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Author Topic:  6 or 8 strings?
Leila Tuttle


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 8:36 am     Reply with quote

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Can someone tell me the major differences between using 6 and 8 strings? Can you get deeper tones with 8 strings? Is using only 6 strings very limiting? That sort of thing.

This question has probably been discussed plenty of times here so if there's another thread that pretty much covers this topic and you know where it is, please lead me there.

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George Keoki Lake


From:
Edmonton, AB., Canada
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 9:09 am     Reply with quote

It's simply a matter of choice. 8 strings will definitely afford you the advantage of playing fuller chords and perhaps finding the ellusive "lost chord" depending on which tuning you select.

I personally prefer 8 string. However, looking back to the truly great steel guitar artists of yesteryear, DICK McINTIRE, ANDY IONA, SOL HO'OPI'I, SOL K. BRIGHT, TAU MOE and the list goes on and on, some mighty fine work was done on 6 strings and using fairly simple tunings such as the E7, C#m, F#9 and/or D9.

Stepping ahead a few years, I suggest you listen to Joachim Murrphy doing "Sweet Georgia Brown" on a 6 string! Awesome. (Yes, he did another version using pedals, however the original 6 string version was absolutely super).

It's not how many strings you have, it's what you can do with them.

Which poses another interesting question...gee, how come the violin has stayed with only 4 strings and one standard tuning ? Very Happy
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Tom Pettingill


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 9:28 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
Can you get deeper tones with 8 strings?

Speaking from a purely hardware point of view, no. Regardless of the amount of strings, the tone of a steel is the sum of its parts and construction. Pickup(s), electronics, scale, woods, and how they interact / play together is what determines the voice of a steel.

Quote:
It's not how many strings you have, it's what you can do with them.

George hits the nail on the head. I could not agree more with his take on the subject.
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Leila Tuttle


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 10:25 am     Reply with quote

Both of your answers make perfect sense. Thank you.
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Hal Braun


From:
Eustis, Florida, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 10:27 am     Reply with quote

I personally like 8 strings which can give you more bass.. and some more flexibility in making chords.. heck, I saw a forum post not too long ago asking why lap steels were not using 10 strings more Smile and instead of looking at a violin with 4 strings.. look at a harp player with 6 and 1/2 octaves!!! (46 - 47 strings) Shocked

I think it is also kind of a "mental" thing.. are 8 strings "intimidating" and 6 strings more user friendly?

That said, there is a lot of great music out there on 6, 7, 8 and 10 string lap steels..
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Ray Montee


From:
Portland, Oregon
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 10:42 am     Just a tho't................. Reply with quote

Why not visit the JERRYBYRD-FANCLUB.com and listen for yourself to see what 6 or 7 string steel guitars can produce?

JERRY BYRD made a good living playing six strings and later seven strings.

Go to his JERRY's MUSIC (listen) page.
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Steve Lipsey


From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 10:49 am     Reply with quote

I play both lap and pedal steel....and I find that with an 8 string lap, you can play ACROSS the neck, more like a pedal steel, in addition to linearly along the neck, which is a more lap type style....because you can have most of a scale all there...

I use E9 on the pedal and E13 on the lap, gives me some consistency between the two, I can get a lot of the C6 type stuff (the 13th is also a 6th) and also the E9 stuff...
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Leila Tuttle


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 11:38 am     Reply with quote

Tons of good info here. Makes me want to leave my 6 string in C6 and then use my 8 string (which I don't have yet) in B13.

Keep all your opinions coming. I think all of what you're saying is very helpful informantion for beginners like myself.
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Morgan Scoggins


From:
Georgia, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 12:23 pm     Reply with quote

I guess it's much like buying a house. When I was growing up, we had a two bedroom house with two parents and five kids.We got along somehow. Now I have 4 bedrooms and, before they moved out,we had two boys. It was nice to have that extra bedroom, but quite frankly, it was used for storage most of the time.
I play an 8 string steel tuned mostly to A6. I play about 98% of my notes on 6 strings. The seventh string root is used, but not as frequently.The 8th string F# is mostly used for that ending that goes from the tonic chord and then up 7 frets to a cool sounding major 9th on the lower strings.
I could easily get used to six strings, but its like
buying a riding lawnmower. Once you get one, you wonder how you ever got along without it.
I guess those old players were much like the two bedroom house I lived in as a kid. We made the best of what we had. Now we have become a little spoiled with what we have today.
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Leila Tuttle


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 12:42 pm     Reply with quote

Morgan, are you trying to tell me that if I get 8 strings, the last two strings will just get used for storage? Smile
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HowardR


From:
N.Y.C. & Fire Island
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 1:09 pm     Reply with quote

and this is how it begins.......I see a D8 in your future........ Very Happy
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Leila Tuttle


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 1:39 pm     Reply with quote

D8....doesn't that mean double-neck? Are you kidding! LOL That is very funny. Right now, this single neck is getting the best of me. Smile
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Wayne D. Clark


From:
Montello Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 4:29 pm     Reply with quote

WELL THERE ARE THREE THAT COME TO MIND RIGHT OFF THE BAT, ERNEST TUBB, HANK WILLIAMS AND HANK SNOW, THEY ALL HAD 6 STRING LAP STEEL PLAYERS, AND SOME OF US OLD TIMERS PLAYED THEIR RECORDINGS UNTIL WE GOT IT. I KNOW I DID. IT'S TRUE YOU CAN MAKE A LOT OF MUSIC ON SIX STRINGS, AND A LIVING TO BOOT. MOST OF US HAVE BEEN THE ROUTE SIX STRINGS, THEN DOUBLE EIGHTS, THEN SINGLE PEDALS THEN DOUBLE PEDEL AND BACK AGAIN. PRESENTLY I HAVE ONE INSTERMENT THE REST ARE GONE, A MELBERT 8 CONSOLE LAP STEEL MADE BY ROBERT ALLEN OF LIVINGSTONE TN.IT'S ALL I NEED NOW. HOWEVER IF YOU DECIDE ON AN 8 SOME TIME YOU WILL FIND A USE FOR THE OTHER TWO STRINGS, TRUST ME.

WAYNE D. CLARK
usnyn2nd@frontier.com
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Steve Lipsey


From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 4:57 pm     Reply with quote

Hey Wayne, I have a Melbert by Bob allen also....but mine is 8 strings. His laps are the best deal in town!
http://www.musonmt.com/5.html
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Steve Ahola


From:
Concord, California
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 8:15 pm     Reply with quote

There are good things about both of them. You do get a fuller or wider range of notes under your bar with an 8 string but a 6 string has its advantages, too, like a much wider variety of pickups available. (A lot of people think very highly of the Supro strap-over guitar pickup, but that is rarely seen on 8 string lap steels.) I guess you could say that it would be like a gun owner having both a pistol and a rifle. It's not like an 8 string can always do everything that a 6 string can do and then some.

If you decide to get an 8 string I recommend that it has 3/8" string spacing at the bridge. (Some of them have 8 strings crammed into the space for 6 or 7.) As for the spacing at the nut some people prefer 3/8" but most lap steels are tapered a bit with the spacing at the nut being less that 3/8".

Steve Ahola

P.S. I think it is worthwhile to buy vintage 6 string lap steels (they all are unique- like a snowflake) but when I buy a new one it's usually an 8 string.
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Last edited by Steve Ahola on 19 Dec 2011 10:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Chris Gabriel


From:
Oregon, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 8:37 pm     Reply with quote

I've been playing C6 6 string lap steel for about 3 years, and am still discovering new patterns, chords, etc...

However, as I "improve" I'm thinking of adding 2 strings as well. Why?because:
You could play some lower notes
You could play some higher notes
You could add some "melody strings"' for example, adding a B string that lies between strings 1 & 2, kind of like e9, "below" string 6. I learned of this idea by reading lots of threads, right here in this forum.
Or you might want to try diatonic tuning, adding an F string between 4 & 5, and a B where it naturally lies, between A and C.
Of course that's just me. So many other players and tunings to explore, my oh my.

Getting used to the spacing of the strings may take some time, worth considering.

Ray Montee recommended his site for Jerry Byrd fans, worth a visit for sure. Hear for yourself what the different tunings can sound like. Or just to hear good music.

The point being You may want to try things to expand your "vocabulary", or try what some others have done (Jerry Byrd, Murph, etc) because you like the way it sounds on their recordings, and want to have that sound in your playing. That's the right thing to do, when starting out. So you might "need" 8 strings! (artistic necessity)

Or you may discover something that is unique, that would be something cool to share. You may not need 8 strings after all.

For example, I am trying a diatonic tuning (BAGF#EC six string) but instead of an F I'm using F#. I feel like I'm onto something, so I'm taking a leap and leaving that tuning on the new guitar I bought (for 100$!) By the way, thats why I bought the guitar, to try the tuning, not the other way around. I have been reading and listening, firstly, to make sure this is the direction for me. it is. But I love coming back to C6, and since I've got a performance coming up, I'm not playing that new tuning, for now...

It is a rabbit hole, and others will agree that spending time getting used to a single tuning helps you get deeper into that tuning, or it gets deeper in to your psyche. I am finally at a point where I feel comfortable with C6, because I've played it exclusively for 3 years, without variance.

But to me, this is the part of the joy of steel guitar, to realize new tunings, thereby, producing unique sounds from one's own guitar. May you spend many hours of joyous discovery on steel guitar,
Chris

"It's a guitar. It's got strings. Make Music."

I love that quote...
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Leila Tuttle


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 9:44 pm     Reply with quote

Well I can see the advantage of sticking with 6 strings for a good while. And I find 6 strings not so hard to navigate, so that's good. I'm thinking 6 is as easy as it gets, then things just get a little more challenging from there. But it's encouraging to know the old-timer greats didn't find 6 strings so limiting. I love harmony and think there just may be more possibilities with 8 strings. We'll see....I'm going to dwell on this for a while. I think I need to get real comfortable with 6 first. Maybe.

And yes, string spacing is important. I think having them too wide apart is just as bad as too close together. I think mine could stand to be just a fraction closer together. Well, right now I need to put the new strings on. My bottom 3 strings don't sound very good, like 1,2, and 3 do. 1,2, and 3 ring out with that great tone and sustain but the others are pretty dead. Not good.
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James Williamson


From:
California & Hawaii
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 10:20 pm     6 strings or 8 strings Reply with quote

And you can always take off one string and play 7 string with an 8 string...but no can do with a 6
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Steve Ahola


From:
Concord, California
Post Posted 19 Dec 2011 10:47 pm     Reply with quote

Leila Tuttle wrote:
And yes, string spacing is important. I think having them too wide apart is just as bad as too close together. I think mine could stand to be just a fraction closer together.

Your Magnatone? The spacing on that looks okay to me but you might want to measure it at the bridge (center to center of the outside strings).

If you want to see a 6 string with w-i-d-e spacing check out this Gibson Century 6 from the late 40's:



With wide spacing like that it is much easier to do slants. My fingers seem to find the strings whether they are too close together or too far apart... Laughing

Steve
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Karl Fehrenbach


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post Posted 20 Dec 2011 6:19 am     Reply with quote

I am going to switch from 6 string lap steel to 8 string tuned to C6 with F as the 8th string, low to high, F A C E G A C E. The reason, as mentioned before is the note selection in the tonic key in which you are playing as well as the 4 chord on strings 8, 7, & 6. Plus the Maj 7th if you add string 5 to the 4 chord. Nice lush sound without the 6th note that has become a habit which I am desperately trying to break. For a good introduction to using F as the 8th string, in a C6 tuning, see Bobbe Seymour's DVDs on playing Non Pedal Steel. That is what sold me on it. But, no matter which tuning you settle in on, I think you will enjoy the extended range of the 8 string lap steel.
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Leila Tuttle


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 20 Dec 2011 9:48 am     Reply with quote

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Karl, be careful or you might just talk me into an 8 string. Well, right now I'm spying out the MSA SuperSlide. I think its tone just has to be good, and I'm so weary of rotten tone. I simply MUST change out my strings as the lower 2 are so dead sounding.

Tell me, those of you who know, I looked at the MSA site and 'think' they have a SuperSlide that I can use for either 6 or 8 strings. Am I reading that right? Would the neck look too wide when using only 6 strings? (Esthetics do matter). Does anyone know what these weigh and how long they are from end to end? Just tell me all you know about this little guitar. Small is important to me as well as tone and sustain.

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chris ivey


From:
sacto
Post Posted 20 Dec 2011 11:43 am     Reply with quote

leila..i've played d10 pedal for 40 yrs. i have my little 6 string lap that still baffles me. i think there is alot to be said for spending some good time finding all the wonderful stuff on a 6string.

i see what joaquin murphy, bobby black, jerry bird etc. can do with it. i really dig the concept of artistic expression with a minimalist setup.

this would be very satisfying to me.
good luck in your adventure , and mainly...enjoy!
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HowardR


From:
N.Y.C. & Fire Island
Post Posted 20 Dec 2011 1:49 pm     Reply with quote

The MSA is a modern sounding (IMO) well engineered guitar for versatility......

The neck for 6 & 8 string is the same.....they make the nut & bridge to accommodate the number of strings......the 8 string is usually 3/8 at the bridge and the 6 string is 7/16......so there is no awkward appearance......you could buy it set up for either, and purchase an extra nut & bridge.....for example.......you can buy it set up for 6 string, and when you're ready to jump to 8, replace the nut & bridge that accommodates the 8 string set up (it's an easy swap)........or just get the 8 string and remove 2 strings....and live with the additional space on the top & bottom.....

here's my D8/9.......





Last edited by HowardR on 20 Dec 2011 9:49 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Leila Tuttle


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 20 Dec 2011 1:58 pm     Reply with quote

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Howard, first, your MSA is beautiful. I like the colors a lot, it looks great with the 2 different bright colors! I should get one of those with 6 and 8 strings. Smile

You said the MSA is 'modern' sounding. Can you expound on that? Is it more geared for Jazz than Hawaiian for example? Does it have a good steel guitar tone? You said it's engineered for versatility....does that mean you can change the tone from steel to more of an acoustic tone? If so, how is that done?

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HowardR


From:
N.Y.C. & Fire Island
Post Posted 20 Dec 2011 2:41 pm     Reply with quote

It's not geared for any particular genre of music....that all lies with the person playing it.....Reece Anderson plays anything & everything on his SS 12...from jazz, to pop, to ballads, to Hawaiian, to blues......Lonnie Bennett plays the tar out of his 8 string on Sacred Steel.....to me, plugged in clean, it has a more pedal steel sound.....of course you can dial in almost anything depending on amp & effects to get the sound that you want.....if your mind is locked into a specific vintage sound, like the Rickenbacher "growl" or Stringmaster "twang", then only those guitars will give you that exclusively.....although you may come close...ie....using a tube amp.....but I think for a wide spectrum of genres, it's a versatile guitar.....

What I also meant by versatility is the ability to have almost any configuration that you want.....my D8/9 was originally a D8......notice the difference between the two necks in my photo......the width of one neck will accommadate 6 or 8 strings.....the other neck will accommadate 9 - 12 strings because the nuts and bridges can be made for any configuration......there's no other guitar that I know of that can be set from 6-12 string on the same body......
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