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Author Topic:  Is lap steel your primary instrument?
David DeLoach


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 1:13 pm    
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I've been playing guitar for 50+ years. Made my living at it for awhile. I've written a few guitar books, one of which was used at Berklee School of Music for awhile.

I had a Gibson BR9 that I played in a band back in the 70's/80's but sold it during lean times, and bought another BR9 about 12 years ago. Open E was the only tuning I used.

I didn't really get serious about lap steel until about 2 years ago. It's trying to make it's way into the position of my primary instrument. I still play guitar almost everyday, but lap steel is where I'm finding the most enjoyment. I've arranged over 150 songs for Leavitt tuning and feel like I'm just getting started.

How about you? Is lap steel your primary instrument? Or does it play second fiddle?
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Peter Jacobs


From:
Northern Virginia
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 3:16 pm    
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I consider banjo as my primary instrument (been playing it 20 years longer) but with the band, I play lap steel more than 75% of the time. Not sure how that math works out, though....
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Daniel McKee

 

From:
Corinth Mississippi
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 4:38 pm    
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Right now lap steel is my main instrument and thats mostly because I have one in my home office. I have pedal steels and one being built but its easier to pick the lap steel up more frequently.
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Bill McCloskey

 

From:
Nyack
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 5:01 pm    
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It is now.
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Bill Hatcher

 

From:
Atlanta Ga. USA
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 5:08 pm    
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whatever i have in my hands at the time i am making some money.....THAT is my "primary" instrument.
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Cliff Swanson


From:
Raleigh, NC
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 5:13 pm    
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I have broken bones at the base of both of my thumbs owing to mountain biking falls over the years. The resulting arthritis has finally made gripping a guitar neck pretty uncomfortable at times depending on what chords I'm holding. It's pretty clear that the condition is a limiter now and probably will become more of one as time goes on. Because I can't imagine not playing music, I've sold all of my fretted instruments and am pretty exclusively playing lap steel these days. I still have a really fine Fessenden pedal steel but the lap guitars are out and easy to grab whenever.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 6:02 pm    
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Seems like recently it's been tilting in that direction.
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Allan Revich


From:
Victoria, Canada
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 6:04 pm    
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Hmmm...
Blues harmonica is my first instrument, and the instrument I play best. Ukulele is the instrument I play well enough to jam with other ukulele players, but I never gig with it.
Lap steel has become my secondary instrument on stage in blues bands, but I have some way to go before be comfortable playing only the lap steel in a band situation. I also enjoy playing free Improvisations and blues on flute. I have a few nice guitars, but they will never be performing or recording instruments for me.

So, I guess harmonica is still my primary instrument even though I’m playing way more lap steel here at home during Covid times.
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Joe A. Roberts


From:
Seoul, South Korea
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2021 9:38 pm    
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As far as steel being one's main instrument, I think that the answers will vary a lot depending on whether or not "main instrument" means the instrument that someone is most proficient in overall, or if it just means the one that the player has been playing the most in the present. What do you think?

Also, do you plan on uploading more recordings or even sheets for some of those 150+ songs? David, I am sure I am not the only one that would be very interested to hear them!
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David DeLoach


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2021 4:25 am    
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Joe A. Roberts wrote:


Also, do you plan on uploading more recordings or even sheets for some of those 150+ songs? David, I am sure I am not the only one that would be very interested to hear them!


Yes sir! Good news/bad news. Good news, I just lost my job (again!), so I have more time to record/video/create transcriptions. Bad news, I just lost my job (again!).

Also, I'm waiting on an 8 string Joaquin lap steel from Todd Clinesmith before I record. Looks like it should be here in June. Fortunately, I already had the funds set aside for this. Hopefully, I will be working again soon.

Here is one of my Leavitt arrangements I've recorded/transcribed. I'm not happy at all with the tone of the steel, I've since obtained a much improved sound.

https://www.masterguitarists.com/wonderfulworld-lapsteel

Scroll down below the video in the link above for the tab.
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Joe A. Roberts


From:
Seoul, South Korea
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2021 6:21 am    
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David DeLoach wrote:

Yes sir! Good news/bad news. Good news, I just lost my job (again!), so I have more time to record/video/create transcriptions. Bad news, I just lost my job (again!).



Ah, I am sorry to hear about your job...

Your arrangement of "What a Wonderful World" has some really cool cascading major pentatonic sounding lines it, beautiful.

How are you expanding the tuning to 8 strings?
Earlier last year I experimented with a combination of Leavitt tuning and B11th.

Starting with:
standard 6 string B11th, E C# A F# D# B
and adding a C string above the low B,
and a B string pitched above the A,

you get the whole 6 string B11th, plus the whole 6 string Leavitt pitched down a step!

Could be an interesting chord neck on a double or triple.

E C# A F# D# B
4 2 b7 5 3 1

D C Bb G E C#
2 1 b7 5 3 b2

E C# B A F# D# C B
4 2 1 b7 5 3 b2 1

(Or now that I look at it, starting instead from the Leavitt, you could add a Low C and a High F on the outsides to get the same result, only pitched a step higher)

F D C Bb G E C# C
4 2 1 b7 5 3 b2 1

Anyway, I digress, I am looking forward to the Summer Clinesmith vids! Shocked
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2021 7:05 am    
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I've never really had a true primary instrument...in my teens I -thought- it was electric guitar, until I was saddled with electric bass, which I could play well enough, so that was my role! If I recall, Paul McCartney suffered the same fate, thinking you're a guitarist, being saddled with bass, and eventually coming to embrace it. In my twenties I shifted back and forth between guitar and bass, depending on needs of the moment, and I grew to enjoy and specialize in bass a bit more (thanks to Chris Squire, James Jamerson, Bootsy Collins, et al). But I considered myself somewhat equally specialized in both...a guitar player who tended to play bass more often, because thats what was needed. In my thirties I became a student of Indian classical music, which I studied more earnestly than I had studied music before. I still primarily played bass or guitar with groups but my passion was sitar. After my guru passed on and my ardent study of sitar dialed down a bit, I did what I had long intended to do...start to dabble in Hawaiian steel guitar, a few years back. Does it make me money? Not too much (although I like to recall that my two-piece band played a Christmas luau in 2019 at the offices of a lesser known videoconferencing company named "Zoom"...would that I had been paid in stock options!!!), but I would say its my passion. Covid having basing reduced my playing out options to virtually nil, I play Hawaiian steel much much more than bass or guitar (or sitar, alas). I'm an amateur, not a pro, so I play music for my own enjoyment, not to earn a living or supplement income really. So while I think bass playing or guitar would be more remunerative and I could get more playing opportunities with it...and I have much longer experience playing those instruments...I still consider the steel my main instrument, at least currently. It's what I would take to a desert island...particularly one with softly swaying palms casting moonlit shadows on the sands Wink .
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Joe Cook


From:
Whidbey Island Washington, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2021 8:00 am    
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Nic, your trajectory is similar to mine, minus the sitar! Smile I became a bass player out of neccessity as my first band in 1974 didn't need three guitar players. I still play guitar in a rock band, but I don't practice guitar. Delved into the accordion for a couple years, too heavy! I took up pedal steel about 8 years ago and lap steel a little over a year ago while I was being treated for cancer, as a way to relax. Lap steel has become an obsession! It is my primary instrument now. Wish I could find a band to play with. My current band already has a great lap steel player.
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Tom Campbell

 

From:
Houston, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2021 10:24 am    
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Left hand arthritis and tendonitis in the left thumb has ruled out lap steel for me (no longer can do bar slants).

As long as my knees and ankles hold out I guess pedal steel will "rule-the-day".
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2021 6:05 pm    
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Most really fine musicians I know of can play more than one instrument; however, when it comes to steel guitar, most just stick to that. You do hear about Buddy Emmons playing bass, Tom Morrell on guitar, etc. But mostly they played steel. Maybe it was time when steel guitarists worked aplenty. Today's climate is quite different.

What I did learn is that it takes absolute dedication to become a master of the instrument. All of the great players--guys like Sol Hoopii, for example--stayed up all night just working on the little intricacies of playing, often playing the same thing over and over again. That's what it takes. I realized this years ago and decided that it was a chance I was willing to take.

I had a good career as a guitarist but I don't think I had a very unique voice or anything really special going on. I was a rock player who got into jazz heavily, and that's where I left off. I started playing steel and learning as much about traditional music and techniques so I could become proficient on the instrument. I went through different phases until I finally had the guts to face C6, which intimidated me for years.

I loved the Hawaiian players most, still do. But I wanted to have my own sound, my own style, my own voice. Once my playing started coming together, my goals changed. I wanted to be able to improvise well enough over complex music to the degree that people wouldn't say "that's not bad for lap steel". I'm all in 100%. I'm making some progress.

Sorry for the long post full of "I" and "me".
Ps. I have been playing double bass for a few years now and I really love that!
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Frank James Pracher


From:
Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2021 8:54 pm    
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Lap steel is definitely my primary instrument.

I'll pick up my Tele on occasion but it mostly lives in it's case. My hearts just not in it.

A few years back I stopped taking gigs for guitar. I don't gig as much (well.. I don't gig at ALL these days for obvious reasons) but the gigs I get I enjoy much more.

...And honestly, I can't serve two masters...I know some folks can juggle several instruments,tunings, etc... but my brain just isn't wired that way.
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Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2021 9:11 pm    
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yes it is...

Taking Hawaiian Steel Guitar lessons, I was first exposed to Notes, scales, chords, Tablature, slants, harmonics, etc. I have played many other instruments since then, but non-pedal steel is my main "pick"
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Last edited by Dom Franco on 9 Apr 2021 9:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bob Womack


From:
Virginia, USA
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2021 4:50 am    
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Hi, David!

I'm sorry to hear about your job. We'll pray you get hooked up directly.

No, lap steel is not my primary instrument. I started on acoustic guitar way back when in 1970, wanting to learn electric guitar. I soon dived into electric. Very soon after starting I ventured into bottleneck slide. Somewhere near 1976 I was inspired by Steve Howe and David Gilmour to try lap steel and I did so with a cheap pawnshop Magnatone. Around the same time I also studied classical guitar in college. Talk about eclectic!

It wasn't until about the year 2000 when I really started to take a deep dive, this time mostly inspired by David Gilmour's later work. Soon after, I started playing lap steel in studio sessions.

Still and all, the electric guitar is where I am most expressive.

Bob
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2021 5:38 am    
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Guitar is my main instrument...along with mandolin, bass,tenor banjo, steel guitar, sax, clarinet, Greek bouzouki, keyboards, etc.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2021 6:56 am    
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Steel guitar is my main instrument these days but I've played guitar since I was a teenager and also play ukulele and a little mandolin. Ten years ago, my then teenaged son accidentally slammed the car trunk on my left hand dislocating it and breaking it in several places. I had a good surgeon but my hand never really recovered. I can't use my pinky in the way I want and not being Django, I often get frustrated playing standard guitar today. So, I'm (mostly) all in on steel. Over the last few years, I've gotten more satisfaction out of composing and arranging than practicing steel to achieve performance level. All that said, if I was on a deserted isle with only one instrument, I'd want an acoustic guitar!
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2021 8:55 am    
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That's...well, not funny, but I had a similar, less extreme instance of that, Andy...a few days ago I was assembling an enormously heavy rowing machine by myself (bad idea) and while lifting it I heard an unpleasant noise in my knuckle for my left middle finger...I didn't even know you could sprain a knuckle! (turning 40 this year, I'm sure many similar unpleasant discoveries await me haha) But I've found in the past few days, my fretted instruments are a definite no go...but the steel is just fine to keep playing. I was about, my 2nd Covid shot rounding the 2 week finish line soon, to message my church orchestra director that I could be back on electric bass soon, but I may have to wait and see! Or offer to play lap steel instead Laughing (don't think they'll go for that, but Sol played some lovely hymns!) Anyway, I guess to amend my main instrument answer...I'm stuck on steel only until this swollen knuckle allows me full use of my left hand again, fingers (metaphorically!) crossed!
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Tommy Martin Young


From:
Sacramento-California, USA
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2021 8:57 am     Harmonica Positions and Lap Steel Tunings
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Allan Revich wrote:
Hmmm...
Blues harmonica is my first instrument, and the instrument I play best.


Allen, I've wanted to find another person whose main instrument was blues harp to ask if the thought process of playing in 1st, 2nd or 3rd position (the only 3 I play in) helps with switching between lap steel tunings? [For non-harp players: using a C harmonica you can play in C (1st), G (2nd) or D (3rd) actually all 12 keys with some missing notes]

I see the lap steel fretboard "positionally" I guess - based on my tonal center or root note - every LS tuning I use is just a 135 (all the blow notes on a harmonica) with extensions on the draw notes with bends or a chromatic harp with the button in sometimes. Not saying it's a good thing as my learning curve puts me in the Plodigy class...(not Prodigy) just wonderin'.


One of those things that makes sense in your head but sounds horrible! Smile


Cheers!
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Last edited by Tommy Martin Young on 9 Apr 2021 9:02 am; edited 2 times in total
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David Knutson


From:
Cowichan Valley, Canada
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2021 8:58 am    
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I began learning acoustic guitar when I was about 12 years old, focussing on being a rhythm guitarist and singer. Over the years/decades I became more adept at adding fills and ornamentation to my playing in order to better accompany songs, but never turned my attention to "lead guitar" playing.

Enter lap steels, both acoustic and electric, and my brain just kicked into a different gear. These are my instruments for jamming, improvising, communicating instrumentally with other players and with audiences.

So, as a singer, it's still my acoustic guitars, but as a "player" my primary instruments are most definitely my lap steels.
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Scott Thomas

 

Post  Posted 9 Apr 2021 9:05 am    
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No it's bass. I dabble and perhaps as a result I don't consider myself fluent on any. I go through periods where I play steel guitar, slack key, electric guitar, bass, and lately keyboard. I'm interested in enhancing my understanding of music through hands on exploration. Bass would be what I feel most comfortable with and what I have played with others in a group situation. Right now what satisfies me is getting a Paul Chambers transcription and trying to memorize as much of it as I can.
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Allan Revich


From:
Victoria, Canada
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2021 10:59 pm     Re: Harmonica Positions and Lap Steel Tunings
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Tommy Martin Young wrote:
Allan Revich wrote:
Hmmm...
Blues harmonica is my first instrument, and the instrument I play best.


Allen, I've wanted to find another person whose main instrument was blues harp to ask if the thought process of playing in 1st, 2nd or 3rd position (the only 3 I play in) helps with switching between lap steel tunings? [For non-harp players: using a C harmonica you can play in C (1st), G (2nd) or D (3rd) actually all 12 keys with some missing notes]

I see the lap steel fretboard "positionally" I guess - based on my tonal center or root note - every LS tuning I use is just a 135 (all the blow notes on a harmonica) with extensions on the draw notes with bends or a chromatic harp with the button in sometimes. Not saying it's a good thing as my learning curve puts me in the Plodigy class...(not Prodigy) just wonderin'.

Cheers!


I too only play in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd — mostly in 2nd. I definitely see and feel a big connection between lap steel and blues harp. Though the connection for me is more about “feel”. However, as I think about it more, I definitely like my tunings to lie sequentially on the fret board. Ergo my current tuning of G9 (or Dm over G) gGBDFAD. So yes, 135 plus extensions to 7 & 9.

When playing along to blues backing tracks, or sitting in with a blues band, I sometimes feel like the lap steel and/or harmonica become extensions of my soul. Doesn’t happen every time. I wish it did. When it does, I’m in heaven.
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Current Tunings:
G9 – g G B D F A D (7 string - reentrant)
G9 – G B D F A D (6 string)
G9sus – g G D F A D (6 string - reentrant)
https://papadafoe.com/lap-steel-tuning-database
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