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Lap steel planning (and planing!)
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX  
Author Lap steel planning (and planing!)
mek42
I'm planning to build an 8 string lap steel guitar. I have a tuning in mind. From high to low:

A 10
F 13
D 16
B 21
G 30
E 36
C 46
A 56

I'll probably use this pickup: http://www.lacemusic.com/Deathbar_5.0.php

My intended use is to have fun with the continuous fretless glissando. I figure that having a dominant 7th available would help with modulation. I'm also learning to compose, and may use this to see how some ideas sound. I have no guitar experience and less steel experience, so please let me know if I''m thinking silliness.
Bodo1967
mek42 wrote:
I'm planning to build an 8 string lap steel guitar.


thumbs up I built a lap steel several years ago myself - just plain ol' 6 string though smile.

(I have changed the order of quotes in the following, hope that's OK for you.)

mek42 wrote:
I have a tuning in mind. [...] I figure that having a dominant 7th available would help with modulation. [...]so please let me know if I''m thinking silliness.


There is no general rule concerning tuning - just go with what you like and what works best with your kind of playing. You can always change to a different tuning if you're not happy, or if you need some different sonic character for another song.

mek42 wrote:
My intended use is to have fun with the continuous fretless glissando.


You will, definitely. There is nothing that beats a lap steel when it comes to playing fretless cool .

mek42 wrote:
I have no guitar experience and less steel experience, so please let me know if I''m thinking silliness.


Not in the least! Again, you can always change the tuning to what you actually need, so you can't really go wrong smile.
mek42
Officially started the project tonight. Handplaning is hard work! All I accomplished was one edge - not looking forward to the faces. Pics of curlies and further progress will come after I rest my back.
mek42
Here is a pic of the wood. So far, only edge planed. The face planing is looking to be a chore. https://www.flickr.com/gp/mek42/45A155
mek42
Started the face planing. Hand planing is hard work. It may take a week to get this guy planed to smoothness. I wonder if anyone can guess the wood with such poor lighting.

https://flic.kr/s/aHskYxJkEP
rjungemann
Cool! Definitely keeping an eye on this!

I think your tuning will be great for 3-string chords and I like your intuition about 7th chords. You can use slants to open more possibilities for 2-note harmonies but they get impractical for 3. The tuning on my 8-string lap steel is A C E G A C E G. But there's no right answer and not much consensus, especially with > 6 strings.

One trick I used to help familiarize myself with note locations was using painter's tape marked with note names to label commonly-used notes. Painter's tape won't leave residue and comes off easily.

Voicings are a broad topic when it comes to lap steel. If you're playing solo, you'll probably want richer voicings available. If you're in a band, you can let the bassist handle the (usually) root note, opening up some possibilities. Then of course there's the possibility of using loopers or other pedals for harmonic experimentation.

The Deathbar looks neat! I'm curious to hear how it sounds!

There's some good discussion over on the Steel Guitar Forum about slides for 8-strings. I have a custom James Burden bullet bar 13/16" diameter and 3 1/8" length. It's longer and heavier than most lap steel slides but it's convenient for hitting chords that skip strings.
mek42
First face hand planing is done. Added a pic to the album. If I haven't mentioned it, hand planing is physically demanding. Maybe will take another week for the other face - need to plane both faces to find the prettiest figure.

Doing some more thinking about tuning. I may be crazy and go up to 12 strings.

EACEGBDFACEG (low to high, not married to low E - only really feel the need for the other 11), might make the B Bb and stick a thimble or steel finger pick on my left thumb or index finger to sharpen the Bb when I want the tritone. If I go to 11 or 12 strings, I may just use a pair of humbuckers, preferably trembucker width, but would start with whatever the local shop has in stock in their used gear bin.
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