Not the most conventional guitar you’ll ever find. It can be tricky finding the best lap steel guitars to match the particular sounds and structures you are aiming for.
The best lap steel guitars give off rich tones when played and ought to have excellent build quality, good functionality, and are easy to play for any level.
They may not seem the most common instrument, but lap steel guitars are used regularly. They are common in folk, blues and Americana pieces.
If anyone was looking to get hold of a lap steel guitar, they might find themselves spoilt for choice, with many models and forms available. So what are the best lap steel guitars on the market today?
The best lap steel guitar models available today
- Chrome single coil pickup Volume and tone controls Chrome hardware Art deco control plate
If you wanted a lap steel guitar that screams style, then Gretsch Guitars have you sorted. The Gretsch G5700 is an electric guitar that sounds as good as it looks. Made from mahogany with a beautiful tobacco sunburst finish, it gives off full rich tones while looking like a classic piece from a top rock band.
The G5700 comes with a single-coil pickup to give some control over the overall sound, with additional controls for both tone and volume for additional effects. It also uses the famous Les Paul-style 22inch neck and frets to make it easy to slide up and down the board to play easily. It’s a marvellous instrument that is accessible for any lap steel enthusiast to enjoy.
- Fantastic look
- Glorious sound
- Easy to play
- They do not provide amplifier cords
- Strings often need re-tuning
Best Seller: ADM Hawaiian Weissenborn Acoustic Lap Steel Guitar
Sometimes, the classic design works best. That’s where ADM has struck gold with their classic Hawaiian Acoustic Lap Steel Guitar. Looking like many traditional lap steel instruments, this acoustic piece produces amazingly natural and clean sounds. This is aided by its all-natural Sapele-wood body that reflects the natural Hawaiian origins of the instrument itself.
It’s also extremely easy to use thanks to its lute-like teardrop body, making it easy to play both vertically and horizontally. Featuring an AAAA grade rating too, the body is durable and well-suited to be played both indoors and outdoors.
The fixed bridge prevents any warping too, allowing it to keep and hold its sound for years down the line. An excellent, all-around guitar enhancing all the classic lap steel tropes.
- Easy to play
- Beautiful wooden finish
- Shape awkward for younger players
- Doesn’t hold tune well
Premium Pick: Recording King Lap Steel Guitar
- Solid Mahogany Body
- Single EMG-Designed P-90 Pickup
- Volume and Tone Constrols
- Open Geared Tuners
- String-Through body Desing
Influenced by more classical guitar designs, Recording King’s Lap Steel Guitar covers all bases, making no sacrifices. Despite looking like an acoustic model, it is a fully electric model. Giving off some rich bluestones, the mahogany body and neck hold sound nicely and look the part too. It’s boosted by a Pearloid-finished neck board that allows for great precision when changing between chords.
Like most electric models, the Recording King model offers users separate controls for both volume and tone. These, along with the EMG P90 pickup, allow you to switch the sound up and vary it to find the level you want. Weighing just 5.3lbs too, it’s easy to hold and is just as practical to play horizontally as it is vertically. A guitar model with no real weakness.
- Good finish
- Easy to play
- Some build quality issues
- Controls not effective at influencing sound
- Produces classic country, Hawaiian, and blues tones Hardwood body Hardwood neck with position markers Single-coil pickup Volume and tone controls Chrome hardware Geared Tuners Single slant pickup Carry bag Includes 3 screw-in height-adjustable legs Stainless steel pickguard Includes legs
- Slide into some classic country, Hawaiian, and blues tones with the affordable Rogue RLS1 Lap Steel Guitar
- It features a hardwood body and neck with position markers, a single-coil pickup, volume and tone controls, chrome hardware, and a stainless steel pickguard
- Includes gig bag and legs
- Be sure to pick up a slide – we’ve got lots of cool models available! Slide into some classic country, Hawaiian, and blues tones with the affordable Rogue RLS1 Lap Steel Guitar
Not for the faint-hearted, the Rogue RLS-1 is a lap guitar that pays homage to its ancestors yet keeps a modern edge. The RLS-1 is fully electric however, you can play it like a more traditional instrument. This means it has an almost fully straight body made from a wood-metal combination to give a tinny yet rich sound.
What makes Rogue’s offering so appealing to players is how easily you can customize this. The set-up not only has controls for both tone and volume but also a chrome coil pickup and pickguard to create a multitude of sounds.
It also comes with three removable and adjustable legs and a stand too. This means you can play it on a stand and get creative with your playing techniques without sacrificing the sound or playing methods. It is a guitar that straddles both old and new customs.
- Classic look
- Well made
- Adjustable stand and legs included
- Unbalanced on legs
- Bass strings don’t hold tune
- Full Size, 36 Frets, Lap Steel Guitar
- Free Detachable Lap Steel Stand & Carry Bag Included
- American Swamp Ash Body with Maple Fretboard
- Diecast Chrome Tuners, Volume and Tone Controls
- Standard P90 Pickup Guitar is 22 3/4″ scale.
Sometimes bigger is better, and that’s exactly what you get with the SX Lap 2. Made from a mix of ash and maple, this monster electric lap steel guitar gives off some great bluesy tones when played on its stand. Its most distinguishing feature is the 36-fret neck board that is made for sliding and bending along.
It comes supported with a 3-leg stand and is easy to set up and adjust with minimal fuss. The Lap 2 comes with an adjustable bridge to help fine-tune your setup and a P90 pickup to change the overall sound. The all-wood design means that the designers have not given up anything in the overall finish and that the SX Lap 2 competes with the best of the business.
- Great bluesy sound
- Comes with supporting stand
- Looks great
- Some finish quality issues
What are the different lap steel models?
Despite the different brands and models, lap steel guitars fall into three distinct categories:
- Acoustic guitars
- National guitars
- Electric guitars
Each type comes with its own unique playing style and sound characteristics. Therefore, it’s important to know the properties of each type before picking one for you.
Acoustic guitars are the traditional form of the instrument. They were first made in Hawaii during the 1800s as the islanders looked to adapt their own version of the classical Spanish design.
The result is a guitar that is best played sitting on the player’s lap. They are best identified by having their strings sitting higher over the body and with special adapters slotted in just above the bridge.
National (or dobro) Guitars
Nationals are a unique take on the lap-steel instrument. We know national guitars for producing loud sounds. They generated this thanks to a cone-shaped resonator sitting under the bridge to increase the volume.
These louder, fuller sounds give off strong tones and vibes that are extremely popular with blues players. The instrument name also changes according to its body material, with steel models classified as national guitars and wooden models classified as dobro models.
As the name suggests, electric lap steel guitars are the amalgamation of lap steel guitars with modern electric functions. It’s here where you can fit them best into mainstream sounds.
This can include amplifying the sound, using effects devices and even playing it horizontally. These models are also more common to have wooden bodies rather than metal and are often played on stands because of their larger size and heavier weight.
Are all lap steel guitars electric?
No–lap steel guitars can be both electric and acoustic. Your own sound preferences and playing style will help determine what would be the better type for you to pick?
What material is better for guitars—metal or wood?
Both materials have their advantages when playing lap steel guitars. Wooden bodies give more natural sounds and allow for more creative finishes. However, metal guitars are more durable and easier to transport.
Do all lap steel guitars need stands?
No – many lap steel guitars can be played just while being held. Some models—particularly electric lap steel guitars—use stands because of their heavier nature and larger neck boards. However, many acoustic lap steel guitars are more compact and are easy to hold whilst playing.
So what are the best lap steel guitars around today?
As you can see, lap steel guitars enjoy a unique and strong following in the music world. They are very much a key ingredient in many blues and folk songs that are written to this day.
Many modern electric lap steel guitars come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes you can play in almost any format. Meanwhile, more traditional acoustic models maintain many of the traits that made them a cult classic for many music fans across the world.
No matter what model you choose, the best lap steel guitars will give you plenty of fun when playing and help create a new Americana classic whenever you feel like it.