Sol Hoopii was renowned far away from his native Hawaii. Speedy West was not only a consummate showman but also a pioneer. Buddy Emmons was a composer, an improviser and, for easily 25 years, foremost in his field. Anyone that harbors a devotion to country music, jazz, Hawaiian, bluegrass or swing is likely to be familiar with these names and many, many more. These are the men of the steel guitar.
Many extremely accomplished steel guitar players have been involved with the companies that actually manufactured these instruments. In addition to Buddy Emmons and Shot Jackson, already mentioned, Freddie Tavares had a 27-year tenure with Fender from the mid 1950?s until 1980. Tom Morrell, who actually bore considerable responsibility for a resurgent interest in non-pedal steel guitar in the more recent 1990?s, was also a founder at the original MSA Pedal Steel Guitar Company. Roy Ayres, who played steel on Pee Wee King?s famous ?Tennessee Waltz,? worked for Fender.
A pedal steel guitar is a guitar neck setup on a table like stand with pedals and or knee levers to control the pitch. There are also lap steel guitars that are set on the lap and played. A pedal steel guitar set is made up of one or more guitar necks. You will most often see a pedal steel guitar set with two necks. A pedal steel guitar is played by being plucked with finger and thumb picks. One can also pluck a pedal steel guitar with their bare fingers. On lap and pedal steel guitars, metal slides are used where one would normally fret the guitar, hence the name pedal steel guitars. There are both electric and acoustic pedal steel guitars. The number of strings on a pedal steel guitar varies and you will see pedal steel guitars with 10, 8, 12, and 14 strings. It is common for pedal steel guitar players to design their own copedents or setups once they have purchased a pedal steel guitar. Pedal steel guitars are commonly used in country music. The Dixie Chicks is a popular female band that makes music and performs with pedal steel guitars.
While there are similarities between a conventional guitar and a pedal steel guitar, there are also many differences. A conventional guitar is held close to the body and pressure is put on the strings to make the tones. However, a pedal steel guitar is a flat instrument, played horizontally, that has a steel slide to adjust the length of the guitar strings. When one plays the pedal steel guitar no pressure is put on the strings, but the metal slide is moved to create the typical sounds of lap steel guitars. The pedal steel guitar has foot pedals that place pressure on the strings to change the tone and pitch of the sound created.
There are several different types of pedal guitars, such as MSA pedal steel guitars, Fender pedal steel guitars, and Harlin Brothers pedal steel guitars. Fender pedal steel guitars are a popular make among guitar players. Lap steel guitars render a beautiful twang that we associate with many country music songs. A pedal steel guitar is an electric guitar, so you will need connections to one or more mics and an amplifier. Most pedal steel guitar players use two mics, depending on the size of the room and the way the sound reflects around the room.
Gibson lap steel guitars are another electric guitar with a fine reputation for quality. If you are a pro at playing lap steel guitars you will appreciate their sonic resonance. Even if you are a novice at playing lap steel guitars, you will enjoy learning. With practice you will make beautiful music with any of the lap steel guitars. Lap steel guitars, and the pedal steel guitar were often called Hawaiian guitars. The term ?Hawaiian guitar? was a name put on all rectangular lap steel guitars.
There are many brands of pedal steel guitars; there are ShoBud, Fender, Harlin Brothers, Gretsch, Gibson, Harmony, Morrell, and National pedal steel guitars. Fender was making lap steel guitars before they ever made their first regular guitar. There are Gibson lap steel guitars available from the 1950?s and 60?s. In 1968 Gibson lap steel guitars were discontinued but you can find many old Gibson models for sale today. These days musicians often order custom pedal steel guitars. The EH-500 is an electric lap steel guitar by Gibson from 1960. This lap steel guitar has one neck and 6 strings. This lap steel guitar is made with Korina wood. With Gibson steel guitars you can enjoy high quality and reliable Gibson pickups. The Electromatic Hawaiian is a Gretsch brand steel lap guitar. This guitar has 8 strings and is very beautiful. All Gretsch brand steel guitars are manufactured by Falco. There is also the Gretsch Electromatic Student and the Gretsch Jet twin console among others. The varsity lap steel guitar is a beautiful blue guitar by Magnatone. This lap steel guitar has 6 strings and was manufactured in the 1950?s or 60?s. The Triplex chord changer is a six string lap steel guitar by National. National lap steel guitars were manufactured for 33 years until 1960.
It?s not difficult to tune lap steel guitars. You can tune lap steel guitars in the high G, C6, and high A. Lap steel guitars tuned in high G are tuned this way: string 6 is tuned to G, string 5 is tuned to B, and string 4 is tuned to D. Strings 3, 2, and 1 are tuned the same as 6, 5, and 4, but at an octave higher. Lap steel guitars tuned in C6 are tuned this way: String 6 is tuned to C, string 5 is tuned to E, string 4 is tuned tot G, string 3 is tuned to A. Strings 2 and 1 are tuned G and E, but at 2 octaves above strings 4 and 5. Lap steel guitars tuned in high A are tuned this way: string 6 is tuned to A, string 5 is tuned to C-sharp, and string 4 is tuned to E. String 3 is tuned to A, and strings 2 and 1 are tuned to C-sharp and E one octave above strings 5 and 4. Strum all the strings at once to hear the note clearly. Once tuned properly, lap steel guitars, and other electric guitars, such as the pedal steel guitar will produce perfect sound.
Most model of steel guitars and lap steel guitars available today are from the 1950?s and 60?s. There are custom builders of pedal and lap steel guitars. There are showrooms that feature dozens of old lap steel guitars and pedal steel guitars. There are many places where tone bars and strings for lap and pedal steel guitars are available. Although there are not a lot of commercial manufacturers of pedal and lap steel guitars there is an abundance of lap steel guitar accessories.