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Table steel guitar

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 10 years, 9 months ago

Intro

A table steel guitar is an electric steel guitar without pedals, designed to be set up on a table in front of the player, or in a similar playing position using its own attached legs. A prototypical example is the Fender Stringmaster, with from two to five necks each of eight strings.

 

Fender simply called the Stringmaster a steel guitar. Gibson manufactured similar instruments such as the Gibson Console Grande, and as a result Gibson fanciers tend to call any table steel guitar a console steel guitar. So table steel is perhaps more generic but console steel is a little more popular on Google, see here and here. There were and are many other manufacturers besides these two.

 

You could say, and there's some historical validity to this view, that a table steel guitar is simply a pedal steel guitar without pedals (or knee levers), and with fewer strings per neck, and often with more necks to make up for these two limitations. Because of the lack of pedals, it's not essential for a table steel to have its own legs, as it is for a pedal steel; You couldn't remove or fold up the legs of a pedal steel and put it on a table to play it, but that's exactly what you can do with a table steel, hence the name. Another way of looking at this is that a table steel is a steel guitar that isn't a lap steel guitar, but isn't a pedal steel either, instead it's somewhere in the middle between these two. All table steels in practice are electric, like pedal steels.

 

A similar naming convention is used to that used for the pedal steel guitar:

  • D-8 or double eight means two eight string necks.
  • T-8 or triple eight is three necks of eight strings each.
  • Q-8 or quad eight is four eight string necks.
  • Five neck models are called quint eight or just quint, as Q-8 is already taken to mean four.

 

A single-neck electric steel without pedals is probably better considered a lap steel guitar, for example the Fender Deluxe which is the single neck version of the Fender Stringmaster, with six or eight strings. But the line between an electric lap steel and a table steel is fuzzy. This site considers any guitar that can comfortably be played in lap steel fashion to be a lap steel, not a table steel, for example the Regal 8/7 with eight strings on the near neck and seven on the far neck. Many electric lap steels, including even single-neck six-stringers such as the Fender Deluxe six, do have legs that are detachable or folding. Many other lap steels, such as the six-string 1961 Sears-Roebuck Hawaiian Electric Guitar, were sold with an optional stand. The existence of an optional, detachable stand doesn't make it a different instrument, and particularly doesn't have any effect on the choice of tuning, which is our focus here of course.

 

Table steel guitars in practice have eight strings per neck and from two to five necks; Anything smaller is playable as a lap steel, and anything with more strings per neck has pedals. The D-8 is borderline; Some of these can be played lap steel fashion but most are true table steels, and again this doesn't affect the choice of tuning so here we take a deep breath and call all D-8s table steels, knowing it isn't strictly true.

 

Table steels most often have two or three necks, four is rarer but Fender had the four neck Stringmaster Quad in their catalog until 1968 and Gibson made a similar instrument. Five necks is rarer still but there are surviving factory-built examples by both Fender and Gibson, generally looking rather like a two and a three neck model bolted together, for example featuring a second set of volume and tone controls for the rear two necks and in one case by Fender a different body colour for the rear two necks.  .

 

For many creative purposes the pedal steel guitar has replaced the table steel, but the table steel still has players and enthusiasts.

 

Tunings

 

Lacking pedals, table steel guitars boast a greater variety of open string tunings than pedal steels (by open string here we mean, with no pedal or knee lever operated).

 

There are two fairly standard E7 tunings:

  • E - G# - B - d  - e - g# - b - e'

 

  • E -  B - d  - e - g# - b - d - e'

 

Note that these changing between these two requires six of the eight string gauges to be changed, but if you move strings 3-7 and 2-6 up or down one place, you only actually need one new string.

 

External links

 

 

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