Lap steel guitar

The Hawaiian guitar or lap steel guitar is an acoustic or electric guitar with steel strings, with or without resonator. Unlike the ordinary guitar playing it is by a seated guitarist 's lap (English: lap ) down the strings facing up. The strings are raised at the nut so that it can not be grasped. The lap steel (short name) is tuned to an open tuning ( open tuning). The left hand does not interfere, but plays this form of slide guitar with a solid metal bar or pipe ( Steel Bar ). Typical of the Hawaiian guitar as a melodic instrument is coined by glissandi singing tone. The instrument is used in the Hawaiian music, blues, and since the days of Western Swing in the country music. By mechanical development of the design, adding strings, necks, levers and pedals, the pedal steel guitar was developed in the 1950s.


The technique, not to shorten a string with the finger, but with a sliding bar, practiced in India even at the eka Tantric, a now-vanished one-stringed zither rod, which is known since the 11th century from literary sources. Developed at the turn of the 20th century South Indian musicians a variant of the long-necked lute vina, which is played with a slide bar and called gottuvadyam.

The invention of this technology with the guitar is the Hawaiian student Joseph Kekuku awarded the strings of his guitar to 1895 - rather than grab them - shortened with a knife back and produced characteristic slide effects. Around the turn of the century (after the annexation of Hawaii ) traveled first musicians, including Kekuku, on the North American mainland and performed in vaudeville shows. Since the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (San Francisco 1915), occurred on the Keoki Awai 's Royal Hawaiian Quartette with great success every day, the Hawaiian music became the first ( and langanhaltendsten ) World Music boom in the history of recorded music. Since 1915 by the American record company RCA Victor monthly Hawaiian plates, eg Steel guitarist Pale K. Lua and David Kaili published. Since 1916, followed by all other international companies with Hawaiian or pseudo - Hawaiian recordings. Thus, the steel guitar was soon represented not only in the U.S. but around the world and the Hawaiian music evolved into a very popular style. Hawaiian guitars were part of the ensemble of the first performances of the opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930 ) by Weill / Brecht and the operetta Die Blume von Hawaii by Paul Abraham ( 1931). 1932, the first electrically amplified Hawaiian guitar was introduced Rickenbacker Frying Pan by Rickenbacker; This model was also the first mass-produced guitar with an electromagnetic pickup. After the Second World War, a market for electric guitars Hawaii, made ​​by companies like Framus or Hofner also developed in Germany in the 1950s.

Guitar types

Fundamentally, any guitar can use. An additional attachment to the saddle increases the string height so that no contact is made with the fingerboard. Special Hawaiian guitars have a rectangular thick neck on ( Squareneck ) as a common structural feature. It may be distinguished in another three basic types:

  • An acoustic Hawaiian guitar with a hollow neck was designed by Hermann Weissenborn. She has six or eight strings with the mood of E ( F #) A ( c # ) -ea - cis' -e '. Similar models build today, for example, the company Manzanita, Fender, Gretsch (EBM ) and most recently the Swabian company Vando -Guitars and Bediaz music.
  • Resonator (eg Dobro ) are also available in the Squareneckvariante.
  • Electric -massive Hawaiian guitars produce according to models of Gibson and Fender today many more electric guitar manufacturers. In Germany, paddle-shaped or bulbous Roger Framus guitars to the early E- lap steel guitars of the 1950s. Some models have three to four screw-on feet. They are then called table steel and differ from the pedal steel guitar by the absence of levers and pedals.


Among the most famous players of the Hawaiian guitar include Frank Ferera, Sol Hoopii, Bob Dunn, Leon McAuliffe, Roy Smeck, Don Helms, Jerry Byrd, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Jerry Douglas, Bob Brozman, Ben Harper, Cindy Cashdollar, Freddie Roulette and Scott Colby. Respectable addition to instruments - Lapsteeler are Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and John Paul Jones.