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Just curious

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Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 76
Topic starter  

When I was listening to a Nanci Griffith performing "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness", homework from guitar course.

I noticed there's what I think is a 'Lap steel' playing, on the intro, and in parts through the song.

But it doesn't seem to have a plucked sound , i.e. guitar strings are plucked(usually) to make a sound - but with this the noise just starts....

Hows that done?

or have I got the instrument completely wrong and its just a keyboard or theremin?

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6348

without hearing a sample...
a lap steel or pedal steel could be used. a soft attack and volume swell makes for a very smooth sound.

Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342

E-bow perhaps?

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at:

Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2717

You picked one of my favorite female singers.
It could be a dobro.
Here's a video of a Bob Dylan song she did with a group that shows a dobro (and accordion).

Boots of Spanish Leather

Here's a link to Speed of the Sound of Loneliness


It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833

Most folks playing steel pluck softly so there's not a real twangy attack noise. Cindy Cashdollar commented that she had to relearn her attack when she went from dobro to electric steel. Running a compressor pedal with a fast response will smooth it out, as will running your amp into overdrive distortion. I was listening to David Lindley playing lap steel on Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty" this morning and noting the same thing, the notes just started fluidly like a violin. I think it was mostly because he was playing single note lines with the gain cranked up, and it clipped off the peaks of the attacks. You can also hear him starting with the volume down and cranking the knob up (or stepping on the volume pedal) after picking at times.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038

You can also hear him starting with the volume down and cranking the knob up (or stepping on the volume pedal) after picking at times.

seems the most likely, as liberal use of volume swells on a lap steel is strongly identified with a classic country sound -- makes the playing sound very fluid and weepy, esp when combined with sliding up or down into a note. I sometimes use the same technique on plain old electric, both with and without a slide -- pick-then-swell exactly how Ric describes it.

-=tension & release=-