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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20 years ago: Steve Dawson and Jesse Zubot blast on to the Vancouver music ...Straight.com (blog), December 20th
Dawson has also put together his own label (Black Hen Music) and developed into one of Canada's most respected guitar players and producers of folk, roots, and jazz albums. If you're a fan of Vancouver-made music who's followed their impressive careers...Read more
Scene + Heard: Entertainment news round-upIrish Examiner, December 19th
MUSIC NEWS: Fans of Bombay Bicycle Club got a nice bonus at the band's gig in Earls Court last weekend when the Londoners were joined on stage by David Gilmour. NME reports the Pink Floyd member played lap steel guitar on the Bicycle Club's 'Rinse ...Read more
Far from being adrift, the Lost Leaders sharpen their soundPoughkeepsie Journal, December 19th
Isaacs plays bass, guitar and sings. Cole plays guitar and sings. Joining the duo will be David Berger on drums; Chris Foley on guitar; and Beacon resident Brendan McDonough on lapsteel guitar for two songs. Garcia's is run adjacent to and in...Read more
Robert Randolph playing EnglewoodMyCentralJersey.com, December 18th
"The lap steel has been part of the church since my grandmother was born," Randolph said. "I gravitated toward it since you became like the rock star during church services." Randolph, who Rolling Stone named to its 100 greatest guitarist of all-time...Read more
Randy Sabien's annual holiday show set for Saturday at The ParkSawyer County Record, December 18th
Joining Sabien will be his Evil Elves — Andy Dee on the lap steel guitar, Joe Lindzius on drums and Ed Willet on cello. If the holidays seem like torture, enslaving you to the chains of crass consumerism, then prepare to be lifted into a joyous frenzy...Read more
Gerhard concerts return to SeacoastNewHampshire.com, December 18th
He 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.” He earned a Grammy for work on the compilation CD “Henry Mancini; Pink ...Read more
Hamakua Report for Week of Dec. 17Big Island Video News, December 17th
Harry Manx blends Indian folk melodies with slide guitar blues, a sprinkle of gospel and some compelling grooves, creating a unique “mysticssippi” flavor. Playing the Mohan Veena (a 20-stringed sitar/guitar hybrid), lap steel, harmonica, stomp box, and...Read more
Pink Floyd's David Gilmour Makes Return to Stage, Performs 'Wish You Were ...100.7 WZLX Classic Rock, December 15th
Pink Floyd's David Gilmour has remained off the stage for four years. That is, until this past weekend. According to NME, Gilmour made a rare guest appearance during Bombay Bicycle Club's performance in London on Saturday (Dec. 13). The last concert to ...Read more