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
Lucette brought familiar folk sound to OpelikaThe 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 McLaughlinCayman 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 362/12Premier 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 ExitNew 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 bluesSan 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 guitarDesignboom, 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