Lap steel guitar and pedal steel guitar vs "normal" electric guitar

Discussion in 'Other Cool Guitars' started by lectric, Apr 7, 2020.

  1. lectric

    lectric Electromatic

    31
    Apr 7, 2020
    Belgium
    Hi all,

    New guy here, 1st post... Maybe some background first. Many many years ago as a teenager, I bought myself an acoustic guitar, and tried playing it on my own. Unfortunately, I had to give that up... several times I retried, and every time I had to give up again. Apparently, it is physically not possible for me to play guitar, the reason being that I can't cut my fingernails short enough. Literally, like e.g. the farthest point of my pinky finger is my nail, if I put my hands horizontally (e.g. on a table top) and slide them together to try to touch each other, on all my fingers, my fingernail touch each other (without pushing!), on my pinky fingers, there is about 1 mm of space between the fleshy part of both fingers. This is with the nails cut as short as possibe. If someone knows how to solve this, or is of the opinion that this is not a problem to play the guitar, please let me know!

    Anyhow… with Corona now, and being home, I was thinking (again) if there aren't any other solutions to play a stringed instrument like Chapman Stick, bass guitar (maybe the nails problem isn't as much of a problem on a bass? I don't know), Harpejji, lap steel, pedal steel.

    So… do you guys have any advice regarding lap steel/pedal steel guitars?
    - First of all… when playing a lap steel, is it possible to make it sound like a normal electric guitar? I mean, if you want to play rock, grunge, pop,... you don't always want that slide effect.
    -Secondly, I read about different tunings on lap steel guitars. Does that mean that with certain tuning, you can only play songs in a certain key? Is this were a pedal steel guitar comes into play?

    I noticed that there are not only 6-string instruments, but also 8-string? Is it preferred to start with a 6-string?

    How hard is a lap steel/pedal steel? Which one is the hardest?

    In case you mostly want to play pop, rock, grunge,... is a lap steel/pedal steel to be adviced? See my question above if you can play it/make it sound like a normal electric guitar.

    What would be a good starting point for an instrument? In my region, I can find the following under 400 €:
    - Harley Benton Slider II Vintage series for 79 €;
    - Epiphone Electar Century 1939 for 259 €;
    - Gretsch G5700 for 385 €,
    - Gretsch Electromatic G5715 for 399 €.
    - in between the Harley Benton and the Epiphone, there are a few Recording Kings, the RG-31-NA (178 €), RG-32-SN (179 €) and the RG-35-SN (189 €).

    Do you have an advice on these lap steels? Which are good/decent ones, from which to stay away?

    Sorry for the long post, and thank you for the answers!
     
  2. wildeman

    wildeman Gretschified

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    Playing steel is not easy and takes more work than regular guitar to learn, i suggest a six string non-pedal for a start. Of the one's you listed I'd want the Epi myself but any of them would be fine, just dont get one with a scale shorter than 22 1/2".
    You can play in any key from one tuning once you learn how and there are players who play rock/ grungy stuff on them, some players play well enough that they can do scales and bar movements so clean you can barely tell its a steel.
     
    new6659 likes this.
  3. lectric

    lectric Electromatic

    31
    Apr 7, 2020
    Belgium
    Thanks. Regarding difficulty, are you referring to a lap steel, to a pedal steel or both? And of these 2, which is the hardest? I sometimes see people refer to a guitar as an easy instrument, which I actually don't believe it to be. When you say a steel is harder than a regular guitar, how long would it take in your opinion to be able to really "play" something? Don't ask me why, but for some reason I seem to think that it already takes around 5 years to really be able to "play" something on a guitar...
     
    Willie McGee likes this.
  4. Robbie

    Robbie Friend of Fred

    Age:
    66
    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    Perhaps I am missing something and my apologies if I am. What about a standard guitar electric or acoustic and you learn to play slide?
     
    new6659 and Waxhead like this.
  5. Les Pedals

    Les Pedals Gretschie

    180
    Mar 29, 2017
    South Jersey
    Pedal Steel is difficult and lap steel requires a lot of effort also. You absolutely can play chords on both full or particial on both, and if you want to play steel on a guitar without the bending tune a guitar to C6 with the proper gauge strings and use a slide.
     
  6. hcsterg

    hcsterg Country Gent

    Feb 13, 2012
    France
    Thanks for your advices, Guys ! ;)

    I bought an used mint FS-50 plus case two years ago for 100 euros locally, I converted it to LH, choose the convenient set of string for C6th tuning and what a cool sound but... She's still and always in her case ! :oops:

    [​IMG]

    I agree : it's a total shame ! :mad:

    A+!
     
    new6659 likes this.
  7. lectric

    lectric Electromatic

    31
    Apr 7, 2020
    Belgium
    You missed nothing. Good point actually, I just never really thought about that. On the other hand, I guess putting an acoustic guitar flat is not ideal? I mean for stability. And is on a lap steel/pedal steel the action (I mean the distance between strings and fretboard, that's called the "action", right?) not higher than on a regular guitar? If guitar and lap steel/pedal steel are really different instruments, wouldn't it be better anyway to learn it on a lap/pedal steel? What would be a/the reason to learn it on a regular guitar?
     
  8. dougmon

    dougmon Gretschie

    284
    Jan 9, 2013
    California
    On laying a guitar on your lap: a lot of Hawaiian players from the 20s and 30s (and maybe beyond) rested guitars on their laps, and most of them were no slouches. If you can find some Sol Hoopii or King Bennie Nawahi you can hear examples of incredible playing. Laying a guitar on your lap and playing it like that would tell you how you might feel about a lap steel. It might not be the best thing, but it will give you a good idea of technique, etc. And possibly you can borrow/rent a guitar with high action?

    Yeah, lap steels are cool. I have one that I've used several different tunings on, and they can be pretty versatile. But they do take a lot of work, and I had to take some lessons from an experienced player to really get things under control. Also, you're right about the action on a lap steel; much higher than on a regular guitar.
     
  9. I understand the question. And I have played guitar, lap steel, and recently pedal steel. If you are starting from scratch, and practice and progress, all are about the same. There is a difference between me, someone that can play a little of any instrument he touches, and a master or pro. I recently got the pedal steel, and figured out some licks and runs, and could play along to a song or two and folks would think I could play pedal steel. But by the third song you would realize I know a few licks. Then look at buddy Emmons. That guy can play. So if you are just dipping your toe in, they are all about the same. Guitars have finger strength and dexterity learning curves, and slide has it own. The problem comes in when you have old habits on one instrument and the brain won’t allow you to see the new instrument in any light but a variation of what you know. This slows you down. This is not where you are at. If your just starting, pick the one that you think you like the sound of the most. And then follow through. Pedal steel does have a bit going on with the levers, and it really helps to know where the notes are and how the levers react to them, but at a beginners pace, you pick up a little here and there. Don’t expect to master any of these in a week.
    That being said, guitars are a dime a dozen, as are lap steels. They are also easily portable. Pedal steels, at least the one I have, weigh a ton, and require a little set up( remove from case, install legs , attach pedals) This may be a factor if your planning on going places with it. Plus a pedal steel needs to be set up and tuneable. If you dont have local folks that can work on a pedal steel for you, and you buy used and it has an issue, it will be an issue.
    Lap steels have very little that can go wrong with them, and most guitars can be set up for slide easier than getting low action. And of course, dobros, don’t over look them. Acoustically they are loud, and travel easy.
    I would waste a day or two watching YouTube for different styles you prefer, on each instrument. Then narrow down which one it is from there. I am learning pedal steel, but I am not reaching out to be buddy emmons. Maybe a bit of Jerry Garcia, but that’s it.
    Good luck!

    most importantly, stay healthy.
     
    Les Pedals likes this.
  10. lectric

    lectric Electromatic

    31
    Apr 7, 2020
    Belgium
    I still have my acoustic guitar, so I could indeed buy a slide and try with that first. Brings up the question, what is a good slide? A round one? Or another? These are options for me: https://www.thomann.de/be/tonebars.html.

    Regarding style… I can enjoy a Hawaii-style slide, but that wouldn't be the (main) purpose for me to learn it. Styles I'd like to be able to play go from grunge, like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, to Dire Straits, Gary Moore, Robert Randolph, Robert Cray, Dream Theater (I doubt I'll be éver able to play thát! :(), Metallica,...

    So I think I'm best of with an electric one. But that already brings up another question... Humbucker or single coil? Or P90? Are there lap steels with multiple pick ups? Does it really matter if you use a Humbucker or a single coil, once you start using effect pedals? I know this is not necessary yet or even overkill for a beginner, but íf I start playing, I want to avoid GAS as much as possible :).

    Then, if you play electric, you need amplification. Can you use a pair of studio monitors for amplification? Or do you need a specific guitar amp? I noticed when I just checked Peavey's website, they have dedicated amps for pedal steel guitars… Currently, I still have my Peavey Eurosys 15PM. Can this speaker function as a guitar amp?

    Any good books you can advise? I don't think I can take lessons in my area :(. I know how to read notes though, but in all honesty, I'm not really aware (anymore) on the theoretical side of chords, chord progressions, which chords to use in which key, etc.

    Thanks in advance for the replies!
     
  11. dak55

    dak55 Country Gent

    May 31, 2018
    NC
    I can't help you with the lap steel or pedal steel question, but my head goes immediately to Dolly Parton who plays the pretty decent guitar. Your nails cannot possibly be as long as hers.
     
    Setzerhotrod likes this.
  12. I cant sheen to find the you tube video of rory Gallagher playing bull frog blues on a gretsch corvette with a P90. If you can find it, it will convince you which way to go.
     
  13. wabash slim

    wabash slim Gretschified

    Age:
    70
    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    To see/hear what's possible on a pedal steel, listen to Robert Randolph and the Family Band.
     
    dougmon likes this.
  14. lectric

    lectric Electromatic

    31
    Apr 7, 2020
    Belgium
    Good point. I didn't know she had such long nails, so I was intrigued immediately. So, on to google! One of the link I found explains it... open chords and barring the chords: https://www.guitarworld.com/blogs/g...lly-parton-play-guitar-those-long-fingernails. I'm open to be convinced it is possible for me to play a normal guitar, but I just took my guitar in hand again, and even a "simple" C chord results in not freely vibrating non-fretted strings, since my nails force me to put my fingers at an angle so that the fretting finger touches the snares that are supposed to vibrate freely… :( I don't know if you've ever tried playing guitar with fingernails that are longer than the actual flesh of your finger (sincere question)?
     
  15. lectric

    lectric Electromatic

    31
    Apr 7, 2020
    Belgium
    Thanks for the tip... I looked it up on YouTube and google. First I noticed that that is a guitar, not a lap steel/pedal steel, so I wasn't quite sure in what way that had to convince me, but I guess you were referring to the Humbucker vs Single Coil vs P90?
     
  16. lectric

    lectric Electromatic

    31
    Apr 7, 2020
    Belgium
    Thanks for the tip. Robert Randolph was one of the artists I referred too, I really dig his playing!
     
  17. wabash slim

    wabash slim Gretschified

    Age:
    70
    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    He comes from a genre of African-American gospel pedal steel players. I got to work him at a festival. They were opener, 10AM-ish. Started playing to a nearly empty field, and within minutes, it was filled with bouncing, happy people. I'd hate to have to follow that act.
     
  18. Just another fork of slide to consider. You could play that sitting down on a lap steel, dobro, Just suggesting looking and listening to all the different styles out there.
     
  19. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    Yes I was thinking same that slide guitar would the best, easiest place to start.
    Any standard guitar will suffice for slide - acoustic and electric.

    Lectric can choose some slides and finger pick with right hand.
    For a beginner I'd lift the action on the guitar until he gets good feeling then lower it later.
    Many good instruction videos on youtbe also - including this one

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
     
  20. Waxhead

    Waxhead Country Gent

    Aug 30, 2014
    Australia
    Look at youtube videos on choosing a slide - very personal decision :)
     
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