I'd like to learn pedal steel. Thoughts?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Pat Healy, Apr 19, 2016.

  1. Pat Healy

    Pat Healy Member

    Messages:
    10,957
    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    I'm a reasonably accomplished guitar player, having played professionally and semi-pro for the better part of 30 years, but am now interested in expanding my horizons a bit. I've always loved the pedal steel sound and, for the first time in forever, have the time to pursue a new instrument.

    My knowledge about these is pretty much zip, so please school me.

    How hard is it to learn? How much should I spend on a beginner instrument? What are some good learning resources? YT videos, online instruction, etc.?
     
  2. Astronaut FX

    Astronaut FX Member

    Messages:
    6,321
    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2015
    Location:
    Midwestern Hellride
    I might suggest starting with lap steel. They can be had for a lot less money, are easier to master, and if you progress well and still have an interest, you can still transition to pedal steel later. If you don't progress, your investment will have been much less.
     
  3. vintagelove

    vintagelove Member

    Messages:
    1,915
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2014
    I played some of the toughest classical guitar pieces in the entire repertoire, taught myself Bach organ fugues (where you play 16th note lines with your feet!!!). I figured, pfft, the pedal steel will be a piece of cake...

    Yeah right...

    Turns out, it's really hard. Don't get me wrong, I could get around on some tunes, but it is an instrument you have to commit a good amount of time to. I realized, if I wasn't going to practice it heavily, it would be one long plateau.

    If you really want to play it, get a very good instrument. Preferably a double wide deck?... Essentially you want a nice armrest unless you like a good shoulder workout every practice session.

    Best of luck, it's an awesome instrument.
     
  4. Ryan Donahue

    Ryan Donahue Member

    Messages:
    257
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Location:
    Lancaster, PA
    I don't think I have enough coordination to pull it off but it is a great sounding instrument.

     
    Lt Dak, pgoon, Crash-VR and 5 others like this.
  5. Chris Pile

    Chris Pile Member

    Messages:
    511
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2016
    I love the pureness of tone on a steel....

    That said, if you can play pedal steel even half-assed, you'll always have a gig. Country western acts are always looking for steel players. Good luck!
     
    David Garner, derekd and hubberjub like this.
  6. LaceSensor1

    LaceSensor1 Member

    Messages:
    2,299
    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2016
    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    All of the tuning variations and pedal bend options, blow my mind. I wouldn't even no where to start.
     
    boldaslove1977 and HerrRentz like this.
  7. hubberjub

    hubberjub Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,443
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Location:
    Gilbertsville, NY
    I disagree. It's a very different technique. There's considerably less left hand movement with pedal steel. Pedal steel actually came much quicker to me than lap steel. I've been playing pedal steel almost exclusively for the last six or seven years. I had a lot of background in guitar. Within two weeks of getting the steel, I was gigging it. It's one of those instruments that it's really easy to get a simple grasp of, but it takes years to get to the next level. Getting a good deal on an instrument is more an issue of keeping your eyes open. There were a few beginner models that became popular in the '70s, but they're really pretty poorly built guitars (ShoBud Maverick, MSA Sidekick/Red Barron, etc.). What you want is something with ten strings, three pedals, and four knee levers. This is the standard modern setup. Some decent used guitars are from brands such as Sierra and MSA (not the Sidekick/Red Barron). There's also the Zum Stage One, which is a pretty good quality starter guitar. Carter made a model called the Starter, which is just that. It has a modern setup, but isn't really built for the road. It's not bad to get you started, though. With some luck, you can find one for around a grand. Keep an eye on your local Craigslist. Because of their weight, you can often find someone willing to sell at a good price because they don't want to deal with the shipping hassle.
     
  8. hubberjub

    hubberjub Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,443
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Location:
    Gilbertsville, NY
    I've found this to be 100% true.
     
  9. TylerE

    TylerE Member

    Messages:
    725
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2015
    That Zum Stage One at $1049 is pretty tempting... I've always been entranced by the pedal steel.
     
    Pat Healy likes this.
  10. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

    Messages:
    6,968
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2014
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    100% true for me too. I do think the years of lap steel playing gave me a little leg up, the finger picks especially, but such a completely different instrument that, unless you Want to learn lapsteel, not sure I would go this way first.


    I had a Carter Starter. It was ok, in that it sounded ok, and the pedals worked fine, but the knee levers were aluminum. I found they bent easily and were not very stable. That was my biggest issue with it. I have heard great stuff on the Zum, though I have no personal time on one. The old Maverick and such were pretty , well, not great.
     
    hubberjub likes this.
  11. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

    Messages:
    6,968
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2014
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Basically, it is tuned to an open E and the major pedal movenment (A+B) makes it an open A. So you have the two most open chords. In fact, the first pedal steel, that is ALL it did. Then they broke that up to the two pedals, and A and B and you can use those to get the licks. Yea, there a a ton of options past that, and you can get really customized, but those are the basis of the standard E9 tuning. I easily spend half the time on just those two pedals, I would guess. You can play a LOT with just those two, then you add in the others to get different stuff. The standard 3x4 setup could keep you going for a long, long time.
     
  12. FenderBigot

    FenderBigot Supporting Member

    Messages:
    23,000
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2008
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    My brain hurts!!!
     
  13. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

    Messages:
    6,968
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2014
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    I can play it half-assed, lol, but rarely get calls. but then, I live in Austin. Probably more Pedal Steel players per capita than anywhere but Nashville, lol.
     
    Crash-VR and mojocaster.com like this.
  14. hubberjub

    hubberjub Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    4,443
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Location:
    Gilbertsville, NY
    Yeah. I gigged my Starter until it could no longer gig (less than a year). My main steel right now is a pro model Carter D10. That's a great guitar.
     
  15. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

    Messages:
    6,968
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2014
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Yea, I played one for a bit, can't remember if I ever got it on stage. I upgraded to a GFI I got used. Carter's are great too. I got a single neck, I play a lot of C6 on console steel, and wanted to concentrate on just the one neck, but I Do love some C6 playing.
     
    hubberjub likes this.
  16. HerrRentz

    HerrRentz Member

    Messages:
    2,189
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2010
    Location:
    Midwest
    That looks harder than flying a helicopter.

    Feet, knees, and both hands. Man. When I was a kid I thought about taking up the pedal steel from listening to so many country and western artists that my dad liked from the fifties, sixties, and seventies.
     
    marktweedy likes this.
  17. mojocaster.com

    mojocaster.com Member

    Messages:
    15,294
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2006
    Location:
    MojoCaster Land :)
    I am truly amazed by that instruments and those talented folks who play it. Paul Franklin remains a musical hero of mine. Just blows me away what those people can do.
     
  18. Jven

    Jven Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,466
    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2012
    Location:
    Texas republic
    Man... I'd love to have that tone in my Tele.. Killer tone..
     
  19. itstooloudMike

    itstooloudMike Member

    Messages:
    2,351
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2007
    Location:
    Knoxville, Tennessee
    I've had a couple of 10-string pedal steels over the years. A Carter and a Sho-Bud. I love the sound of pedal steel, and bought several VHS instructional tapes to start learning with. I was able to learn some basics, and a few hot-licks. But without a teacher, I sort of hit a wall after a while. It's a highly technical instrument, and forces one to really know theory. You have to be able to mentally visualize what the pedal and lever pitch changes will do to the string groupings you are using at the moment. To be honest, I'm more of a "feel" guitar player, and my knowledge of advanced theory isn't that solid. In the end, I had to accept that I probably would never become a great steel player, and decided to give it up. I think to get good, it most likely has to become your primary instrument. And you have to commit lots of time to developing knowledge and technique. It's a beautiful instrument for sure, and I admire those who master it.
     
    aiq likes this.
  20. marktweedy

    marktweedy In Transit® Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    16,116
    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    That is not the first time I have heard it described like that. I would love to learn to play one, but I expect the learning commitment and curve would be such that I would have to give up the six string.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice