The Lap Steel guitar, a very American instrument. Not to be confused with the pedal steel, which is larger and has legs. It also has levers and ‘pedals’ to change the tuning and alter the sound. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are different instruments. The Lap steel is closer to the Blues bottleneck guitar than it is to the Pedal steel.
The sounds are similar, which is why there is often this confusion of terminology.
There are three types of lap steel guitars. There is the common instrument we all recognize that sits on your lap. Also, there is the Dobro, which has a larger square neck and a cone to increase volume. Finally, the Electric lap steel with pickups which is the ‘Hawaiian type’ sound we are all familiar with.
Discarded bolt to knife to slide…
Interestingly it didn’t originate in Nashville. The earliest story of the first player was a young man walking beside a railroad track. He found a discarded bolt from the tracks and slid it on the strings of his guitar, he liked the sound and then later used a knife. The year was 1889. It might be a fanciful story, but we like it.
Since young Joseph found his bolt, the instrument has come a long way and is now part of the American Country music culture. Not only in Country though, Hawaiian music and Bluegrass as well find it in the setup. And also, to a lesser extent in Rock music, jazz, and Blues.
A C6 chord…
It is not tuned like a conventional guitar. It is usually tuned to an open chord and more likely to an extended chord. C6 is a common tuning with low to high tunings of C – E – G – A – C – E. But there are many variations.
So, let’s take a closer look at this very interesting instrument to find the best Lap Steel guitar for you…
Top 7 Best Lap Steel Guitars Reviews
1 2020 Asher Guitars Electro Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar
If we mention the name Asher, many people will know who we are talking about. Bill Asher. One of the most sought after Luthiers, master guitar crafters, there is. He has an impressive client list that includes Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, and Fleetwood Mac.
He set up his own company in 1982 to make quality instruments. His boutique guitar company based in Los Angeles now has clients worldwide.
Entry level up to pro…
This guitar is an excellent entry-level instrument, but it is a little more than that. The quality of this guitar says it will suit the pros as well. It is a 25-inch scale length and 22 frets and has a solid mahogany neck-through-body design. This design gives the guitar plenty of resonance.
The neck is mahogany, but it has a rosewood fretboard. The nut is made from Micarta and has a width of 1 and ⅞” inches. The metal wrap around bridge width is 2 and 3/16”. This width allows the strings to be given a wider spacing making it easy to play.
Plenty of sound options…
Two high power humbuckers are fitted, guaranteeing you plenty of sounds. The controls are simply laid out and feature a three-way toggle for pick up selection. There are two master controls, one for volume and one for tone.
It is finished in an attractive tobacco sunburst on the main body and headstock. It comes with a sturdy gig bag. The strings fitted are Asher Lap Steel strings.
Referring to this instrument as a starter or entry-level guitar seems a bit of a misnomer. It is high quality in every aspect right down to the tobacco finish. Made in China, it is shipped to the US and set up in Los Angeles. Best Lap Steel guitar? It’s going to take some beating.
- Excellent design and a quality build.
- Great sounds from the twin humbuckers.
- The price might scare people.
2 SX Lap 2 Ash NA Electric Lap Steel Guitar
The SX Lap 2 is a budget range starter Lap Steel guitar. It has been designed to be easy to play and therefore is ideal for the new player. It is full-size bing 33 inches in length and has 36 frets.
The neck-through design of the main body is made from American Swamp Ash. To add to its appeal, it has been given a maple fretboard. It is made to be very light, weighing only ten pounds. At the headstock are Diecast chrome tuners, and it has volume control and tone control.
A nice P90…
They have gone for a clean driven sound with this instrument giving it a single-coil P90, which is crisp. It comes with a glass bar for playing and a detachable stand and has a carry bag. The instrument and the stand will all fold down and fit into the bag.
Designed not only for the starter, it can work in a variety of styles. It is in Hawaiian and Country styles where it might be most popular, but it also fits Bluegrass, Rock, and Blues. The option of using the stand or placing it on a table or your lap allows freedom to choose. The neck-through design ensures it has an easy playing position. This will help the new player.
Plenty of ‘twang’…
One plus point for this instrument is the sound. The single-coil gives it that ‘twang’ many players want, but to its credit, the notorious ‘single-coil hum’ is hardly audible. Another big plus is the price, which makes this a very affordable instrument.
Well-made, nice styling, good materials, and a P90 at a great price. What else do you need? Could be a contender for best Lap Steel guitar.
- Well-made with good materials.
- Nice crisp sounds.
3 Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar with Stand
Rogue guitars are known for their sturdy designs, and this is a good example. They are also known for producing a good range of budget-priced instruments aimed at the beginner. That is where this guitar sits as a starter instrument. It has a quality though that experienced players will appreciate.
This is a full-size instrument measuring 31.5 inches in length and weighing just over ten pounds. It is built with a hardwood body and neck, and the fingerboard has been given some position markers. The body is finished off in a metallic red, which adds to the style and the design. Rogue has given you the option of how you play, by including screw-in legs.
A sharp, crisp, and bright tone…
A single-coil pickup is fitted so you can expect a sharp, crisp, and very bright tone with a twang. Controlling the sound is a volume and tone control. Rogue has tried to add a little stability to the guitar. And they have added chrome, geared tuners to make it easy to tune. The stainless steel pickguard completes the look. A gig bag is included for transportation, which will also hold the legs.
This is a nice looking instrument and as such, is great for a learner. It will cross the genres in its uses as well. Classic Hawaiian and Country tones will pour out of that single-coil. Bluegrass and Blues are also well within its performance level.
Looks the part…
It is a great starter guitar. It looks the part and plays easily and well. Fitted with the single-coil pickup, it will generate some authentic sounds. At the price a very good buy and another contender for Best laptop steel guitar.
- Nicely constructed with good materials.
- Nice single-coil pickup sound.
- Some may not like the color.
4 SX LAP 3 Black Lap Steel Guitar
Another entry-level Lap steel guitar from SX. A guitar that is not only cost-effective but also designed to be easy to play. SX guitars are made by Team International based in Taiwan, but with manufacturing factories in China.
Unfortunately, they have been the victim of criticism in the past. Mainly from people with the intelligence level of dinosaurs. They weren’t all wiped out, as we sometimes see. They make a decent guitar that is competitively priced. It plays well and sounds good, that will do us wherever it is made.
Nice and portable…
This is a full-size instrument, 36 frets, built with a basswood body in a neck through body design. This design keeps the guitar stable and compact. It also enables ease of playing and weighs only seven pounds, and so is light and easy to carry.
It is fitted with a single-coil pick, which gives it that great crisp and clear sound we associate with this instrument. And it is also fitted with a volume and tone control. They even provide you with a glass slide bar to get you started.
It has diecast chrome-plated tuners that are geared to keep it in tune and a chrome style tailpiece.
Ticks all the boxes…
Made for the beginner, it ticks all the boxes. As an instrument, it is versatile and has that Hawaiian and Country music feel it is famous for. But it can also turn its hand to some good Blues and Bluegrass. It comes with a decent carrying bag.
As long as you don’t expect a five-star instrument, you will be surprised with this guitar. It has an attractive look and is well-built and produces a good sound. We think it is a good cost-effective starter instrument.
- Well-made with a good sound.
- Cost-effective starter instrument.
- Quite thin in its build for those who prefer a heavier guitar.
5 Vorson LT-230-8 TB 8-String Lap Steel Guitar
Vorson is a new name to some people, but they have been manufacturing guitars in China for over 20 years. During that time, they have built quite a reputation. This instrument is an eight-string model that is better suited to the experienced player rather than the starter. It is a bit more substantial than the starter versions weighing over ten pounds and being 37 inches long.
Master 100 pickup…
It has a solid mahogany body with a maple wood top. The neck has 30 frets and is made from Rosewood. The headstock matches the body style and is also mahogany. The finish in blue is attractive, and it has active electronics and tone circuit and speeds control knobs with EQ. Fitted is a Master 100 pickup for eight-string guitars. It also has the usual volume and tone controls.
The point to make with this guitar is that it not a converted six string instrument. It is designed to be an eight string model. Therefore the nut and the bridge are made wider to accommodate the extra strings.
Eight strings can be better than six…
Built for the more experienced player, it will operate just as well on stage as it will in the studio. Some more experienced lap steel players prefer the eight string instruments. You obviously get a wider note range potential, but it also delivers full, rich chords that six-string versions cannot. The two extra strings also add to scale runs and arpeggios. This gives you a whole new range of playing ideas and options.
This is not a budget instrument at all, and it is built for the experienced player. It, therefore, delivers a good performance and great sound.
- Well-made with good materials.
- Eight strings deliver wider sound and playing options.
- Some may find it expensive.
6 Vorson FLSL-201 Professional Lap Steel Guitar Pack
A return to Vorson to have a look at another Lap steel guitar from this Chinese manufacturer. This instrument, a full-size guitar with a scale length of 22,5 inches. In total, it measures 39 inches and weighs eleven pounds, so it is a sturdy guitar.
It is through the body design made from Basswood with a maple top. It has a neck made from mahogany with a rosewood fretboard. Everything about this guitar is built for sound quality, and the woods used help to generate that sound. The maple top has a sunburst finish that gives the guitar a vintage feel. It does look an impressive instrument.
Drive it a little harder…
It is fitted with two FP90 pickups and VST-01 active electronics, and there is a 9v battery required to run the electronics. The pickups produce a crisp, clean sound but also can handle being driven a little harder.
Die-cast geared chrome tuners are included for accuracy, and there is a custom made bridge. There is a toggle switch pickup selection and rotating control knobs for volume, bass, and treble. This setup will allow you a lot of sound options.
For the more experienced…
This is not really a starter instrument. It is more suited to the experienced player. It is well-constructed using good materials and produces a sound that has lots of variety. Suitable for Hawaiian and Country styles, it will also handle Bluegrass and Blues.
It comes with a gig bag and a guitar cable as part of a package that is worth considering as the best Laptop steel guitar.
- Great looking guitar made from good materials.
- Two pickups offer lots of sound options.
- Some may find it expensive.
7 Joe Morrell Pro Series Poplar Body 8-String Lap Steel Guitar
There is nothing subtle about the design of this instrument. If Eddie Van Halen played Lap steel guitar, this would probably be the one he would choose.
Designed and made in Tennessee, it is a neck-through-body design featuring a fretboard with three octaves. It is 31 inches in length and made from Poplar wood. This is a change from the usual woods used for manufacture for these instruments. Being an eight string instrument, it is significantly wider than the average.
Kent Armstrong Stinger…
For pick up, they have chosen a single-coil Kent Armstrong Stinger. This pick up is wound slightly differently to give it a more powerful sound and uses an Alnico V magnet. Sound is controlled using a volume and tone situated next to the stainless steel bridge. The headstock is fitted with enclosed chrome geared tuners.
Being an eight string instrument, the sound options are varied. There is a rich fullness to the sound and of course, many more playing options and patterns to try.
Excellent for any genre…
It is not really a guitar for a beginner and is probably going to suit a more experienced player. It is versatile with its sound options. Hawaiian, Country, and Blues all sit comfortably with the sound, especially if played alongside one of the best blues guitars.
The rather extreme red and white lacquer finish is not understated or modest in the slightest. People are going to love it or not. It is an expensive guitar, being made in Tennessee it is going to be, and the cost will put some people off.
- Nice powerful pickup.
- Well made solid construction.
Best Lap Steel Guitar Buyer’s Guide
Buying a Lap Steel guitar
Buying a Laptop Steel guitar ought to be not that difficult. They are all built to do a similar job in a similar way. Most of the time, with a similar sound. But that isn’t quite true. It is not the easiest instrument to play, in fact, even the tuning can be complex as there are so many different ways to tune the instrument. Add on to this that there are also 6 and 8 string versions, and it all can get quite confusing.
Who is it for?
If it is for starter, then it might be wise to stick to a six string instrument. There are some good examples on the list with some extras special guitars that cost a lot of money. If it is for a starter, then best to keep it simple and cost-effective.
If it is for a more experienced player, then they will want a little more from the instrument. The sound and playing style will have more importance. Possibly eight strings with its playing and sound variations might be applicable.
Not many manufacturers provide too much in the way of extras. Some give a carrying bag, some provide legs, and some a glass slider. If you are planning to use it away from home, then a bag is essential.