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Pedal Steel or Lap Steel to start learning?

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by ClydeCCR, Jan 25, 2021.

  1. ClydeCCR

    ClydeCCR TDPRI Member

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    Hi,Im a country guitar player and I love the country music form the 60's-70's era,I would like start learning the pedal steel,but I saw its more difficult than the lap steel.
    Its difficult find used pedal steels in Spain but there is a custom shop brand in Germany that makes pedal steels.
    I dont know which choose to start learning.
    I like Ralph Mooney's style (Lonesome on'ry and mean,Are you ready for the country) and Toy Caldwell's style (Fire on the mountain)
     
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  2. jayyj

    jayyj Tele-Afflicted

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    Pedal steel brings with it a little more to learn than lap steel but it's also a much more flexible instrument designed to offer simple ways to execute a lot of the things that require a great deal of dexterity to pull off on a lap steel, so I tend to see lap steel as one of those instruments that's very easy to busk, very hard to master. Pedal steel you can play as a lap steel at it's most basic, but once you've got the basics you can start adding in a pedal or knee lever at a time so I don't think it need be hugely daunting to make progress on one. So I think if you want to learn pedal steel just dive straight in, you'll pick it up reasonable quickly if you put the work in.

    The other factor is cost - those €100 lap steels are really pretty decent if you want to try out a barred instrument so you can pick one up, try it a few months and have something to play while you put money aside for a pedal steel. I got lucky with a pedal steel when I was interested in them and picked up a nice vintage one from a classified ad for a few hundred, but they're hard to come by cheap so you need to be a bit more confident you're going to get on with it if you're spending into four figures on one - I think that's the main reason most go through lap steel route first.
     
  3. sloppychops

    sloppychops Tele-Meister

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    I love those classic pedal steel guitar sounds, too. I was similarly inclined a couple years ago and decided a lap steel was the best way to get started due to the cost and complexity of pedal steel. Playing slide on a lap steel is a whole different thing than playing slide on a guitar, and I'd recommend starting with the basics on an inexpensive lap steel. As much as I was into the sound, I didn't make much progress with lap steel and mine has pretty much sat in its case for months. Someday I'll get back to it.
     
  4. RomanS

    RomanS Poster Extraordinaire

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    If you want to play pedal steel (and the music you mention mostly uses pedal steel, not lap steel), then start right away with that instrument.
    Other than using a steel bar for playing, these two instruments have less in common than you would think, and require quite a different approach (eg. on lap steel, you're playing much more "horizontal" - along the length of the strings - instead of staying in position, and have to rely on techniques like bar slants, when you'd just use pedals to achieve the same results on PSG).
    BTW, I'm totally speaking from personal experience, I have been playing lap steel (in C6 tuning) and dobro (in open G tuning) for a long time, and tried to learn pedal steel (E9 tuning), but found that really hard - with almost no stuff that would "transition" from lap to pedal steel.
    Oh, one more thing: If you really want to learn PSG, brush up on your music theory, this instrument is impossible to master by relying on intuition/feel/playing by ear!
     
  5. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Seems to me that learning pick & bar technique on a steel guitar would be just as critical as fretting technique on a typical guitar, so why not start with the basics on a lap steel and work your way up to a pedal steel?
     
  6. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    They’re different critters.
    A lap/non-pedal steel is not a machine.
    A pedal steel is.
    PSG’s require considerable amounts of setting up to play in tune.
    Non-pedal steel guitars are great for Hawaiian, western swing, and pre-1960 country.
    If your interest is in 60’s-70s country, a PSG is what you want.
    You might consider either a single neck (E9) or single on a double frame (with pad) guitar.
    You may not need or want a double neck.
    Not much C6 neck was played in the 60s-70s.
    Pedal steels need to be temper-tuned.
    There is much to be learned about getting it in tune, and playing it in tune.
    A non-pedal steel in infinitely simpler to tune and set up.
    They don’t really deliver the sound you’re looking for.
    Though I’ve blathered a lot about pedal steel, I love the instrument.
    PSG’s are quite expensive to buy new.
    They’re also cumbersome and heavy.
    Personally, I would also recommend a new, or newer instrument.
    To further muddy the waters, there is also a 12 string, single neck “universal” variant.
    This variant uses a tuning and pedal arrangement that combines
    elements of a double-neck into one neck.
    If and when you buy, consult with several knowledgeable pro players.
    I’d also suggest newer company’s instruments.
    They’re built smarter, and lighter.
    That said, classic Sho-Buds and Emmons guitars sound great, but can be high maintenance.
    Good luck!
    p.s.
    Ralph Mooney’s early stuff was recorded on an 8 string (not chromatic) Fender pedal steel.
    Those guitars have a unique tone, but are kinda primitive in their mechanical design, using cables and pulleys instead of complex raising and lowering mechanisms.
    If you get one, get a later one with a roller nut.
    Some early model Fender PSGs did not have them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2021
  7. tanplastic

    tanplastic Tele-Holic

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    Learning lap steel is different than the PSG, LS requires slants to be versatile while the PSG uses pedals and levers.
    It's certainly helpful to learn a 6 tuning on either, and right-hand picking and muting is the same on both.
    When I started on C6 about eight years ago the first difficulties were in my picking hand- using finger picks and muting.
    Getting my head around C6 after playing in 'standard' for forty years is still a challenge for my old brain.
    So my advice would be to face those early hurdles on a cheaper, more readily available instrument, the lap steel.
     
  8. FenderGyrl

    FenderGyrl Poster Extraordinaire

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    Get a modern one with dual knee levers and modern mechanics.
    Don't waste your time and money on a student model...

    I went down this Rabbit Hole...
    I was a Sneaky Pete Fangyrl...
    Rebuilt some Vintage Dual Fenders and a Sho Bud...
    Sold them off...
    Wished I would have just bought a Modern Pedal Steel...

    If you want to play Pedal Steel...it's a different animal from Lap Steel.
    Ya gotta fingerpick and mute... Ya gotta learn to slant yer bar.
    Its a Real Commitment.

    Like learning to play guitar while learning to fly a helicopter at the same time.

    Maybe first buy the book "Pedal Steel Guitar" by Winnie Winston.
    Buy it and read it. He teaches in E9 tuning and touches on C6.
    Then look for your Pedal Steel... If you still have the itch.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2021
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  9. cnlbb

    cnlbb Tele-Afflicted

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    It's out there, but just to add my voice they ain't the same instrument. I'm also going to say that before I really understood that I got a lap steel to start my journey towards pedal steel. Well I have a couple of lap steels now and a dobro and have no interest in pedals. Non-pedal lap has quickly become my primary interest and instrument taking over instead of complimenting my guitar playing. Take the journey however you want and try to have fun, you might find yourself somewhere you didn't expect and loving it.
     
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  10. telemaster03

    telemaster03 Tele-Meister

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    Another vote for a pedal steel. If you want classic or pedal steel sounds a lap steel won't get you very close, there's a reason pedals and knee levers were invented and added. If you have more slide guitar sounds in mind (think David Lindley) or vintage country (think Hank Williams) a lap steel will do just fine. I don't know much about the challenges of acquiring a pedal steel in Spain, though there once was an International Pedal Steel Guitar show which featured players from all over the world. A with any instrument I suppose it depends on how much you want one.

    I'd also stay away from older, obsolete pedal steels and beginner instruments like the Carter Starter...you'll end up having to upgrade and you'll be in the same place you are now. Check out Stage One Steel Guitars http://stageonesteelguitars.com/ Justice Steel Guitars http://www.justicesteelguitars.com/ and GFI Steel Guitars https://www.gfimusicalproducts.com/ for a few of the better budget models, either new or used.

    If you haven't done it already, join the Pedal Steel Guitar Forum https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/index.php There is a small fee for membership but it will be money well spent for a wealth of experience and knowledge. There is a classified section where these and many other steels are sold.

    You can get world class instruction by Paul Franklin at https://www.modernmusicmasters.com/

    Pedal steel is a challenge but not impossible. Do your research and have fun!
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2021
  11. ClydeCCR

    ClydeCCR TDPRI Member

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    And what about the Duesenberg multibender for lap steel?? Getting a pedal steel in Spain its hard and I dont have enough money yo buy one outside my country.
     
  12. cnlbb

    cnlbb Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm not entirely sure what your market looks like, but do think that if you look you can find a half decent pedal steel for the $2.5k dusenberg starting price. That said, dusenberg makes a nice lap steel and multibenders are cool...
     
  13. kLyon

    kLyon Tele-Holic

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    This is all great advice.
    I always advise people to avoid "vintage" steels unless they want to deal with old mechanics. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing, if you enjoy/can do it...))
     
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  14. RomanS

    RomanS Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've had a Duesenberg Multibender on a lap steel - while it allows you to do some pedal steel sounding licks, in a bluesy, rock, or Americana setting, it isn't a replacement for the real thing.
    Personally, I also found the levers limited what I could do with my right hand...
    Personally, I'd rather wait a bit longer and save up for the real thing - if you buy a new Multibender and a lap steel, you've already spend a third of what an entry-level or used pedal steel would cost, and I suspect that in the long run the Multibender won't satisfy you if you want to play classic 60/70s country...

    You've already discovered WBS steel guitars in Germany - I had their student model ("Basic") - that's around 1500€.
    There are some European dealers that import steel guitars - Promota Music in NL, Promenade Music in the UK, Rainbow Music in Northern Ireland - check with those whether they have something like a StageOne, Carter Starter or GFI Student model.
    And do join the SteelGuitarForum - it's not very often, but occasionally you can find used PSGs in Europe...
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2021
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