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Dating back to the late 1800s in Hawaii, the lap steel guitar has been gracing Hawaiian, bluegrass, country, and dozens of other genres since becoming a major fad in the 1920s and '30s. Played by modern guitar legends like Jeff Buckley, John Fogerty, Jerry Garcia, David Gilmour, Kaki King, Barbara Mandrell, and more, it has a distinctive twang no matter if you play it acoustic lap steel guitar or electric lap steel guitar and regardless of tuning.

Pick up modern or vintage lap steel guitars from popular brands like Gibson, Gretsch, Peavey, and Rickenbacker from Reverb today.

What are lap steel guitars?

Lap steel guitars are stringed instruments that traditionally sit directly on a sitting player’s lap, and are played with a metal or glass slide pressed against the strings rather than by the fingers. The other hand typically uses fingers or finger picks to pluck the desired strings.

A common variation of a lap steel is a console steel, which is effectively a lap steel with legs. Unlike pedal steel guitars, there are no pedals that bend strings on a lap steel guitar.

Is lap steel guitar hard to learn?

Like with any instrument, mastering the lap steel guitar takes practice. However, many students can pick up a song in as little as one lesson.

How much is a lap steel guitar?

Depending on brand, quality of construction, age, and more, a lap steel guitar can range in price from under $100 to a few thousand dollars.

Can you play a lap steel guitar like a normal guitar?

Because the strings are so high up from the fretboard, which doesn’t have physical frets, you cannot play lap steel guitar with your fingers like a normal guitar. However, some players do play their lap steel guitars strung up on their shoulder like a normal guitar.

How many strings does a lap steel guitar usually have?

Most lap steel guitars have six strings. However, you can sometimes find lap steel guitars with eight strings, and some modern and custom lap steel guitars have even more!

What is a common lap steel guitar tuning?

Just like with a six-string guitar, there’s more than one lap steel tuning. However, most are tuned open. A few popular tunings include:

  • Open G: D–G–D–G–B–D
  • Open A: E–A–E–A–C♯–E (the traditional Hawaiian tuning)
  • High G: G–B–D–G–B–D (a popular lap steel tuning for country music)
  • C6: C–E–G–A–C–E (popular in western swing)

You can typically find lap steel guitar strings that are made for those specific and common tunings. For other tunings, you might have to buy your lap steel guitar strings separately rather than in a package of six.

What is the difference between a lap steel and a pedal steel?

The primary difference in the case between lap steel vs pedal steel is that pedal steel guitars have pedals and knee levers that bend strings and have legs so they don’t rest on the lap. Lap steel guitars don’t have pedals and traditionally rest directly on the player’s lap.

Lap Steel Guitars Near Me

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Dating back to the late 1800s, the lap steel guitar has been gracing bluegrass, country, and, eventually, music of myriad genres. Play it in your lap, use a strap, place it in front of you, electrify it, keep it acoustic, or even, ironically, play it standing up, but you'll still get the same distinctive twang that gave lap steel guitars life in the first place. Pick up a lap steel from popular brands like Gibson, Gretsch, Peavey, and Rickenbacker from Reverb today.