My Non-Pedal Tunings

I used to play a Fender Stringmaster D-8. It was set up for traditional country and western swing like this:

Front Neck E13
   .013   F#
   .012   G# 
   .015   E  
   .018   C# 
   .020p  B  
   .024w  G# 
   .034   E  
   .036   D
Back Neck A6 or C6
   .015   E     E
   .018   C#    C
   .022p  A     A
   .026w  F#    G
   .034   E     E
   .038   C#    C
   .046   A     A
   .054   F#    G

These days I’ve settled into D/G (D over G) tunings. My main 10-string pedal steel is tuned to D6/G, so keeping the non-pedal instruments tuned to the same notes helps me move from one instrument to another. The Stella album was recorded in D/G, which is also how I tune my 6-string resonator and electric lap steels.  It’s actually just 2 notes different from the standard G Major Dobro tuning. My 8 string Sierra electric is tuned to D6/G, like the middle 8 strings of my pedal steel.

D/G for Dobro or Lap Steel

   D    .016     .015
   A    .019p    .018p
   F#   .028w    .026w
   D    .036     .034
   B    .046     .038
   G    .056     .048
D6/G for 8 Strings
   .013   F#
   .015   D
   .018   B
   .020p  A
   .026w  F#
   .034   D
   .038   B
   .048   G

On the squareneck reso, I use a dobro set and slack the 2nd and 3rd strings. On Stella and the electrics, I use the same gauges that I use on the pedal steel.  Keeping it simple.

-Bobby Lee

6 Replies to “My Non-Pedal Tunings”

  1. Hi Bob,
    I’m going to try you E9th tuning today.
    Also like that D/G 6 string tuning so think I’ll set that up on my Chinese Fender lap steel. Looks like it’s actually a D6th/Gmaj9th combination. Should just about max out the possibilities for 6 strings.
    Still like the A6th for my 8 string Clinesmith, but will have E13th on the next Clinesmith aluminum JM Model. Should get that in June.
    If I find I don’t like the E13th then I’ll switch to E9/6th like I have on an old Morrell 8 string. Bottom up; E F# G# B E G# C# F#. For some tunes I drop the low E to D for the 7th. Lot’s of E9th pedal & knee lever sounds with slides into and out of slants.

  2. Hey, your D/G is the closest I’ve found to what I’m using…. I have the exact same, except the G is a G#! Not good for the open strum, but it gives you a 1/2 dim chord on the bottom 4 strings, which I love. Same inversion as the min7 just up 3 frets…. And a slant will get you augmented. I like going back and forth from blues to swing, and it’s working well for me. cheers!

  3. Just finished up a re-furbish job on a Fender Stringmaster (?) 1959 according to the serial number. Now I need to find the correct strings. Randall Palmore (albany, Tex.) said to holler at you——I want to get two complete sets(32) of strings. I’m a bass player, elect. or my 1958 Kay fiddle. I have NO intention of trying to play this thing—-I’ve seen what it can do to people ?? HA HAHAAAA….I got this from my ol’ pickin’g buddy from 1971…He passed away about 20 years ago, and his widow got me to pick up his old Fender and said ” I know you will take care of it for Clarence” I have some pictures I can text you, but I really need the strings ..I looked up Cashdollars’ tunings—man, there’s some BIG ol’ honkin’ strings on both necks !! I think I’d rather stay with your tunings……… Thanks-Ray A. Clark..

  4. Hi Bob, I’m writing to you from Italy, I recently bought a Lap Steel and I love it more and more. Here in Italy it is not a widely used instrument, but I am learning that it is a very versatile instrument with which you can play any genre.
    I really love 70s psychedelic rock and I’m trying to find my right configuration for one man shows. I would like to ask you for some advice on tuning. Since I play and accompany myself, even with the use of a looper, I would like to play lap steel with open tunings that guarantee both easy accompaniments and chords and possibly solo parts (often pentatonic scales).

    For my ’79 Fender Deluxe 8-string what open tunings would you recommend and with which string groove?

    Thank you so much for your advice and congratulations again for the valuable help you give to those who are just beginning to approach this wonderful instrument.

    With affection

    1. Hi Joseph!

      This is Shoshanah. I am writing for my dad Bob, who recently died. So, he may not be able to recommend tunings for you, but I think that, if you join the Steel Guitar Forum, you could find some kind and knowledgeable people to help you there. It’s free to just read if you like, and $5 to join (for life) and post comments:

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