Lap Steel Tunings

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

  1. Paul in Colorado

    Paul in Colorado Telefied Ad Free Member

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    What gauge strings do you use for the Don Helms tuning?
     
  2. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Paul, I get'em from B0B at the PSGF... they are custom gauged exactly like Don's... reduces breakage etc... I'll hunt for the wrapper or you can look on that page... B0B is good folks!
     
  3. kludge

    kludge Tele-Afflicted

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    You may be hard pressed to find anything new that sounds better than that old Harmony. And if the tuners give you grief, just lube 'em with some sewing machine oil. Too many people have wrecked or replaced perfectly good vintage Klusons because they don't lube them. I use the original tuners on a 1952 Harmony acoustic and they work fine... I just lube them every other string change.

    And before working on exotics like behind the bar bends, work on your intonation and slants. Good intonation and a warm vibrato are a lifetime's work on the lap steel, and slants will get you more than behind the bar bends.

    Someone else mentioned old-school bullet bars. Heed their advice... the bullet is really the way to go. Dobro bars are fine for dobros, but not for lap steel.
     
  4. Mojohand40

    Mojohand40 Tele-Afflicted

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    for C6 I use .015-.017-.022-.026-.030-.036 (high to low)
    for Don Helms (G# E C# B G# E) (high to low) I pieced together .011 .014 .017 .018 .024 .030, or there abouts, but what GetBent said get 'em from Bob at the SGF.

    Now, my Cheapie Rogue Lap steel is like a 21" scale, so the same strings for C6 tune up well enough for the E6 tuning (because of the short scale).
    My other steel is 23" scale, and so I have to use the smaller strings (.011 etc).


    I need to just order a couple of sets like Get Bent suggested.
     
  5. garytelecastor

    garytelecastor Poster Extraordinaire

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    graphs-I play both lap and pedal.
    I tune the lap to
    6th-E
    5th-F#
    4th-G#
    3rd-B
    2nd-E
    1st-G#

    I find that I can emulate a lot of the pedal licks
    on the lap in this tuning.
     
  6. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    i'm going to try ^this^ tuning out right now! i have been fooling around with open D and E and i like them fine but this one looks neat too, thanks gary!

    the Harmony sounds great, kludge...really rich sounding...but i'm having trouble with the "fret" markers. is it possible they were screened on incorrectly? like, obviously it's going to take time for me to get the notes right away, but it seems like some of the notes are right on the line and others are halfway in between. it's just a little confusing here in the learning stages.

    and i don't know if the bar i got is a bullet or not...it's a Steven's brand and looks like this:
    [​IMG]
     
  7. kludge

    kludge Tele-Afflicted

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    Don't trust those fret markers... trust your ears! There's no way to good intonation on a lap steel but practice. Practice along with records (or other musicians) whenever you can, and listen closely to make sure you're in tune.

    And that Stevens bar is a dobro bar, not a lap steel bar. Look for a Dunlop bullet bar online... they look like, well, a bullet. Round with a rounded nose. It'll feel a little odd after getting used to the Stevens grip, but it'll work better for you in the long run. On dobro, you play a lot of pull-offs, hence the bar shape. On lap steel, you play a lot of slants, hence the bullet shape. It makes sense.

    Another bar you might want to try is the John Pearse one. It has a Stevens-style handle, but a round bullet nose, and much nicer chroming than either the Stevens or Dunlop bars.
     
  8. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    ok, i'll keep my eyes open for a bullet style bar. hopefully i can sell this one on craigslist without too much trouble.

    as for practicing, i've been just playing a chord progression into my loop pedal and going over that. it definitely is better practice for intonating than just playing solo. and i have no problem using my ears, as long as i know that the markers are not accurate i won't use them for more than a guideline.
     
  9. eddiewagner

    eddiewagner Poster Extraordinaire

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    i tried them all. that is the only tuning i get along well with for slide and lap and all. maybe i am just too stupid or settled in my ways. everything beyond the mayestic open e leads to harmonical chaos and string destruction. at least with me.....
     
  10. rdchapman

    rdchapman Tele-Holic

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    I set up my "slide guitars as follows
    Square neck Dobro GBDGBD
    Round Neck Open E tuning shifted down to D
    Pedal Steel (One Neck) E9
    Lap Steel A6
    I like the way the A6th lays out on the neck along with the others. For me it's less of a mental leap to change from the Pedal Steel to the lap that way and I get a good country / jazz sound from the lap steel.
     
  11. Don Miller

    Don Miller Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Ive got a chart somewhere that shows how to change form C6 to A6, E6, etc by just retuning a couple of strings...you do get different inversions and would have to move your grips up or down to different string pairs, ala open G v open D on a regular guitar. For a 6th tuning an 8 string gives much more possibilities that a 6 string....you can do a I-IV-V with very little bar movement.

    for a 6 string a cool tuning is C6/A7..C#EGACE, low to high..you geta C, Am C6 and A7 all in one place...plus some tritones in there (C#-G/G-C# )...its not as much a "strum " tuning as C6 and thereby helps get away from the "too Hawaiian" sounding thing in stright 6th tunings.

    I started out playing with a big bullet bar..advantage was its alot easier to get good intonation with a big fat bar. I used it one at a late night outdoor festival gig...it was about 45 degrees...and I left the bar I was using sitting out for about 3/4 of the set....I used it on 1-2 songs late in the set we were doing. It was too big for my shirt pocket and in my jeans it looked like I was rather excited about something....so I left it sitting on the stage next to my steel....when my steel tune came around that bar was so cold it was like ice...needless to say it wasnt one of my best solos....

    I started playing dobro a few years ago..in GBDGBD tuning and settled on a modified stevens style bar..I have since strated using that for 6 string lapsteel too...slants and pull offs are easier to execute cleanly...my 6 string lap is currently in dobro G as well....Ive become a beliver in the "stick to one tuning for a while" school of steel playing...I have a Brozemantic bullet for my 8 string and save the big fat bullet for my pedal steel...which I pull out 1-2x a year to remind myself I cant walk and chew gum either...its also a cheapy 3+1 fender-shobud which are notoriously hard to keep in tune.

    As an aside, for the real Burritos sound, Sneaky Pete played an 8 string Fender pedal steel, tuned to a B6 tuning...very similar to the non pedal c6...but his pedals were set to do changes similar to those on an E9 pedal steel...
     
  12. graphs

    graphs Tele-Afflicted

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    cool, thanks!
     
  13. RaggedTele

    RaggedTele Tele-Meister

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    I have tried them all

    I understand the confusion on this topic - There are so many tunings for a lap steel.

    I solved it - I have 3 - all tuned diferently

    Not practical, but it works

    JB
     
  14. brewwagon

    brewwagon Poster Extraordinaire

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  15. eddie knuckles

    eddie knuckles Tele-Afflicted

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    I use C6, and even though I do play on "hawaiian" sounding song, I can use it for blues and rock by plucking certain series of strings (I leave out the 3rd string alot for chords - that darn "hawaiian" one), but will do single note runs.

    1- Find your scales, this is the key to everything before chording.

    2- steel guitar forum - great resource with tons of info - steel without pedals section
    http://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewforum.php?f=13&sid=810a4c933e9078f5264f252feec42c8a

    play a lot, smile, and repeat.

    good luck - :eek:)

    I tune my dobro to open G, I would not do this to my lap (I have tried - but then it sounds "dobroey")
     
  16. RaggedTele

    RaggedTele Tele-Meister

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    Since we're talking about lap steels

    Does anyone out there know what brand/year this is?
    It only says "Electric" on the headstock. Has wire frets
    and sounds fantastic but I don't know what it is.
    John - Ohio
     

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  17. backalleyblues

    backalleyblues Friend of Leo's

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    Wire frets? That's a new one...

    Anyways, some inspirational video here, my buddy Damon Fowler... his lap steel is an old 50's Harmony, tuned open E, and he uses his regular glass (or is it ceramic? not sure) slide that he uses for bottleneck work. He also likes to pick the bar up a LOT! Running straight into a BFSR running around 8...



    Franc Robert
     
  18. Flewis

    Flewis Tele-Holic

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    I use C6 or an open g 135135, if I play a lot of minors I'll crank the high 3(b) down to an a - this is the tuning I use the most - I also use an E9 tuning on my 10 string lap
     
  19. RaggedTele

    RaggedTele Tele-Meister

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    Thanks for sharing the video

    Your pal has that swamp thang going, I like the old lap steels because the pickups were so good. Not like the new stuff with the strat-type pickups. I have an old "Trailblazer" (see pic, I don't know who makes it but it hauls butt on the Damon Fowler type stuff you shared, my other one (the dark wood one I showed a pic of) is very sweet sounding, very pedal-steelish and it sustains forever. I also play a 1990 Emmons Lashley LeGrande but I'm growing tired of hauling it and a separate amp around. I'll probably put it up on eBay shortly. My back ain't what it used to be and gigs are getting harder to secure.

    Anyway thanks for sharing the video. Heres a pic of the Trailblazer -

    ~ JB - Pickin in Ohio ~
     

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  20. backalleyblues

    backalleyblues Friend of Leo's

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    Yeah, the swamp thing comes to us quite naturally down here in Florida!!!:D

    From what I can gather on your lap steel, it's probably a National/Supro creation from the late 40's-50's. If the pots are still original, you might be able to get a rough manufacture date for that steel-and yes, the old lap steels kick some serious *ss!

    My current lap steel is a Harmony H4, from sometime in the 50's, and I tune it in open D, with real heavy strings, and use a Stevens bar, since I do pick it up a lot (being a blues player will do that to you!) I've played a lot of open G as well, and in my current band, the D seems to be used a lot more. Might look into getting a Pearce bar-Tom Gray from Delta Moon uses one, and I really like what he can do with it.

    Franc Robert
     
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