In wanting to try my hand at playing lap steel, my first thought was to build something DIY. Then I decided a better idea was to convert one of my guitars to a lap steel. After looking carefully at the guitars there were 2 candidates with single pickups, because most lap steels have single pickups. The 2 were a 1966 Gibson SG Jr, and a 1955 Les Paul Jr.
I decided on using the ‘55 Les Paul Jr. because it had a wider neck. While doing some research I found the Grover GP1103 Perfect Guitar Nut.
All that was required to install was to loosen the strings and slip the Grover nut over the original nut under the strings and then retune the guitar. After about 30 minutes I had a lap steel.
I tuned the strings to an open E tuning rather than E6 or C6. Being a guitar player open E is the closest to standard tuning on the guitar and felt the most comfortable. Open E does not put as much pressure on the neck as C6 or E6 because the strings are tuned to lower pitches. Starting at the smallest string (string#1) Open E tuning is E B G# E B E .
Next I needed a Tonebar Slide to play the lap steel. After going to a few music stores and trying some I settled on a Jim Dunlop 926 Lap Dawg Tonebar. It has some grooves to hold it by rather than the traditional smooth round tonebar. The Lap Dawg was much easier to grip and control.
Since the tuning is open E, the notes are a little different than they are with regular guitar tuning, but with a little practice, you can catch on pretty quickly. For inspiration I listened to Jackson Brown, who uses David Lindley on lap steel, very nice playing!!
I also listened to Santo and Johnny Sleep Walk, there are a lot of tabs on the internet for it. Since most of the tabs for Sleep Walk are C6 and E6, I am working on a tab for open E, will post it when finished, so stay tuned!!