- Steel guitar
Steel guitar is:
* A method of playing
slide guitarusing a steel. Resonator guitars, including round necked varieties, are particularly suitable for this style, but other types are also used, usually with modified high actions, as well as instruments produced specifically for the purpose.
* A specialised instrument built for playing in steel guitar fashion. These are of several types:
Lap steel guitar, which may be:
Lap slide guitar, with a conventional wooden guitar box.
*** The square-necked variety of
*** Electric lap steel guitar.
console steel guitar.
pedal steel guitar.
The name "steel guitar" comes not from the material of which the guitar is made, but from the name of the "steel", a slide held in the left hand.
Steel guitar refers to a method of playing on a
guitarheld horizontally, with the strings uppermost and the bass strings towards the player, and using a type of slide called a "steel" above the fingerboard rather than fretting the strings with the fingers. This may be done with any guitar, but is most common on instruments designed and produced for this style of playing.
The technique was invented and popularized in
Hawaii, thus the "lap steel guitar" is sometimes known as the "Hawaiian guitar", particularly in documents from the early 1900s, and today any steel guitar is frequently called a "Hawaiian steel guitar". However in Hawaiian music, "Hawaiian guitar" means " slack string guitar", played in the conventional or Spanish position.
Steel guitar technique also developed from
bottleneck guitar, which is a similar technique to steel guitar but with the guitar held in the conventional position, and using a different form of slide to accommodate this playing position.
A Steel Guitar is one designed to be played in steel guitar fashion.
Historically, these have been of many types, but two dominate:
Resonator guitars, particularly the square-necked variety which can "only" be played in steel guitar fashion.
* Electric instruments, starting with electric
lap steel guitars and developing through the console steel guitarto the pedal steel guitar.
Lap steel guitar
The lap steel typically has 6 strings and is tuned to either standard
guitartuning, or an open chord. It differs from a conventional or Spanish guitar in having a higher action and often a neck that is square in cross section. The frets, unused in steel style playing, may be replaced by markers.
There are three main types:
Lap slide guitars, which are acoustic instruments but may have electric pickups for amplification in addition.
Resonator guitars, which are also acoustic instruments but may have pickups for amplification in addition.
* Electric lap steel guitars, which are normally
Early lap steel guitars were Spanish guitars modified by raising both the bridge and head nut. The string height at the head nut was raised to about half an inch by using a "head nut converter" or "converter nut". This type of guitar is claimed to have been invented in about 1889 by
Joseph Kekukuin Hawaii.
Some lap slide guitars, particularly those of
Weissenbornand their imitators, have two 6-string necks, but electric and resonator lap steel guitars are normally single neck instruments.
Square-necked resonator guitars are always played in lap steel fashion, and so are specialised lap steel guitars. Round-necked varieties can be played in lap steel fashion, with some restrictions on the available tunings, but can also be played in Spanish position.
Rickenbacker"frying pan", an electric lap steel guitar produced from 1931 to 1939, was the first commercially successful solid bodyguitar.
Console steel guitar
The console steel guitar is an electric instrument, intermediate between the lap steel from which it developed and the pedal steel which in turn developed from the console steel. There are no pedals, so the player has only as many tunings available as there are necks.
The development of the lap steel guitar into the console steel guitar saw the introduction of amplification as standard, multiple necks, and additional strings on each neck, first to seven, and eight strings per neck is now common. One, two, three and four neck instruments are not uncommon. The two neck, eight string per neck configuration is particularly favoured in
The distinction between console steel guitar and lap steel guitar is fuzzy at best, and some makers and authorities do not use the term "console steel guitar" at all, but refer to any steel guitar without pedals as a "lap steel guitar" even if playing it in lap steel position would be quite impossible.
Pedal steel guitar
The pedal steel guitar is an electric instrument normally with 10 to 14 strings per neck, and sometimes two or even three necks, each in a different tuning. Up to eight pedals (not counting the volume pedal) and up to eight knee-levers are used to alter the tunings of different strings, which gives the instrument its distinctive voice, most often heard in
The extra strings and use of pedals gives even a single neck pedal steel guitar far more versatility than any table steel guitar, but at the same time makes playing far more complex.
The type of slide called a "steel" which gives the technique its name was probably originally made of steel, or the name may come from the legend that the first steel was a railroad track.
Many materials are used, but
nickel-plated brassis popular for the highest-quality slides, which are shaped to fit the hand and as a result have a cross-section not unlike a railroad track. Another traditional and popular variety is a cylindrical shaped steel bar that needs to be balanced between the thumb and the middle finger with the forefinger providing for varying degrees of pressure on the string.
ome cautions on terminology
The term "steel guitar" should not be confused with "steel-strung guitar", which is a standard acoustic guitar that has steel rather than the
nylon, cat-gut or brass/nickel strings used for classical guitaror standard acoustic guitar, and is built with extra bracing, a stronger neck, and higher-geared machine heads to compensate for the much higher tension of steel strings. The "steel guitar" takes its name from the type of slide used, not from the material of the strings.
The term "Hawaiian guitar" is often used for various types of steel guitar, but in
Hawaiian music"Hawaiian guitar" means slack-key guitar, a way of tuning a steel stringed acoustic guitar which is then played in the conventional position.
See also "
*Lap steel ukulele
Lap slide guitar
Lap steel guitar
Pedal steel guitar
* [http://www.showprosteelguitars.com Custom made steel guitars]
* [http://www.cisga.net Central Illinois Steel Guitar Association] Information about central Illinois steel guitar players, events, and shows.
* [http://www.steelradio.com Steel Radio] A Web radio station dedicated to the steel guitar.
* [http://www.steelguitarforum.com Steel Guitar Forum] A forum where steel players and enthusiasts get together and discuss steel guitar.
* [http://www.hsga.org Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association] An organization which promotes the development of steel guitar with worldwide membership.
* [http://www.steelguitar.net Steel Guitar Nashville]
* [http://www.geraldross.com Gerald Ross' Ukulele & Hawaiian Steel Guitar Website]
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