the slide's weight.

  • The fireslide is earth-friendly in its construction - it uses recycled lead, spent lighter cases, and repurposed leather from worn-out clothing and a bit of glue. Even the instructions are printed on recycled paper.  

  • Doug includes a sheet with printed instructions with every flreslide and replicates those on his website, along with various video demonstrations. He even includes chord charts, tips on technique, and how to get a good tone and the importance of vibrato.

  • Doug's recommendation on how to hold the fireslide uses the first and second finger of the "fretting" hand to hold the slide, leaving the third and fourth fingers free to fret notes in front of the slide.



  • Video lessons and audio examples are available on the fireslide website.



Limitations

  • The fireslide can be difficult to grip if you have smaller fingers. I found it hard to hold it between the tip of my ring finger and the base of it - it's a bit too long for my (admittedly) short-fingered hands. If you are used to playing with a bottleneck or metal slide on your ring or pinky finger you may need to adapt some new approaches to your slide technique when playing with the fireslide.



Conclusions

I like the fireslide quite a bit for lap steel playing. The size and weight work very well in that application and it's easy to lift it off the strings with a fairly traditional left hand thumb / index / middle finger grip while still allowing you to mute the strings behind the slide with your ring finger and pinky to reduce unwanted resonances and noises.

As a slide for use when playing bottleneck style on a regular guitar, I was a bit less pleased with it - in no small part due to the small size of my hands, but also due to the different techniques required to play with a bar-style slide while holding an electro-Spanish guitar in the standard way. This may not be an issue for you if your hands are larger than mine, or if you're willing to adjust your approach to how you grip the slide and mute unwanted string resonances. Doug's recommended grip worked better for me that what I naturally "wanted" to do (holding it between the tip of my ring finger and the base of it, similar to what I do when playing with a bottleneck), although it makes behind-the-slide damping somewhat more difficult. Doug will also customize the length upon request, so if you want a shorter one to fit your hand while using a ring or pinky finger grip, it's not a problem. You also may prefer a different grip and muting methods that what Doug or I like to use, so your mileage can definitely vary here.

The fireslide has it all over a standard BIC lighter when it comes to ease of use and tone. It has the beef and weight that help to insure good string contact so that notes ring out clearly without the player having to "push down" and risk depressing the strings and causing fretboard clacks. The substantial weight also makes it easier to apply and control vibrato. While using a "bar style" slide is different than using one that surrounds a finger (like a bottleneck) and will require different technique and some time experimenting and learning how to get the most out of it, the fireslide is a very effective bar for slide use, and a clever repurposing of materials that would otherwise be discarded. -HC-


Resources

fireslide ($15.00 Canadian [plus shipping], $20 USD "street" - shipping is included at the USD price)


You can purchase the fireslide direct from Doug at his website:     

http://www.fireslide.ca/



Have comments about this review or questions about the fireslide? Want to discuss techniques? Then be sure to check out this thread right here in the HC Electric Guitar forum!




__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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