Familiarize yourself with your speed guitar. The most important characteristic of a lap steel guitar is that the fretboards are not used. The strings of a lap steel guitar are lifted up on the nut and bridge about half an inch above the fingerboard. You do not play a lap steel guitar by foaming the strings as you do with a standard guitar. Lap guitar player picks the strings with a pluck on the thumb while running a glass or metal finger slide, either worn on the finger or held along the length of the strings. It gives the characteristic ‘sliding’ sound and that is why bell steel guitars are often called ‘sliding’ guitars.
Take time for study moods. Lap steel guitars are not set to a standard guitar tuning. The strings are set to open chords. This means that strumming the strings together will produce a full chord. There are many different settings. The setting you choose largely depends on the type of Blues and Rock player favors open G, D, A and E chords. Bluegrass players prefer an altered open G, called a high G-tuning, which gives the sixth string from an E note to a G. A bass flap guitar book purchased at a music store introduces you to a variety of settings.
Practice thumb and finger chart coordination. You will be able to produce sound directly, but it may take time to control the sound you produce. Remove a string and move the image upside down. Vary the speed and distance you move the image. Apply different pressures to the strings as you move the finger slide. It will not be long before you start to hear the difference with different game techniques.
Try different types of finger glasses. Glass gives a different tone than metal. Play with a finger chart worn on your finger and simply try to hold one. Stick with anything that is more comfortable for you.
Play some of your favorite songs and try to create your own musical passages with the techniques you have practiced. This is a great way to train your ear and improve your timing. It may not sound good at first, but with time and patience you will soon be playing lap steel guitar with skill.
Tips and warnings
Lap steel guitars are interesting instruments that are fun to play. Lap steel guitars are also versatile. They are found in many musical genres, including country, bluegrass, hawaiian and even rock. Getting started playing a lap steel guitar is surprisingly easy, and with a little practice, you may be on your way to mastering a lap steel guitar.