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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Larkin Poe: Kin review – slick, bluesy rock with a few real highlightsThe Guardian, August 21st
So Rebecca concentrates on electric guitar, with occasional reminders of her mandolin work (though there's none of her excellent fiddle playing here), while Megan plays lap steel. Their bluesy rock songs such as Jailbait or Sugar High are slick but ...Read more
Careless road crews trash Brad Oldham's 'Traveling Man' sculpture in Deep EllumCultureMap Dallas, August 21st
Oldham's iconic "Traveling Man" series. As originally designed, it comprises three of Oldham's trademark shiny birds, plus a guitar-head-shaped piece that represents the Traveling Man's head. ... with stainless steel monobolt rivets. The bird...Read more
The week ahead: MusicBoston Globe, August 20th
GUITAR SHORTY/SELWYN BIRCHWOOD A blistering blues double-header featuring the fiery, ferocious guitar and vocals of veteran Shorty and the whipsnake lap-steel guitar and raw singing of young Floridian up-and-comer Birchwood. Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m. ...Read more
Wendy O catThe Times-Picayune - NOLA.com, August 19th
Wendy O the cat shares her owner Mitch Palmer's interest in collecting 45s. He DJs the swamp-pop and Gulf Coast soul Alligator Chomp party, and plays guitar and lap steel with bands including Guitar Lightnin' Lee, Jay Chevalier, the Haunted Hearts and ...Read more
Anela and his band will perform Thursday night at the Little Red ChurchComox Valley Echo, August 19th
A native of Hawaii and a professional musician his entire life, Anela's talent is extensive with beautiful vocals and fantastic skills on Guitar, Ukulele and Lap Steel. Anela's repertoire will include a broad range of Jazz standards, Blues and "Anela...Read more
Blue NotesBaltimore City Paper, August 18th
Making inspired use of his own archtop and lap-steel guitars and of Regi Oliver's baritone sax and bass clarinet, Birchwood creates a sound that stands well apart from the usual blues bar band. His original songs boast both catchy hooks and an old...Read more
Guitar Hero: Marietta Musician Goes Viral With New VideoWOUB, August 15th
Davisson's unorthodox style of playing, akin to that of a lap steel guitarist or a pianist, is a result of his dwarfism, which makes it difficult to play in a traditional manner. However, playing came natural to him when his father gave him his first...Read more
In Italy and France, guitarist Spencer Bohren finds a wealth of love for ...The Times-Picayune - NOLA.com, August 13th
Spencer Bohren demonstrates the lap steel guitar New Orleans guitarist, singer and songwriter Spencer Bohren has just released a CD, "Tempered Steel," that features the lap steel guitar. In the accompanying video, Bohren describes his attraction to the ...Read more