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 Guitar and Bass
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Steel Guitars
Source: Google News
Freeport NewsKeepMEcurrent.com, March 31st
Northwood features Ann Murray on accordion, Kirk Underwood on guitar and lap steel, Kate Driver on bass and Liz Hunneman on select vocals. The concert begins at 6:45 p.m. Entrance fee is $5 at the door, with no reservations required. Donations will be ...Read more
Gretchen Peters Live At The Epstein Theatre - ReviewThe News Hub, March 31st
“You're looking beautiful tonight,” Gretchen Peters told the crowd in her smooth American drawl on that chilly Sunday evening, before launching into a performance of 'Blackbirds', the title track from her latest album. Immediately struck by the vocal...Read more
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band returns to ShippensburgThe Slate Online, March 30th
John McEuen, who replaced Jackson Browne in 1966, did not sing, but his performances on fiddle, guitar, lap steel and banjo provided some of the show's best music and humorous moments. Although music has worked out quite well for McKuen, standup ...Read more
Vetiver – Complete Strangersmxdwn.com, March 30th
“Current Carry” takes a drum machine loop straight out of “Psycho Killer” and swims around it with a lap steel guitar. “Time Flies” is pure bossa nova. The song is only one smoky voiced Portuguese vocalist away from being something found on an early...Read more
REVIEW: Blast Furnace Blues festival is fully realized in its fourth yearAllentown Morning Call, March 29th
Carolyn Wonderland showed herself as the Joan Jett of the blues – the diminutive guitarist playing stinging and saucy and belting out with a voice that occasionally sounded like Janis Joplin. She also played lap steel guitar on “Only God Knows When.”...Read more
Junior Brown to perform at NSUTahlequah Daily Press, March 27th
The Sequoyah Institute presents Junior Brown at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, in the Northeastern State University Center for Performing Arts. For tickets, call 918-458-2075. Brown's signature instrument is the “guit-steel” double neck guitar, a...Read more
The DIY Musician: The 2x4 Lap Steel, Part 2 — Cool ModsGuitar World Magazine, March 12th
Instead of just drawing the fret markers on with a Sharpie like I did with the first lap steel, I used a common wood-burning pen and burned the fret lines into the wood. I had some decorative furniture tacks in my shop, so I used them as my fret dots...Read more
The DIY Musician: How to Build a 2x4 Lap Steel GuitarGuitar World Magazine, March 4th
This is one of the easiest homemade guitars I've ever built, and it took me only an hour to make. This lap steel was made from an extra 2x4 I had in my shed, with just a few saw cuts to the wood. I even used a pre-wired acoustic sound hole pickup, so...Read more