ArtistWorks Blog

Lap Steel Guitar vs. Dobro: What are the Differences?

Andy Hall was in the ArtistWorks studios recently recording a new section for his online students on lap steel guitar. One of the first lessons he recorded was on comparing the differences between playing Dobro and lap steel guitar. As you'll see, they relate quite a bit but there are some key differences and similarities. As Andy explains, some music lends itself better to playing lap steel vs. Dobro.

Lap steel guitar has a plugged in electric sound, which also gives it a more sustained tone for playing single notes or chords. In Dobro a lot of your volume comes from your hands and how hard you're hitting the strings. In lap steel however, you can just adjust the volume for a lighter or louder sound. 

Also because it's plugged in you can give it more volume with the turn of a dial, which may be better if you're playing in a band with drums for example. A lap steel guitar can get louder before anything feeds back and has a more clear, direct tone. Because of this, it can cut through in a mix quite a bit - which makes it better for louder situation.

You can hear that the lap steel has a different tone than Dobro, it's less bright and you can also get a bit of distortion going which makes it a more familiar sound for blues and rock music. If you really want to cut through and rock out, playing lap steel takes a lot less physical effort than playing Dobro. 

The general technique is pretty similar for lap steel, although you don't use fingerpicks on the index and middle finger. You can use metal fingerpicks, but it creates more of a harsh sound. Instead, Andy recommends using the flesh of two fingers, and use the thumb pick to get a stronger sound. This might take you some time to get your calluses built up, but the results will be worth it.

dobro vs lap steel

These are just some of the differences of these two unique string insturments, and Andy gets more in depth throughout the new lap steel lessons. Here's what's also available to his online students in the Lap Steel section at ArtistWorks:

  • Introduction to Lap Steel
  • Right & Left Hand Technique     
  • Basic Blues Scale (Key of D)     
  • Double Stops & Chords 
  • 12 Bar Blues 
  • Hammer-Ons & Pull-Offs 
  • Sliding     
  • Vibrato     
  • “Movin Blues” 
  • “Sweet Home Chicago”     
  • D Major Pentatonic Scale     
  • “When the Saints Go Marching In”
  • Double Stops in D
  • “Jambalaya”     
  • “Deep River Blues”     
  • “Indian Peaks”     
  • “Preachin Blues”     
  • “This Little Light of Mine”    
  • E Blues -    
  • Open G Tuning 
  • “I Saw the Light”     
  • “Auld Lang Syne” 
  • “Oh Susannah” 

Related Dobro Blogs:

Learn more about Lap Steel and Dobro Lessons at ArtistWorks with Andy Hall at http://artistworks.com/andy-hall.

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