Lap Steel: How many of you play sitting down?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by decay-o-caster, Jun 21, 2008.

  1. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    I keep telling my frail, puny classical violinist of a girl friend that there's no sitting in rock when she plays with the band. So I can't imagine sitting to play lap slide. I use a cheap keyboard stand to hold the guitar at standing/playing level.

    Am I weird? Do any of you guys who play out with a lap steel actually sit down and put it in your lap? If you play both, does that mean taking off your "real" guitar and finding a seat to play overhand lap style?

    It's all new to me, so I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate it into what I do.
     
  2. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

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    See a lot of people play guitar with the a strap standing up, using a steel, the guitar is set so the strings are flat, the strap is attached at the headstock, this is very common way to play slide guitar or dobro in blue grass music.

    One of the best guitar players plays I know plays with the guitar in his lap, really amazing the things he can do with the guitar that way, he does not play slide or steel, however he does sit down like jeff healey


    [​IMG]
     
  3. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    I sit, but I tend to sit during gigs. If it were with a full band, I might use a keyboard stand, though one of the things that I like about the lap steel is the connection that I feel having it on my lap.

    Bryan
     
  4. GuitarsFromMars

    GuitarsFromMars Member

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    I sit when I use the lap steel-where do you think the word lap comes from?
     
  5. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    I know - I KNOW!!! That's why I'm so conflicted!

    Anyone have a valium??? ;)

    I'm just a rock and blues player, and like I say, there's no sitting in rawk unless you're one o' them piano players or drummers or something. And I wouldn't want my daughter to marry one o' them! So a keyboard stand seems the least intrusive way to switch from guitar to steel in mid-set.
     
  6. GuitarsFromMars

    GuitarsFromMars Member

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  7. slackandsteel

    slackandsteel Member

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    If you are playing a gig, I think the only way to go is standing. Playing lap steel and sitting is pretty boring to look at, especially since most players are staring into their laps to watch the left hand.

    I play gigs with a stand-up steel (Fender Stringmaster with two 8 string necks). The thing is on legs, and I stand behind it.

    I have other lap steels that I play on my lap but I don't usually gig with them.

    I also have an ancient lap steel stand that looks kind of like a cymbal stand but it isn't very stable. The old Hawaiian guys used to use these when they used lap steels without legs.
     
  8. 57tele

    57tele Member

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    First, I don't subscribe even a little bit to the 'no-sitting in rock' thing. Two of the best rock guitarists I've ever seen--Fripp and Kimock--sat. Second, yeah, I often sit to play the steel. Sometimes I play my stringmaster up on its legs, but that has more to do with microphone logistics (I sing, so it can be a pain to take the mic up and down as I sit and/or stand).

    For me, making music is about making music and I don't really care all that much about the whether the appearance meets some imaginary standard. I'm not at all against stagecraft and good production, but sitting vs standing isn't part of that consideration for me. (FWIW, I also have no objection to using--gasp--music stands and charts at a gig).

    I realize that some folks are pretty adamant about this stuff, but I always like to tell them that if they really want a 'show' I hear they put on some spectacular stuff at places like Branson and Disney World. :)
     
  9. paraedolia

    paraedolia Member

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    Great post! :BEER
    I just saw Harry Manx recently too; he sits, he plays, he's awesome.
    John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Peter Hammill, Bill Frisell (now there's a genre jump for you)...ask Alvin Youngblood Hart about playing sitting down (he's awe-inspiring too).
    Whatever, if you want a show, Madonna's touring. I'll stick to going to hear musicians play :)
     
  10. Ransome

    Ransome Supporting Member

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    I sit when I play my lapsteel. However at gig last night there wasn't enough room for a chair to be drug up on stage, so I had to prop one foot on my AC15 and lean into play my lapsteel. It was a bummer... I'd rather sit and be the odd man out when I play it.

    I also switch from electric to acoustic to reso to lapsteel during our sets. So changing is common place now.

    On the sitting not being "rock" Tito and Tarantula used to play their whole set sitting and they rocked hard!

    Ran$ome
     
  11. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    And Marc Ribot and Skunk Baxter when he broke his leg, and others. Yes, I know there are some killer players who play sitting, so this was somewhat tongue in cheek.

    Where I'm really coming from is a real-estate issue - when I play out, there usually isn't a whole lot of space available for two complete setups, fretted and lap.

    Does an extra chair take more space than a guitar on a stand? I dunno, it seems like the keyboard stand is a bit more practical, especially when you throw in vocal mic'ing conflicts. And you could certainly switch instruments faster with the steel on a stand than if you had to take off your Tele, set it down, pick up your steel, find your seat, yadda yadda, with less disruption of the flow of the set.

    But that's really why I'm asking the question - what's the least intrusive, disruptive way to switch instruments for a guitar player who also wants to play steel, and not pedal steel.
     
  12. 57tele

    57tele Member

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    Your post may have been tongue in cheek, but I'm always amazed at how many people take sitting vs standing seriously.
     
  13. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    Well, tongue in cheek or not, I get so full of nervous energy when I'm playing in front of people, I can't imagine how you could possibly play without at least pacing around or something. I'd feel like I was in a strait jacket if I were stuck in a chair.

    And while my singing is certainly nothing to write home about, I think your voice has better support standing than sitting, so if you are doing vocals that could be an issue too.

    But if sitting works for you or anyone else, more power to ya. I just can't do it. Which I guess is the final argument I need to make to myself to keep on using the keyboard stand when I take the lap steel out of the house.
     
  14. kimock

    kimock Member

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    You can play sitting or standing. I do both myself, but consider the standing posture a compromise; there's absolutely no question in my mind that I play better lap while seated.
    If you need to switch back and forth from "underarm" to "lap", just stick the steel on a keyboard stand and use any cheesy A/B box and you'll be fine.
    One weird thing about leaving a steel on a stand in a position on the stage where you can switch on the fly between gtr and steel is that the physical presence of the idle instrument and stand cuts you off from the rest of the stage.
    You're sort of a prisoner behind the contraption, and if part of the benefit of standing to play regular guitar is the freedom of motion/stage presence thing, the "steel on a stand" routine can wreck that in a hurry.

    Anyway, I still do both, but playing the lap seated is much better for me performance-wise on that axe, and not having the damn thing underfoot when I'm not playing it is much much better for the regular guitar performance stuff on every level. If you're gonna sing, you should probably just stand and play bottleneck, that rocks.

    Re: Can't sit down to rock.

    If Keith Moon were here he'd knock you're f--kin' teeth down your throat . . .:BEER

    peace sk
     
  15. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    Evidently he'd have a lot of volunteers around here to help him with that! :)

    Truth be told, I'm having trouble getting the muscles to work properly when trying to play steel seated - my shoulder seems to want to be higher, so I end up with it against my left ear when I'm sitting and playing. I figure that's just another flaw in my character... :eek: Either way, a little extra distance to the steel seems to help me with intonation and movement.

    But as I said, this is all pretty new to me, I'm just trying to reach a reasonable accommodation. It's an interesting point about the physical and psychological barriers, though.
     
  16. kimock

    kimock Member

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    I wonder what Jack Black would say?

    If you're uncomfortable sitting, don't worry about it, stand up.
    On the other hand, the shoulder up posture you describe makes me think that maybe you're holding the steel too straight across your body and too close.
    When I play seated, my right hand is right over my leg, my nose is pretty much lined up with the "12th fret" and I push the neck away from me until the reach is comfortable. So the guitar is sitting at an angle with the right hand closer to the body. This feels a little more natural to me for my left wrist as well, less reverse slant as you go up the string and your arm gets closer to your body.
    In any case, it's pretty much a lost cause trying to control the bar with your hand right in front of your body, so to switch to a higher position I just give the guitar a little squeeze against my right leg with the heel of my picking hand and slide the whole neck to my left.
    In practice this winds up being only two positions, I'm either looking straight down at the 12th fret or the 24th fret.

    See what I'm saying? My left hand stays in a comfortable place reach and angle-wise, and the guitar gets pushed around a little "carried" on the right leg, sliding on the left to gain purchase of the new position.

    None of that would work if you're sitting too high, you're knees are pointed together, or you're feet are too far apart.
    Sweet spot for the picking hand is right over the leg, body of the guitar close in, push the neck away from you till the left hand is comfy, don't try to cross the left hand in front of the body.
    That's about it.
    If you look at all that, and it still doesn't work sitting, so what?
    No biggie, stand up! have fun.

    I've been at it for a while and I still feel like a beginner! I like that.
    Take your time, it'll come.

    peace
     
  17. dhdfoster

    dhdfoster Silver Supporting Member

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    I really think the name "lap steel" says it all.
     
  18. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    Well, the first one I bought was a "console" steel, so there are precedents for playing off the lap. It'd be pretty tough to balance a double-neck on your lap, I suspect.

    Thanks for the tips, SK - I'll try rearranging myself to see how that works. I'm assuming most of you sitting guys play on a hard-ish stool for support and stability?
     
  19. kimock

    kimock Member

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    With the console/multi-neck thing the sitting/standing issue is probably more about using a volume pedal than anything else imo. If you need to use a volume pedal, and you can keep your balance and posture together while you're standing, there's no real need to sit, right?

    Again, I do this both ways with my multi-neck instruments, but prefer to sit if I need the volume pedal. Probably a throwback habit to my early pedal steel experience.
    Funny you should mention double neck on the lap, I do that too with my double six Oahu.
    It's just like everything else, some guitars you need to step back from, some you got to get right on top of, some sit better, some stand better,
    No problem.
    Just try and get comfortable and relaxed with the steel anyway you can, and that's what's right for you and best for that guitar today.
    Re: chair.
    You got to have the right chair, but that could be anything.
    Sometimes when I'm playing lap I just stand up and play the thing overhand while awkwardly clutching it to my body the best I can with my forearm while standing on one foot and making faces, so I might not be the best guy to ask. . . :AOK

    HAVE FUN!!

    peace
     
  20. decay-o-caster

    decay-o-caster Member

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    With all respect for you and your abilities and experience, I think I'm NOT going to try that technique, thanks! :roll

    When I use a volume pedal I tend to get confused and use it like a wah-wah, so that part of my playing needs an awful lot of work!
     

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