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Any Lap Steel or Pedal Steel players here?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Any Lap Steel or Pedal Steel players here?
Lately I've been practicing and learning more slide guitar using my dobro played flat, like a squareneck or lap steel using a barre. Standard GDBGDB dobro tuning (My ovation is open G/"Spanish" tuning and my strat is in DADGAD). Playing the Dobro like a lapsteel has taught me a few new techniques and I'm getting fairly used to playing the slide from the other side of the neck, hands on top onstead of below, etc.

My's making me want a lap steel. the GAS dork in me wants a full blown one with pedals and levers, the practical side of me wants a small lapsteel, the kind you see on CL for $3-400.

So I was wondering if there were any lap steel or full blown pedal steel guitar players here that could tell me just how much more difficult a pedal steel is, in playing and maintenence. Rockin' Banana! hmmm.....
I have a lap steel, never tried a pedal version. Mine can't be played like a traditional guitar because the strings are way too far from the fretboard. It's certainly very different from a regular guitar, but for me the biggest obstacle is getting used to the tuning. Sounds like you are experienced with open tunings, but for me standard guitar tuning is ingrained in my fingers and very hard to shake. The other thing is just the fact that slide playing limits your fretting options quite a bit, making it easy to play I-IV-V progressions and hard to play anything else. That said, it's fun to play and sounds absolutely fantastic.
I got a lapsteel Dobro.....but I kinda forgot to give it some love the last year or so.
I've got a 1956 Fender Champ lap steel and it sounds amazing. I've not played a pedal steel but know that it requires a significant additional set of skills more like a harpist, whereas a six string lap steel is pretty easy for a guitarist. The Shubb SP-1 tonebar is my favourite & I like the David Gilmour tuning D-G-D-G-B-E.

Have you seen Adrian Belew play slide on a regular guitar - he plays from above (have a look at Youtube for live versions of Matte Kudesai)? Belew is incredible - I was the opening act for King Krimson on a 1982 tour at the time of Discipline and even though I watched every night I couldn't work out how he did it!
Chuck E. Jesus
AntManBee wrote:
Have you seen Adrian Belew play slide on a regular guitar - he plays from above

check this guy out:

This guy's videos are pretty nice, great for seeing what he's doing.

And while I was watching more you tube slide videos...GAS hit me hard...

I LOVE how he's using the picks as tiny slides. eek!

I tried hooking up my dobro's 1/4" out (I assume piezo), sounded like crap through the amp...and not in a good way...a really thin tinny no frequencies below like 2000Hz crappy. It's a round neck, but I have a little aluminum nut that goes over the standard nut, raises the strings to about squareneck height and flattens the strings out for the barre., no fretting w/o bending the note like a half step or so. Sounds best mic'ed.

I'm gonna do some research into the moog lap steel, must be a bitch to keep strings quiet w/o extra force in muting and I bet at least $2Gs. waah

I've got a 1956 Fender Champ lap steel and it sounds amazing. I've not played a pedal steel but know that it requires a significant additional set of skills more like a harpist, whereas a six string lap steel is pretty easy for a guitarist. The Shubb SP-1 tonebar is my favourite & I like the David Gilmour tuning D-G-D-G-B-E.

Haha, I got the same tonebar. I like how you can catch just two strings or one pretty easily with the bullet end. A HUGE bonus over the spark plug socket I've been using from the bottom side the last 20 years (same socket too). I also noticed that I lost fretting notes, but I gained the ability (when i get it right) to use the bar angled and catch note pairs that are impossible wearing the slide on the finger (I use my left hand ring finger).

Tried playing slide on the standard Strat in DADGAD and I had a lot of trouble playing clean after getting used to the lap steel way. Could be partly the tuning, the dobro's setup as DGBDGB.

Damn I wish i didn't know that Moog lapsteel may exist one day, if not already... d'oh!
Last month I bought my first lap steel guitar! I've wanted one since I first heard Ananas Symphonie by Kraftwerk. I also dig the classic Hawaiian tunes as well.

Mine is in C6 tuning (CEGACE) and I use a Broz-O-Phonic slide

What I like about having a lap steel guitar (my first guitar ever, actually) is it's fairly easy to make decent sounds out of it. Also, running it through FX like the Eventide Space, delay, etc. make it sound really fun for me.

Here's some stuff I recorded with the lap steel thru a PT-Delay and BugCrusher.
I'm waiting for a 59 fender champ lap steel to arrive that I bought on the bay. First I'm going to learn to play sleepwalk.
Just picked this baby up tonight.
1947 National New Yorker.

Sounds great through the pedals and Swart. Rockin' Banana!

I'm pleasantly surprised how much interest there is in the lap steel here on Muff's. applause
I used to play pedal steel. It's hard to play, but I'm hard as fuck, so no problems.
Iused to see John Cipollina from Quicksilver playing pedal steel every other week or so. He also ised to sling his guitar for slide duty. He always played w/ finger picks. Not so many have since the folky days of the early 60's. If you get through the mike stand tricks on this video, they show some real nice finger picking at about 7:00. He also sings here, which he nearly never did. He sang on Ellis McDaniels tunes and one or two others. The stage divers at the beginning make him laugh, but they piss Gravenites off, because he is grumpy.
He used a pedal steel w/ the Fender logo on it, so I am guessing it was a Fender? I will try and find one of him w/ Dinosaurs on the pedal steel.

This one he plays it lap steel from the knee:

Just to add... I have a 50$ Rogue POS lap steel that I use for echo effects and feedback. My abilities equal the guitars quality.
widdly wrote:
I'm waiting for a 59 fender champ lap steel to arrive that I bought on the bay. First I'm going to learn to play sleepwalk.

You got me thinking...

dkcg wrote:
widdly wrote:
I'm waiting for a 59 fender champ lap steel to arrive that I bought on the bay. First I'm going to learn to play sleepwalk.

You got me thinking...


SlayerBadger! the most somnambulistic version ever!
Danotranto wrote:

play it again leon!

oh wait. wrong version

I asked for/received a lap steel for Christmas. I've never played one before but I love the sound.

I picked up a bullet-style slide the other day and have been trying it out.

Looking for good examples of non-traditional playing with it.
Kingnimrod wrote:

I asked for/received a lap steel for Christmas. I've never played one before but I love the sound.

I picked up a bullet-style slide the other day and have been trying it out.

Looking for good examples of non-traditional playing with it.

Get an ebow and you got instant infinite drones.

Lots of tunings to try out, or make up your own. Rockin' Banana!
Kingnimrod wrote:

I asked for/received a lap steel for Christmas. I've never played one before but I love the sound.

I picked up a bullet-style slide the other day and have been trying it out.

Looking for good examples of non-traditional playing with it.

I love my lap steel. It's a cheapish one but I've changed the pick from an old strat i had knocking around. If you want to enter a world of madness this Midi gizmo works really well.

The lap steel loves reverb. The more the better I reckon and a nice bit of overdrive to help it along.

Sister Alexa has some really good videos on playing styles and techniques.

You don't have to stick with a ready made slide. Try knives and spoons, bottle necks or random bits of metal

Miniature spirit bottles work really well.
Delta T
Years ago a co-worker and I were heading home from a 24hr long service call and listening to Echoes radio show (I believe thats the one) and heard a pedal steel player doing some ambient style music...absolutely loved it! Didn't catch the name of the artist at the time but in searching I came across Bruce Kaphan's 'Slider'. Wow! Heres a link: SKCD0

I always wanted to play pedal but just never got to it. I've been working with my Linnstrument and some Omnisphere steel patches though and having a lot of fun.
dkcg, welcome to the world of steel guitar! I got into steel guitar when I saw Jerry Douglas play dobro with Bela Fleck on banjo and couldn't believe the amount of sound coming from those two guys. I already played banjo, but that show made me determined to learn the dobro and later the steel guitar. After I learned dobro and got a Gibson Dobro(R), I got a job playing lead guitar for a country music group, and that led to also playing banjo and mandolin for them. But, I already played those instruments, and we really needed a steel guitar in the sound. Since I had to trade off between lead guitar and steel guitar, and since our repertoire was mostly old classic country music prior to the arrival of the pedal steel, I got a 1957 National Grand Console triple-neck, as such:

(Sorry about the photo quality. It was most in-focus shot I have.) I also have an off-brand six-string 'lap steel' that I use just playing around. But the reason I got the triple-neck, beyond it having eight strings per neck rather than six, is because I couldn't limit myself to just one tuning when I played in that band. One song would require an A6 tuning, another an E7, and another a C13. Guess which tunings I usually keep the three necks in? hihi This is going to be a lengthy post, and I'm sorry about that, too, but I get excited about someone getting into an instrument that had nearly fallen off the face of the earth at one point and is now gaining a resurgence.

I considered a pedal steel before I got the National, but at the time I needed to play standing up for a number of reasons, and you can't really play pedal steel unless you're sitting. The guy who tracked it down for me was a pedal steel session musician who owned a couple pedal steel guitar stores in Nashville. He tried talking me into pedal steel, but when he asked me why I wanted to play non-pedal steel rather than pedal steel, I told him that I wanted to play standing up, and he said, "You want to play standing up?! That is so cool!" And, like I said, it just matched our repertoire better. But I got to know the pedal steel a little before I made my choice.

With a pedal steel, you don't have to worry about multiple tunings. Until you get into esoteric 'personal' tunings that people have devised to suit their own playing (which often involves the modification of the instrument's inner workings), there are basically two tunings - E9 known as the 'Nashville tuning' and the C6 tuning. The E9 'Nashville' tuning is kind of self-explanatory, developed from country music, and C6 that is used for other kinds of music like jazz, pop, etc. Those aren't hard limitations, just the way it usually is. Most single-neck pedal steels are set up for the E9 tuning, and they'll usually have three pedals and two, three, or four knee-levers. Double-neck pedal steels have one neck set up for E9 and the second for C6 and usually have seven pedals -- the three found on the single-neck E9 and four more for the C6 -- with varying numbers of knee levers. (You don't find that many single-necks set up for the C6 tuning.) Then you get into differences like whether the inner workings use cables or rods, whether they 'push', 'pull', or 'push/pull', and though I don't remember what those differences mean because I stuck to non-pedal steel, they are important in getting a quality instrument that will do what you want it to. So it's best to talk it over with someone who is really into pedal steel before you buy one. When I was checking them out before I decided on non-pedal steel, a 'student model' single-neck that was worth playing was around $1,000. Doing your homework before buying is a must unless you want to spend a serious chunk o' change on something that might be really hard to resell. Yes, you can find used single-necks for less than $1,000, but you could be getting someone else's mistake because they didn't do their homework!

As you can hopefully tell from the photo, I use a 'standard' bullet steel. (And fingerpicks. The flatpicks are just there because the spot was convenient, and I don't use them to play steel, though a small number of people do.) It's round -- that is, no finger grooves -- and has a rounded nose, and what is also important, it has an indentation on the flat end. In order to get things like a minor chord out of a major tuning or that characteristic steel guitar 'string-bend' effect out of a non-pedal steel (I don't say 'lap steel' much because there isn't any way in hell I could put my triple-neck on my lap), you have to learn a technique called 'slants'. A slant is when you angle the steel bar, pivoting on a fret point on one string while moving from one fret point to another on a different string. Pluck the two strings together, and one stays on the same pitch while the other changes pitch. And to do a slant properly, you need that indent to put your left thumb into so you can push the end of the bar one way or the other.

A 'forward slant' is when you hold the bar, and while pivoting the bar on a fret point on one string, you push the indented end of the bar toward the peghead such that the bar is now at an angle across the strings rather than the normal perpendicular position. Usually, when I'm using a forward slant, I'm pivoting on one note and raising the pitch on a higher string. Sometimes I'll lower the pitch on a lower string while pivoting on the higher string, but usually it's the former rather than the latter.

A 'backward slant' is the hardest of the two for most people. This requires pushing the flat end of the bar toward your right hand such that the bar is now angled the other direction from perpendicular. Usually, I use a backward slant when I'm pivoting on a fret point on one string and raising the pitch on a lower string. You can also use it to lower the pitch on the higher string, but I rarely do that.

You'll see some people 'cheat' by bending their wrist to get a slant, and with a forward slant, you can probably get away with it most of the time. Your left elbow will fly out, but you can do it. You'll just look like a chicken flapping its wings if you do it a lot. But it gets really awkward to try to 'cheat' with a backward slant because now your left elbow will want to move inward, your body is going to get in the way, and you might not be able to be accurate with your pitches. It's best just to learn how to do both the 'right way'. After you practice slants with a bullet steel with an indented flat end, it gets a lot easier, and you can then learn to use the techniques with steels that don't have indents. On dobro, I've used standard steels that have finger grooves but no rounded end. But like previously mentioned here, I, too, like that rounded nose on a steel that enables you to play fast single-note runs, etc. So for dobro, I typically use a Shubb-Pearse bullet-nose steel that has finger grooves along the sides, but it also has a rounded nose on it similar to the round bullet steel I use on the electric steel. Can I use the Shubb-Pearse on the electric? Sure! And sometimes when I'm feeling particularly lazy, I do. But I keep using the bullet steel on both electric steel and dobro because of that indent that makes it easier to do slants the 'right way'. And when I had to play a dobro gig out of state only to find that I forgot my Shubb-Pearse and bullet steels, it was good to know how to use the 'standard' blocky-looking non-rounded and non-indented steel!

When I started playing steel guitar, I bought some instructional videos, and the best was by a guy named Jerry Byrd. I now understand that a lot of the stuff that was on his tapes (which tells you how long ago I started!) is now on YooToob. So I'd bet if you searched for 'Jerry Byrd' there, you'd find his instruction on what I just described above on how to use slants. And trust me. When you start wanting more chords out of your steel guitar than your tuning will normally provide, you'll want to learn how to use slants!

So, why a pedal steel then? Well, you won't see a pedal steel guitarist using slants because he doesn't need them. When he wants to raise or lower the pitch of a string, he pushes a pedal or knee lever to change the pitch. Back in the 1950's, a guy named 'Shot' Wheeler, I believe, thought, "If I could raise the pitch on my second string by just a half-step, I could eliminate a lot of slanting!" So he took the rather radical approach of drilling a hole in his peghead, putting a hook on the end of a piece of coathanger wire and hooking it over the second string between the tuning machine and the nut, and putting a piece of wood for a pedal on the other end of the coathanger wire. Then when he pushed the pedal, the hook pulled the string down and raised the pitch of the string. From this humble beginning, the pedal steel was born. I DO NOT BY ANY MEANS SUGGEST THAT YOU DRILL HOLES INTO YOUR STEEL GUITAR!!! First, it only works on steel guitars that have legs, and, second, you stand to ruin your instrument. Wheeler did it because he had no choice; there were no pedal steels at the time, and he had years of experience to work from. If you want a pedal steel, get one. Don't ruin your non-pedal steel guitar.
EDIT: I did some research, and the guy's name was Shot Jackson, not 'Wheeler'. Shot Jackson along with another steeler named Bud Emmons created a steel guitar company called Sho-Bud. When that company dissolved, Emmons created his own company that still makes pedal steel guitars.

And that's about all I can tell you about steel guitar, other than it's a lot of fun. You can almost waste as much time with steel guitar as you can with modular synthesizers. Combine the two, as I have sometimes, and you're just asking for trouble. I, too, learned to play "Sleepwalk" as one of my first steel guitar songs, as well as "Steel Guitar Rag", which is like "Stairway to Heaven" among steel players. It's when you start playing things on dobro or steel guitar that are normally played on other instruments that things get interesting! Or start using fingerpicking techniques used on guitar or banjo on the right hand... Use a delay pedal with an electric steel or an electrified dobro and blow your freakin' mind! And with an electric steel guitar, add a volume pedal that's capable of turning it down completely! You'll be glad you did, and you'll never play electric steel without one!

Oh, I nearly forgot. To get a classic electric steel tone, setting up your amp is extremely important. It's going to sound weird because it did to me when I first heard it, but believe me it works. You want an amp with reverb because you're going to need it. It will sound dead as a door nail without at least some reverb. Turn your reverb to about halfway and adjust from there to taste. On the tone controls, turn the treble all the way down, the midrange to halfway point, and turn the bass all the way up. I know that sounds counter to what most people think of a steel guitar sounding like, but that is the way practically every steel player sets up the amplifier. Just leave the tone knob on the instrument itself turned all the way up and work from the amp. You can try other setups if you like, but you'll probably end up coming back to this one because it's what nearly eighty years of playing has determined to be 'ideal'. I tried the 'obvious' of turning the treble all the way up and the bass all the way down, thinking, "Well, that's how a steel should sound, isn't it?" Nope. Waaaaaaay too bright, and you'll get every little bit of string noise and all the crap that you don't want to hear. Darker, darker, darker still... That's how you want the tone on the amp to get the classic steel guitar sound.

You can just think of a steel guitar as a source of simple drones (as with an E-Bow) or portamenti or getting that very first part of the "Loonie Tunes" theme, or you can think of it as a musical instrument all unto itself that is capable of an entirely different way of playing music. There were lots of people who, before any of us came along, played nothing but steel guitar because it was their entire world. I'm not saying give up everything else you play for steel guitar, because I didn't. Not by a long shot! But, like any musical instrument I've ever endeavored, get into it and find out what it's really capable of, practice and become One with it, and you will be glad you did. And amazed.

EDIT: dkcg The post is nearly six years old, but your National New Yorker is a lovely instrument! From your Dec. 28, 2017 post, I gather you still play. miditerranean's Tremblay is very nice, also!

I just made my original post even longer, so I'll shut up. Again. (hides)
I love lap steel threads! It's always cool to get some tips. I'm still pretty terrible but they're so great for ambient sounds. I'll have to try running mine through my Red Panda Context pedal.

@miditerranean that Tremblay lap steel is beautiful!

I haven't verged past C6 tuning (A C E G A C E G in my case). One thing that helped me get used to the layout to it was using painter's tape underneath the strings to label commonly-used chords.
I love steel... I've got a 50s National Chicagoan that I keep in open E with pretty heavy gauge strings, which really help for some cool textural sounds. I've also got an early Sho-Bud Pro-1 pedal steel that's really like flying a jet... I'm a bit rusty these days but love pulling it out from time to time. I feel like if you wanna stay good, it's one of those things you really have to regularly practice. No delusions of being any kind of country virtuoso, but I can pull off a decent, swell-y Calexico imitation razz

That's my DIY lap steel on top - the first guitar I ever built grin. It is about 6 cm (2.4 inches) of one-piece maple, basically. Only the "fretboard" (you know what I mean wink) is glued on as a separate piece.
I use a 'Dunlop Lap Dawg' with it (visible on top of the bridge pickup).

It sounds awesome, at least as far as I am personally concerned lol.
I am new to the lap steel.
Here I am playing it with a modular system at a synth gathering:
Lap steels are drone machines! I have an old gibson br9. Been playing it through pedals and modular a lot recently. Lots of sounds to explore. Been on the hunt for a pedal steel but haven't found one just yet.
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