Learning to Play
Please send me any suggestions or recommendations that you have. (If someone wants me to review your steel guitar-related product, send me e-mail!)
Pickups for Acoustic Guitars
Thomas J. Laredo's site has a series of articles on acoustic guitar pickups that's very helpful. Both Elderly Instruments and Mandolin Brothers are good sources for resonator guitar pickups. Also check out Paul Beard's Resophonic Outfitters web site for pictures and descriptions of some of the most commonly available pickups.
Carl McIntyre makes one of the most commonly used resonator guitar pickups on the market. It can be factory installed by Dobro®, or handled by McIntyre Acoustic Pickups.
McIntyre Acoustic Pickups
Lace Music Products
makes the the only magnetic Dobro® style unit available today. It
can take you from the gritty Delta to the twang of Bluegrass and all points
in between. This pickup has great overall balance and clarity that captures
the true essence, versatility and soul of this unique instrument.
Rick Turner has been working on a new resophonic guitar pickup system. It is similar in style to the older Rickenbacker horseshoe pickup.
Highlander has a web site with more information on their acoustic guitar pickups, including a nice resophonic guitar pickup.
EMG now has a web site with more information on their acoustic guitar pickups.
Fishman makes the Aura resophonic guitar pickup, developed in conjunction with Jerry Douglas. This spider-style resophonic pickup with split saddle piezo-ceramic pickup is designed specifically for spider-style bridges and includes a 1/4' external jack for easy mounting. It pairs up well with the Jerry Douglas Signature Series Aura Imaging Pedal, which features 16 custom Fishman Aura Images created and used by Jerry Douglas specifically for resophonic guitars.
Pickups for Electric Guitars
Since many manufacturers used the same quality parts on their steel guitars as they did on their regular guitars, many lap steels have been cannibalized for parts to put on regular guitars.. Replacement tuners are available from many sources; Allparts makes a nice Kluson-style direct replacement that fit perfectly on my Fender Champion. Frank Ford's web site has a good article with photos on how to install new buttons on old tuners.
Replacement pickups can be somewhat harder to find, though. Most pickups are designed for pedal steel guitar, and have a hi-fi response that lap steelers might find too clean. Other pickups such as those made by EMG, Seymour Duncan or DiMarzio may be better suited.
Jason Lollar is the author and publisher of the book Basic Pickup Winding and Complete Guide to Making Your Own Pickup Winder, and supplier of hard to find parts for pickup making. Along with building his line of guitars and pickups he does selected guitar, keyboard and tube amp repair in his Vashon Island shop. Jason makes and sells two different eight string pickups specifically for steel guitar, utilizing the string spacing of a Fender Stringmaster. He now also has a new pickup for lap steels that looks like a Charlie Christian pickup but is basically a Gibson console steel pickup, available in 8 and 6 string as a stock item.
Rick Aiello makes authentic horseshoe & bar magnet pickups built to 1930's specifications for single coil pickups. His pickups are available for Hawaiian and Spanish guitars, acoustic and electric jazz and slide guitars, and pedal steel guitars.
George L makes a range of steel guitar pickups as well as many other accessories. Visit their web site for more information, or contact them at:
L & L Sales
Seymour Duncan makes a replacement pickup for Fender lap steels, including the Champion and Stringmaster. Originally developed for Johnny Farina of "Santo & Johnny," the pickup for the Stringmaster is wound for that distinct lap steel sound. More information can be found on their web site, or by contacting:
William Lawrence makes a line of steel guitar pickups. Becky Lawrence wrote me saying, "Utilizing Bill Lawrence's new measuring technique he has developed through extensive R&D, we've been able to produce a pickup line that far exceeds our competitors in a natural and even sound reproduction plus a consistency so as to to offer the best and affordable guitar pickups to the working musician." For more information, please visit their web site, or contact them at:
William Lawrence Design Corporation
Vintage Vibe Guitar Pickups offers a series of very fine electric lap steel pickups, in six, seven, eight and ten string configurations.
Amplifiers for Acoustic Guitars
Amplifiers for Electric Guitars
Steel guitars typically have different requirements from amplifiers than do regular guitars. Especially in the case of pedal steel guitars, the wider range of notes required to be reproduced accurately means you're best off using a solid-state or hybrid amplifier. If you're playing rock or blues based music, just about any tube guitar amplifier will do. Listen to the ones in your price range and decide what works best for you. I'm currently using a Fender Pro Junior (15 watts, one ten inch speaker) and am very satisfied with the sound I'm getting from it.
Peavey makes a series of amplifiers designed specifically for pedal steel guitar. They also have a very successful line of Classic tweed amps ranging in size from 15 watts to 100 watts. My personal favorite is the Delta Blues, featuring a 15 inch speaker and tremolo. More information can be found on their web site.
Since the early sixties the Evans Custom Amplifier has been known to pedal steel guitar players as the top-of-the-line in warm sound. Jim Evans, the musician/engineer who designed the first Evans amplifiers, could not find an amplifier that met his needs as a steel guitar player, so he set about building his own. Today Evans Custom Amplifiers are individually hand-crafted in McLeansville, North Carolina. More information can be found on their web site.
Webb Steel Guitar Amplifiers are no longer made since the death of Jim Webb. Tom Bradshaw has announced that he will be reissuing these amps, but no date has been set yet.
Elderly Instruments is one of the many internet dealers who carry lap steel cases by Gold Tone and Morrell among others. Contact them for pricing and availability.
Ben Mandelson wrote the following:
Another person suggested using a shotgun or rifle case, available in most sporting goods or rifle stores in the USA. This might be a bit difficult to take through the airport, but would be a fine choice if you don't do much travelling.
Keep this in mind while searching for parts for your old lap steel as well. You might find the right part being used in a different capacity in some other hobby!
If you have questions, suggestions for improvements, or additional information, please let me know.