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Author Topic:  Where to start with a lap steel?
Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 15 Jul 2017 3:46 pm     Reply with quote

Hi Folk,

New member first time poster looking for your advice.

A little about me. 61yo retired Aussie and a Country music tragic as our 2 daughters call me. Never learnt music, it was never an option at schools, played a lot of sport, then started work, married had a family, started a business, retired, babysit 3 wonderful grandkids when required.

I recently took 6 or so acoustic guitar lessons an found my short fat fingers couple with a little bit of arthritis wasn't going to be a happening thing so abandoned that and am looking for an instrument I would like to play. To be honest I did look at a lap steel initially however I felt I would need some one on one tutoring and could not find any local tutors at all. So I love the sound really want to play it. There seems to be a fair amount of online tutors and you tube videos lap steel lessons, so I am happy to head down that learning path. Nice thing about online videos is you can go back time and time again as you learn.

Sorry about the long preamble, let's you know where I am coming from.

So I am ground zero, have not bought a lap steel or any pick or slides. I do already own a Line6 60W amp so I am not completely behind the 8 ball. What would be great is to get some suggestions on what entry level lap steel I should be looking at? I am thinking 6 string is where I would be wanting to start. I suspect like all instruments there is wide variety of makes, models, qualities etc I suppose what I am looking for is some advise on what to look for in a lap steel guitar?

Don't want to buy into anything cheap that will give be any issues conversely don't want to spend a lot of money on an instrument that potentially I might not ultimately be able to master. That said I am committed to wanting to play the lap steel.

Anyways I hope you can make some suggestions on what lap steel might be a good stating point. Also any suggestion on the learning to play journey would be appreciated also.

Looking forward to being part of your community.

Regards,

Ian
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 15 Jul 2017 4:45 pm     Reply with quote

Hi, Ian. Welcome to the forum.

A couple of tips..... If you are in Adelaide then Pete Miller at Ron Pearce Music is a possibility as a teacher. He does pedal and dobro so there is no reason he couldn't get you started on lap.

On the subject of which instrument, if you are just playing for your own pleasure, dobro is a good option. Without need for an amp, you can pick it up with no preliminaries and play wherever you want. Very handy. You can take it camping.

On getting an instrument, you'll be lucky to find any electrics in a shop around here. I have seen a Gretch six string, on occasion. You will find dobros in most guitar shops. Derringers would be your best bet, IMO.

Good luck.
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Rick Abbott


From:
Indiana, USA
Post Posted 15 Jul 2017 5:21 pm     Reply with quote

One thing to consider is: What music are most interested in trying to play?

The instrument can help, or hurt, your efforts. If you want to play classic (50's and 60's) you would need certain tunings, or number of strings, to get where you want to go. The dobro IS a good idea, very good, but won't be as good for basic electric styles.

6 string electric lap is great for C6 or A6 or E6 or 7th. Maybe consider an inexpensive single 8 string?

Question to ask: I want to play (this style) mostly, what would best fit that? Who do I like to listen to?

You've come to the right place...welcome...ask any and all questions!
_________________
RICK ABBOTT
Sho~Bud D-10 Professional #7962
Gibson Console Grande, Lazy River Wiessenborn
Session 400, Bassman Amp W/Altec 418,
1953 Stromberg-Carlson AU-35
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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 1:10 am     Reply with quote

Rick Abbott wrote:
One thing to consider is: What music are most interested in trying to play?

The instrument can help, or hurt, your efforts. If you want to play classic (50's and 60's) you would need certain tunings, or number of strings, to get where you want to go. The dobro IS a good idea, very good, but won't be as good for basic electric styles.

6 string electric lap is great for C6 or A6 or E6 or 7th. Maybe consider an inexpensive single 8 string?

Question to ask: I want to play (this style) mostly, what would best fit that? Who do I like to listen to?

You've come to the right place...welcome...ask any and all questions!


Cheers Rick,

You bring good points to the table. Thanks. Thought the choice was going to be easier but better to go into it with all the facts and options.

Not fond of the modern country more the older style more the Merle Haggard vintage.

Was hoping for a 6 string to get me going....

Are all the tunings you refer to simply just tuning a set of strings or are they different string sets? Sorry if that is a silly question. If it's just tuning the set you have to get the various standards then that's not so bad.

Thanks again.

Cheers,

Ian
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Bill Groner


From:
QUAKERTOWN, PA
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 1:18 am     Welcome Cobber! Reply with quote

I have a friend in Narre Warren, AU. He always throws words in his emails I have to look up in my Aussie slang dictionary.

Anyway I am in the same boat as you. Tried a standard guitar and had limited success. Fat fingers, arthritis, etc. I built 3 lap steels all tuned to C6. I am learning to play by trial and error. I can not read music. I strictly play be ear. I have been at it at least an hour a day for about 9 months. It is coming along fairly well. People actually recognise some songs I play, so that tells me I am going in the right direction. A guy told me one time about learning to weld. It is much better to do it 15 minutes daily than it is to do it once a week for a longer amount of time. I am sure you will figure it out. Good luck with your new hobby. It sure is a relaxing one if that is one of your requirements. Most of all have FUN! Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
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currently own, 3 homemade lap steels.
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Rick Abbott


From:
Indiana, USA
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 6:21 am     Reply with quote

When I started to play slide instruments I took a cheap acoustic guitar and put a nut-raise device on it and tuned it to open E. That would be a regular set of strings tuned to E B E G+ B E, low to high. Here is a nut-raise: https://www.steelguitarshopper.com/micro-conversion-nut/

C6 sets are available here: https://www.steelguitarshopper.com/c6th-lap-steel-strings-by-ghs/

But, you could just look at the string gauges and get your own. Look around at other sets on the link.

As you play, you'll find out more and more what it is you're looking for. A lot of players are like me: they have tried many different tunings, several styles and too many guitars. But, it's an individual, very individual, instrument. In time, you will learn to sound just like you!

Most answers will lead to more questions.
_________________
RICK ABBOTT
Sho~Bud D-10 Professional #7962
Gibson Console Grande, Lazy River Wiessenborn
Session 400, Bassman Amp W/Altec 418,
1953 Stromberg-Carlson AU-35
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Rick Barnhart


From:
Arizona, USA
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 6:32 am     Reply with quote

Rick Abbott wrote:
Most answers will lead to more questions.


This simple statement may as well be the subtitle to this entire forum.
_________________
Clinesmith consoles D-8/6 & D-8, Pettingill Teardrop, Pettingill P8 Deluxe, BJS & Zirconia
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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 6:45 am     Reply with quote

Guy Cundell wrote:
Hi, Ian. Welcome to the forum.

A couple of tips..... If you are in Adelaide then Pete Miller at Ron Pearce Music is a possibility as a teacher. He does pedal and dobro so there is no reason he couldn't get you started on lap.

On the subject of which instrument, if you are just playing for your own pleasure, dobro is a good option. Without need for an amp, you can pick it up with no preliminaries and play wherever you want. Very handy. You can take it camping.

On getting an instrument, you'll be lucky to find any electrics in a shop around here. I have seen a Gretch six string, on occasion. You will find dobros in most guitar shops. Derringers would be your best bet, IMO.

Good luck.


Thanks Guy, will keep Pete in mind moving forward.

Know Derringers where I bought my acoustic and amp from.

No problem with putting in an hour a day it what I would like to do.

Keeping my options open on which lap until I am sure which direction to go. The Vorson has come recommended. There is another brand SX I have seen in some interstate stores. As you know we don't get spoilt for choice over here. I head over to the USA once a year to catch up with a good mate and his family, depending might even grab one from over there.
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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 6:54 am     Reply with quote

Rick Abbott wrote:
When I started to play slide instruments I took a cheap acoustic guitar and put a nut-raise device on it and tuned it to open E. That would be a regular set of strings tuned to E B E G+ B E, low to high. Here is a nut-raise: https://www.steelguitarshopper.com/micro-conversion-nut/

C6 sets are available here: https://www.steelguitarshopper.com/c6th-lap-steel-strings-by-ghs/

But, you could just look at the string gauges and get your own. Look around at other sets on the link.

As you play, you'll find out more and more what it is you're looking for. A lot of players are like me: they have tried many different tunings, several styles and too many guitars. But, it's an individual, very individual, instrument. In time, you will learn to sound just like you!

Most answers will lead to more questions.


Thanks again Rick...I like the idea of the strings slightly wider apart so I probably be happier learning on on a lap rather than just raising the stings on my acoustic.

Thanks for the link to the strings. Nice to know where you get them from.
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 7:50 am     Reply with quote

I suggest starting with 6 strings, C6 tuning. There is more C6 instructional material on the market than any other tuning. And C6 is a good all-round tuning for most styles of music. If you buy one of the entry level lap steels on line it will probably come with an E tuning and you'll need to change the strings to tune to C6. As far as instruction, Troy Brenningmeyer has a pretty good "day one" beginner video. Another low cost starter is Mel Bay's Basic C6th Nonpedal Lap Steel Method book written by DeWitt Scott. Best of luck with it.
_________________
My Site / BIG E9 Song Book 60 Songs / 25 Songs C6 Lap Steel / 25 MORE Songs / 16 Songs, lap steel, C6, A6, B11 tunings

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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 8:49 am     Reply with quote

Thanks Doug I have been in touch with Troy like the way he teaches.

Will look into C6 tuning...
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Michael Butler


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 9:42 am     Reply with quote

ian: welcome to the forum.

note that doug provides instruction also. i think he just didn't want to toot his own horn so i will. a lot of people here have taken his instruction courses, so check him out. also, andy volk provides instruction and he is a member of this forum.

play music!
_________________
please see my Snakeskin's Virtual Music Museum below.

http://muscmp.wordpress.com/
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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 10:23 am     Reply with quote

Thanks Michael. Learning a lot is a short space of time. Gotta love forums, great community going on here!
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James Kerr


From:
Scotland, UK
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 12:55 pm     Reply with quote

Ian,
Just to encourage you along a bit, here is a Hag song "When my blue moon turns to gold again" on a 6 string in C6th.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqQhsBsD42I

Or if you decide to make a start right away with the Acoustic you already have with a Nut Riser here is "A Maidens Prayer" Dobro Tuning. The Guitar is a SX you mentioned, cheap & cheerful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtdcPyS2dXg

PS. I'm 76 and if I can do it so can you.

James Kerr
Scotland.
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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 2:38 pm     Reply with quote

You have inspired me James! Well played....

I have a wee bit of Scottish blood from my dear late mothers side, probably explains why the hairs on the back of neck stand to attention whenever I hear the pipes!

Cheers,

Ian
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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 2:49 pm     Reply with quote

Lap steel shape and size?

Is there any inpediments to playing a lap steel say on a table instead of your lap? Reason I ask is on of the contenders of lap steel the Vorson SL-220 is sort of oval shape and given my attributes (a bit of of a tummy Sad ) I am concerned it might not sit well on my lap and needs to be played on a table.

Or should I be looking at the more slimmer rectangular designed LS?

What neck length is considered optimal? I see various length necks. Is one necks length easier to play over another?

Cheers,

Ian
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Stefan Robertson


From:
London, UK
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 3:23 pm     Reply with quote

Welcome Ian

Short summary
Tools of the TRADE

Non-negotiable (ie it takes time but once you put in the time it will all come together nicely)

DO's

METRONOME
2 x Metal/brass fingerpicks
1 x Plastic thumbpick

Picks take a while to get used to but hang in there and it will feel natural after a few months



1 x Bullet bar same as the picks this will take about a year of practice but use one.

Volume pedal
A comfy seat
Music stand
Headphones/amp ( and an understanding family or neighbor)
Basic music theory understanding

DON'Ts
Play with fingers and no picks
Use a Dobro styled bar
Waste hours and years noodling
Forget what you practice is what you'll play
USE tons of distortion constantly as your technique and intonation will be rubbish.

Instrument

6 string is the entry level standard HOWEVER as you add more strings MORE options for chords become available and thus FAR easier. Many play 8 string some 10 and I play 12.

22.5" scale length is the standard and as Jerry Byrd agrees slants forward and backward for chords are easier on a shorter scale neck when playing.

Tuning
Any 6th tuning or 11th or 13th usually has a 6th interval in there so that is the way to go.
C6th A6th E13 etc.

Goals
Basic music theory can be learnt in a matter of days. More advanced concepts take time and can be learnt within a year.

Applying basic music theory will inevitably make you free on the instrument. Noodling and playing by ear will lock you into Licks and pockets. Both techniques are great and should both be employed for true freedom.

Quality;
It's pretty hard to mess up a Lap Steel Guitar but some niggling issues can be there due to the age of the instrument or how long it stays in tune.

NB. Lap Steel Guitar do NOT need to be intonated.

Tuning adjustments are made so it is sharp or flat by a few cents on each string dependent on the tuning. SO get an accurate tuner like a Peterson or something.

Important techniques

We use our palm to BLOCK the string and mute it after it is struck when we no longer want it to ring out. This skill takes a LONG time to master on chords but even longer on single note playing. Once again do it and stick to it and it will come.

The Forum

Here you will find a mix of pro to amateur players with advanced musical knowledge to none at all.

Everyone has something to offer in the way of advice. Listen and ask all the questions you need but quickly learn to filter your thoughts as to what you need NOW.

Don't try to run before you can walk.

The Lap Steel Guitar is possibly one of the most difficult strIng instruments that exists. So be patient with yourself and REALISTIC.

You remember Django who played jazz with two/three fingers.

Well this is playing an instrument with ONE. So once again be patient and have FUN. Cause when it all starts to come together the feeling is unlike any other.

WELCOME and enjoy your Lap Steel Guitar journey.
_________________
http://ilapsteel.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/ilapsteel

Bill Hatcher custom 12 string Lap Steel Guitar
E13#9/F Bebop Tuning

Head & Hands to Steel your Heart.
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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 16 Jul 2017 4:56 pm     Reply with quote

Hi Stefan,

Thanks for taking the time to detail out what I need to know and should consider. Very informative and helpful.

Interesting comment you make about the lap steel being one of the difficult stringed instruments that exists to play. I was hopiing that it was on less difficult side which is why I am exploring this as my alternative to an acoustic. Anyway I need to explore that comment in greater detail as I am not looking jump out the frying pan into the fire in choosing the next instrument. But better to be warned and eyes wide open.

The basic music theory you are referring to are you able to more specific? I am happy to get this behind me or make sure I have what you believe should be the foundation. If there is a book or a online offering for what is the must know you could point me to that would be great.

Thanks again for the info.

Regards,

Ian
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Stefan Robertson


From:
London, UK
Post Posted 17 Jul 2017 12:55 am     Reply with quote

Learn how to read using the app below. I learnt within 4 days on my commute to and from work.

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/music-tutor-sight-reading-trainer/id514363426?mt=8

Then understand how chords are formed
Major
Minor
Aug
Dim

There are tons of basic theory books out there.

I think the thing is that you need to determine what your end goal will be. If its to have fun and play a few heads(beginning parts) for songs. Then you can just get some chords from sites and string some together. Maybe even noodle around and pick the melody out by ear.

If its to play Hawaiian or jazz or any style you need to STUDY them and listen to tons of recording YOU like.

If your goal is to play blues, which is a great start, learn basic chords and the Major and minor pentatonic scales and you're off. WARNING Blues is addictive because its so easy to play and sound good but too much drops you down a rabbit hole where its hard to come out from. LOL.

Laughing

Jazz and chord melody playing like in Classical music/Jazz is extremely challenging but do-able. It takes time. I cannot stress this enough. Have a 1 year, 3 year and 5 year goal

One thing ALL masters of their instrument have in common is they played their instrument when others gave up. i.e. Tom Morrell or Buddy Emmons etc.

There are no shortcuts on Lap Steel Guitar or any instrument for that matter. But if its to play a few songs you like around a camp fire just get some chords and give it a go.

My personal order of difficulty

Blues (Easy)
Rock/Country/Pop
Hawaiian and Western swing
Classical
Then Jazz (Difficult and requires intense study)

So start with the easy stuff and build from there. Play your fav blues then Rock/Country/Pop songs

Or Head straight for Jazz and prepare yourself for intense study about RULES/How to apply them/How to break them and then Forget them. (The forget part always drives me insane cause I'm not there yet. But all the Jazz guys say thats the way to go and I'm like "What I am learning all this stuff to forget it.")
_________________
http://ilapsteel.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/ilapsteel

Bill Hatcher custom 12 string Lap Steel Guitar
E13#9/F Bebop Tuning

Head & Hands to Steel your Heart.
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Stefan Robertson


From:
London, UK
Post Posted 17 Jul 2017 1:01 am     Reply with quote

Also I have a Lap Steel Guitar Song Group on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1563394503969895/


All the Best

Stefan aka "Bilal Khalif"
_________________
http://ilapsteel.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/ilapsteel

Bill Hatcher custom 12 string Lap Steel Guitar
E13#9/F Bebop Tuning

Head & Hands to Steel your Heart.
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Ian Fleetwood


From:
South Australia, Australia
Post Posted 17 Jul 2017 3:34 am     Reply with quote

Thanks Stephan,

You have been very helpful. All taken on board.

I have requested to join the FB page....... awaiting confirmation.

The learning curve is steep before I even started however great advise from you and others prevent that curve to be logarithmic and hopefully more linear. Good place to begin asking question of people who have been there and done that.

Thanks to you and all for sharing their experience and advise.

Regards,

Ian
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