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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Recent News: Steel Guitars

Source: Google News

Blues legends Harry Manx head for Montrose club
Brechin Advertiser, October 24th

He is an accomplished and adventurous lap-slide guitarist – whether playing a national resonator, a solidbody lap-steel, a modified banjo or cigar-box guitar, or his signature 20-string Mohan Veena. He is also a compelling singer with a rich, warm and...Read more

McBusted Announce Title And Release Date Of Brand New Album
EntertainmentWise, October 24th

If you're stuck for what to put on your Christmas wishlist this year then the perfect solution may well have just dropped into your lap - McBusted have announced all the details of their album and it's coming very soon. The band hosted a live ... The...Read more

Blues festival to fill Rivoli Theatre
Galesburg Register-Mail, October 23rd

He writes smart, infectious, fresh songs and delivers them with a warm, conversational vocal style and a fun-loving attitude. He's a killer guitarist, switching between a regular six-string and lap steel. Live, he's a ball of energy, interacting with...Read more

'A Six String History of America' author on why his book 'isn't just for ...
The Huntsville Times -, October 23rd

That one and the little cartoon where the kid is going to score chicks because he can play a Hawaiian lap steel. Basically that's the guitar version of the Charles Atlas ads. Much has been made of rock 'n' roll's diminished role in mainstream culture...Read more

The Foxhole: Graham Nash on CSNY, the Hollies and the choosing of life over ...
Fox News, October 23rd

Jerry Garcia, who would play pedal steel guitar on Nash's pop classic, “Teach Your Children,” was a frequent visitor, as were other members of the Grateful Dead, who lived down the street. The sex, drugs, and freedom were highly intoxicating, and for...Read more

Guitarist Ed Gerhard to perform at Wakefield Opera House Saturday
The Union Leader, October 22nd

Gerhard performs on six-string, slide guitar and Hawaiian lap steel. His music was featured in the Ken Burns documentarires “Mark Twain” and “The National Parks: America's Best Idea.” Gerhard earned a Grammy for work on the compilation CD “Henry ...Read more

Herndon a 'junkyard luthier'
Sedalia Democrat, October 22nd

Jack Herndon, of Golden, Colo., formerly of Sedalia, calls himself a “junkyard luthier.” He has been creating folk guitars with a variety of secondhand material for almost two years. He is holding “Monster,” created with a barbecue tool kit box for the...Read more

Pedal steel guitar at Friday music evening, September 25th

But the real star of the night, what really got people talking, was Shawn Brown's pedal steel guitar and its haunting, melodic sounds. One of the best known and most commonly heard instruments in American country music, the pedal steel guitar has a...Read more