The Lap Steel Tunings Database

Quick reference to common lap steel guitar tunings

There are probably hundreds of lap steel tunings being used by players today. It would be nearly impossible to list them all. In fact, even in this brief summary, there are more than 80 tunings listed! In earlier days, many musicians protected their tunings as trade secrets, sometimes going as far as detuning their instruments when they left the stage for a break. Thankfully, those days are gone, replaced by a spirit of sharing. In that spirit of sharing, I created this web page that covers most of the 6, 7, 8 and 10 string tunings a lap steel player is likely to come across. I’ve also included some great links at the bottom of the page for anyone that wants to dive deeper.

All tunings are listed from low to high (thick to thin, lower case indicates reentrant string)

6 String Lap Steel Tunings

Most Popular 6 String Tunings
  • Open A – A C# E A C# E (high bass)
  • Open A – E A E A C# E (low bass)
  • C6 – C E G A C E (probably the most popular modern tuning)
  • Open D – D A D F# A D
  • Open E – E B E G# B D
  • Open G – G B D G B D (Dobro)
  • Open G – D G D G B D (low bass)
Other Popular 6 String Tunings
  • A6 – C# E F# A C# E
  • B11 – B D# F# A C# E
  • C6 – G C G A C E
  • C6 – E C G A C E
  • D6 – D B D F# A D
  • D6 – D A D F# B D
  • D7 – D C D F# A D
  • Dm – D A D F A D
  • E6 – E B E G# C# E (usually referred to as C#m7
  • E7 – E D E G# B E
  • G6 – G B E G B D
More 6 String Tunings
  • C13 – Bb E G A C E (often referred to as C6)
  • C13 – A D Bb G C E
  • D6 – D B D F# A D
  • D6 – D A D F# B D
  • D7 – D C D F# A D
  • D13 – C D F# A B D
  • Dmaj7 – D A D F# A C#
  • E7 – B D E G# B E
  • E9 – G# B E G# C# F#
  • E13 – B D E G# C# E (sometimes referred to as C#m7)
  • Open F – F C F A C F
  • Fmaj7 – F A F A C E
  • Fmaj7 – F C F A C E
  • G6 – E G B G B D
  • G9 – G B D F A D
  • Gmaj9 – G B D F# A D (Bob P. Lee)
  • G11 – G B D F A C
  • G13 – E G B G D F
  • LeavittC# E G Bb C D

7 String Lap Steel Tunings

  • A6 – A C# E F# A C# E
  • A7 – A C# E G A C# E
  • C6 – A C E G A C E
  • C13 – Bb C E G A C E
  • Open D – D F# A D F# A D
  • Open E – E G# B E G# B E
  • G6 – E G B D G B D
  • G6 – G B D E G B D
Less Common 7 String Tunings
  • Diatonic – E F G A B C E (Jerry Byrd tuning)
  • C6+A7 – A C# E G A C E (Jerry Byrd tuning)
  • Fmaj7 – F A C F A C E
  • G6 / Em7 – E G B E G B D
  • G6 – e E G B G B D (reentrant)
  • G9 – g G B D F A D (reentrant)
  • G13 – G B D F A C E (includes 9th and 11th)
  • G13 – E G B G B D F

8 String String Lap Steel Tunings

Most Common 8 String Tunings
  • A6 – A C# E F# A C# E F#
  • A6 – F# A C# E F# A C# E
  • B11 – B F# B D# F# A C# E
  • C6 – A C E G A C E G
  • E9 – E G# B D F# G# B E
  • E13 – E G# D F# G# B C# E
Other Popular 8 String Tunings
  • A6 – A C# E F# A C# E F#
  • A6 – F# A C# E F# A C# E (Herb Remington, Cindy Cashdollar)
  • B11 – B F# B D# F# A C# E
  • C6 – A C E G A C E G
  • C6+A7 – A C C# E G A C E (Jerry Byrd tuning)
  • C6+A9 – B A C# E G A C E (Joaquin Murphey – referred to as C6/A7)
  • C13 – G Bb C E G A C E
  • C13 – Bb C E G A C E G (Junior Brown)
  • C13 – C Bb C E G A C E (Low C – used by Jerry Byrd)
  • C#m7 (E6) – E G# B D E G# C# E
  • D9 – F# A C D F# A C E
  • E7 – E G# B D E G# B E
  • E9 – E G# B D F# G# B E
  • E9 – G# B D E F# G# B E
  • E13 –  B D E G# B C# E G#
  • E13 – B G# D E G# B C# E
  • E13 – E D E G# B C# E G#
  • E13 – E G# D F# G# B C# E (includes the 9th – F#, used by Cindy Cashdollar)
  • F6 – D F A C D F A C
  • Fmaj9 – F A C E G A C E (Andy Volk – think of this as C6 over Fmaj7)
  • G6 – G B D E G B D E
  • G13 – G B D E F G B D
  • G13 – G B D E F B D E
  • G13 – E G B D F A C E (includes 9th and 11th)
Most Common 10 String Tunings

10 string lap steels are less common than their 6, 7, and 8 string counterparts, and with 10 strings to choose from the number of potentially useful tunings is nearly infinite. These three are most common.

  • C6 (Fmaj9)– C F A C E G A C E G
  • Alkire – C# E F F# G G# A B C# E
  • Robinson “C6” – F A C E G A C E G D (pedal steel C6 tuning)

Papa Dafoe* Personal Tunings

6 String
  • Fmaj7 – F A F A C E
  • G13 – E G B G D F
  • G9 – G B D F A D
  • G6 – E G B G B D
7 String
  • Fmaj7 – F A C F A C E
  • G13 – E G B G B D F
  • G13 – e G B G B D F (reentrant)

* Papa Dafoe tunings appear courtesy of Allan Revich

Additional Steel Guitar Tuning Resources

The websites below are highly recommended. In addition to many more tunings, there is information about lap steel history and famous players. Tunings used by notable musicians are also within these pages.

A Note About Lap Steel Tuning

Sometimes it seems as if there are as many tunings for lap steel guitar as there are players of lap steel guitar. This may be because every tuning requires compromises. This is the result of an inherent conflict between simplicity and versatility. The simpler tunings, such as Dobro G, GBDGBD, allow one to play any major chord, up and down the neck – and it’s nearly impossible to make a mistake doing it. So why not just tune to a major chord and be done with it? Because a lot of music demands more than just major chords!

So, players started exploring tunings that had more extended chords built in to them. Starting with dominant 7 chords, with E7, and then progressing to 6th tunings that allow easy majors, 6ths, minors, and minor 7ths. From there, more and more tunings evolved, and strings were added to increase the possibilities even more.

Now, as can be seen by the abbreviated lap steel tuning database above, there are tunings galore. Each of which provide the options and advantages sought be individual players. In a nutshell, the more different notes there are in a tuning, the more versatile the tuning will be—and the more possibilities there will be to make mistakes. Fewer notes, mean fewer possibilities to mess up—and fewer rich chordal possibilities.

Of course, the older, major chord tunings, don’t just disappear. They were good when they were first applied, and they are still good now. There are ways to get virtually every kind of chord from every kind of tuning. But each player decides for themselves whether they value simplicity or versatility, and which tunings provide them with the best way to make the music they want to make.

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