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.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Sho-bud Ldg Pedal Steel GuitarVintage Marlen Pedal Steel Guitar Sd10, 3 Pedal 4 Knee Lever. 1970s1952 Fender Lap Steel Guitar - 8 StringGfi Ultra Pedal Steel Guitar,doubleneck 10 String,8 Pedals,5 Levers,no ReserveSteel Guitars-new Metallic Gold Double Lap Steel Electric Guitar-no ReserveSho-bud Maverick Pedal Steel, Pak-a-seat, Korg TunerOahu Vintage Perloid Lap Steel Guitar With Ohsc Usa NrNew Custom Hand Made Western Swing 6 String Electric Natural Lap Steel GuitarRogue Lap Steel Guitar With Gig Bag And Legs MintFender Champion Lap Steel Guitar 1954 With Hard Tweed CaseRogue Rls-1, Stand, Black, Lap Steel Guitar - Steven Metal Slide1 Vintage Lap Steel Guitar/acoustic/original/restoreGodin Multiac Steel Duet Ambiance - Acoustic Electric Guitar - Sunburst W/bag -Silver Tone Kay Cupcake Guitar Lap Steel Arch Top Knobs Vintage 1950s 1960sVintage Magnatone / Dickerson Lap Steel 1950s Excellent PlayerOriginal 1950s Fender Steel Guitar Trapezoid Pickup - 8-string No Reserve Price!Lap Steel Slide GuitarOriginal 1950s Fender Steel Guitar Tuners 8-string - No Reserve Price!Play Western Swing Steel Guitar 1 Dvd Lap Non-pedal Cindy Cashdollar Media NrGodin Multiac Steel String Acoustic ElectricVintage Goodrich Model 122 Volume Pedal For Pedal Steel GuitarYamaha Steel String Silent GuitarSteel Guitars-new Metallic Gold Double Lap Steel Electric Guitar-no ReserveYamaha C-45 Classical Nylon Or Steel String Acoustic GuitarVintage '60s Espana Goya Levin Steel String Blond Guitar ! Project ! Sweden !Vintage Emmons Pedal Steel Guitar Tone BarElectro-harmomnix Steel Leather Bass Expander Bass Effect Pedal Made In Usa Dobro® Tombro Capo I For Dobro®, Lap Steel,hawaiian Or WeissenbornD'addario Nyxl09544 Nickel Wound Super Light 09.5 -44 New York Steel Stainless Steel Medium Guitar Frets Wire Pack Of 22 Fits Strat Tele Jaguar NewStrat Screw Kit Pickguard-back Plate-pickups-strap Stainless Steel For Fender41" Acoustic Folk Guitar Natural Gloss Finish - 6 String Steel LindenwoodVintage Speedy West Pedal Steel Guitar Tone BarHigh Quality 4 String Vintage Bass Bridge Black For Squier Jazz BassVintage Rover Steel Slide Tone Bar - "rare"Steel Guitars-new Metallic Gold Double Lap Steel Electric Guitar-no Reserve

Recent News: Steel Guitars

Source: Google News

Lucette brought familiar folk sound to Opelika
The Corner News, November 25th

Coveney on bass, and Jacob Thomas Jr. on acoustic guitar- Lucette had just met that day), the band played a sweet and inviting cover of Ryan Adams's “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” which included a generous lap steel solo from Nashville native Jason Goforth...Read more

The People That Time Forgot: Jake McLaughlin
Cayman Compass, November 24th

In this photo taken a few years before he died, Jake McLaughlin plays an old lap steel guitar, while posing with a drawing he made of country music star Hank Snow. There is a very close legacy link between country music and the Cayman Islands. Before ...Read more

Blitzen Trapper, All Across This Land (Vagrant)
Willamette Week, November 24th

Earley is accompanied by the empathetic sounds of heartbroken Americana, played on the harmonica, lap steel and carefully plucked acoustic guitar. Lyrically, the message tends toward classic country mantras: the regret of taking things for granted...Read more

Moods and attitudes: Thoughtful artistry gives each Robinette guitar its own ...
Gladwin County Record & Beaverton Clarion (registration), November 24th

One day, around six years ago, Russ was looking at guitars in Elderly Instruments down in Lansing and after seeing the expensive price tags on some of the more boutique style acoustic guitars his wife Amy had convinced him that he could make a lap...Read more

Vintage Vault: 1974 Rickenbacker 362/12
Premier Guitar, November 23rd

When Rickenbacker codesigned and marketed the first “Frying Pan” electrified lap steel guitar, he helped usher in the sound of modern music. F.C. Hall, owner of Radio & Television Equipment Co. (Radio-Tel), purchased the Electro String Company, which ...Read more

Mandolin Brothers on Staten Island Angles for Graceful Exit
New York Times, November 22nd

Upstairs, in the main room, were classics like a Taylor 914ce acoustic-electric guitar and relative oddities, like a 1947 National Grand Console Model 1050 double-neck lap steel guitar. A few feet away was a climate-controlled room for particularly...Read more

Tips, upbeat attitude keep 1-man band from singing blues
San Francisco Chronicle, November 21st

Folk musician Brian Belknap playing his harmonica and steel guitar during his afternoon session at the 16th Street BART station on November 19, 2015. He plays several instruments including the accordion, mandolin, harmonica, lap steel, slide & acoustic ...Read more

stereotank transforms a blank skate deck into lap steel guitar
Designboom, November 19th

the 'lap skate guitar', by new york-based stereotank, is a hybrid instrument that merges music and skateboarding. the custom built piece is made from a single blank skate deck, and is capable of producing mellow sound similar to a lap steel guitar...Read more