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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

What's the first step to learning the pedal steel

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Steelman36, Aug 17, 2017.

  1. Steelman36

    Steelman36 TDPRI Member

    Jun 8, 2017
    Dallas Texas
    Written to older men:

    First, you MUST have the desire and stay with it attitude to learn how to play the pedal steel. Ask yourself if you are willing to do that before you continue. If you are, then look for help to decide what kind of steel guitar is best for you to buy or borrow and, if buying, how much money you are comfortable spending. There are many types of pedal steel guitars; single neck, double neck, 6 or 10 strings, and many manufacturers. It is very important for a beginner to find someone, a knowledgeable friend or teacher, to help you select the guitar that’s best for you and whether to buy a new guitar or a used one. If you decide to purchase a used guitar, sight unseen, you are taking a risk of buying someone else’s problems. Being a beginner, you will more than likely not be able to correct problems on your own. If you do decide to buy a used guitar, it’s best to take along a knowledgeable friend and try out the guitar before purchasing. Of course, that’s not always possible. Unfortunately, there aren’t many guitar stores that carry or know much about pedal steel guitars. Here on the Steel Guitar Network website you have access to many knowledgeable people who actually play/teach and can answer your questions and provide guidance. You are beginning a new and exciting journey; enjoy it!

    I am currently writing another article that is targeting school age kids and the pedal steel. These kids are the future. I haven't named the article yet. I will post it soon.
    Pete Baker and JayFreddy like this.

  2. haggardfan1

    haggardfan1 Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2014
    down every road
    Maybe become a helicopter pilot first? The best steel player I ever worked with is a life flight pilot by day. I think it requires fairly equal skills, as far as using all one's appendages and then some; plus the requisite sequential thinking.

    Pedal steel players are at the top of the musician food chain, imho. Love the music, I love their skill, love the fills if done tastefully, and I love that solos are like a symphony all their own.

  3. Bob M

    Bob M Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    May 11, 2011
    North of Boston
    +1 on that! I bought one a few years ago (10 string, 3 pedals one knee lever) and just gave up. Lap steel came fairly easily, but aside from some technique with the bar and picks, not much transferable stuff. The only good thing was I sold it for what I paid for it!
    4 Cat Slim likes this.

  4. screamin eagle

    screamin eagle Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 9, 2008
    S. CA
    A friend I jam with plays pedal steels. He's good, but has been learning it for more than a decade. He spends a lot of time with pitch training. And he always says that's the single most important component of pedal steel--your pitch. The last few weeks we've been working on a more swinging version of Yardbird Suite. It's very cool with the pedal steel.

  5. Martin R

    Martin R Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 26, 2008
    I fantasize about playing pedal steel. What warps what's left of my brain is that the map constantly changes...step on a pedal, knee a lever and your whole fretboard is different. I still might give it a shot, I'm fairly accustomed to failure.

    We were real lucky to have two great players record with us. Johnny Hogan and Daryl Davidson. Both worked out of Nashville with road bands. Daryl passed away a couple of years ago. He was a real character.

    (Johnny at work and Daryl's "twenty strings and a lead" work.

  6. guitar dan

    guitar dan Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 19, 2011
    I'd been playing guitar about 30 years when I got the itch to play pedal steel. I've been at it for 4 years now, started doing gigs after about a year. It has been a blast and it is very addicting. I'm playing more steel gigs than guitar now. It is a challenge, but well worth it if you're stubborn enough:)

  7. teleMc

    teleMc TDPRI Member

    Apr 14, 2017
    Orem, Ut
    Love to do that one day, I thinking of switching to right handed for that. I think I could do that.

  8. Dennyf

    Dennyf Tele-Holic

    Feb 9, 2011
    Charlotte, NC
    First thing that popped into my head. ;-)

  9. waparker4

    waparker4 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Nov 9, 2011
    Philadelphia, PA
    Getting a pedal steel is probably first step. I would love to learn it ...... but that's not happening

  10. Pete Baker

    Pete Baker Tele-Meister

    Aug 16, 2006
    Get an I.Q. test first? Take up sorcery or witchcraft first? Playing the pedal steel makes folding a fitted sheet look like child's play. Seriously, the few pedal steel players I know are extremely intelligent, especially in the left brain department. Helicopter pilots, engineers, math folks, etc... They also are very disciplined, and methodical with their practice time and most everything else in their lives. I agree with haggardfan1, the solos are like their own symphony. A wonderful, but intimidating instrument.
    Larry F likes this.

  11. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Friend of Leo's

    I don't fly helicopters, but I've been playing pedal steel for over 20 years and almost know enough to be dangerous. That's the comparison I always make when someone asks what playing pedal steel is like.

    - D
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017

  12. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 14, 2013

    dive in, have fun! experiment! it's like slide with altered tunings

    make it cool!
    screamin eagle likes this.

  13. Slowpoke

    Slowpoke Tele-Holic

    Dec 3, 2011
    Mandurah. West Australia
    Many years ago I decided to become a pedal steel genius, maybe follow in the footsteps of Lloyd Green or Buddy Emmons. So I bought a Fender Student which had 3 pedals and 1 knee lever (I think, it was a long time ago) I had two lessons off the guy I bought the steel from and fought on bravely for around 3 months before realizing I was never going to make it. Luckily the guy bought it back off me for the same price as I paid. He'd decided he missed the guitar and wanted it back.. S
    PS. Lloyd Green and the late Buddy Emmons had nothing to fear from me.

  14. Brokenpick

    Brokenpick Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 29, 2008
    It's funny..... I consider it a foreign notion, -like fiddlin', where there are no frets to land on (I have enough trouble "hitting the right note" where there's a fret to fret upon.... ).
    Just going to magically the perfectly right spot with the bar seems like it'd be tough. -And if you've tried to play slide at all, you know how notsogood it sounds to slide shy or beyond your target note(s)... and how hard to approach with the right speed and intensity.... maintain the appropriate vibrato.....

    Then there's the picking of the correct strings- when there's a crazy bunch of 'em...

    And pedaling to pull the correct ones that you're trying to change pitch on....

    Okay, wait, speaking of pitch .... what about even tuning UP that slew of strings....?!

    And that Volume swell control, -constantly???

    AND YET. A friend of mine who's been playing pedal steel for many years swears
    it's kinda easy. (I think he bends the truth at times.) He says the notes/chords/scales are all right there in a straight line.... ya don't have to fret 'em... no tricky chord shapes... no finger athletics...

    I dunno.
    I share the fantasy. I've played some air pedal steel ..... does that count?

  15. PJ55

    PJ55 Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 27, 2003
    Philadelphia, PA
    Get a couple of good instructional videos, like the one Lloyd Maines did a while back. Not that you're going to copy every lick, but it gives you a good feel for the instrument. How to play simple tunes, using chord-melodies. It's really not just a lick machine, but a guitar that has its own voice. I've been noodling around on mine for twenty-some years. Maybe thirty. I admit not putting serious hours into it. Work gets in the way of that. But now that I'm close to retirement, I think I'll spend more time with it. Like everything else, it's all about practice time. One thing it will do for you, is improve your right-hand picking skills. For sure.

  16. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Friend of Leo's

    Pitch is really important. Like, really important. I always set up the steel directly in front of my amp so I can hear where I am pitch-wise in relation to the band. You're really asking for trouble if you can't hear yourself.

    - D

  17. daddyplaysbass

    daddyplaysbass Tele-Holic

    Mar 19, 2003
    Chandler Arizona
    Ask yourself, "What am I getting in to?"
    StrangerNY likes this.

  18. Nickadermis

    Nickadermis Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Dec 18, 2016
    Camden Point, MO
    I've always been envious of those who could play Pedal Steel !

    Wish I had enough time left to learn :D

  19. Marc Muller

    Marc Muller Tele-Meister

    Oct 10, 2006
    As a steeler since 1975, I highly recommend having some friends over, dousing it with gasoline, and having a nice backyard bonfire.
    LeftyAl and StrangerNY like this.

  20. StrangerNY

    StrangerNY Friend of Leo's

    I had days when I felt like doing exactly that. :)

    I bought my MSA Semi-Pro on a stormy winter night in 1994. I drove about 30 miles in a snowstorm to pick it up. Paid $200 for the guitar in an Anvil case. I attempted to learn for about 3 months, and got so frustrated that I packed it up and put it in the closet and forgot about it.

    About a year later, I got a call from a friend who owned a recording studio. He remembered that I had a pedal steel, and said he was recording some country songs and asked if I'd bring the guitar over and attempt laying down some tracks.

    Once I got in the studio and started playing along with the tracks, it all suddenly made sense. I ended up playing pedal steel in a band with the studio owner for about five years.

    Weird how it worked out like that.

    - D
    galen likes this.

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