Lap Steel Guitar

Paul in Colorado

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I've played Dobro (GBDGBD) and lap steel in open E for a long time, but in the past year I've taken up C6. I have a D-8 National that's still getting restored, so in the meantime I'm using a six string Gibson. C6 is a different beast and coming from guitar it scrambles my brain a lot. But I hear bits of things that I've heard on records and slowly it's starting to make sense. The bottom strings are major the top strings are minor and other chord voicings lurk in between.

The Hawaiian steel guitar convention is coming up in Oct. so I hope I can hit up a few people for private lessons. I've got Andy Volk's new book coming this week so that should help a bit. I've downloaded lessons, but I really need to get a few songs from beginning to end under my belt to feel like I'm making progress. I've also gone from a Stevens-type bar to a bullet bar, so that's a new adventure. It's challenging and it's fun.

One suggestion I can make is to listen to a lot of steel guitar music and get those sounds stuck in your head. Then try to find them on the guitar.
 

johnny k

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nice thread ! i just started to try to learn lap steel again in C6. First time i sucked, so i let it down. But 2016 s the year i m going to try to learn some stuffs.:p
 

johnny k

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hey folks, i m messing around on my lap steel, and i ve already got a few problems. I m a total noob. Im starting with the book by Scott Dewitt.

Loads of parasite noises for the single notes, and do i have to use the thumb or the other fingers to play those notes? it sounds better with the thumb to me.

Do i have to sometimes get the bar of the strings ? I don t think so because when i do ive got a bzzz noise which is not so pretty (is that where the finger blocking comes useful ?)

i can do a bit of finger blocking, but there s no way i can do palm blocking. Do i have to work on that ?

so far i m having fun, i try to correct myself whenever i think something is bad, but it s hard.
 

Feargal

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I like C6 for electric and open E for acoustic, I'm interested in A6, can someone give me a recommendation for the notes in that tuning, there seems to be a lot of variations.
 

MrTwang

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Loads of parasite noises for the single notes, and do i have to use the thumb or the other fingers to play those notes? it sounds better with the thumb to me.

Do i have to sometimes get the bar of the strings ? I don t think so because when i do ive got a bzzz noise which is not so pretty (is that where the finger blocking comes useful ?)

i can do a bit of finger blocking, but there s no way i can do palm blocking. Do i have to work on that

Hey Johnny,

The notes should sound pretty much the same if you use your finger or your thumb. Are you using finger picks and a thumb pick? If not I'd advise getting some and getting used to them.
I'm not sure what noise you are getting. Are you muting the strings behind the bar with your left hand?

Most steel players don't lift the bar off the strings much (or use open strings) but there are no rules. Many Dobro players do both of those things a lot.

Regarding blocking, some people use their fingers (pick blocking) some use palm blocking, some use both. I find pick blocking more natural. I'd say use whichever is most comfortable to you.

There are a lot of great players that use all sorts of unorthodox techniques - if it sounds good, it's right.
 

Tony Done

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^^^^ I play folkie stuff, mostly in open D or E on both acoustic and electric, so I use the open strings, and hammers and pulls, a lot. - It is really just Spanish position slide played on my lap.

I agree that at least a thumbpick is good to enable rh damping, and I use the fingers behind the bar for left hand damping - which I find easier than in the Spanish position; I think it is mostly a question of practice. Those parasite noises from both the open strings and behind the bar, can be used to good effect, like the drones on a sitar.
 

johnny k

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hey MrTwang,

yeah i use fingerpicks. The best way i can explain the difference of sound is like the same difference between an upstroke and an downstroke on a guitar. At first i used only my fingers, sounded sloppy. With the thumb i think it sounds cleaner.
 

Bill Moore

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The Bo Bro is a Boss EQ that has the sliders permanently set, and the knobs broken off. Many use the GE-7 set at extremes, (it is really remarkable).
 

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hotraman

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Yes, palm blocking is a big part of lap steel and pedal steel.
It takes time, but its worth the effort.
 

Steveareno

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Wow, you scored Leon. Those Fender Deluxes are very cool and a bargain for what they are. I had the 8 string version (tuned A6) and took it to gigs, set up with the legs extended. I would play my Tele and just swing over to take a break on steel. It always seemed to take the audience by surprise. Mostly playing acoustic now and have a Dobro tuned to G. Six string C6 sounds great on steel, but I prefer having the 5 note on top GBDGBD (low to high). Sometimes I retune the middle D string to E for a G6 tuning and Western swing sound. The non pedal section of the steel guitar forum is excellent. Proceed with caution....there are a LOT of options.

Swang on,
 
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bobspez

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I'm new to lap steel. I bought a Guyatone Hawaiian Guitar lapsteel on ebay but haven't done more than test and tune it. I have played electric and acoustic guitars in standard tuning, keyboards and electric guitar with a slide in open tunings. I'm mostly self taught by learning and recording covers on my own and with a friend. I record and post my covers on youtube and soundcloud and find that is a good motivation to learn and do my best. Even if I just get a handful of views I think it is an accomplishment. I like to learn and record a new cover song about once a month. I'm retired.

With lapsteel I'd like to record a cover song with a friend of mine. My approach to playing keyboard and guitar is to play mostly chords or arpeggios and sing. On electric guitar I stick to bar chords as they are the same forms up and down the neck.

Wanting to do something similar with the lap steel, I decided to create my own tuning to make it easy to play the chords in the song, which are major and minor and Major7 chords.

I came up with a tuning based on Open G (low to high D G D G B D) and changed the two lowest strings to this tuning (low to high Gb Bb D G B D).

To play the major chord I play the top four strings D G B D.

For a minor chord I play, low to high, the 2nd, third, and 4th strings, Bb D G.

For a major 7 I play the first string, skip the second and play the 3rd through 6th strings, Gb D G B D.

I'm practicing the chord shapes and hope to be ready to record in a couple of weeks.

Basically I can retune the guitar to suit the chords I need. Having tried to use slants, I figure i can get to record much faster by retuning the guitar as needed.
 
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Wally

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Gambiz, that version of "Little Wing" is beautiful. Thank you. What tuning are you in there? You have wonderful command of the instrument and some very interesting and creative techniques. Again, thank you for this wonderfully heartfelt interpretation.
 

bobspez

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I updated my tuning, described in my earlier post above to allow single fret Major, Minor, Maj7 and Maj9 chords. I realize this is probably heresy to steel players, but will use these chords to comp when recording with my friend in a few weeks.
Attached is a fretboard map of the tuning. Also attached is my Guyatone Hawaiian Guitar lap steel.
Would be interested to hear if other posters have created their own tuning for specific projects.
 

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bobspez

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P.S. The fretboard map above is ambiguous in that the root of the chord is on the 4th string. The attached chart corrects that.
 

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Wally

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Bob, I can see what you are doing there. Others might not see it.
One thing.....low to high open Bb, C, Ab, Eb, B, G. Ime, that is shown as the open notes whereas you start out with the first fret position notes on the map.
Secondly, imho, it is informative to those of us who might not see it immediately to go ahead and give the strings that make these minor, major and major 7th chords with the string note that is the '1' as the root...with the 1, 3 and 5 ...and the major 7th noted in order of the chord construction but not as the inversions that some of them actually are. ...and the chord in the open position

..........strings...notes.......chord
Minor....5,3,1...B,D,F#(Gb)....Bm
Major....4,5,3....G,B,D........G major
Maj 7th.....4,5,3,1....G,B,D,F#(Gb)...Gmaj7
Minor....4,2,3....G,Bb,D....Gm

As far as tunings.....steel players and especially pedal steel players are famous for establishing their tunings and their pedal/lever assignments to suit themselves. many times, a pedal steel player cannot simply sit behind another player's instrument and immediately play.
 

bobspez

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Thanks Wally. I can see the fretboard map wasn't all that clear. Attached is a revised map based on your suggestions, which hopefully is a bit clearer. I kept the strings listed as inversions only because it will be easier for me to locate the strings to play if they are listed low to high.
It's good to know I'm not the only one creating tunings to make it easier for me to play. The proof of the pudding will be how it sounds. I imagine I will have a video done within a few weeks and will post a link. Since it will be my first effort on lap steel, I'm sure it won't be great quality, but maybe an indication of what a total newbie can do within a couple of weeks. Thanks again,
Bob
Bob, I can see what you are doing there. Others might not see it.
One thing.....low to high open Bb, C, Ab, Eb, B, G. Ime, that is shown as the open notes whereas you start out with the first fret position notes on the map.
Secondly, imho, it is informative to those of us who might not see it immediately to go ahead and give the strings that make these minor, major and major 7th chords with the string note that is the '1' as the root...with the 1, 3 and 5 ...and the major 7th noted in order of the chord construction but not as the inversions that some of them actually are. ...and the chord in the open position

..........strings...notes.......chord
Minor....5,3,1...B,D,F#(Gb)....Bm
Major....4,5,3....G,B,D........G major
Maj 7th.....4,5,3,1....G,B,D,F#(Gb)...Gmaj7
Minor....4,2,3....G,Bb,D....Gm

As far as tunings.....steel players and especially pedal steel players are famous for establishing their tunings and their pedal/lever assignments to suit themselves. many times, a pedal steel player cannot simply sit behind another player's instrument and immediately play.
 

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bobspez

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Still working on the video, but here is a practice recording we did today of the Velvet Underground 1966 song, Femme Fatale. My friend plays a clean tele and sings, I sing backup and add licks with the lapsteel, using the above mentioned tuning. Chords I played were the Major chords of G, C, D and F, A Minor and CMaj9. All were played across one fret each, without slanting the bar.

The recording is rough, it's my first effort on the lap steel. My friend and I have been retired for almost 9 years and record cover songs as a hobby. As we live over a hundred miles away, we record our own parts and mix the files, or we record using skype.

 




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