Strictly speaking, a steel guitar is any guitar made out of metal, which means it can be a resonator guitar used for the blues and Americana music, a lap steel guitar popular with those who play Hawaiian music, or a venerable pedal steel, which is what gives country-western music and Texas swing their distinctive sounds.
While the first resonator guitars made in the 1920s only featured an aluminum amplifying cone where the guitar's sound hole would be, subsequent resonators had all-aluminum bodies. Resonators grew out of the popularity of the acoustic guitar in the 1920s—the amplification helped them be heard over louder instruments such as banjos.
The invention of the resonator is widely credited to John Dopyera who, in the mid-1920s, developed an amplifying system for ukuleles. He founded the National String Instrument Corporation in August 1926 with his brothers Rudy, Robert, Louis, and Emil, and their company would use John’s system to produce “ampliphonic” or “self-amplifying” guitars, known today as resonators. But Dopyera was frustrated with the sound his uke-sized resonator produced when fitted on guitars so, in 1929, he left National and founded Dobro Manufacturing...
Lap-played steel guitars produced by Gibson, Epiphone, and National were produced in the 1930s to cash in on the craze at the time for Hawaiian music. Fender and Gretsch also produced lap-steel guitars (some of which were misnomers since they had stands), but not until the 1940s. Because these guitars lacked sound holes for natural amplification, even the earliest models were electric—Gibsons like the E-150 and Roy Smeck Special, both of which had Charlie Christian pickups, are especially prized by collectors today.
Finally there are pedal steel guitars, single neck or double, which are mounted on stands and fitted with anywhere from four to 10 pedals, each of which can change the pitch of selected strings. Vintage Fender steel guitars, with or without pedals, are favorites of players and collectors alike, as are Sho-Bud instruments—the fingerboards of Sho-Buds are known for their inlay of diamonds, spades, hearts and clubs.
Regardless of the type of steel guitar played, one thing they all have in common is that the player needs to be adept at finger picking—these instruments are not meant to be strumed. In addition, instead of using the non-picking hand to push down the strings to produce chords, the player holds a tube—sometimes made of steel, sometimes glass—lightly against the strings. The tube is slid up and down the fingerboard, which is why the technique is also known as slide guitar.
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I started playing guitar when I was pretty young and bought my first guitar when I was 10 or 11. Like a lot of people of my genera… [more]
I grew up in upstate New York in Rochester, and started playing guitar when I was about 10 years old. We had this place in Rochest… [more]
I started out primarily as a collector and the business aspect of it evolved over time, almost by accident. I didn’t start out wit… [more]
I first started coming across Howe-Orme instruments when I was an apprentice guitar repairman in Boston in 1963. Their guitars hav… [more]
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Go Picks: PBS Microbrew fest, garden tour, Dave Fry fundraiser, moreAllentown Morning Call, June 19th
Bromberg is known as an eclectic singer-songwriter who pens quirky songs and plays multiple instruments including violin, guitar, pedal steel guitar and dobro. His 2007 disc "Try Me One More Time" was nominated for a Grammy for best traditional folk album...Read more
Lead singer of Staind bringing country act to EvansvilleEvansville Courier & Press, June 19th
Songs like “75,” “Red, White & Blue,” “State Lines” and “Anywhere But Here” are built around Lewis' solid vocal melodies, with guitars, fiddle, dobro and pedal steel frequently adding even more of a country flavor to the songs. Those are, of course, ...Read more
Truckers behind her, Shonna Tucker back in AshevilleAsheville Citizen-Times, June 19th
To best share those compositions, Tucker recruited some of Athens' finest musicians: guitarist Bo Bedingfield, keyboardist Neil Golden, drummer Clay Leverett, and the guitar and pedal steel of fellow ex-Trucker John Neff. Under the name Eye Candy, the ...Read more
Counting Crows/Wallflowers folk-rock BeantownWicked Local (blog), June 19th
Instead of the percolating folk-rocker that was a hit off their debut album in 1993, the Crows did it as a slow, introspective ballad with David Immergluck's keening pedal steel guitar making it sound like some spacey country dreamscape. Rather than...Read more
Second HelpingValley Advocate, June 19th
Cello and vocal harmonies by Melissa Nelson and pedal steel guitar parts added by Bruce Tull (Scud Mountain Boys) bring a fluidity to the songs that hasn't existed so much before in the Figments/Goldwater tableaux of sonic pastiches, and Matt Cullen's ...Read more
Former Brooklyn rocker Kamara Thomas pursues a singer-songwriter future in ...The Independent Weekly, June 19th
They sneak in practice time during Cherokee's naps or over the weekend, she on acoustic guitar and he on pedal steel. Thomas says they've managed to work in four hours of practice a week. And then there's paying for child care during a gig. "Your...Read more
Grantham drummer in Pink Floyd tribute band for Sleaford gigGrantham Journal, June 19th
Time Is Money comprises of two keyboard players, a drummer, bass player, saxophonist, one rhythm guitarist, one lead guitarist and a second lead guitarist who also plays lap steel and pedal steel guitars as well as further keyboards. The band boasts a ...Read more
New Orleans music 'Hot Picks' for Wednesday, June 19, 2013: Pat Benatar, Gal ...NOLA.com, June 18th
They specialize in retro and retro-sounding rockabilly and Western swing decorated by pedal steel guitar and the pure country pipes of Vanessa Niemann, aka Gal Holiday. Walter “Wolfman” Washington & the Roadmasters, d.b.a., 10 p.m.. The Wolfman, one ...Read more