Some Lap Steel Guitar Tunings

Some Lap Steel and Non Pedal Steel Guitar Tunings 

    Today I received an email from Skip who plays lap steel. He just found an old Gibson lap steel and wrote to ask me about how to tune it and what strings to use on his new pawnshop find.

I often receive questions about playing the lap steel so I suppose I better get working on a Lap Steel course!

In the meantime, I put on one of my favorite Jerry Byrd records and thought I would jot down some tunings for those who are interested. It seems to me that most lap steel players fall into one of 2 basic groups:

Blues Players and Country/Hawaiian players. The reason I combine the country and Hawaiian together is because they use similar lap steel guitar tunings, at least as a starting point.

 Let’s start with the Blues style since that is the most straight forward.

Most blues players who play lap steel use similar tunings to the bottle neck players (electric guitar, think Duane Allman).

The tunings are generally open E, A and occasionally D.

 

E: 1 E   .015                           A: 1 E     .015             E7 1 E   .015

    2 B   .020                                2 C#   .017                  2 B   .020

    3 G# .024                                3 A    .022                   3 G# .024

    4 E   .030w                             4  E    .030w                4 E   .030w

    5 B   .038w                             5 C#   .034w               5  D  .036w

    6 E   .056w                             6 A     .042w               6  E   .056w

 

These are the basic starting points for open tunings to play blues on the lap steel guitar and suggested string gauges. Feel free to experiment with the tunings and string gauges. Think of these tunings as jumping off points for your own musical explorations.  

Some Hawaiian/country  tunings:  (Note, some of these tunings are for 8 string lap steel guitars. If you have 6 strings, simply omit the bottom 2 strings of the list.)

 

C6 (very popular)                 A6 ( also very popular)             D9

     1   E   .014                             1  E       .015                            1  E       .014

     2   C   .018                             2  C#     .017                            2  C      .018

     3   A   .022                            3   A      .022                            3  A      .022

     4   G   .024w                         4    F#    .026w                         4  F#     .026w

     5   E   .030w                         5    E      .030w                         5  D      .034w

     6   C   .036w                         6    C#   .034w                          6  C      .036w

     7   A   .042w                         7    A     .042w                         7  A      .042w

     8   G   .046w                         8    E     .056w                         8   F#    .050w

 

E13th (used by Don Helms on the great Hank Williams recordings)

      1    G#

      2    E

      3    C#

      4    B

      5    G#

      6    E

      7    D

      8    B

 

Keep in mind these are just a sampling of the many tunings used by the great lap and non pedal steel players such as Jerry Byrd, Joaquin Murphey, Herb Remington, Don Helms and many other pioneering non pedal steel players.

Like the blues tunings previous, use these as starting points and experiment on your own and also listen to some of the non pedal steel players I listed above and notice that many times they use different tunings on different songs to achieve a desired sound and feel.

 

Now grab your steel, tune it up and do some playing! 

Copyright 2013 Joe Stoebenau Music

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