Best Lap Steel Guitar for Beginners
Whether you play rock, country, blues, gospel, or your own blended take on these styles, lap steel guitars can give your music its unique voice.
But as with all instruments, it’s best to start at the beginning and build a solid foundation before working your way up through the ranks. We’ve created a starter list of the Best Lap Steel Guitars for beginners.
What is a Lap Steel Guitar?
Basics first, as the name suggests, lap steel guitars (often called simple lap steels) sit across the musician’s lap with the strings facing upward.
Your dominant hand plucks a pattern on the strings, while your off hand runs a steel bar up and down the neck to produce different chords and notes.
Although many lap steel guitarists employ metal and/or plastic fingerpicks to give their music a louder, brighter sound, others prefer the muted, nuanced playstyle that comes from using bare fingertips.
While similar in construction and usage as a pedal guitar, the lap steel guitar lacks the pedals that give pedal steel guitars their complex look and sound.
With a shorter scale and more budget-friendly design, lap steel guitars are a great way to go when first entering the world of slide instruments.
Even these steels have a wide variety of range, however, so it’s important to find one that fits your budget and skill level.
Thankfully, beginner lap steels are plentiful, so there is sure to be the perfect option to suit any budding player’s needs. All of the different options on this list come in at a reasonable price, meaning that they make an ideal means of testing the waters before committing to a professional grade lap steel.
The Rogue RLS-1 is about as beginner-friendly as lap steel guitars come.
This model is mass-produced in China, and it won’t have the same quality as a domestic model, but its low price makes it unbeatable as a starting instrument.
The RLS-1 comes under a variety of brand names including Rogue and Cozart, but all are house brands of the favorite Musician’s Friend company.
No matter the manufacturer, each of these steels consists of a generic wooden body and enough frets to span three octaves. This model comes with a single coil angled pickup; some customers have mentioned that the output jack is placed in a strange position that can interfere with the player’s hand movement, but this is an easy fix with an angled plug.
The RLS-1 also includes detachable legs and a protective gig bag, meaning that it’s a breeze to pack up and take it on the road.
At this price, you will be hard-pressed to find a better bang for your buck than the Rogue RLS-1. This lap steel delivers a distinct funky vibe to any musical ensemble, and its low price tag means you won’t have to break the bank to expand your musical repertoire.
SX Lap 2 Ash
Like the Rogue RLS-1, the SX Lap 2 Ash is an inexpensive model that is great for those just starting out.
Coming under a variety of brand names such as SX, Douglas, Hadean, and Agile, these instruments are manufactured in Asia but can still hold their own against much more expensive alternatives.
As the name implies, the Lap 2 Ash has a body made of American Swamp Ash wood but a fretboard constructed from maple.
This model features 36 frets and a standard P-90 pickup, the same style as original pickup models used in the 1950s by big names such as Gibson.
If you want to take your lap steel somewhere else to jam with friends, this model also includes a gig bag and removable legs.
Thanks to its improved design, the SX Lap 2 Ash steel has a better versatility than its Lap 1 predecessor, making it ideal for newcomers to the lap steel world.
The tone is warm but still carries enough power to shine in a full-band setup, and the P-90 pickup excels at producing that classic slide guitar sound.
Recording King RG-32-SN
Just above the Rogue RLS-1 and the SX Lap 2 Ash in price is the RG-32-SN from what is likely the most recognizable brand on this list, Recording King.
This model features a solid mahogany body and a traditional P-90 pickup, but its biggest standout is its stunning sunburst color scheme.
If you’re searching for a gorgeous instrument that sounds as good as it looks, then the RG-32-SN is for you.
Thanks to its mahogany construction, the RG-32-SN provides a powerful attack and sustain, meaning that it will shine no matter the genre.
This model is ready to play right out of the box, but keep in mind that, unlike many other models on this list, this one does not come with a gig bag or legs.
WINZZ Hawaiian Weissenborn Classic Acoustic
While every other item on this list has been an electric lap steel, the Hawaiian Weissenborn Classic Acoustic offers something unique with its electronics-free design.
Just as the acoustic and electric versions of traditional guitars are their own unique instruments, an acoustic lap steel will have a quieter, gentler tone than its electronic counterpart.
The difference can be good or bad depending on the style of music, as well as whether or not you plan to play with other people.
Because acoustic instruments create their signature sound by bouncing sound waves around the inside of the hollow body, the Hawaiian Weissenborn Classic is a bit thicker than the other items on this list.
It also lacks the amp pickup of a professional touring model, so be prepared to play it either alone or with minimal accompaniment.
This model is the most expensive instrument on this list, but the result is that it’s built of the highest quality materials.
The body is made of Sapele wood, while the fingerboard is rosewood and the bindings are maple.
To top it off, the strings are steel rather than nickel, so they can deliver a quality acoustic sound when they’re plucked with or without fingerpicks.
If you’re a committed musician who wants a solid-quality new instrument to tinker with but doesn’t plan to use it for live performances, then the Hawaiian Weissenborn Classic Acoustic is perfect for you.
Best Lap Steel Guitar for Beginners List
Whether you’re a seasoned guitarist looking for a new challenge or an aspiring new musician looking for their niche, a beginner-level lap steel guitar is the best way to learn the ins and outs of the instrument without leaving an empty wallet behind. Although they vary in price, construction, and accessories, any of the options on this list would make an excellent initiation to the world of the lap steel. If you decide to record check out these home recording tips we wrote about.