Lap steel

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Any Lap Steel players here?

I’ve been asked to play some lap stee for somebody. I’ve played a little on a lap steel I made, but it’s mainly an extension of normal slide playing in open E.

So just wondering what tunings people use and what resources are good for playing, specifically for the lap steel?

Also what strings do you use?


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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 2728
    I play in DADGAD tuned up to E & use the Newtone E set which is excellent. Not used many resources as most stuff for lapsteel is blues or bluegrass based but try and steal all the non pedal steel licks I can find.

    Jerry Douglas is cool & I often just jam to things I like. Right hand finger muting and independence is getting there slowly as is left hand pitch control. 
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  • Bennyboy-UKBennyboy-UK Frets: 92
    edited February 6
    http://sierrasteels.com/lessons/lap-lessons.html ;

    Tunings tend to be E9 or C6 (more jazzy)
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  • KKJaleKKJale Frets: 602
    ^ E9 is much commoner on pedal steel than lap, but C6 is fairly widely used for country/Hawaiian (Jerry Byrd was the great exponent) and the great thing is that of course if you use the sixth as a root then it gives you a relative minor triad. Boom, a minor chord out of a major-sounding tuning. Hurrah!

    There are dozens and dozens of tunings. I use an adapted A6 because I like a 5 on top, not a 3, which is what C6 gives. There's a lot to be said for straight E, or A, mind, or a Dobro 135135. You can do a lot with them. Ultimately every tuning is a compromise. JPFamps might be along in a bit, he uses some nice Don Helms-ish tunings as I recall...

    More, much more, on tunings here... 

    https://people.well.com/user/wellvis/tuning.html
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  • jpfampsjpfamps Frets: 1363
    edited February 9

    I've been playing lap steel for a couple of years now, and have been gigging on it from about September.

    It's great fun, and we have quite a few gigs lined up this year already.

    I've been playing classic country and Western Swing in a trio with acoustic guitar and piano; there is some footage of us knocking about, so I'll try to post some on here.

    There isn't that much instructional material out there even compared with pedal steel.

    Virtually all the classic country and Western swing up the end of the 50's uses some form of 6th tuning, at least on part of the neck. After the late 50's lap steel was pretty much superceded by pedal steel.

    Thus if you can get your head around one of the common 6th tunings, then you can pretty quickly adapt to most of the other common tunings. Generally the "lead" aspect of the playing will be done on the 6th part of the neck, and the other notes that aren't a "6" tuning are generally employed to expand your chordal options, eg E13 is an E6 tuning with a D in it, to give a dominant chord option (and indeed diminished), which you don't get from a regular 6th tuning.

    6th tuning work very well as KKJalessaya you have a major and minor triad under the bar, and can harmonize lines in 3rds or 6ths.

    I started on A6, which for a guitar player making finding the chords easier as you should be used to playing bar chords with the root on the A string.

    On a 6 string this would be from top to bottom (notes in brackets for 8 string)

    E
    C#
    A
    F#
    E
    C#
    (A)
    (A, G, F# or E can be used on this string).

    Low C6 is very popular too. I actually quite like the major 3rd on the top string.

    E
    C
    A
    G
    E
    C
    (A)
    (F or G work well).

    You can easily alternate between A6 and low C6 with the same string gauges, if you want to experiment to see (hear??) which tuning you prefer.

    Note the interval relationship between the top 6 strings of low C6 and the middle 6 strings of A6 is the same.

    I have a double neck 8 string on which I use A6 with a low E and on the other neck a hybrid of the Don Helms E6 (used with Hank Williams) and the Leon McAuliffe (Bob Wills) E13:

    G#
    E
    C#
    B
    G#
    F#
    D
    G#

    A6 / E13 is a classic combination used for Western Swing.

    String gauges will depend very much on which tuning you employ and scale length, but you generally want to use heavier strings than on a guitar. Here's what Cindy Cashdollar reccomends:

    http://cindycashdollar.com/tunings/

    Some of the best tutorials I've found on Youtube are from Eddie Rivers (Asleep at the Wheel), and use A6.










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  • TeetonetalTeetonetal Frets: 5793
    @jpfamps I'd love to see some footage! I'm working on a classic country and western swing project at the moment (rehearsing for some recording at year end) - not do much of it about, so would love to see what someone else is doing :)
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  • Jimbro66Jimbro66 Frets: 663

    Great advice there @jpfamps. The video links seem to have broken when your post was edited. BTW I have a lap steel identical to the one being used by Eddie Rivers, a Fender Deluxe 8 which is really nice.

    Of the current players in that style Jeremy Wakefield is probably my favourite but there are several excellent players keeping western swing and honky tonk steel alive and well.

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  • Jimbro66Jimbro66 Frets: 663
    Here is some handy reference material for anyone interested in lap steel:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lap-Steel-Guitar-Volk/dp/1574241346 an excellent book.

    http://www.hawaiiansteel.com/index.php a great web site with masses of useful info.

    http://www.volkmediabooks.com/ lots of great lap steel books

    https://people.well.com/user/wellvis/steel.html THE lap steel reference site.

    https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewforum.php?f=13 Lap steel section of the Steel Guitar Forum

    There's enough info in the above sites to answer just about any lap steel questions. If anyone knows of more please post.

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