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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All I've Got is a Photograph at Cafe Nine in New Haven SaturdayNew Haven Register, December 12th
“Winged Victory” is the second full-length studio record of original material by Guillorn, who sings and plays electric and acoustic guitars, lap steel, Wurlitzer electric piano and Hammond organ. The album was produced by Guillorn and engineered and...Read more
Black Lips Borrow Black Key for Rootsy March Album 'Underneath the Rainbow'SPIN, December 12th
Mastodon guitarist Bret Hinds played guitar and pedal steel during the recording sessions, and some of Brenneck's Daptone colleagues laid down horn parts, according to a previous RS report. Deerhunter's Bradford Cox was in the running to appear on the ...Read more
The Lower LightsSalt Lake City Weekly, December 12th
Him, the large group—the member count is usually 10 to 15 musicians—breathed new life into the old songs, giving them fresh vocal harmonies and contemporary instrumentation with guitar, piano, mandolin, lap steel, banjo and other acoustic...Read more
'Sons of Anarchy' Cover Jackson Browne, Otis Redding - Album StreamRollingStone.com, December 12th
Noah, show creator Kurt Sutter and I wrote this song that features the ever-present Forest Ranger Greg Leisz charming some beautiful tones from his pedal steel guitar." The Songs of Anarchy, Vol. 3. is long on covers, as Chris Goss fronts the Forest...Read more
Jeff Moehlis: Musicians Band Together at Notes for Notes Benefit ConcertNoozhawk, December 11th
And that was just the show before the intermission! The second half of the concert kicked off with Robert Randolph, a bluesy lap steel guitar virtuoso who brought high energy and Bo Diddley into the mix — and the crowd to its feet. Who could possibly...Read more
Dead Winter Carpenters take a 'Dirt Nap'Tahoe Daily Tribune, December 11th
Pedal steel guitar is included on “Easy Sleep” and banjo on “Bootleg Jack.” “In the studio we were able to bring in some guest musicians,” Dunn said. “We've been wanting to bring in pedal steel for a long time.” For that instrument, DWC phoned up...Read more
Frank Girardot: Saying thanks and goodbye to a guitar store legendPasadena Star-News, December 9th
I watched a man in a long black coat and a fedora rip out a blues number backed by a drummer and a bassist. My friend grabbed his own axe, a Les Paul, and played next. A guy sitting on the couch pulled out the lap steel. Together they played “Let it...Read more
Pete Drake And His Talking Steel GuitarMOJO (blog), December 6th
Born in Augusta, Georgia in 1932, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, Pete Drake worked as a record producer and sought-after session musician in the '60s in country music mecca Nashville, Tennessee (it's his pedal steel guitar you can hear on Charlie ...Read more