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Good lap steel tuning other than C6?

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Crawfish, May 5, 2014.

  1. Crawfish

    Crawfish Tele-Afflicted

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    I've been playing lap steel for a while now using C6 tuning.

    I have a second steel I'd like to use for a different tuning. What's a good one to try?

    Background: I'm playing 30s and 40s stuff like "Harbor Lights," "Sunset Swing," "Careless Love" etc.

    I love George Harrison and I wonder how hard it would be to adapt some of his slide stuff to steel.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    -Kevin
     
  2. HarryDoesntMind

    HarryDoesntMind Tele-Meister

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  3. RevMike

    RevMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like GBDGBD for lap steel. It's easy for my simple brain to get. I use DGDGBD a lot for guitar and slide. It makes for a relatively easy. transition.
     
  4. Crawfish

    Crawfish Tele-Afflicted

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    Thanks, these are good ideas.
     
  5. BlackAmpeg

    BlackAmpeg Tele-Holic

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    D-A-D-F#-A-D is one of my personal favorites. If you're already proficient with C6, I'd say try E9. You may find you like it more!
     
  6. Don Miller

    Don Miller Tele-Afflicted

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    Dobro G (135135) is real similar to C6 (135613, and even closer on more than 6 strings) so the transition is fairly easy. John Ely has (or had, I haved looked for it for a while) a page where he described and discussed the various tunings.

    A cool tuning is C6/A7...C#EGACE...you get a 6th and a 7th tuning rolled into one...
     
  7. syrynx

    syrynx Tele-Afflicted

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    Kevin, I'll address your question, but not before expressing my long-overdue gratitude for your blog. I happen to be keenly interested in all the subjects you address, and you address them very well, both in writing and in pictures. Thanks! :D

    Re tunings: George Harrison's slide guitar work is almost all single notes, and as such can be played in any tuning. Your C6 is actually one of the best tunings there is for single-note work, because it reduces to a minimum the amount of bar movement needed to execute a complete scale.

    Here's a slightly expanded version of a chart I've posted several times previously, showing some other tunings which are compatible with the string gauges you're already using for C6. (Your set may vary a bit from the nominal gauges in the chart, but all of these tunings will work with what you have.)

    Code:
    Str  .036  .030  .024  .022  .017  .014
    C6    C     E     G     A     C     E
    C7    C     E     G     Bb    C     E
    A6    C#    E     F#    A     C#    E
    A7    C#    E     G     A     C#    E
    E6    B     E     G#    B     C#    E
    E7    B     D     E     G#    B     E
    E9    B     D     F#    G#    B     E
    E13   B     D     E     G#    C#    E
    B11   B     D#    F#    A     C#    E
    JB*   C#    E     G     A     C     E
    WL**  C#    E     G     A#    C     D
    *JB = the Jerry Byrd C6/A7.
    **WL = William Leavitt's tuning, designed to play a wide variety of chords without slanting the bar.


    Each of these is a powerful tuning; each has both strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps you might find one of them sufficiently suitable that you'd like to dedicate your second lap steel to one of them. OTOH, you may find it preferable to retune your C6 axe occasionally to utilize one or more of these tunings, and set up the second steel for completely different applications.

    A weakness shared by all the tunings in this chart is limited range, from lowest string to highest-- a tenth or so. That's the trade-off for the close intervals which make them so chord-friendly and so useful for fast single-note work. You may well find that your second lap steel is more useful with a wider-range tuning, such as open D (DADF#AD) or E (EBEG#BE), G (DGDGBD) or A (EAEAC#E), all of which can be achieved with a (medium or heavy) set of standard guitar strings, and all of which encompass two full octaves between the open first and sixth strings.

    My own personal solutions to the tuning problem stem from not playing out any more, and not having anyone to play with. I don't enjoy playing along to backing tracks or sequences. So I'm playing thumb-style, and want the low root and fifth for alternating bass. I keep one six-string in DADF#AD, DADFAD, or DADFAC. The other, with slightly different string gauges, I tune to FCEbFAC, with the 5th string (C) an octave lower than you'd expect. In addition to the obvious major and dominant 7th chords, this F7 gives me three notes of diminished and minor sixth chords, and I can expand the vocabulary with slants and by pulling strings behind the bar.

    If you've time and inclination to dig deeper, I posted many, many video clips of many players using many tunings in the Lap steel advice needed topic a while back. I also posted an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of different tuning classes in the 6 String Lap Steel Players- cool tuning!! topic.
     
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  8. Crawfish

    Crawfish Tele-Afflicted

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    Hi John -

    Thanks for the very kind words about the blog. I appreciate it.

    This is great information. The chart, in particular is just fantastic. You're giving me a lot of things to consider.

    Your comments about the range are very interesting, and something that never crossed my mind. I may start out with an open E for that reason.

    -Kevin
     
  9. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

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    The tuning I use in addition to C6 is open D (D A D F# A D), which has already been mentioned within the thread.

    I've not played those particular tunes so I did a quick search to have a look at the chords. Couldn't find "Sunset Swing". "Careless Love" I'd probably play on my D lap, or any triad-based tuning really. "Harbor Lights" looks like a good fit for C6 to me. That's knee-jerk though, not an in depth assessment based on working out an arrangement.
     
  10. Don Miller

    Don Miller Tele-Afflicted

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    looking at that chart its interesting that the difference between a number of the tunings..C6 and A6 for instance, involve just changing a couple of strings 1/2 step...the chord inversions in relation to the root are different, but that might be a simple way to sample some different tunings without major restringing
     
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  11. Crawfish

    Crawfish Tele-Afflicted

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    Yes. I'm now starting to think I might put a "C6 set" of strings on the second steel and just play with some of these tunings to get a feel for all of them.

    I read John's other post where he had some other links. He made that point there as well - all of these tunings can be had on the same string set.

    Having said that, I wanted to mention that the John Ely PDF looks great too. It's helpful that he has a couple of pitch references on the chart too. Since I still think like a standard tuning guitar player, that's very valuable.

    Thanks, everyone. What a cool instrument!
     
  12. Itwang

    Itwang Tele-Meister

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    The Steel guitar forum is kind of like this place only for all things steel guitar related. That place has everything you want to know about every tuning imaginable and they are good people over there. You should become a member and haunt that place often. Steel guitar is so much fun to get into. If you're experimenting with tunings you should consider getting into 8 strings. They really expand the possibilities......
     
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  13. SPUDCASTER

    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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  14. BlackAmpeg

    BlackAmpeg Tele-Holic

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    This is great advice. The Steel Guitar Forum is a goldmine of information.
     
  15. J. Hayes

    J. Hayes Friend of Leo's

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    Hey Crawfish..........

    A tuning I've favored over the years for six string lapsteel or Dobro is the good ol' G6th... Low to high it's B D E G B D .... You'll find that the E note in the 4th slot is the 6th tone and is really usable and eliminates a lot of bar movement when doing single note soloing. Plus the 1st three strings are the exact same as a regular Dobro G tuning so you can still do a lot of the bluegrass things with it. On top of that if you retune the 1st string to E and the 3rd string to G# you have a nice E7 tuning for things like Steel Guitar Rag, Roadside Rag, or other "E" things including Duane Allman slide guitar licks. For a long time I had two Keith/Scruggs banjo tuners with stops on the 1st and 3rd strings of my Chandler lapsteel just for quick retuning of those strings.. Lately the bands I've been playing in I play pedal steel if I play steel at all and I have D-tuners on my Telecaster to lower the 1st, 5th and 6th strings a whole tone each to give me an open G chord for slide and open tuning things..........JH in Va.
     
  16. JohnSS

    JohnSS Tele-Meister

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    I have found that Ben Harper's go to lap steel tuning works for me as well: DADDAD. Great for bands, solo playing,, and singer accompaniment
     
  17. Biggfoot44

    Biggfoot44 TDPRI Member

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    And I'll add one more variant not mentioned in this thread , specifically still another version of G 6th .
    GBDEGB . This is the most common structure of 6 string C6 , moved to G .


    Among the Reso community , there is a persistent low level desire for a Western Swing/ Hawaiian friendly tuning that :

    Uses standard gage Reso strings
    Still uses the basic fret positions to which they are accustomed .
    Simple to switch back & forth from GBDGBD .
    As much as possible of their GBDGBD licks usable with minimal adaptations .

    And the ultimate answer is you would need at least 7 strings, preferably 8 to do all of that .

    The most commonly attempted is GBEGBD , primarily because it involves only changing one string . But on a 25in scale length , that puts the string tension for string 4 on the ragged edge, and they frequently snap trying to tune them up .( Shouldn't be a problem for 22.5 - ish lap steels .)

    Meanwhile , GBDEGB has lower tension, with no string issues , but fewer shapes are transferable .

    Not really of intrest for Lap Steel or Reso , but 6th tunings exist based off of the Low Open G ( DGDGBD ) , but could be of interest for a Slack Key player . They're all uncommon enough , none of the variants stands out as more popular . So if you're intrested , experement with all the obvious possibilities .
     
  18. Paul in Colorado

    Paul in Colorado Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I like plain ol' open E (or D, two steps down). It scratches my non-swing country, rock and blues itch. I like D on acoustic lap steel for that spooky Appalachian Mountain ballad kind of thing.
     
  19. Stringbanger

    Stringbanger Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I’ve been messing around with open C, low to high, C,G,C,G,C,E.
     
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  20. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Hopefully in the intervening 5 years the OP found another tuning.
     
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