FRETS.COM Illustrated Glossary

Steel Guitar
© Frank Ford, 10/17/98 Photos by FF

The "steel guitar," "Hawaiian steel guitar" or "Hawaiian guitar" is a guitar with elevated strings:

and played with a

These days, we've pretty much divided up "Hawaiian steel guitar" into subcategories, including
Hawaiian guitar (wood or metal body with raised nut,) steel guitar (electric lap steel,) pedal steel (Nashville style electric with legs, levers and foot pedals) and "dobro" (actually a trademark name gone generic, a resophonic guitar used in country music.) The lap steel and pedal steel are the two solid body electric styles, and the instruments we expect when we talk about "steel guitar" today.

Here's the original electric steel guitar, now known as a lap steel:

First used for playing Hawaiian music, the lap steel does duty in "retro" country bands playing western swing.

This is the original metal body acoustic steel guitar made by National:

Originally called "National Silver," it's known today as a "tricone" because of its triple resonator diaphragms.

This "table" is actually a three-neck electric steel guitar:

Each neck has eight strings and each is tuned differently. Quite a handful!

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