What are lap steel guitars? We’re glad you asked.
A lap steel guitar is exactly what it sounds like – a guitar that you play on your lap. It can often be called the Hawaiian guitar. These guitars do not have pedals, but they can still sound like a conventional guitar.
The frets on the lap guitar are only there to help guide the players and help them see where the notes are on the neck of the guitar. The strings are not meant to be pressed to the fret when playing a note. This is a huge change compared to the method of playing on a conventional guitar, so it might take some getting used to.
Instead, the player holds a metal slide called a tone bar and moves it along the strings to change the tone, while the other hand picks the strings.
The Studio Genie is dedicated to helping streamers and YouTubers or anyone looking to have their own home studio. The author, Felicity Martinez, have been helping out streamers and YouTubers for years.
The goal is to provide a free resource for anyone looking to build a quality home studio. The reviews below are a result of hours of research and analysis. We provided the pros and cons and ranked each product to help you make a quick decision.
QUICK OVERVIEW: Our Top Picks for Best Lap Steel Guitar for Beginners
Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar
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SX Lap 3 Black Steel Guitar with Bag
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SX Lap 8 3TS 8 String Lap Steel Guitar
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2X4 Lap Steel Guitar Kit
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Recording King RG-32-SN Lap Steel Guitar
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Best Lap Steel Guitar for Beginners Reviews
First, we have the Rogue R Steel Guitar, and it comes with a bag for your convenience. This is a full-sized 36 fret lap steel guitar that features a hardwood body and neck with position markers, which is perfect for those who are beginners.
This guitar is best suited for the blues, rock, Hawaiian, country, bluegrass, and western swing.
Because the strings are a good distance apart, this makes it convenient for those that may have bigger hands, or again – for beginners.
This guitar is a rather light model weighing in at 7 pounds.
The Rogue RLS-1 is a safe bet for novices because it arrives ready to use. According to the customer reviews, it is durable and long-lasting.
This would be a suitable beginner guitar if you want to play many different styles. You don’t have to worry about toting it around either, because it comes with a durable carrying bag. There are also lots of cool sliders to check out as well.
Secondly, we have another SX guitar that also comes with a bag for carrying around.
This one consists of basswood for top and back material. It is only five pounds in weight, so it is even lighter than the SX Lap Ash.
This guitar is affordable, high-quality, produces crystal clear sound, and is very user-friendly. The SX Lap 3 is perfect for novices.
It stays in tune, and you can even practice at home without disturbing anyone by plugging your headphones in.
The SX Lap 3 guitar contains 36 frets and offers a single-coil pickup, which is where the crystal clear sound comes from.
The guitar is suitable for music styles like blues, rock, country, bluegrass, western swing, and Hawaiian.
The string sizes come in: .011, .015, .022w, .028, .036, .052, and the body thickness is 1 1/16 inches.
This SX Lap 3 guitar has countless 5-star ratings and stellar customer reviews. The SX Lap 3 is perfect for beginners because you can play in the comfort of your home without bothering others. Simply plug in your headphones and play. It comes ready for you to use and the bag makes it easier to carry around.
Here is another full 8 string lap steel guitar with 36 frets. It offers a single-coil P90 pick-up that results in clear, high sound quality.
It is made of American swamp ash and rosewood. This guitar has tone controls, pickup covers, volume, and die-cast chrome tuners.
There is also a carrying bag that comes with it making it easy to carry. Additionally, it comes with a detachable stand.
The 8 3TS 8 guitar is suitable for many styles of music such as rock, blues, Hawaiian, country, bluegrass, and western string.
This is a perfect beginner guitar that is light, easy to carry around, and a good size for anyone. It is high-quality and durable, so you truly can bring this one anywhere you go.
This is a unique purchase that is worth checking out. All you have to do is supply your 2×4 and the kit provides the rest. So if you are on a budget but still want something chic, this could work for you. Don’t break the bank when you are learning a new instrument. Especially if you are testing the waters to see if you like it.
This could also be a super fun DIY project for a rainy day. Customize, paint, decorate, and design it yourself – it is a blank canvas.
This kit also includes two different string sets which are the open e blues and Nashville c6.
No matter what style you want to play, this will work for you. Whether you like country, blues, bluegrass, rock, or Hawaiian.
This is a beautiful guitar made of mahogany. In the words of Ron Burgundy, “my apartment smells of mahogany.”
That could be you, too. All you need to do is check out this guitar, which is designed for lap guitar newcomers and is simple to figure out.
It features a Pearloid fretboard and traditional-style tuners on a recording king headstock. It also has a metal button tuning machine.
This King guitar produces high-quality sound with a single volume. The player can manipulate the tone controls to achieve the desired tone.
This is an amazing guitar to play the blues, country, Hawaiian, or classics.
Unlike the other guitars mentioned, this one does not come with a case, unfortunately.
The King guitar is easy for beginners and includes traditional-style tuners. You can be a master of your creation with this one. If you are toting your guitar around a lot you will need a case, and one is not provided with this guitar. Make sure to factor that into your budget when shopping.
About Steel Lap Guitars
When it comes to steel lap guitars, there are not a lot of options to choose from because they are not as popular as the standard guitar. The available ones do have a lot of features. We know that can seem overwhelming, especially to a beginner.
The steel lap guitar was invented in Hawaii, and that’s why it is also known as the Hawaiian guitar. There is a legend told about the guitar, and it’s worth a read.
The legend tells of a young boy sometime in the late 1880s who was walking near a railroad while playing his guitar. He found a bolt on the ground and picked it up. He then began using the bolt by sliding it up and down the strings.
Alas, a new sound was born.
A steel lap guitar does not always sound like a conventional guitar. The steel lap guitar has an electrical sound, which gives a distinctive noise when playing single chords. Regardless, this guitar is still similar in design with the six strings and fretboard.
These guitars are fantastic for louder environments as they provide a very clear sound.
As mentioned, you do not hold the strings down when playing a steel lap guitar. You instead have to use a metal slide which is called a tone bar. You can move this along the strings to change the tone while the other hand plucks the strings.
This is a good instrument not only for new lap guitar players but those who may have difficulty standing for a long time or may need to sit more often. These instruments are not as physically demanding as the other guitars on the market.
What to Consider When Buying a Steel Lap Guitar
Some things you may want to consider when buying a steel lap guitar include needs, style preference, and budget.
- Why do you want to play?
- What is your allotted budget?
- Do you want to create your guitar?
- What type of genre do you want to play?
- What kind of strings does it have? Look for high-quality!
- Do you want an acoustic, electric, or resonator?
What Kinds of Steel Guitars Are There?
You can find lap steel guitars in acoustic, electric, and resonator models. The resonator is the same shape and size as the others, but it has a metal speaker built into it. This is different from the acoustic or electric guitar.
There are metal cones in the resonator, and these cones make noises that are drastically different than any other guitar. These metal cones intensify the sounds and are a lot louder.
Who Uses the Steel Lap Guitar?
There are a lot of big names that have used the steel lap guitar in the past, but not so many in recent years. But you could be next!
Ralph Mooney was named one of the best steel lap guitar players.
Others include Bob Dunn, Don Helms, Sol Hoopii, Josh Graves, and Al Perkins, to name a few.
Although these guitars are not the most popular choice, your hunt for the perfect fit is far from impossible. First decide on a budget, your musical needs, style, and preferences, then you are ready to shop.
Remember to not put too much pressure on yourself, especially if you are a newcomer to the lap steel guitar. Find a fun teacher and always stay excited about your love of music!
Can you play a steel lap guitar like a normal guitar?
Yes, you can play a steel lap guitar like a normal guitar, in regards to standing and positioning. But you are going to need good contact with the strings because you will not be able to press on them for sound.
Why do steel guitars have frets?
Steel lap guitars have frets to help guide the player so they can locate the notes while they are learning and playing. They need to be able to see the note and slide the metal bar to that particular fret to play the note.