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Lap Steel guitar question from noob.

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by sunshy, Feb 21, 2014.

  1. sunshy

    sunshy TDPRI Member

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    Yo! I just started playing a lap steel. Fun stuff! :D But I can't really get the sound out of it that I want. :confused: I'm writing modern country songs (basically rock/pop songs) and would like to just add little chord swoops in at chord changes like in Jason Aldean's "Big Green Tractor" (see video below).

    I'm using a C6th tuning, which I know is often used in older, country-western music. Should I be using a different tuning? If so, which one? Or should I learn "slants." Let me know a good place to start playing along with typical guitar chords.

     
  2. MrTwang

    MrTwang Friend of Leo's

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    C6 (or A6) is, as you say, the sound of old style country but it can be used for a lot more than that. One of the things I love about the 6th tuning is that you can get both major (using the e, c and g strings on C6) and minor (using the e c and a strings) chords without using slants. As long as you are selective about which strings you pick with your right hand you can avoid playing the 6th note when you are playing a major chord which will give you that Hawaiian or old time country sound that might not be right for the song. Practice playing different groups of 3 notes to make a major chord (avoiding the a string) and then the same for minor chords (avoiding the g string).

    The other thing to remember about steel is that the "sliding into chords" thing can often work using only 2 notes of the chord (other guys in the band will be playing the missing note in the chord anyway).

    Another thing about the 6th tuning is that if you go 3 frets up from the key of the song you're in (so on your C6, if you're playing in D, go up to the 5th fret) you'll find notes from the pentatonic scale you can use as a basis for rock/blues single note soloing (to get the same pentatonic scale as on regular guitar you'll have to add in a couple of extra notes but the foundation is there).

    You could just tune to a major chord but I think you'd be losing a lot of the versatility of the instrument (and would be scratching your head a bit when the minor chord comes round)

    One other thing I'd add is that, as a guitar player, your brain may make more sense of A6 rather than C6. I use (from high to low)

    E
    C#
    A
    F#
    E
    C#

    This gives me an A major on the top 3 strings and an F#m on the 2nd 3rd and 4th strings (or an Am on the same strings at the 3rd fret).

    Personally, I find it easier to think in the open A shape so I know I'll find a D on the 5th fret and an E on the 7th etc.
     
  3. eddiewagner

    eddiewagner Poster Extraordinaire

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    ^^^^^^^^
    that a thing gets me thinking.
    i am married to the open e tuning. if i need a minor, i just fool around on the paralle mayors. works for me quite well. and i can use regular 13-56 strings. guess that is impossible with that a tuning. but maybe i trylater on today. sounds like an interesting idea to me.
     
  4. J. Hayes

    J. Hayes Friend of Leo's

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    I like the 6th tuning as well but..........

    very rarely use it. I'm an advocate of the good old open E or open G tuning. As far as versatility, either tuning has it all. Just listen to Jerry Douglas on his Dobro or Duane Allman on his slide guitar in open E or D... Jerry Douglas can play any song in any style that you'd want. My main lapsteel is an old '62 Supro 8 stringer on legs. It's tuned to an E tuning which is from low to high E G# B E F# G# B E ..... The thing that keeps it from being an open E is the F# which would be either a II or IX in the tuning. Sometimes if we play a western swing tune I'll tune the 1st and 5th E strings down a half tone to D# (Eb) which makes it a B6th tuning which is simply a C6th tuning lowered a half step. The F# note is now the V (five) of the B chord. I like it much better as all the chords are on the right frets whereas in a C6th tuning they're all on unfamiliar fret positions. The late great steel guitar player and instructor Jeff Newman recommended that double neck players tune their inside C6th neck to B6th as it made all the chord positions more relevant to their E9th neck. Old timey players such as Shot Jackson and "Little" Roy Wiggins both used the good old open E tuning and you know the chord slots on it as F is on the 1st fret, C is on the 8th fret just like a guitar, much easier to remember where you're at..........JH in Va.
     
  5. syrynx

    syrynx Tele-Afflicted

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    Sunshy, the sounds in the Jason Aldean clip were made with a pedal steel guitar, not a lap steel. As MrTwang correctly notes, it's possible to do a very credible simulation of these pedal steel changes using only two notes. But to do so convincingly, you will have to slant the bar.

    Here's a demonstration of the principle (not in your tuning, but you'll get the idea):



    Here's a painfully slow but super-detailed demonstration, in your C6 tuning, of a two-note forward slant:



    And here's a totally intimidating performance by a master who was performing on the Grand Ole Opry in the first half of the last century:



    There are hundreds of videos available on YouTube, and you may find some of them helpful.
     
  6. Itwang

    Itwang Tele-Meister

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    Learning to play lap steel is great fun. Like anything music related, the more time you put in, the better you will be. It will also in the long run improve your guitar skills as we'll. I use C6 pretty much exclusively on electric and open G for dobro and acoustic lap steel. The sky is the limit on all tunings actually. I sometimes play in G6 on dobro by raising the inside D string to an E giving me nearly all the same chords slants, licks that are available in C6. I'd say stick with C6 for sure. It has a certain versatility, harmonically speaking, that is unavailable in a major triad based tuning. There's nothing wrong with doing both, however. I just try to think of the bar as a moveable capo so that I don't have to think about tunings and note names. I just like to put the bar down on any fret and know where all my chords are within four frets. Just using two or three notes, do I know where my IV, V, IIminor, VI minor are within four frets? No big glissandos on every chord change for me, just little ones that accentuate chord changes in tunes. Youtube and google are my friends when it comes to steel guitar and music in general.
     
  7. sunshy

    sunshy TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for all the input. I definitely don't want to get a pedal steel at this point so I'll be trying to emulate that sound with my lapsteel and a volume pedal in C6 or A6th tuning. The video links really helped! :p
     
  8. Jimmyspaz

    Jimmyspaz Tele-Holic

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  9. J. Hayes

    J. Hayes Friend of Leo's

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    Hey syryrnx...........

    Thanks for posting that video of Billy Robinson. That guy is totally amazing. I'd heard of him before but never paid much attention until 1998 when I was in St. Louis at the International Steel Guitar Convention and got to hear him live. In the hallway outside the main convention room there are rooms which vendors rent for the event. I was walking past the "Derby" steel guitar room and heard this amazing rendition of "Sweet Memories" playing and I looked in. This guy was sitting behind a pedal steel but he wasn't playing it. A friend of mine and I walked over to the side and Billy Robinson was playing his lapsteel. The pedal steel wasn't hooked up so we both just picked it up and set it down on the floor so everyone could see the guy playing. Billy was doing bar slants and finger pulls behind the bar and sounded exactly, and I do mean exactly like someone playing the "crying" steel guitar E9th style. I couldn't believe how good he was. He then did a couple of jazzy things and sounded just like he was playing a C6th pedal steel.... Billy's now in the steel guitar hall of fame where he belongs as he's a master......JH in Va.
     
  10. sunshy

    sunshy TDPRI Member

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    Indeed. The notes all melt together. Wonderful. I'll check out Rick's DVDs.
     
  11. mherrcat

    mherrcat Tele-Holic

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    I tried to find some video of Jimmy Day playing "I Love You So Much It Hurts Me" but could only find one of Tommy White, oh well:

     
  12. syrynx

    syrynx Tele-Afflicted

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    Also check out Rick's YouTube channel. The man was passionate about steel guitar, and no slouch at slanting the bar his ownself.



    Rick's legacy includes many hours of videos of better-known players which he shot at steel guitar shows. As a player himself, his videos of other players are some of the most helpful ever made. Here's Billy Robinson through the lens of Rick Alexander.



    Wonderful story, Jerry.

    What's even more amazing is that he's been doing it since you and I were both counting our ages in single digits... The Dick Clark of steel guitar.
     
  13. Jimmyspaz

    Jimmyspaz Tele-Holic

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    Syrynx. thanks for posting those. Rick was a good friend of mine during my teens. I still use things he taught me about music daily.He was a brilliant musician, and like Brian Jones had the rare ability to pick up any instrument and play it as soon as he figured out where the notes were. Glad to see that he is remembered for his playing. We won't go into his personal life,,,,,
     
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