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How a pedal steel works.

JRC4558Dude

Member
Messages
5,985
It's fun to watch someone play pedal steel in person.

Between working their hands, knee levers and foot pedals (and the volume pedal), they look like a musical octopus!
 

nmiller

Drowning in lap steels
Messages
7,451
Cool video. I saw that guy play with Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell last year, and he was wonderful.

I used to have a Fender 400 pedal steel, but never attained the hand-ear-finger-foot coordination necessary to be good at it - and that model didn't even have knee levers. After a while I switched back to lap steel, and I've recently started working on using a volume pedal. I tip my hat to anyone who can sound remotely professional when working additional pedals.
 

jbraun002

Member
Messages
792
Cool video. I saw that guy play with Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell last year, and he was wonderful.

I used to have a Fender 400 pedal steel, but never attained the hand-ear-finger-foot coordination necessary to be good at it - and that model didn't even have knee levers. After a while I switched back to lap steel, and I've recently started working on using a volume pedal. I tip my hat to anyone who can sound remotely professional when working additional pedals.
FWIW, you can setup your 400 in an Emmon's E9 setup pretty easily (1st pedal LKL, 4th pedal LKR, 2 & 3 like the 1 & 2 of the standard setup). They sound sooooo good, and unless you're doing Nashville stuff, I frankly prefer them to full 10 string models.
 

hubberjub

Member
Messages
4,598
The basics of pedal steel is not as difficult as it seems. I think lap steel is more difficult. There's a lot more left hand movement.
 

Kitten Cannon

Member
Messages
4,697
It's not exactly a difficult instrument from a coordination standpoint. You use 4 or 5 fingers to play a guitar, but when you go to play a D chord, you don't think about where each individual finger goes. Pedal steel is kind of similar that way after a while. You sort of get used to which strings to use, and where to go with the bar and which pedals/levers to use for your next chord or inversion. But the hard part is all in the right hand - what strings do you play, and how do you keep that crisp and clean while not playing any others. You become much more aware of which strings you're using at any given time than you might with a regular six string, because obviously your levers that lower/raise your E's for example will only work on your E string. Etc.

Gotta say though. The most fun I've had playing music as an adult has probably come on the pedal steel moments. Every time I figure out a new trick, I feel like I've just invented fire. And there are so many of those tricks to learn, so you can repeat that feeling over and over again.
 

urizen

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,978
I remember reading an article years ago by a poet reminiscing about her path through an MFA. Because she also loved country music, she asked one of her professors during a seminar if the lyrics of a C & W song could ever be "true" poetry... and he answered, "Hell, yes---if there's a steel guitar playing."
 

msteeln

Member
Messages
1,531
But the hard part is all in the right hand.
Only because for the most part pedal steelers keep the bar straight and too many virtually never slant and get deep into it to expose their individuality, slanting the bar is where most all the music magic is. They instead usually rely on pedals and levers which all too often sounds mechanical, typically limited, and so much like all the rest of the ped'lers. I love pedal steel, but I'd rather hear a killer steel guitarist kick pedal steel butt, which sadly is very rare today. Bar movement has become almost a lost art in the steel world, and nobody does it even close to like the left hand King, Jerry Byrd did. He was largely the reason pedal steel became so popular initially (if not in fact, invented) and only a few like John Hugey could come close to Byrd's sound. A cheaper steel guitar and a golden left hand is where it's at, but to each his own, it's a big world and we need more good steelers in it.
 

Jon C

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,880
Very cool, thanks. I'm about 6 mos. into my pedal steel journey (ZumSteel Stage One) and about to start on some lessons with a local ace (been working w/ the Mel Bay E9 DVD and Winnie Winston book a bit).

It's simultaneously beautiful & overwhelming. I don't plan to be Sneaky Pete, John Hughey, Steve Fishell or JayDee Manness or Lloyd Green, but hope to coax some nice appropriate atmospheric notes & tones out of it. My lack of instant recall theoretical knowledge will probably hamper a bit (knowing in real time what scale tones I'm getting to with the pedals & knee levers).

So far I agree with hubberjub, I am a better PSG player in 10-15 hrs. or so than I am on lap steel after a lot more time trying. Intonation seems easier for me to get right on PSG than lap steel, too. Still, on a 1-100 scale I'm probably up to about a 10 or so (I remind myself I have 47 more yrs. on guitar than PSG) ... :cool: :YinYang

Cheers,
Jon
 

kkregsg

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,440
I once bought an older cable pedal steel from a friend (used to record the "Quacky Duck" album), and after struggling with it for a couple of years, I realized doing 4 things at once was not my strong suit. No Knee levers on that one, either. Same reason I'm not a drummer. As Clint Eastwood said, "A man has to know his limitations."

But I love to hear a well played pedal steel.
 

Kitten Cannon

Member
Messages
4,697
Only because for the most part pedal steelers keep the bar straight and too many virtually never slant and get deep into it to expose their individuality, slanting the bar is where most all the music magic is. They instead usually rely on pedals and levers which all too often sounds mechanical, typically limited, and so much like all the rest of the ped'lers. I love pedal steel, but I'd rather hear a killer steel guitarist kick pedal steel butt, which sadly is very rare today. Bar movement has become almost a lost art in the steel world, and nobody does it even close to like the left hand King, Jerry Byrd did. He was largely the reason pedal steel became so popular initially (if not in fact, invented) and only a few like John Hugey could come close to Byrd's sound. A cheaper steel guitar and a golden left hand is where it's at, but to each his own, it's a big world and we need more good steelers in it.
Thanks for shitting all over my instrument, but plenty of original things can be done without bar slants. And anyone who thinks cutting over to lap steel, dobro, whatever, means the right hand part gets any easier is sorely mistaken. And probably also one of those guys who thinks that the right hand is less important on a regular 6-string guitar too.

Your tone, your attack, all of your articulation, that does way more to define your sound than the notes you choose.
 

hubberjub

Member
Messages
4,598
Thanks for shitting all over my instrument, but plenty of original things can be done without bar slants. And anyone who thinks cutting over to lap steel, dobro, whatever, means the right hand part gets any easier is sorely mistaken. And probably also one of those guys who thinks that the right hand is less important on a regular 6-string guitar too.

Your tone, your attack, all of your articulation, that does way more to define your sound than the notes you choose.
Word.
 

Steve Hotra

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,213
For a 8 min introduction, I think Steve did a great job explaining the instrument.
I bought a used Rittenberry SD 10 and enjoy the challenge of attempting to play some of the licks in the video. It's a very expressive instrument, and much more than country. Google " sacred steel " and see / hear another side of this amazing instrument.
 

hubberjub

Member
Messages
4,598
It's a surprisingly versatile instrument. I'm not much of a player, but it's my main instrument right now. As far as sacred steel goes, I had a very humbling experience. My band played a festival with The Word in the summer of 2012. If you don't know who that is it's the North Mississippi Allstars, with John Medeski on keys, and Robert Randolph on pedal steel. I'm not a very confident player to start, but when a van backs up to the stage in the middle of our set and opens its back doors revealing a stack of road cases with the words, "Robert Randolph and The Family Band" emblazoned upon them, I had a difficult time finishing the set. He turned out to be a really nice dude, though.
 




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