Originally invented and popularized in Hawaii in the late 1800s, steel guitars made their way into the US blues and country music by way of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Eventually, the steel guitar made its way into pop, rock, African and Indian music.
Steel guitars differ from regular guitars by the way they are played. Unlike the conventional guitars for beginners, steel guitars are positioned horizontally, with the strings plucked by one hand and the pitch changed by the other hand by moving the slide, called “steel,” along the strings, which are raised above the fretboard. (The strings are far too high to be fretted with the fingers.)A lap steel guitar is a steel guitar placed on the lap or on a stool in front of a seated player.
In lap steel guitars, the treble strings are uppermost while the bass strings are close toward the player. Occasionally, lap steel guitars are placed across the body with a strap and played standing up.
Steel guitars also differ from conventional guitars by its absence of frets, replaced instead by markers, as frets are not physically used in the steel guitar style of playing. Picks are used by a player to sound the strings: a plastic thumbpick, and metal or plastic fingerpicks on 3 or 4 fingers of the plucking hand. This allows the lap steel guitarist to pick sets of notes on non-adjacent strings with greater dexterity.
While a guitar beginner might have a hard time learning the lap steel guitar because of how it’s constructed, this instrument offers possibilities to seasoned guitarists who are looking to experiment with a different string instrument.
Playing the lap steel guitar well requires instruction from a music teacher, who may not be easily available in your area. Compared to playing conventional guitars, playing a lap steel guitar will make you a highly sought out performer if you put in the time because there are not many lap steel guitarists around. If you have innate musical ability and a good ear, with weekly music lessons through Live Music Tutor, you can be performing locally in a year or two.
Join in today at Live Music Tutor in 3 simple steps; create your profile, select your Lap Steel Guitar Instructor and start learning today! Live Music Tutor is convenient – schedule lessons 24/7, customizable and user-friendly.