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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MER's Music Showcase at Cubby Bear Chicago, Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014, October 20th

Classically trained on Piano since the age of 3, Wulfers taught himself Guitar, Bass, Organ, Drums, Ukulele, Lap Steel, Pedal Steel, Dobro, Mandolin, Banjo, Cello, Harmonica and employs much of his four and a half octave vocal range throughout his ...Read more

The Muse November Sampler
American Songwriter, October 20th

Like a folk song trapped inside a computer, “Home (Leave the Lights On)” – one of the brighter sounding tracks from Field Report's sophomore album, Marigolden – mixes the trebly strum of acoustic guitars with the burbling beat of digital drums...Read more

Larkin Poe grows up with 'Kin'
Creative Loafing Atlanta, October 20th

All of the original components are still there: great vocals and harmonies, Rebecca's precise mandolin and guitar work, Megan's rich dobro and lap steel, and the songs. But something is different; there's a maturity in the words, after all, they aren't...Read more

Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (2014)
Something Else! Reviews, October 20th

Playing electric and acoustic guitars, lap steel, mandolin and backing vocals on these releases, Williams also tabs him to produce this record. Leisz doesn't make jarring changes to Don Was' handling of Blessed, which basically hit the mark in putting ...Read more

Grammy-winning in concert
Foster's Daily Democrat, October 19th

Gerhard will share an evening of exquisite guitar music, performing material from his new CD as well as concert favorites. Performing on 6-string, slide guitar and Hawaiian lap steel, Gerhard combines rare compositional depth with inspired virtuosity...Read more

Veteran dobro master brings his new act to Woodsongs
Lexington Herald Leader, October 18th

When we do Pride and Joy live with a band, I play lap steel and he plays electric guitar. But on the record, I thought it would be fun just to do an acoustic version and give people a different take on this great song." Working with a young artist like...Read more

Stereosparks plays Saturday
The Crimson While, October 1st

Ryan Maker (guitar and keys), Storey Condos (vocals) and Marc Anderson (lap steel guitar) formed Stereosparks in California after Maker and Anderson saw Condos singing in a cover band. Two years ago, the band relocated to Nashville and became ...Read more

Pedal steel guitar at Friday music evening, September 25th

But the real star of the night, what really got people talking, was Shawn Brown's pedal steel guitar and its haunting, melodic sounds. One of the best known and most commonly heard instruments in American country music, the pedal steel guitar has a...Read more