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Author Topic:  Different Lap Steels sound different, don't they?
Tom Snook


From:
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2019 12:44 pm    
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I've always wished I could hear different laps like in side by side comparison.We all know that most Rick Bakelite steels sound alike,but how does it differ from an A22 or a model 100.and how do they differ from a Supro or Magnatone.How does a Gibson Sky Lark compare to a Fender Champ or a new Gretsch.wouldn't it be nice to know what a lap steel sounds like before you pay your hard earned $ I'm sure each steel has a distinctive tone.SWOP should have a lap steel tone archive Idea just a thought
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Noah Miller


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Rocky Hill, CT
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2019 12:52 pm    
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You could say the same about a guitar, or bass, or mandolin, or a ukulele. The difference is that there aren't many shops around where you can go in and compare two or ten lap steels. Fortunately, there are Youtube demos of just about everything nowadays.
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Michael Miller


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Afton, VA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2019 1:06 pm    
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Dream on... Smile
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2019 1:17 pm    
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Part of the problem is that even leaving aside things like string gauges, tunings, amps, and musical styles, a good 90+ percent of an instrument's tone is the player, in my opinion. If you randomly sampled the amateurs, intermediate, and advanced players on this forum, had each of us string up a set of Ricks, Gibsons, Fenders, Magnatones, Clinesmiths, Goldtones, and others, and record a sample of each....well, I think what would be most likely is that each persons set of samples would sound more alike (across the various instruments) than each instrument would sound (across the various players). I think it's really hard to tell in general until you have the instrument in front of you and are playing it. Even then sometimes I'll have played one instrument for a period and switch back to another and find it sounds different than I remember (sometimes better, sometimes worse!).

Tone is just really hard to describe in meaningful terms...but we sure try! Features and playability factors (such as scale length and string spacing) are at least a bit more objective to talk about, but of course that's just one piece of the puzzle...
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Doug Beaumier


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Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2019 2:13 pm    
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Quote:
...90+ percent of an instrument's tone is the player


True. The player is the main ingredient in the sound. A good player will sound good on any guitar and a poor player will sound poor on any guitar.
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Michael Miller


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Afton, VA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2019 2:25 pm    
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I reckon these questions help keep the whole thing alive. Many of us are willing victims.
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Bill Creller


From:
Saginaw, Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 3 Sep 2019 10:41 pm    
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Amps DO make a difference it seems. I'm no engineer, but often wondered about the impedance of a pickup, matching, or not matching, the amp input impedance, in it's first pre-amp stage....making some guitars sound good in some amps & not in others, when tried side-by-side... ... Confused
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Tom Snook


From:
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2019 1:50 am    
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Dream on Question
ALOHA
Noah gets what I mean,and if I owned several lap steels and knew how to do u tube vids I would line up my steels plug one into an amp on a clean setting play a little then unplug and go down the line.I'm not talking about how good or bad someone plays or technique or style.I want to know what the different guitars sound like. Get it? Got it! Good
ALOHA
How does the tone of a shiny new Clinesmith Fry Pan compare side by side with a 70 year old Rick A22 ?
ALOHA
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Doug Beaumier


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Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2019 7:58 am    
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The only way to compare guitars would side-by-side, each one played through the same amp by the same player. That way, the only variable would be the guitar. I've done side by side comparisons of pedal steels at Tommy Cass' place. Many times I thought that a certain guitar was exceptional and then I played a different guitar through the same amp and it was even better! Only side by side comparisons will reveal that.

My earlier statement about player technique... my point was this: The differences in guitar tones is far Less important than the player's ability.
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Tom Snook


From:
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2019 1:33 pm    
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That is of course unless you just want to hear what a bunch of different lap steels sound like in a side by side comparison, same player same clean amp setting.
I'm sure it would be helpful to someone looking to buy a certain guitar to be able to hear what that model or type of guitar sounds like.Can you dig it? I knew that you could!
ALOHA
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Rob Anderlik


From:
Chicago, IL
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2019 3:29 pm    
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Tom,

A few years back I recorded maybe 10-15 different squareneck resonator guitars using the exact same equipment in the same room in my home studio and posted the clips on my website. After a few years of receiving emails and comments from different players about those clips I finally came to the same conclusions that Nic and Doug have in their comments above and I took those clips down off my website. You can reference something similar to this for yourself by going to YouTube and listening to the cross-section of different squareneck resonator guitars that Mike Witcher has recorded over the past few years.They all sound great but I have a hard time hearing anything other than nominal differences. Mostly what I got out of listening to those clips is that Mike is a great player.

One super important concept here is that the experience of playing an instrument yourself and listening to someone else play an instrument are two very different things. In the great scheme of things I'd even go as far as to say that playability and responsiveness, the way an instrument feels in your hands and responds to your touch, is easily as important as the sound of the instrument and in some ways the two are intertwined. And that's something that you can't discern from listening to sound clips or by standing in front of someone else when they're playing. You have to experience it for yourself. I've played many instruments over the years which sounded great but I didn't care for, playability wise. YMMV
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Bill Mollenhauer


From:
New Jersey, USA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2019 4:47 pm    
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Doesn't the room have an effect on the sound too? I know when I sing at home in my room it doesn't sound the same as when I sing at my teachers studio. I like the sound of my voice better at home.

Bill
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2019 5:38 pm    
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Quote:
Doesn't the room have an effect on the sound too?


Yes, absolutely. That's why so many recording studios back in the 1940s and 50s were built in converted churches and large halls with high ceilings. Many studios were known for their great sounding rooms. If you play in a band you'll quickly discover that your guitar and amp may sound "heavenly" in one venue and the next night it might sound dull and lifeless in a different venue.
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Tom Snook


From:
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2019 5:57 pm    
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I'm sure we can all agree that a Fender Stringmaster sounds different than a Gibson Console Grand no mater who's playing it.I just think it would be nice to be able to hear the tonal differences of a lot of the more popular vintage and even the newer lap and console steels out there.Is that asking too much?
ALOHA
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Mick Hearn


From:
United Kingdom
Post  Posted 4 Sep 2019 10:22 pm    
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If you want to hear different guitars look at the Doug Beaumier vids. He plays quite a range of guitars but all sound basically the same. What Doug will experience on the other hand is something different because all guitars respond differently to the player.
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George Piburn


From:
The Land of Enchantment New Mexico
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 1:11 am     Swop
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What is SWOP ?
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Tom Snook


From:
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 2:28 am    
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It's actually SWP, but who's counting?
Steel without pedals! Mr. Green
ALOHA
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Mick Hearn


From:
United Kingdom
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 2:41 am    
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the way an instrument feels in your hands and responds to your touch, is easily as important as the sound of the instrument and in some ways the two are intertwined.[quote]

Lloyd Green, a former lap player but well known for his pedal steel and his Sho-Bud LDG on a videoed performance was playing a different pedal steel. He stated that when first presented with it he kept going back and forth between the Sho-Bud and the new guitar as he could not really make up his mind. In his words when talking about the difference he stated "You have to make friends with these things", and that is very true. Getting to grips with how a guitar responds takes time.
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 3:47 am    
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Tom Snook wrote:
I'm sure we can all agree that a Fender Stringmaster sounds different than a Gibson Console Grand no mater who's playing it.


Perhaps I'm being a bit pedantic but not necessarily...I mean, say you could ship a GCG and a FSM up to the heavenly regions, then have Andy Iona, Jerry Byrd, and Jules Ah See each record a song on each of them...I'm not altogether convinced many of us would be able to be able to easily tell them apart. I mean, which guitar is which...the players would be much more distinctively different, to the point where I wonder if the guitar differences would be perceptible... I dunno...fun discussion though!
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Nic Neufeld


From:
Kansas City, Missouri
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 4:46 am    
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Thought struck me on the way in to work...I have a modest collection of steels, the main three being a 57 Stringmaster T8, a mid 50s Magnatone D8, and my Clinesmith frypan. One of the main benefits to my having them, I've found, is not so much that they give me different sounds, but a mental benefit...they remove excuses. That sort of silly magical thinking where you subconsciously think (and by you, I mean ME haha), well, if I had THIS guitar, like so and so did, or THIS amp or pickup or what-have-you, then maybe I'd sound like he did! In my head the dual-pickup Magnatone was a bit of a holy grail, the guitar Jules used on Hawaii Calls and in the Tapa Room. I love the guitar and I find it has a bit more meat and midrange than my Stringmaster, and generally its to my liking...but obviously when I got it, it wasn't an instant transformation of my playing or sound, because I'm me, an enthusiastic amateur, not a professional Waikiki musician at the top of his game in the 1950s. My point being, having that guitar is a good thing for me because it reminds me there are no other excuses I can blame on equipment. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our steels, but in ourselves." Which is in itself encouraging, as it means the way forward is not in the relentless acquisition of more expensive vintage and boutique gear (NOS KT88 valves and orange drop capacitors aren't going to help me much) but in time spent learning, playing, and growing as a musician. Which is a whole lot cheaper and more fun (well, arguably more fun, I do like shopping for gear and woodshedding can be work!).
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 5:42 am    
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Quote:
...Doug Beaumier vids. He plays quite a range of guitars but all sound basically the same.


Thanks for mentioning that, Mick. One of my goals with the videos has been to demonstrate that most any guitar will sound good in the hands of an experienced player, and that player's style and tone will come through on any guitar. That's why I played a Guyatone, a Rogue, a student level Airline, etc. on my early videos.

One of my favorite albums is Jerry Byrd's "Satin Strings of Steel". On that record he played two different steel guitars... his Rickenbacker JB Model 8-string, and his Fender 8 that Leo built for him. I've heard that album hundreds of times and I've tried to figure out which guitar he's playing on which song(s) and I can't! He sounds basically the same on every song.
I've witnessed similar things with guitar players I've worked with. A guitarist will show up at a gig with all new gear... a different amp and a different guitar, and he will sound exactly like he did on the old gear! I've seen this several times. The player will tweak a few knobs and within a few minutes he will have his sound. That's because tone is mostly in the head and the hands of the player.

Getting back to the original topic... I don't see much point is choosing a certain guitar for "it's sound" when 90% of the sound comes from the player, not the gear. Of course a lot of people are convinced that if they buy a certain guitar or amp they will sound like their favorite player. Nope... that won't happen.
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Bill Groner


From:
QUAKERTOWN, PA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 5:50 am    
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Doug can you post the link for the video in which you used the Rogue? I briefly had a Rogue and thought it wasn't a bad guitar for what I paid for it. I sold it for more than I paid for it......The only other time I ever made out on a deal was when VW bought back my diesel Beetle. (emissions scandal) Now that was a good purchase and bang for my buck! $$$$$

Thanks

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Last edited by Bill Groner on 5 Sep 2019 6:51 am; edited 2 times in total
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 6:25 am    
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I once purchased a trashed and abused Gibson lap steel as a rescue instrument, and rebuilt it with Fenderish fittings -- dual Stringmaster-style pickups and wiring. In my hands it sounds little different than my stock Gibsons (or my lone remaining Fender, for that matter). There are three exceptions that I have come across in my lap steel journey:

1) Fender Champion (not Champ) -- sounded tinny and weak with a nearly inaudible 1st string.
2) Gibson Skylark -- had all the sustain of a marshmallow.
3) Rickenbacker B6 (Bakelite) -- tonal nirvana.

But for listeners, all would likely sound about the same when I play them. The head and the hands trump the gear.
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Rob Anderlik


From:
Chicago, IL
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 6:37 am    
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Tom Snook,

You make a fair point - instruments do have their own unique individual character, sound and playability. It's just that it's difficult to discern those things solely by listening to video clips or mp3s. Many a player, me first, has been inspired by listening to someone play a certain instrument and then purchased one of those guitars, only to be a little disappointed that they couldn't make said guitar sound like their hero. My guess is most of the folks here have had that experience. I know I have. The other thing that can happen occasionally is listening to, being inspired by the sound another player is getting from the instrument, buying that same guitar and finding out that it doesn't play/respond well for your purposes. That happened to me a couple of years ago when I bought a wartime B6. It sounded completely amazing with the 1 1/2" horseshoe pickup but the action was way too low for me, since I come from a bluegrass dobro background and play with a thumbpick and fingerpicks, and there was no way to raise the action due to the design of the guitar. There's no right or wrong here, but my own take is you have to learn this stuff by actually playing a variety of guitars for yourself. Videos and mp3 are a starting point, but only a starting point

Here's a few different players playing vintage Rickenbacker B6 lap steels. Same guitar, different players, different signal chain and/or amplifiers and...different results.



[url]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-b8B01r2Ks[/url]

Hula Lolo by Steve Tylka

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd0yCE04wPg

Running on Empty with David Lindley playing his vintage B6 (solo starts at 1:55)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4Q-447zVPY

Raphael McGregor playing a vintage B6
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuLS-XsKHg8

Tom Hampton playing a vintage B6 - solo starts around 2:50[url]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuLS-XsKHg8[/url]
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Doug Beaumier


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 5 Sep 2019 7:06 am    
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Quote:
Doug can you post the link for the video in which you used the Rogue?


Bill, here's the link to the video I made in 2010 playing a Rogue Jersey Lightning ---> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GO2Tf8KLJ14

This model was quite a bit better the $99 Rogue. For this video I played through a Peavey Nashville 112 amp, also used a Boss delay to broaden the sound and a Goodrich volume pedal. It was recorded on an iPod Nano, the first iPod with a video camera. The most interesting part of the video IMO is the X slant in the intro. People seem to like that.
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Last edited by Doug Beaumier on 5 Sep 2019 7:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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