Guitar Aficionado is supported by readers. If you buy something after clicking on one of our links, we may get an affiliate commission from that & it won't cost you anything.
Lap steel guitar has a signature sound that can be found in a wide variety of different musical genres including blues and country. If you’re a beginner looking for your first lap steel guitar, you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we will cover some of the best lap steel guitars available for beginners. Read on to learn about the features each of these instruments has to offer.
Table of Contents
SX LAP 8 – Best Overall
The best and most recommendable lap steel guitar for beginners is the SX LAP 8. This instrument is a step above in quality compared to many of the other lap steels mentioned in this list. Plus, it’s an ideal entry point to an 8-string lap steel guitar at an affordable price.
The body shape and style of the LAP 8 has a very familiar 2-shouldered design.
The construction of the LAP 8 is also crafted as one conjoined piece. This means that the neck and body are connected together, with the backside being completely flat.
This lap steel guitar features a large open space in the headstock. This gives the instrument a unique look, taking inspiration from traditional classical guitars.
The body of the LAP 8 is crafted from American Swamp Ash. The beautiful natural color of the Swamp Ash is given the spotlight with this guitar, sporting a natural look with a satin finish.
Adding to the body’s aesthetic are two thin Rosewood inlays within the center of the LAP 8’s body. The color of these inlays is a nice combination with the natural Swamp Ash color.
The LAP 8’s neck has a scale length of 22.75”, and sports a Maple fretboard. The fretboard has 36 frets, providing a 3-octave playing range.
A repeating pattern of traditional inlays spans the neck so you can easily identify which register you are playing in.
The LAP 8 has a single-coil pickup, which can be controlled with the volume and tone knobs. Many owners of this guitar have found the tonal qualities to be quite tasteful and prefer it over other lap steel guitars.
This lap steel features Chrome hardware, including:
- A Chrome nut
- Chrome high-mass tuners
- Chrome trapezoidal bridge and tailpiece
- Chrome knobs
The width between each string on the LAP is about 0.375”. This gives enough comfortable space for the intrepid finger-picker to perform without being cumbersome.
One of the best features of the LAP 8 is the fact that it has the capability to be held on a stand. The guitar comes with 3 telescopic legs which screw into the back.
These telescopic legs have a height range of 27” to 48”. Due to the instrument’s thickness, the strings themselves would be roughly 2” above the height of the leg.
The legs give you the ability to have a stable setup for your lap steel. Ultimately, it allows you to perform more complex things without having to worry about the instrument moving on your legs.
If that wasn’t enough, the LAP 8 comes with a premium padded cloth gig bag. The gig bag should provide enough security for the lap steel while also providing room for the telescopic legs.
On the whole, the LAP 8 is an excellent offering for those looking for an accessible way of getting into 8-string lap steel guitar. The telescopic legs are ideal for anyone that wants to be serious about their performances.
Because of the telescopic legs and the gig bag, the LAP 8 is a noteworthy contender for an entry-level on-stage instrument. You can set the instrument up and walk away knowing your lap steel will always be set up the way you want it.
Item Weight: 7.6 pounds
Package Dimensions: 35 x 10 x 5 inches
Gretsch G5700 – Best Premium
For those beginners with a larger budget that are looking for an instrument that can also be suitable for intermediate-level players, the Gretsch G5700 Electromatic is a perfect solution. This is a unique and classic-looking lap steel guitar that provides an extreme amount of versatility and value at an affordable price.
The G5700 has a very unique body shape. However, this instrument is sure to be able to sit quite comfortably on the lap during play.
The body of the G5700 is crafted from solid Mahogany and features a gloss polyurethane finish. Adding to the aesthetic of the lap steel guitar is a tobacco sunburst that is perfectly accentuated with the glossy finish.
The neck of the lap steel is also made from Mahogany, and has a scale length of 22.5”. The fretboard is made of plastic, which has a white color that matches the overall aesthetic of the guitar.
This lap steel guitar has 28 frets. The entire fretboard is indicated with a unique pattern of inlays featuring shapes of triangles, diamonds, circles, and squares.
For a pickup, the G5700 is equipped with a Gretsch single-coil pickup. This pickup provides a classic tone with a bit of a bite when needed.
The tone of the G5700 can be easily dialed in with the master volume and tone knob. These knobs feature a backplate underneath, which adds a nice decorative flair to the lap steel guitar.
Elsewhere on the G5700 can be found a synthetic bone nut and open-gear tuners. The bridge is Zinc-cast and Chrome-plated and has a very recognizable look with an ashtray cover often seen on vintage-style instruments.
The G5700 also features a string-through-body design. This helps to add extra tuning stability and resonance to the lap steel guitar.
Overall, the Gretsch G5700 is a wonderful option for those looking for a highly playable lap steel guitar. This instrument is sure to be suitable for both beginners and intermediate players alike.
It is hard to ignore the G5700’s aesthetic features. This lap steel looks as if it is begging to be played.
Quite often, an instrument that is aesthetically pleasing in the way the G5700 is can provide inspiration and motivation to play the lap steel. It might not be the most important feature for some, but being able to connect with your instrument is paramount to continuing with your studies.
Item Weight: 8.2 pounds
Package Dimensions: 34.5 x 10 x 3.5 inches
SX LAP 3 – Best Budget
For beginners looking for a full-sized lap steel guitar on a serious budget, the SX LAP 3 is ideal for you. While guitar may not have some of the frills that other choices on this list may provide, it does not compromise playability.
The body of the LAP 3 has a very slim physique, with the middle of the lap steel guitar being its slimmest point. The body thickness is also quite slim, measuring about 1.0625”.
Despite this, the lap steel guitar has a very familiar design, with a headstock similar to those found on classical guitars.
The LAP 3 features a one-piece construction (body and neck conjoined) crafted from Basswood. This makes the lap steel guitar a lightweight instrument while providing a resonant quality.
The neck has a scale length of 22.75”, which is pretty comparable to most lap steel guitars. However, this instrument in particular has 36 frets, which is ideal for those looking to learn on a full-sized lap steel guitar with a 3-octave range.
The fretboard features traditional dot inlays for fret identification. The lower registers of this lap steel guitar have larger inlays, with the inlays getting smaller in the higher octaves. The pattern is continuous throughout each octave of the instrument.
For amplification purposes, the LAP 3 is equipped with a single-coil pickup that can deliver tones that are perfect for traditional styles of music including country, blues, swing, and more. Single volume and tone knobs allow for easy dialing-in of tones.
The LAP 3 also has Chrome-plated tuning machines as well as a Chrome-plated bridge with a trapezoidal tailpiece.
Also included with the LAP 3 is a gig bag and a glass slide. This means that you can easily transport and play the instrument right out of the box (cable and amplifier not included).
Overall, the SX LAP 3 is a perfect budget option for beginners looking to learn the lap steel guitar. Many previous owners have raved about this instrument, praising the amount of value that is packed into the lap steel guitar at an affordable price.
You really cannot go wrong with the SX LAP 3. Aside from an amplifier and a cable, this lap steel guitar has everything you need to get started. Its 3-octave range is a serious bonus.
Item Weight: 5 pounds
Package Dimensions: 35 x 9.5 x 4.5 inches
Recording King RG-35-SN
The Recording King RG-35-SN is another great option currently available for beginners. This lap steel guitar has everything you need to get started and is priced perfectly for the beginner’s budget.
The RG-35-SN features a body crafted completely of Mahogany. This gives the lap steel guitar a solid feel, allowing it to feel secure and stable on your lap.
The body itself has a traditional design resembling a double-shouldered non-cutaway acoustic guitar and features a slim thickness. You can be sure that the RG-35-SN will sit comfortably in a playing position.
Visually, the RG-35-SN has a 2-tone tobacco sunburst, which gives the lap steel guitar a very familiar vintage look. The color is accentuated with a gloss finish.
The neck of the RG-35-SN is also made of Mahogany and has a scale length of 23.5”. This scale length is similar to a short-scale guitar, which can provide an easy transition if you already play the guitar.
The fretboard has an exquisite Pearloid veneer, which spans the entire length of the neck. This feature gives the RG-35-SN a very classic look with a hint of flash.
26 frets are easily accessible on the instrument. Dot inlays are provided on the fretboard for quick fret identification.
The RG-35-SN is equipped with a single humbucker pickup. This accentuates the sweet tones inherent in the guitar.
For further tone control, the RG-35-SN has a volume knob and a tone knob. These knobs will allow you to dial in your tones of choice.
Elsewhere, the RG-35-SN has a fixed bridge and button tuning machines. This lap steel also has a string-through-body design, which provides extra tuning stability and resonance to the instrument.
Overall, the Recording King RG-35-SN is a no-frills lap steel guitar that is perfect for the beginner who has never played lap steel. This instrument provides everything that the beginner needs to get started, with the option of being capable of being a worthy instrument well into intermediate levels of play.
Item Weight: 7.63 pounds
Package Dimensions: 35.7 x 12.2 x 3.4 inches
For those beginners with a smaller budget who want a lap steel guitar that looks great and plays well, the Musoo 6-String is worth looking at. This tobacco-burst handsaw-shaped instrument has a classic vintage look that will look great on anyone’s lap.
The body and neck of the Musoo 6-String are crafted as one 29” piece with a flat back for extra lap stability. The instrument itself is made from solid Poplar, aiding in its minimal weight.
The neck area has a scale length of 21”, which features a fretboard made of black plastic. The fretboard itself has 28 frets, with roman numeral inlays providing easy identification.
This lap steel features a single-coil pickup, providing a tone that can be both smooth and twangy. A volume knob and tone knob allow you to dial in your ideal tones.
Adding to the aesthetic of the Musoo 6-String is a large stainless steel pickguard that covers the picking hand area of the instrument. This makes the lap steel guitar look like a futuristic (yet vintage) saw from outer space.
The Musoo 6-String’s tuners, knobs, and bridge all are made of chrome-plated stainless steel. The bridge itself features a 6-string saddle, with each string’s height and intonation easily adjustable with internal screws.
Overall, the Musoo 6-String is a noteworthy option for a beginner’s lap steel guitar, although some of the other instruments on this list might be a more viable choice. Either way, if you’re looking in this price range, it is pretty comparable to other instruments found at this budget.
Item Weight: 5.85 pounds
Package Dimensions: 30.31 x 6.3 x 2.76 inches
The Rogue RLS-1 is a great choice for beginners that are looking for an affordable and accessible option that can serve as a great student instrument. For the price, the RLS-1 is a lap steel guitar that offers premium-instrument value.
The RLS-1 has a traditional handsaw-shaped body style, with the instrument crafted of maple. The neck of the instrument has a scale length measuring 21”.
The fretboard of the RLS-1 is made of plastic and features 28 frets. Roman numeral inlays are provided for fret indicators.
The pickup in the RLS-1 is a single-coil. This gives the guitar tones applicable for country music, blues, and traditional Hawaiian music. A volume and tone knob allows for tonal adjustments.
This lap steel guitar features chrome hardware throughout the build. Each of the following components is chrome-plated:
- Closed gear tuners
- Bridge with 6-string saddle
- Adjustment knobs
Aesthetically, the RLS-1 has a sharp and classic look to it, sporting a red color that accents the black fretboard and chrome hardware perfectly.
One of the best features of the RLS-1 is the attachable legs that screw into the back of the lap steel guitar. These legs measure roughly 21”, but have a maximum telescopic reach of 37.5”.
These legs allow you to find your ideal playing height, which can be replicated time and again if you frequently have to travel with the instrument. They also provide stability to playing situations, as you can play without the worry of movement.
The RLS-1 also comes included with a gig bag, allowing for transport directly out of the box.
Overall, the Rogue RLS-1 is a pretty decent lap steel guitar for a beginner to learn the instrument. It is likely able to serve the individual well into their musical journey as a lap steel player.
Having a gig bag and attachable telescopic legs make the RS-1 a viable contender for the lap steel guitarist that desires to have a cheaper instrument to be able to transport to rehearsals and gig spaces.
Item Weight: 10.18 pounds
Package Dimensions: 31.2 x 9.4 x 5.5 inches
Gstyle Lap Steel
For beginners who are on an extremely tight budget, take a look at the Gstyle Lap Steel. This instrument should be able to provide you with everything you need to get started learning how to play the lap steel guitar.
The Gstyle Lap Steel has a body made of Okoume and is crafted in a familiar, traditional Hawaiian shape. With the neck and body combined, the lap steel has a length of 33.25”.
The neck has a scale length of 23.125” and has a plastic fretboard. There are 26 frets on the Gstyle Lap Steel, with white dot inlays providing easy identification of frets.
This instrument comes with the option of two different colors: tobacco sunburst or black.
For pickups and amplification purposes, the Gstyle Lap Steel has a P90 pickup, with a master volume and tone knob. This gives the guitar a nice gritty bite when the tone is in an overdriven scenario.
The Gstyle Lap Steel features chrome-plated hardware, including:
- Control knobs
- Pickup cover
- Closed-gear tuners
Overall, while this may be considered a cheap instrument, many people have found the Gstyle Lap Steel to be a great choice for beginners. Many people have given acclaim to this instrument for the value provided as well as the aesthetic appeal.
If your budget is tight, the Gstyle is a great option. There have been reviews of iffy craftsmanship, but much of the issues reported can be easily fixed by those who have experience with power tools.
Item Weight: 7 pounds
Product Dimensions: 35.5 x 12 x 4 inches
Is Lap Steel Guitar Easy Or Hard To Learn?
Like any instrument, a lap steel guitar can have an initial learning barrier. However, with practice, the lap steel guitar can be easily played by anyone who has the inclination and motivation.
Compared to absolute beginners, guitarists will likely have an easier time understanding the lap steel guitar during their first time playing. This is because the two instruments share much in common.
The trickiest aspect of playing the lap steel guitar is getting the slide technique down. There are a number of different techniques involved with the slide technique itself (vibrato, for instance).
Another aspect that could be tricky is understanding different instrument tunings. Quite often, people will tune their lap steel guitars to open tunings. This may be a foreign concept to guitarists who do not play in open tunings.
The picking technique may be tricky for some as well. There are many different styles of playing this instrument, ranging from using a pick to fingerpicking each string. This can take some practice getting to “second nature” feel and sound.
Overall, the lap steel guitar is very comparable to any other instrument in terms of sheer difficulty.
Is Steel Guitar Good For Beginners?
Beginners may be able to pick up the lap steel guitar fairly easily, especially if they are highly motivated to play the instrument. Quite often, lap steel guitars play a “background” role within music.
Due to this nature of the instrument’s application, beginners may be able to quickly become proficient enough to properly serve a song with the instrument. Lessons and practice will ease this process immensely.
What To Look For In A Lap Steel Guitar For Beginners?
Beginner-grade instruments are notorious for being of lower craftsmanship. However, there are a few things to keep an eye out for when you are looking for a beginner lap steel guitar.
Keeping these following points in mind will help you to find a lap steel guitar that can provide an excellent springboard to learn the instrument. There are always hidden gems within every budget level, and knowing this information can help you find them.
Playability & Versatility
A good lap steel guitar for a beginner should provide all of the necessary elements that make the instrument whole. This means that the instrument should be equipped with a good pickup, controls, and body design that is accessible.
A highly versatile lap steel guitar has the potential to serve you in more musical settings. For instance, if the lap steel has the ability to attach legs, you will be able to set the instrument at your ideal height.
Ensuring your instrument is at your ideal setup gives you a consistent foundation from which you can build your skills. It also provides stability and allows you to leave the instrument in playing position at all times, which is extremely convenient.
It might seem obvious, but the ideal lap steel guitar should have a good build quality. Quite often, it is pretty noticeable (from a visual standpoint) when a manufacturer cuts corners in their build process.
As beginner instruments are generally designed to be very affordable, there may be some unavoidable quirks in craftsmanship. However, as this is to be expected, these issues should not hamper your ability to play the lap steel.
If there happen to be any mishaps with the build quality, the instrument should be easily remedied. However, it is ideal that you shouldn’t have to worry about this type of problem at all.
Without a doubt, your budget is going to determine the quality of the instrument you are able to purchase. Lower range budget instruments are generally going to consist of the cheapest materials, with a lesser eye given to critical details.
If you can afford to spend more, and you are serious in your endeavors to play the lap steel guitar, a more expensive instrument is going to be far superior. These types of lap steels will often be quite suitable for on-stage and in-studio performances for the intermediate player.
At the end of the day, your skill level is going to determine the budget you are able to work with and the type of purchase you can justify.
Best Brands For Beginner Lap Steel Guitars
There are some notable brands that have a very good reputation for building quality lap steel guitars for beginners. If you are unsure of which lap steel is right for you, these brands provide a great starting point.
You can be sure that an instrument from one of the following brands is likely going to serve you well as you learn the lap steel guitar. Take a moment to learn about each one in greater detail.
SX Guitars was officially established in 1998, though the company has instrument-building experience dating back to the 1960s. The company was initially located within the United States but has since found a home in China after a series of many factory location migrations.
SX Guitars prides itself on creating extremely affordable instruments, packing a large amount of value into every offering. The company makes a wide range of acoustic guitars, electric guitars, basses, and folk instruments.
Gretsch is an iconic and famous name within the guitar industry. The company got its start in Brooklyn, New York, in 1883 and has continued to be a mainstay name within the guitar world.
Gretsch is known primarily for its guitars, which have been used by a wide range of famous professionals including Chet Atkins, George Harrison, Duane Eddy, and Eddie Cochran. Their instruments have a signature space-age look that is instantly recognizable.
Top Lap Steel Guitars For Beginners, Final Thoughts
Lap steel guitar can be a great addition to the mix in the right styles of music. Compared to the number of guitarists and bassists, lap steel players seem to be in short supply.
Fortunately, you can get started on a worthwhile lap steel guitar at an affordable price. Soon enough, you’ll be providing that distinct chime that this instrument is so well known for.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!