Lap Steel Tunings

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by graphs, Feb 11, 2008.

  1. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    I just purchased an old lap steel and I want to find a tuning that is less Hawaiian sounding and more country sounding.

    Anyone have any suggestions?
     
  2. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

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  3. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    i know that the steel on Hank's records were mostly C6 but...and hopefully no one will take this the wrong way...that still sounds very Hawaiian to me.

    really what i'd like to do is approximate that sad 70's pedal steel sound as best i can. i guess more country-rock a la Byrds/Burritos and Neil Young than traditional country. it's a bit of a stretch, i know, but i've seen dudes play a lap steel with a volume pedal and get it sounding pretty weepy.



    edit: thanks for the link, there's some books there i'll keep an eye out for.
     
  4. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Oh sure, no problema. If you are playing a 6 string tune it to open E

    low to high E B E G# B E

    this is a common lap tuning in country rock... a lot of the country rock steelers play B6 but E will get you there... a little drive and a ton of compression and you'll sound cool.

    Mr. Dave uses E & D , Duane Allman used E quite a bit... I think Cindy Cashdollar plays in E (along with many others)

    you might try using heavier strings too... I have lap steel set up for this kind of music and I used baritone strings on my lap and it bellows.

    Doing D is just the same as E but a step lower.
     
  5. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    thanks so much, getbent!

    the strings that it came with are fairly heavy. they must be 12's anyway. i'll look into a compressor as well. it already sounds pretty thick going straight into my '64 Reveberocket :eek:
     
  6. mikespe

    mikespe Tele-Afflicted

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    I converted an old acoustic to a lap steel and research the tunings when I first built it. From what I read C6 tuning is the most common in country AND Hawaiian music...BUT it in the way that you play that decided if its country or Hawaiian. I never stuck with it (even though I still have the guitar)...so I can't tell you if that's true or not
     
  7. Mojohand40

    Mojohand40 Tele-Afflicted

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    I'll second what others have said. C6 tuning can sound either "Hawaiian" or classic country depending entirely on how you play it. C6 is a very useful tuning, but for blues and blues rock it's not as good as open E (or open D or G). These are for blues and rock.
    GetBent's suggestion to use open E is right on.

    I have two Lapsteels currently. I keep one in C6 the other in E13 (or E6) ala Don Helms (E G# B C# E G#). This is just C6 tuned up four frets, but it is the tuning used on nearly every Hank Williams hit and most of Patsy Clines stuff. I have the Book "Your Cheatin' Heart" that Getbent linked too and it's a treasure trove of Classic C6 licks! I love it!!!

    I keep a Strat copy with a Nut Riser and strung with 11's tuned to Open E for gritty Lap steel Blues. The longer scale of the Strat (as opposed to traditional Lap steels) seems suited to this type of stuff. Honestly, though, I hardly play it as I've been really focusing on C6 (and E6).
     
  8. ironweed

    ironweed Tele-Meister

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    Different six-string tunings have different voices, and you'll probably find that you want to use several. If you're digging the pedal steel sound, you may not be happy until you get one. But you can approximate a lot of that classic pedal sound (ie, two notes, one stationary, one moving) with bar slants and behind-the-bar bending...those are back-of-the-book topics.

    These would all work with the same string gages (for regular guitar) and some quick bandstand retuning

    E major.....................EBEG#BE
    A major.....................EAEAC#E
    E6th.........................EBEG#C#E

    With slightly heavier strings, use the same intervals for D major, G major, and D6th. The D and G tunings are also the most common for bottlenecking on a round-neck guitar.

    I also use (or used) these six string tunings for a particular sound or effect -- not all work with the same string gages --

    G6th.........................BDEGBD
    E7th.........................BDEG#BE
    E6th.........................BC#EG#BE
    E13th.......................BDEG#C#E

    C6th.........................CEGACE

    bluegrass hi-bass G......GBDGBD

    G9th (modal)...............DGDGAD.....bend A up to B behind the bar

    Huge, huge topic....try lurking at www.steelguitarforum.com for more info
     
  9. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    i did a cursory look at steelguitarforum.com but thought i'd check here before signing up to another message board.

    thanks for all the great suggestions guys.
     
  10. kludge

    kludge Tele-Afflicted

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    I've been playing lap steel for a couple of years now, and recently took up pedal steel. In my observation, the two instruments are as different from each other as either one is from regular guitar. The techniques are fundamentally different, slide or no. That being said, you can somewhat emulate the pedal steel sound on lap steel.

    First, stick to C6 tuning. It's way richer harmonically than open E, which is fine for rock but limited for country chord changes. Second, practice your slants! Practice scales harmonized in 6ths up and down the neck (that's what C6 is for!), and learn to nail those slants pitch-wise. This means playing the C and A strings together, E-C, and G-E.

    The characteristic weepy "pedal steel sound" is largely about I-IV and V-I chord changes via pedal bends. For example, bending B-G# up to C#-A (E-A chord movement) is a really common type of lick. Note that the interval changes from a major 6 to a minor 6. That's why you need to practice those slants! This sort of thing can be richer on a pedal steel... they can throw in a couple of harmony notes after the bend while the strings are still ringing.

    Also, a note on volume pedal technique... try to keep from maxing out your pedal. Ride it near the middle, and use the extra travel for sustain. And practice, practice, practice. Both lap steel and pedal steel are really difficult instruments.

    Keep in mind that I'm a totally sucky pedal steel player and barely adequate on lap steel. But you get my drift, I hope... the characteristic sound can be obtained, but it's more difficult.

    If you really want that pedal steel sound, though, I suggest biting the bullet and getting a pedal steel. Then expect to spend months or years buried behind that mind-bogglingly complex instrument!

    One last thing... you'll find that if you can play steel guitar (either kind) adequately at all, folks are REALLY impressed. Once you start to grasp the possibilities of the instrument, you may cringe in shame at the lameness of your own playing, but others will think it's awesome. I just recorded some pedal steel on an album, and I'd be perfectly happy if I never heard it again... but everyone who hears it goes "Oooh, pedal steel!"
     
  11. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    thanks for that, kludge.

    it was my understanding that they're both very difficult to learn and i had a few people suggest that i try lap steel first and get used to playing that way before committing to the more complex and more expensive pedal steel. which is fine because i couldn't afford even a beginners pedal steel right now.

    i think the biggest hurdle is going to be being conscious of what note/interval i'm playing instead of just lazily sticking to the moveable scale and chord shapes that make regular guitar so easy.
     
  12. WallyArms

    WallyArms Tele-Afflicted

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    I have an Open G question....Does anyone us the Open G tuning D G D G B D for lap steel (the tuning I use on my round neck resonator).
     
  13. Keifer

    Keifer Tele-Holic

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  14. emu!

    emu! Poster Extraordinaire

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    DGBDGB - my fav.
     
  15. ironweed

    ironweed Tele-Meister

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    Wally....I have a Loni Specter "Redneck" square neck on a strat body that I usually tune to DGDGBD....that qualifies as a lap steel, I think....
     
  16. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

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    The guy that I've worked with that gets the most out of the largest variety of styles (as to covers: Patsy Cline to John Prine to Ted Nugent [yes!]) with a non-pedal steel, uses an 8 string (his is a Framus). He uses G dobro tuning with an E and a G on top, respectively, which facilitates the western swing clusters quite handily. Obviously, his volume pedal manipulation, blocking, and behind-the-bar bends are spot-on. Plus, he's older than me, and he's listened to everything from Bob Wills to Steve Howe, and he's quite open minded.

    I'm a lap newbie... been playing a few months, I have six shows under the belt at this point with the lap steel. What works for the (bluesy) tunes I'm doing thusfar is open D. What I'll say: 1.) I'm definitely into the old school bullet bar. 2.) Choose the thickest gauge strings possible, particularly for the lowest string. 3.) Old school cats will tell you that you can only get on with picks; respect that, and give it a go; conversely, don't hesitate in tossing that out the window and, if thumb and fingers are the ticket for you (as seems to be the case for myself), exploit that.

    I want to keep the D tuning intact for the bluesy stuff. I want another lap steel, and having heard the aforementioned mate at countless shows, I'll settle for nothing other than an 8 string.
     
  17. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    well, i got an old Harmony 6 string so it will have to do for now. i suspect the next step will be a starter pedal steel. in the meantime, i'll be working behind the bar bends, volume swells and getting used to finger picks.

    thanks for all the input!
     
  18. jazztele

    jazztele Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm a very bad lap steel player, but i keep mine in C6 for jazzy-western swingy stuff...not confident enough to post any of it yet, though:oops:

    what i have figured out is that the difference between "the luau" and the "honky-tonk" has to do with the amount of strings you're playing. plucking out big chords and sliding around is kind of "instant hawaii" to my ears...paring down those voicings to something smaller and more managable is a little more country sounding to me...

    now i'm sure a real steel player can make a big chord sound country and a single doublestop sound hawaiian...but from my hack standpoint, it works for me.
     
  19. WallyArms

    WallyArms Tele-Afflicted

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    Glad to see that is an option - I'm considering a cheap lap steel but not sure I want to learn any new tunings.
     
  20. WallyArms

    WallyArms Tele-Afflicted

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    I would probably play with my fingers sans picks too, or commit real heresy and play it with a flat pick.... :lol: I play my round neck reso with a flat pick - I can use finger picks but don't like them. Bare fingers don't get the resonator moving enough.
     
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