Some Things People Often Want To Know About Our Hawaiian Guitars

What tuning should I use?

Ah well, that is a vast and ever shifting subject. First, there is no standard tuning. Players often change their preferred tuning over time and even invent their own. Everyone has their own preferences. My own preference is EG#C#EG#B, but that is not a common tuning. Actually, I’ve never heard of anyone else using this tuning, so ignore me (but it is great for Santo & Johnny songs).

Dobro players usually play in DGDGBD or GBDGBD. That’s probably the most universal place to start and that’s how the guitar will be tuned to when I ship it to you.

You can use any tuning on an Imperial Valley Weissenborn that would make sense to use on an acoustic instrument like a Dobro. You cannot tune up an instrument like this to a tuning like C6th as used on solid body electric lap steels. If the tuning you want to use requires you to tune the 6th or lowest string higher than A, don’t do it. If you want to play in the popular 6th tuning, just tune to A6th instead of C6th.

Where are they made?

It depends. Generally speaking, we source unfinished bodies from Korea or China and make the instruments here in California. Sometimes we will try out an instrument that comes to us already completed. Often it’s not worth the the trouble to turn guitar shaped objects into actual instruments, but we do have suppliers that can and do send us beautifully finished instruments that we hardly have to do anything to. Our current supplier for the resonator guitar bodies is top notch.

Laminated or solid woods?

Again it depends, but at minimum every instrument we make has a solid top (except we currently have some all laminated Koa models. Koa is really expensive). Economically speaking the most bang for the buck is to use solid woods in the top where the tone is created and to use laminated woods for the sides and back. Structurally there are advantages to using laminated wood for the sides in particular, and we sometimes use solid woods for both the top and back and laminated wood for the sides.

Can I get it without a pickup?

Yes, just let us know. We have settled on the Fishman Presys system as the best match for our instruments, but some people just don’t want a pickup at all and others prefer to use a magnetic pickup like the Sunrise. We have found that almost all of our customers order their instruments with the pickup, so we just make them all that way. But once a year or so, we do a run for the I-don’t-want-no-steeking-pickup guys.

Do you provide the steel bar thing?

Nah, tone bars are a lot like toothbrushes (or sex). They’re very personal and everybody has their own preferences. If you’re starting out most people go with the Stevens type. That’s the bar with a kind of a groove on top. If you have a teacher, you should probably use what they use. In a nutshell, the Stevens type tone bar is easier to hold on to and to play fast with but a round bar has its own advantages, such as it’s easier to keep your slants in tune and they make a nicer vibrato. And they really do all have different tones depending on the weight and material. You’ll want to try a few to see what’s right for you.

What strings are on here?

The strings that are on the guitar when we ship it are medium gauge D’Addarios. You may want to put different gauges on when it comes time to change them. It just depends on what tunings you end up using and your own preferences.

How do I play this thing?

If you are starting out, or even if you’re not, I recommend going over to Brad’s Page Of Steel and just looking at stuff. There are lots and lots of great steel guitar resources on the web. You’ll find that the steel playing community is very generous with their knowledge. There’s also a really great Facebook page called Lap Steel Lunatics.