Lap Steel Tunings

Open G Lap Steel Tuning

The most common tuning for acoustic steel guitar (Dobro) is open G:

  1. D
  2. B
  3. G
  4. D
  5. B
  6. G

This tuning is great because you have three sets of strings one octave apart for each note in a major chord. This allows you to play the same thing an octave higher or lower by just moving down (or up) three strings. Super easy! If you want to do hammer-on styled playing this tuning works great as well.

More tunings …

Open A Lap Steel Tuning

Simply take the open G pattern above and move it up one whole step and you have open A:

  1. E
  2. C#
  3. A
  4. E
  5. C#
  6. A

Low Bass A (or Hawaiian A) Lap Steel Tuning

You may hear this tuning called either low bass A or Hawaiian A:

  1. E
  2. C#
  3. A
  4. E
  5. A
  6. E

Low Bass G Lap Steel Tuning

Same as low bass A listed above but tuned down one whole step:

  1. D
  2. B
  3. G
  4. D
  5. G
  6. D

Open E Lap Steel Tuning

Many lap steel players start out using open E:

  1. E
  2. B
  3. G#
  4. E
  5. B
  6. E

Open D Lap Steel Tuning

This is the same as open E listed above, however tuned down one whole step. This is a tuning used often by Ben Harper.

  1. D
  2. A
  3. F#
  4. D
  5. A
  6. D

C6/Am7 Lap Steel Tuning

The C6/Am7 Tuning is a very popular tuning. It’s tuned as follows:

  1. E
  2. C
  3. A
  4. G
  5. E
  6. C

Brad’s page of steel describes this tuning: The advantage to this tuning is you have almost every type of chord interval under the bar without having to slant the bar. C E G is an C major chord, A C E G is an A minor 7th chord, C E G A is a C sixth chord, etc. You can plays sixths up and down the neck without slanting the bar as much as you would in the open E tuning due to the fact that you have two sets of strings situated a sixth apart (the second and fifth strings are a major sixth, the first and fourth strings are a minor fifth).

The disadvantage is that everything you play sounds Hawaiian until you get your act together (or until you join a Hawaiian band). Once you learn how to play the right combination of strings (and more importantly, how to stay away from certain strings), you can play many different styles. Because the bottom strings are tuned much higher than normal, many people use a combination of fifth and/or fourth strings (in other words, lighter gauge strings) in the bottom three strings. This is the tuning that DeWitt “Scotty” Scott uses in his Basic C6th Nonpedal Lap Steel Method.

Some people play this tuning with the bottom string tuned to C# rather than C. This makes it a A7 tuning and gives you additional chordal possibilities. I think this tuning works better with eight strings.

More Lap Steel Tunings coming soon!