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Kids and the Pedal Steel Guitar

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Steelman36, Jul 15, 2017.

  1. Steelman36

    Steelman36 TDPRI Member

    Jun 8, 2017
    Dallas Texas
    As a professional steel guitar player for over 50 years, it has always been my hope that the

    interest and enthusiasm for this great instrument would expand and attract more and more young

    players. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. You may not agree (and

    that’s OK) but, in my opinion, here are some reasons why:

    1. COST: parents are not able or willing to spend thousands of dollars on a steel guitar for

    their kid; especially if they aren’t convinced he/she will be committed to learning and

    playing that instrument.

    2. MUSIC LIMITATIONS: a great majority of people think of the steel guitar as an

    instrument only played with country music. Not everyone is into that form of music.

    3. DISCOURAGMENT: so many times I have seen and heard folks (especially us older

    ones) make discouraging remarks when a player wants to play music that is different

    from what is considered “traditional” steel guitar music. In other words, if you don’t play

    in the same style as Lloyd Green, Buddy Emmons, Jerry Byrd, or some of the other old

    time great players, then you are playing wrong. Where is it written that every player has

    to play like every other player?

    Here are a few simple solutions to these obstacles (I’m sure there are more):

    1. Instead of spending thousands, you can spend a few hundred dollars for a small, 6 string

    pedal steel guitar that young (as well as older) players can learn on. These smaller guitars are

    also lighter and easier to set up. Then, if it doesn’t work out, you’re not out so much

    money. Also, the Stage One guitar has been in production for over twenty years. About 1100 have been sold as of October, 2016. They were formerly produced by Mr. Bruce

    Zumsteg, the builder of the wonderful ZumSteel professional pedal steels. The Stage One are great pedal steel and sell for $1049. I have played both and you can't go wrong buying either of them.

    2. The steel guitar is not limited to country music. Whatever music a person likes, the steel

    guitar can be played in a manner that works with that style of music. Young people need

    to be made aware of this.

    3. Every musician should be able to play their music in the style they choose. The steel

    guitar is not a “one size fits all” instrument. If you don’t want it to die out, then be a little

    more open minded.

    Most young people are exposed to the pedal steel guitar through a family member or friend.

    They are not going to learn anything about it through their music programs at school. So, if you

    are truly interested in keeping the pedal steel guitar alive, when you have the opportunity,

    introduce it, and encourage the kids you come in contact with. They are the future of the pedal

    steel guitar.

    Written by Hank Ruf

    the Steel Guitar Network

  2. W.L.Weller

    W.L.Weller Tele-Holic

    May 20, 2014
    Not that the music I'm going to talk about here will help broader pedal steel acceptance in 2017, but:

    I fell really far into the jazz rabbit-hole when I was a teenager in the 90s. I found Buddy Emmons's "Steel Guitar Jazz" around 2002 and I couldn't believe that no one anywhere was talking about what a fantastic record this is.

    I hope that there can be a silver lining to the death of the physical, corporeal record store; that since "bins" no longer exist, there will be fewer barriers to finding out about great music that may have been pigeonholed in decades gone by.

    Also, I was in the right place at the right time to hear the collaboration Robert Randolph did with John Medeski and the North Mississippi All-Stars in 2001, "The Word"

    Perhaps I am partly to blame for not selling my electric guitars and buying a lap/pedal steel at that time[in my defense(?), I currently play slide on a guitar tuned CEGACE], but I am cautiously optimistic that the steel guitar will continue being a desirable and useful "flavor" on albums of the future.
  3. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Nov 5, 2006
    Iowa City, IA
    I love and respect pedal steel players. What a complicated instrument to play and understand. It just tickles me (I can't think of a better term) when I listen to fills by the steel player in a song. So many of those are like miniature compositions, with beginning, middle, and end.

    I once saw a Chinese musician play a pedal steel that had a vibrato arm on it. He would play simple folksongs, but jazzed up with donkey and chicken sounds while he mugged for the audience.
    MickM and haggardfan1 like this.
  4. sockgtr

    sockgtr Tele-Meister

    Mar 3, 2016
    Portland, OR
    Pedal is a tough instrument and is pretty beginner unfriendly. I always recommend starting on lap steel first before moving to pedal.
  5. Artslap

    Artslap Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 17, 2014
    Sydney, Australia
    I love the sound, so much so I bought a second-hand Fender 800.

    It daunts me though and as it isn't play ready, and needs a bit of work to get her up and running.

    I've been a bit scared of it. Pedals, wires, and then the alternate tunings. Every-time I watch a tutorial video, the theory of "push this pedal and you are half a step down and you have a C" kind of thing freaks me out.

    My first attempts to play a conventional 6 string with slide sounded like a strangled cat, and I'm afraid my first attempts on the pedal will result in the same screech.

    I'm in love with the sound though. It moves me to tears.

    In the Eels album, "Live at Albert Hall", Mr E introduces the steel player by saying, "And on the Crying Machine..."

  6. MitchJ89

    MitchJ89 Tele-Meister

    Jul 13, 2017
    Kalispell, MT.
    It's still being utilized by a lot of really great folk and alt-country guys in inspiring ways. As a young musician, it really strikes me when I hear pedal steel played in this "indie" context but still retains the archetypal pedal steel sound that is associated with classic country.

    Here's a good one, I think.

    I wish more guys would pick up pedal steel. I'm always looking them to record on my stuff.
    RomanS likes this.
  7. rburd2

    rburd2 Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 13, 2016
    Georgia, US
    I asked a pro pedal steel player a little about his instrument as he set it up once. He got to the knee bars and mentioned there were six of them. My response? "But you only have 2 knees!" :)
  8. haggardfan1

    haggardfan1 Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2014
    Texas, Louisiana, Texas again
    Pedal steel players top the list of musicians I admire. Such a complicated instrument, with so many things to do simultaneously...it's truly amazing.
  9. LeicaBoss

    LeicaBoss Tele-Holic

    Oct 16, 2015
    New Jersey
    This is what I see.
    1. Kids imagine themselves jumping around the stage
    2. The instrument is difficult and kind of requires a high level of musicianship, while you can show a kid Em on a 6 string and he can bang on it all day making rock sounds
  10. bparnell57

    bparnell57 Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 10, 2014
    Philadelphia, PA
    I'd buy a pedal steel in a heartbeat if it was affordable to a student.

    Sadly, they're mechanically complex and you cannot really make a beginners instrument that is just as capable as a pro instrument, just like you can do when you have a Squier Classic Vibe tele compared to a custom shop. There's no functional difference besides preference and slight quality differences. Every other aspect is preference
  11. Dongotto

    Dongotto Tele-Meister

    Feb 5, 2014
    I bought my son a stage one pedal steel for his 11th birthday. He just turned 14 and is now playing a double-neck zum pro model with eight and eight. You're right it is hard to get kids into pedal steel. Jacob wanted to learn how to play pedal steel because all I ever played for him growing up was classic country or newer recordings with a lot of steel guitar also a close family friend is a tremendous pedal steel player five miles away that helped get him started with lessons. He is hooked beyond words and loves to play classic country and Jazz I wish there were more teenagers learning the instrument
    J Hog likes this.
  12. knopflerfan

    knopflerfan Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 18, 2012
    In the woods
    I've always been fascinated by the sound of a good pedal steel player. I'd love to be able to afford a professional level steel pedal guitar, but can't even begin to afford it. I'm still a relative novice when it comes to an electric and acoustic and have heard that pedal steels are much harder to learn.
  13. jklotz

    jklotz Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 10, 2012
    Atlanta, GA
    I love the instrument. I bought a stage one. It a really good place to start. As a guitar player, however, I find it overwhelming.The learning curve is so steep!
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