Watch the Guitar Setup & String Gauges online guitar lesson by Lee Roy Parnell from Slide Guitar Slinger
People often ask me, why do you have so many guitars on stage with you? Well, it's necessary for me since I play in different tunings. In this video, I'll go over some of the things that are different for each of my guitars for each tuning I use.
In general when I set up a guitar to play slide, there are several things that change, but I don't change the action. I don't make it higher as some do, because often times, it's too far for it to go without pulling the string sharp in the process. What I found is that by moving up in gauges I was still able to depress the strings to the fret while playing slide. I use the same guitar for A and E open tunings, as they have similar string tension, so I can use the same gauged strings. However, you can't use the same guitar for D and G — the strings become too loose, and you have to use a heavier string gauge to compensate.
On this guitar, which serves as my E and A open tuning guitar, I use a .13, .16, an unwound .20, going up to about a .52, although it doesn't really matter as much on the lower strings. I also like to play dead strings (sorry, it's true — either that or flatwounds), so I only change strings every few years.
Moving on to the guitar set up to play both D and G open tunings, I need more tension to compensate for the strings being looser. From the highest string, I use a .14, .16, wound .22, and working back to a .52 on the low E string (again, doesn't matter as much).