The Essential Guide to Finding the Best Lap Steel Guitar + Reviews
Are you looking for the best lap steel guitar? Well, this comprehensive guide complete with five recommendations will help you find the guitar you are searching for. We and our team have taken the time to look at the most popular models that you can find on the market. After intense research, we found that the Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar is the one that you should really consider. This is a great model for those that aren’t sure how to play lap steel guitar, thanks to easy it is to play. It will allow you to play basically any kind of music that you can usually play on such a guitar, from Hawaiian to country and blues. Let’s not forget about the quality pickup that it has, as this will give you the smooth sound you want. If you are not able to find our first recommended guitar, you might consider the SX LAP 3 Black Lap Steel Guitar.
Our Top Choice
Being a strong guitar that is well-built, this one will feel smooth to play. It is an eye-catching model with a metallic red finish and stainless steel pickguard. It is a versatile model that will let you play Hawaiian, blues, and country music, and the solos you will produce with it will be amazing. The lap guitar comes with a well-made pickup that offers a clear and vibrant sound.
It weighs too much for beginners to play it on their lap.
Good for beginners and intermediate players due to how easy it is to play, this guitar is always a good choice.
When looking at this guitar you can see the grain of the wood under the paint and that makes it look great. Constructed using carefully selected solid wood, it is a guitar that will pass the test of time. It only weighs 9 pounds and that makes it ideal to hold on one’s lap. The single-coil P90 pickup is of great quality, along with the other pieces of electronics and hardware.
Although it comes with legs, those are not stable at all.
Made to be a durable and dependable instrument, this guitar will serve you great no matter the music style you play.
Also To Consider
The scale only measures 21 inches and that makes it one of the shortest you can find, which in turn makes it a very portable instrument. The red body and the white pickguard look great together. Its single-coil pickup will work really well in high frequencies, providing a full sound. In terms of hardware, it’s an excellent guitar, with the tuners keeping it in tune really well.
The pickup will need to be replaced if you want some bass.
Those looking for a portable and affordable model will be delighted with what this guitar has to offer.
8 Best Lap Steel Guitars (Reviews) in 2020
We had a look at the best lap steel guitar for beginners, but also at those aimed for more experienced players, and after seeing what those that bought them had to say, and also what was the experts’ opinion, we made a top of five lap guitars that we would buy. So here they are.
- 1. Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar with Stand and Gig Bag Metallic Blue
- 2. SX LAP 3 Black Lap Steel Guitar w Free Carry Bag
- 3. Lap Steel Guitar 6 Steel String Metallic Red Polish Body
- 4. Joe Morrell Plus Series Poplar Body 6-String Lap Steel Guitar
- 5. Gretsch G5700 Electromatic Lap Steel with White Plastic Fretboard
- 6. Gretsch Electromatic Lap Steel Guitar Black Sparkle
- 7. SX Lap 8 Nat 8 String Lap Steel Guitar
- 8. SX Lap 2 Ash NA Electric Lap Steel Guitar
- Our Comprehensive Buying Guide
- Frequently asked questions
1. Rogue RLS-1 Lap Steel Guitar with Stand and Gig Bag Metallic Blue
Many Rogue guitars are known for how well-built they are and the strength of their bodies, and this guitar is just like that and it works smoothly. In terms of looks it is quite eye-catching with the metallic red finish that makes it stand out, and the stainless steel pickguard.
It is a lap guitar made to help you produce Hawaiian, blues, and country tones with excellence, and it does that in a smooth way. That is why it is one effortless guitar for beginners. But it is not only good for them, as intermediate players will find its sound to be a pleasant one.
Weighing in at 11.6 pounds it’s not the heaviest lap guitar but it can’t be considered that light either. The hardwood body and neck contribute to the weight, but they also make the instrument more durable. The guitar has a single-coil pickup that offers a vibrant and clear sound.
As you expect, it comes with knobs to control the volume and tonality. Its tuners are geared, and the majority of the hardware pieces are made of chrome, with the pickguard being made of stainless steel. The guitar comes with a gig bag that keeps it protected and helps you transport it.
The fact that this instrument is a durable one is an obvious advantage, especially for beginners that aren’t paying too much attention to how they treat their instruments.
Being one smooth guitar to play will be a pleasing factor for any kind of player.
This guitar will be great at creating awesome blues sounds, but it also does well when playing Hawaiian music or country.
The single-coil pickup that it employs will ensure a vibrant sound, and the clarity you need from such a guitar.
Coming with a gig bag to keep it protected, you can get this instrument with you everywhere you go.
It conveniently has 3 height-adjustable legs to keep it upright, if you don’t like it sitting on your lap.
It weighs a bit much, due to the hardwood it is made of, and children playing it will feel its weight on their legs.Buy from Amazon.com for ($199.99)
2. SX LAP 3 Black Lap Steel Guitar w Free Carry Bag
Made to help all of those looking for a lap steel guitar at an affordable price, this model is a wonderful one. It has been created to help you have a more pleasant playing time. The guitar has a strong body, and the design makes it somewhat look like a classical guitar.
Weighing only 9 pounds, this is one of the lighter models that you can find, and that makes it comfortable to hold on your lap. Although lighter than other guitars like this, it has the same dimensions. It is a full-sized guitar that comes with 36 frets, all of which will allow you to create some spectacular solos.
A lot of attention has been given to its craftsmanship and as a result, the construction is a beautiful and resistant one. Its body is made out of American Swamp Ash, and the fretboard consists of solid maple.
You get a tone knob as well as a knob that controls the volume, while the chromed tuners are diecast. The pickup will work well, and it is a standard P90 model. The guitar also comes with a small stand made to keep it horizontal, and you can detach that if you don’t need it.
The first thing you notice about this guitar is the design, and coming with a nice black finish, it will impress you, especially because you can also see the grain of the wood under the paint.
Made of entirely solid wood, the guitar will be sturdy and it can take a bump or two.
You don’t have to worry about its weight, as it only weighs 9 pounds, which is great for such a guitar.
The electronics are of good quality too, with the pickup being able to give you some clear sounds produced by a single-coil P90 model.
In terms of hardware, it does well too, with the tuners being diecast and holding the tuning for a long while.
The legs that it comes with are not that stable.
You might also want to replace the strings with some better ones.Buy from Amazon.com for ($109.95)
3. Lap Steel Guitar 6 Steel String Metallic Red Polish Body
If you’re looking for a cheap instrument that can help you in any situation, this is the one. This lap guitar can also be found in various models under various other brand names, as it is produced in China.
While the mass-manufacturing process explains the reduced price, this doesn’t mean that this guitar can’t produce quality sounds. It is a great model to practice and travel with, and that is because the scale measures only 21 inches. Seeing it for the first time, you can notice that this guitar has a nice design, with the strong red catching the eye.
It can be tuned like a regular guitar, but the strings also allow you to tune it way down if you want to, so it can be considered a versatile model. In terms of sound, it does better in the high frequencies, and that is what you expect from such a guitar.
The buttons are made of strong plastic, along with the pickguard, and the white paint on them works well with the red finish. Hardware-wise it is a good guitar, as the tuning keys work as expected and they hold the tune. One important aspect to mention is that the saddles are individually adjustable.
Made of solid wood, you won’t have any issues with the durability of this guitar.
As the scale measures only 21 inches, it is one of the most portable such models out there.
It has a great design, with the body being painted red and the pickguard white. It gives a clean feel.
The instrument is a versatile one, as it can be played and tuned like a regular guitar, but also tuned down if you want to experiment with it.
Its single-coil pickup does well in high-frequency situations and it is great for solos.
The hardware is where this guitar does best, as the tuning keys will stay in place and keep the guitar well-tuned, while the saddles are individually adjustable, meaning that you can work on each string separately.
You will need to replace the pickup if you want more gain, or if you’re looking for a stronger bass sound.Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.99)
4. Joe Morrell Plus Series Poplar Body 6-String Lap Steel Guitar
Learners that want to get their hands on an instrument fast will love this 6-stringed lap guitar for what it can offer. It is a guitar that will let you experiment, and it also comes with a nice transparent red finish through which you can see the wood grain. Taking into account what it can offer, it is a great model to start a career on.
Weighing only 7 pounds, this is a good choice for children, as it won’t get them tired if they play it for long periods. Despite it being lightweight, it measures a bit more than a standard lap guitar, being 34 inches in length, 7 inches wide, and 2 inches deep. You can see that it is pretty slim though.
If you are looking to buy a lap guitar made in America, you would love to hear that this model is made in East Tennessee. When crafting it, the manufacturers take it through a tough quality control process and that ensures the best outcome – a high-quality guitar.
It comes with a fretboard that has 2 octaves, and that is shown by the design on the fretboard. It has the needed knobs to control the volume and tone and a vintage lipstick pickup.
There aren’t many lap guitars that come with a stainless steel pickup plate, and that gives it an advantage over other models.
Being able to see the wood grain through the paint is always a nice thing, especially when the red of this guitar is so pleasing.
It is a guitar that only weighs 7 pounds and that means it is a great choice for beginners and children that would get tired holding a heavy instrument otherwise.
It is a slim model that is longer than a usual lap guitar, and that means it is easier to play.
Made in the USA, this instrument goes through rigorous quality-check procedures to ensure that the end product is a good one.
The string saddle is one in which all the strings connect, and that will make it harder for you to tune the instrument.Click to see the price on Amazon!
5. Gretsch G5700 Electromatic Lap Steel with White Plastic Fretboard
Those that want a steel lap guitar that has a futuristic look to it will be amazed by the design of this guitar. Made to last you a long time, this guitar doesn’t always have a strong build, but it is also well crafted, with attention given to all the small details. Another thing that makes it a good choice is the fact that it offers effortless playability.
You can get it in a classic sunburst finish or all black, covered with specs of white. Weighing 10.15 pounds it’s not the lightest model, but it’s not that heavy either. However, it is one of the largest lap guitars that you can find, measuring 38.5 inches in length, 15.2 inches wide and 5.5 inches deep.
Apart from the awesome design, it also gives you a sweet tonality that you will find to be suitable for a wide range of music styles, from country to Hawaiian and blues. The control plate features two knobs that allow you to adjust the tone and volume.
Its single-coil pickup is capable of providing good sound volume and a tone that is vibrant and bright. The hardware, including the diecast tuners, is chromed and it ensures a nice look.
You will be impressed with how this lap guitar looks like, with its futuristic design that has been given a lot of attention to.
Beginner players or those that are looking to play wild stuff on it will benefit the most from playing it as it offers effortless playability.
Being one of the largest models out there, you will have no problems hitting every fret as you like.
Its soothing sound is great for everything from blues to Hawaiian and country.
The single-coil pickup that it comes with will provide a vibrant sound that is rich in high frequencies.
Chromed diecast tuners ensure that the guitar stays in tune for a long while, and they also make it look nice.
The shapes and design of this instrument might not be for everybody.
You need to play with the tone knob to get the perfect sound, as the pickup tends to put too much emphasis on high notes.Buy from Amazon.com for ($399.99)
6. Gretsch Electromatic Lap Steel Guitar Black Sparkle
Make the night shine with the help of this beautiful lap guitar available in two cool shades, including black sparkle.
The item is suitable for both lefties and right-handed people, and, since it sits flat on your lap, it is much more comfortable than a regular guitar. It is loud enough to help you practice and, combined with an amp, you can even use it for live performances in front of crowds.
The instrument is made of high-quality and sturdy materials, which means it will last you a long time from now on and won’t break or chip easily, even if you drop it on the floor. It features chrome single-coil pickup volume and tone controls.
It is affordable yet helps you deliver high, clear, and crisp sounds, whether you want to practice your playing skills or create new music. It doesn’t make any noises and holds a tuning, which is the main criteria why it has become a popular item.
You can purchase this instrument in two different color choices. The Black Sparkle option is perfect for those who want to add a touch of glam to their guitar playing.
Since it is a lap-standing device, it is comfortable to play and won’t cause hand fatigue or shoulder pain when playing for longer periods.
The body and the controls are made of quality chrome-plated materials that are resistant to tear and wear, which means this guitar will last you a long time and will become a trustworthy partner for your practice.
You can easily plug it into an amp to add more volume and allow people to listen to your music.
The fretboard doesn’t lay completely flat but it doesn’t affect the sound or the portability of the device. However, you can take it off and glue it down to customize the instrument according to your preferences.Buy from Amazon.com for ($399.99)
7. SX Lap 8 Nat 8 String Lap Steel Guitar
If you’re looking for an instrument that will help you practice your skills and create new music at the same time, this product from SX represents a wonderful choice for beginner musicians.
It features 36 frets and offers a single-coil pickup that will deliver a clear and bright sound. The strings are widely spaced, allowing you to easily play the instrument and feel comfortable at the same time.
This steel guitar is suitable for a wide array of music genres, from bluegrass to country, Western swing, blues, and rock. The body is made of quality materials that won’t break or chip easily, while the flat design allows you to easily place the instrument on your lap and enjoy comfortable playing for hours in a row, without worrying about hand fatigue or shoulder pain.
It is delivered with a free carry bag and a detachable stand for when you want maximum freedom of movement.
Designed to resemble a classic acoustic guitar, this lap alternative features 36 frets and will help you reach crisp, clear, and bright sounds.
The strings are spaced widely, with ⅜ inches between each one, which leads to more comfortable and enjoyable playing.
The lap design allows increased freedom of movement for your hands and legs and won’t add extra pressure or cause fatigue when performing for hours in a row.
The set includes a protective bag that makes for convenient transportation and storage, as well as a detachable stand for when you don’t want to keep the guitar on your lap.
The sound you’ll hear from the guitar won’t be too loud even when using an amp, so don’t use the device for playing in front of a crowd or performing a live gig. However, the instrument is good enough for practicing when you don’t want to disturb your neighbors.Buy from Amazon.com for ($159.95)
8. SX Lap 2 Ash NA Electric Lap Steel Guitar
Are you looking for a full-sized guitar to practice your skills and gain more experience? This lap model from SX could prove a reasonable choice, especially if you can’t afford to spend a fortune on such instruments yet.
It comes with a standard P90 pick-up and die-cast chrome tuners, volume, and tone controls that will last tear and wear while remaining shiny and looking like new. The body is made of American swamp ash while the fretboard is made of maple wood, a unique combination of materials that will deliver a rich and full sound.
One of the best things we liked about the instrument is the free detachable lap steel stand included that ensures maximum freedom of movement when playing. The lap design is suitable for those who don’t want to develop hand fatigue from holding their guitar for hours during long practice sessions. Also, the carry case has plenty of room to store all the accessories to ensure convenient traveling.
This is a good instrument for those who have just picked up playing the guitar and cannot afford to spend a fortune on a high-end guitar.
Both the body and the fretboard are made of quality wood that is resistant to wear and tear while the finish coating will protect the instrument from extreme temperatures and weather conditions.
The guitar delivers a deep and warm sound, suitable for playing a wide array of music genres, from blues and bluegrass to rock and folk.
It is delivered with a protective case that ensures convenient transportation and storage, as well as a detachable stand for maximum freedom of movement.
The pick-up poles are far off the center which means you will struggle to get clean notes.
The tuners seem a little loose as if they weren’t screwed on very well so you’ll need to make some minor adjustments to this guitar.Buy from Amazon.com for ($169.95)
Our Comprehensive Buying Guide
You might be posing yourself the following question: is lap steel guitar easy to learn? If you’re already a pretty-experienced guitar player, you will have an easy time learning how to play the lap steel one. However, the essential thing is to have a good instrument that will help you with that. Here are some things to consider when buying a lap guitar.
Pay more – get more
As there is often the case with many musical instruments, the more money you pay for a lap guitar, the better it is, generally. Of course, there are some exceptions, like a good and cheap lap steel guitar made in China. But you will find out that not every affordable lap steel guitar is usable.
A quality instrument should offer you a good pickup and a solid body at least. There are some models that give you a gig bag and the legs too, but those aren’t that important, they are just accessories. And don’t forget about the material they are made of. A guitar constructed of solid wood with hardware made of chrome and a stainless steel pickup guard will be much better.
You don’t want the pickup to be too full of high frequencies, and you also want it to have some bass power, especially if you are going to tune the guitar down a bit. And that is one essential thing about lap steel guitars, as many beginners ask themselves – what is the tuning for a lap steel guitar? Well, there is no set one and these guitars need to be versatile and allow you to play in a wide range of tunings.
Check the fretboard
You would want a lap guitar to be lightweight, so when you hold it on your lap for a long time your legs don’t feel tired. The best beginner lap steel guitar is one that offers easy playability. The distance between each fret on the fretboard will also affect how easy it will be for you to play the instrument, but that is not the only important factor.
Many fretboards just have some dots scattered around them, and when playing at fast speeds, this makes it really difficult to realize what fret you are playing on, especially if you are a beginner and you don’t know your instrument that well. Can you play a lap steel guitar like a normal guitar? Not really, and with so many frets on a guitar like this, having a bit of differentiation between them matters.
It is even better if the fretboard has different colors for different sections, especially if it consists of 2 or more octaves. Of course, you can change the fretboard, but that is a demanding task that can only be done by an expert. Furthermore, a lap guitar with inlay is a beautiful instrument to look at, so try to search for something like that.
Guitar pickups need to be chosen based on intense research. Unfortunately, when buying a lap guitar that has been built by a manufacturer making dozens of other models, you will find that the pickup on the lap guitar is the same as one for a basic electric guitar. There is a problem here, as not all pickups fit all kinds of woods in terms of resonance and how they should sound like.
There are certain materials that sound better when coupled with certain pickup types. The essential issue here is to find the one combination that you think sounds best for you. Your pickup will need to have a rich tone and a loud volume, to ensure that everyone can hear you and that your music goes from a thick sound to a high-pitched one.
Of course, it is all based on preference, like is the case with many other instruments, but just make sure that you don’t just buy the first lap guitar you find without listening to it first.
Most lap guitars use a single-coil pickup model because those are the ones that are able to produce a clear sound.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Can you play a lap steel guitar like a normal guitar?
A lap steel guitar is different from regular guitars by having its strings placed in such a manner that they are far from the fretboard. Making contact between the string and the slide can be achieved, but only when you want to obtain a high pitch sound. The frets are present for references, so it can be said that more advanced players will find such a type of guitar a conquerable challenge.
The open chord tune for lap steel guitars is D-G-D-G-B-D, and that’s something you can also achieve with the help of a normal guitar. However, you should be well aware that a particular set of strings is necessary so that you can obtain the same sounds while using this type of tuning.
If you manage to press the strings enough without hitting the frets when you use a normal guitar, it will sound close to a lap steel guitar.
Q: What is the most common tuning for a lap steel?
A standard tuning for a regular guitar is E–A–D–G–B–E, going from low to high, but that’s not what a lap steel uses. Standard tunings for lap steels start with an open chord, so that’s the first thing to bear in mind. C-E-G-A-C-E appears to be the most common tuning for this type of guitar, but there are others you can try.
This choice also depends on the music genre you like to play. For instance, musicians who prefer blues or rock will most often opt for open G/open A or open D/open E. If you play bluegrass or country, an altered G tuning might be your most common choice.
You will also find that professional guitarists tend to use configurations they have identified to work over many years of practice. If you are looking for inspiration, they should be your first source.
Q: How is a lap steel guitar tuned?
Lap steel guitars are very limited in how they can be tuned, which is why musicians often look for the best methods of tuning so that they can obtain the sound they desire. Theoretically, you could tune a lap steel just like any regular guitar, but that’s not practical at all.
Open E, open D, open A, and open G are common tunings. One easy way to choose the tune for your lap steel is to customize it for the key of the song you intend to play. If the song is in E key, you should pick an open E tuning, and so on.
Quite a challenging instrument to master, a lap steel guitar requires a lot of practice. You will have to master singular notes and chords, and you will need to learn how to obtain a vibrato effect without too much hassle.
Q: What do you need to play a lap steel guitar?
You may have heard a lot of things about lap steel guitars and what a challenge they are to play. That is all true, but you should also know that it is also rewarding to master this instrument. Because there are no frets on the fretboard, there is a steep learning curve.
You will need to master the slide technique, and that may be the most critical challenge. That is why many musicians prefer to switch to a lap steel after they have mastered the regular guitar first.
A deep understanding of open tunings is also required. Getting used to the position of keeping the instrument flat on your lap is another challenge you should bear in mind. To remain in the correct pitch, you will need a higher accuracy than when using a regular guitar, and the fact that there are no frets is a tricky obstacle.