Lap Steel Tuning


Steve, what’s your tuning, root 3rd 5th root 3rd 5th? Do you use many slants or behind the bar string pulls? Who are your influences, I’m guessing playing with Freddie Roulette must have been informative. Any advice on developing your own style, or using lap steel in non traditional ways?

Matthew, PA

4 Thoughts on Lap Steel Tuning
    25 May 2022

    Hi Matthew!
    I’m mostly in E7 tuning these days, B D E G# B E (low to high)
    I rarely do string pulls behind the bar, but I slant constantly, so much so that I’m comfortable playing with the bar “parked” in either forward or reverse slant.
    E7 tuning still makes recognizable music on the diagonal for me.
    Forward slant on the bottom five strings IS a major triad in E7, so it’s not quite as crazy as it seems.

    The best advice I can offer is to be yourself and be patient.
    I’m 66 years old, been playing since I was 16.
    I still feel and sound like a beginner : )

      3 Jun 2022

      hi Steve
      greetings. just a quick follow up question on the E7 tuning. I’ve been playing open E for a couple of years and have made some (pilgrim’s) progress. regular set of 12s on upright, 13s on hawaiian, tuned E B E G# B E (string 1 2 3 4 5 6). I’d like to learn this E7 tuning.

      What gauge would you recommend for the two low strings? Would it work if I just moved the low B from string 2 to string 1 and repeat the same gauge from string 3 for string 2, just tuned to D? Any other insight would be great.

      Thanks for your time and thank you for the music.

      warm regards

    5 Jun 2022

    Yeah, typically using whatever the appropriate gauge A and D strings relative to the top four strings would be the common solution.
    Given the normally short lap steel scale length, you could also just tune those low strings up and play ’em tight.
    Your regular 12 set will handle E7, the Steel Guitar Forum guys would probably advise lighter gauges, but .052 and .042 will tune to B and D on a lap steel easily.

    When I began the transition from straight E (or F) major to E7, I was using kind of heavy Dobro gauges:
    16 18p 26w 38 49 64
    I just tuned the bottom two up from E B to B D on my Supro and that was that.

    Still using those same gauges or close to it. Maybe a 62 low B now, but i don’t remember I change them so infrequently.

    Anyway, E7 tuning for me is a “high bass” tuning, so if you bought prepackaged lap steel sets for the more popular C6 tuning, that’ll be plenty close enough.
    Not a bad idea either, to experiment back and forth with C6, E7, and A high bass, just to see if one of those tunings lights up for you.

    low to high:

    A C# E G# B E

    B D E G# B E

    C E G A C E

    See what I mean?
    Those are all really close gauge-wise if you got a C6 set.

    I went back and forth with those three for a while, got familiar enough with each to be able to play some tunes and improvise a little, but it was E7 that made the most sense to me guitaristically.
    I’m sure lots of other folks would be more comfortable with C6, or A, or E9 etc.

    One more thing!!
    Possible E7 variant to check out, super easy, bluesy, Hawaiian, better chords with fewer slants than E7, I think B13 is the proper name:

    B D E G# C# E

    see? just the high B string up one whole step.
    completely changes the vibe. .

    ok, good luck!

    6 Jun 2022

    hi steve
    4 tunings with a c6 string set is as good a lesson as i’ll ever get. thank you very much.

    warm regards

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