I bought this vintage Harmony lap steel at a time when I was really diving deep into alternative country music. The guitar is 100% original and according to the potentiometer date codes, they were made on the 13th week of 1956 by Cetralab. Lap steel guitars originated from Hawaii, which is probably why they are so closely related with being on vacation in the tropics. I have mine tuned to C6 tuning, a pretty standard tuning for lap steel guitars. C6 tuning from the low to high strings is C, E, G, A, C, and E. This tuning allows minor and major chords to be played with string skipping without having to angle the slide at all.
I recorded a simple chord progression with a glass slide straight into my 1965 Fender Princeton Reverb Reissue to demonstrate how cool of a sound comes out of it with just a little practice. The only microphone that was used was the tried-and-true Shure SM57 on the middle of the speaker. The volume on the amp was on about 5 with plenty of reverb to get that quasi-surf tone that I adore. You’ll be able to hear the smooth taper on that old Centralab volume potentiometer at the end of the clip with a well-used volume swell and slide up to the ending chord in the progression.
A new or old lap steel is a great addition to a studio or a collection of cool stuff to play with even though we all can’t play the intro to “Sleepwalk” perfect every time. It can be a great tool to use to fill up a ton of sound in the back of a mix with some volume swelling and drenched in spring reverb. You don’t need to be throwing out massive solos on it to use it and love it; simple chord comping is where this instrument excels. This Harmony H2 was also made right here in Chicago in the mid-1950s at the same factory that Silvertone, Supro, Airline, and Kay guitars and amplifiers were made, giving it a local as well as American history.