Building a Lap Steel Guitar

What is a lap steel guitar?

Lap steel playerTwo different kinds of steel bars
Lap + steel = lap steel

A lap steel guitar is a guitar with strings raised at the nut. It is put on the player's lap and played with a steel bar. If the player is standing, a lap steel guitar can be worn hanging on long straps in front of the belly, or it can be mounted on a stand. In principle any electric, acoustic or resonator guitar could be turned into a lap steel guitar by raising the strings with a special extension nut which fits over the existing nut. Apart from such modified guitars there are also genuine, purpose-made lap steel guitars with square necks. Because lap steel guitars are put on the lap they can have almost any shape, from a simple square plank to a guitar-like shape. Lap steels are usually tuned to an open tuning, i.e. the open strings are tuned to a chord. Two common lap steel tunings are open E or open G.

To tune a guitar to open E or open G, the standard tuning of three strings has to be altered. The standard guitar tuning, from the 1st (the thinnest, or treble e string) to the 6th string, is: e, h, g, d, A, E (A=440Hz).

Open E tuning
3rd string (g-string): tune one semitone up to g#
4th string (d-string): tune one whole note up to e
5th string (A-string): tune one whole note up to B

Open G tuning
1st string (e-string): tune one whole note down to d
5th string (A-string): tune one whole note down to G
6th string (E-string): tune one whole note down to D

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