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Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Ash Telecaster, Feb 23, 2020.
nice job bob! any recordings of your baby...?
out here on the left coast the prices for the old stuff is so inflated. old fender are priced like they are Duesenberg lap steels.
Congratulations , that's a deal.
Any of the Valco string through models from the 50s will be good places to start. $200 to $400, depending on where you are and condition. Made under the National, Supro, Silvertone, and other brands. Recognizable by the Mother of Toilet Seat cladding and the string-through pickups.
tune in open D or open E for blues and rock.
DADF#AD / EBEG#BE
open G is also popular, either high-bass (dobro) GBDGBD or low bass (Keith Richards) DGDGBD
most serious lap steel players seem to tune to C6 (CEGACE), or to their own custom tunings.
Since we're now adding photos...55 National Chicagoan at work. I play dobro so, I play in high G on the lap as well.
I hate to say it because I note some positive comments but I bought a 8 string Morrell steel and it is a poorly made lap steel. Tuners, pick up, internal stuff is really cheap. The ones I got at yard sales were much better and I had pick ups to get them functioning. I know these are simple beasts but as with a regular guitar you need some level of quality to make it work.
Lotta great suggestions.
My lap steel is an old Magnatone from the 50s. As stated earlier, if you’re patient you can probably find a vintage one for a good price. There are a bajillion out there. I paid around $250 for mine maybe three years ago.
I’ll second the C6 tuning as well, or any of the “6” tunings; there are several. It’s a cool, useful tuning. You’ve got the major triad on the bottom and minor on the top, and it just sounds more “legit” than open E or D. Fun to experiment with too. Best of luck!
The main thing is that so many of the modern lap steels are 6 string with modern humbucker style pickups. While that's all good for rock/blues/etc... it's not what you want for western swing, classic country, hawaiian, etc...
Then there's the matter of scale length. You can reliably find fender lap steels at 24.5" which is awesome is you want to drop into A6. While lots of the old supro's an such that are being recommended sound fine through a distortion pedal their pickups are unreliable and many have faded with age due to using the cheapest available magnets. Toss in that the Stringmaster D8 is just about as compact a double neck you're going to find that has built-in legs and it makes sense.
Finally, this is a sub-set of a sub-set. You can get a 1950s Fender Stringmaster D8s for under 2k. Find me any fender guitar or bass from the 50s selling at that price! I think non-pedal players have it fairly good in that respect. I think in the modern builders area it'd be nice to see one or two D8ish models out there.
awesome stand for your steel you got there. Looks custom made!
I have a Morrell that I paid $100 for used. It’s the pro 6 string. It has the worst tuning pegs on it I have ever seen on a stringed instrument. I have 50 and 60 year old guitars with the original tuners and they work better than the ones on this lap steel. The pickup sounds great though. As with everyone else I play it twice a year so I've never changed the tuners.
On one hand it is true that functionally a lap steel is only slightly above a hammer on the technology level and anything with strings, a pickup and tuners will work to a point:
On the other hand, it is also true that there are lots of incredibly cool old lap steels out there that are relative bargains compared to other instruments of similar vintage mojo, so if you can spare a little more money you can probably get something really neat. I stumbled across mine in a used gear shop. It's a Rickenbacher (yes, that's the correct spelling) Model 59. It was made in 1938 (the year my father was born) and talk about a lap "steel":---it's made out of steel. I bought it like seven years ago and I don't remember exactly how much it cost, but I think it was in the ballpark of $500-600, which is a lot for a lap steel, but not unheard of for name brands, and it's cheap for an old Rick anything. Last time I saw a similar one for sale, it was still in that general range, IIRC.
It's got the horseshoe pickup, and it sounds great. I can't compare it to other models because it's the only one I've had, but I'm very happy with it. Tuned to C6 I can play country solos without even moving the slide.
I got a '59 Fender Champ for about $375 USD, came with the old tweed case and a '50s bakelite tone bar (which I don't use). I felt pretty good about the deal, since Fender tends to command higher prices for just about everything. I'd keep an eye out for a low-ish price, and then offer less. As said, people aren't that in to lap steels.
As I mentioned above, the prices in my neck of the woods on vintage lap steels are much higher than the new models. Too much higher for my blood. And they're usually in pretty poor condition. I've been very satisfied with all three of the newer model lap steels I've purchased. Maybe they have less mojo, but for a guy messing around with a new instrument they're plenty fine. I bought my Peavey "used" (but mint) for $150! Worth every penny.
Here's my Eastwood Airline:
Thanks. Depending on how much I drink, it can serve it's original purpose as well.
a great score congratulations
+1 for C6 tuning. Once you realise that you can play a major chord by not playing the 4th (A) string and the relative minor chord by not playing the 5th (G) string you find your way around pretty quickly. You can use the E, G or A strings as reference to find the right fret to aim for.
Don’t think about always playing chords in root position or playing full chords — inversions and 2- or 3-note chords are fine.
Then you can start to add in slants to get shortcuts to other nearby chords (eg G - C at the 7th fret).
Soon you will also find you can play scales with just a very few bar moves.
Again: if you're considering C6 tuning, start with an 8-string straight away. That symmetry of ACEGACEG makes so much sense, much easier to find your way around, much easier to change registers and match your playing to different keys.
I started out on 6-string, but the C6 tuning really opened up in my mind after I switched to 8, wouldn't want to go back!
Thanks everybody for all the awesome advice. I finally selected the Recording King 6 string. I like the idea of the 8 string, and the C6 tuning sounds cool too, but this is really a proof of concept buy.
I read lots of reviews and posts and videos and checked out many models and ultimately I thought the p90 pickup sounded cool and reviews were generally favorable. If I start really digging into it I'll buy a higher end 8.
Thank you all for this wealth of great information.
Not yet because, frankly, I'm not that good
I came in to say, think about an 8 string. I used to own the Peavey 6 string. I got bored with it pretty soon. I own a 8 string West Coast lap steel.
Warning .. it may lead you into wanting to play pedal steel guitar. That's where the fun really is !!