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spectrum>B-Bender<--->Pedal Steel<converge

Discussion in 'B-Bender Forum' started by billy logan, Jan 26, 2021.

  1. billy logan

    billy logan TDPRI Member

    Sep 18, 2019
    weatherford tx
    If you're in a hurry just skip down to "X) What if the B-Bender-on-a-flattop..."

    ooooh I love melody with sneaky bent notes. Like, I had seen "Amos Garrett, guitar" on LP liner notes - didn't know one thing about him - then whadya know, 1980?, that name was on a marquee where I lived - got a ticket. Wouldn't have been surprised had he been using a slide; turned out he just uses light strings and his refined musicality. No surprise had a gray-haired gentleman from Mississippi taken the stage.

    OK. Pedal Steel Guitar. Is it rare to hear country songs where the Tele, whatever guitar, leads the intro, takes the solo, plays its share of the fills, is recorded front and center, does a good job, agreed ... but ...
    on the track --- and not getting the glory? [keep reading for the solution] Do you think it's rare?

    (From another angle, Chuck Berry's era-defining guitar playing doesn't need my approval - though I do approve 100% :). However, IME, his piano accompanist is REALLY THE STORY on more than a few cuts. Maybe usually Johnny Johnson or Otis Spann)

    Among many exceptions ok might be "Together Again" Tom Brumley pedal steel.

    Why is the PSG doing so much but not being rewarded in measure?

    Maybe the shape of the sound of the plucked note?
    Maybe TOO MUCH sustain? there. I said it.*
    Maybe PSG tone is just the amplifier tone?

    Keep in mind I love PSG. Many, many times I've been thrilled when the PSG comes in.

    X) What if the B-Bender-on-a-flattop added one more lever - then another
    Y) What if your PSG had a luthier's wood-resonant body? - a few piano concepts, a few Gibson Hummingbird?

    [one technical solution] X) and Y) each keep expanding till they converge in one instrument and then you have bigger paydays for Pedal Wood Guitarists.**

    I'd sure welcome everybody's input, and internet pix, and inventors' pix here.

    This instrument really puts the "box" in "soundbox" :) please picture a PSG there instead of the classical: (Paul Galbraith, g.)

    *yes. IME, a lot of sustain, without a bold attack, flattens the overall sound down to neurasthenic.
    ** yeah "steel" in "steel guitar" means the steel you slide with, not the material of the body, right. so ** isn't logical. ok
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2021
  2. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Charlotte NC
    Well for certain the PSG is not being appreciated, or recognized ,mostly because today it is considered by many as being a COUNTRY MUSIC Instrument. Producers ,writers and performers don't really want them on their music because all of a sudden " Its a Country Song" rather than a middle of the road song. Remove the Steel and now its a middle of the road song.

    The other problem ( BIG ) with PSG is it is probably the easiest Instrument to play poorly and repetitiously. Its a difficult instrument to learn to play well . Novice or early players lean on the A or B pedal which to many are nothing but "whinney" sounds. Now add that its a fretless instrument and if we ain't playing in tune or on pitch, we are now a total distraction to the song. It can't be hidden. If the PSG player is indeed repeating the same half dozen phrases in every song, well, that gets old real fast too, it can't be hidden.

    Regarding tones, I would disagree, some Steels produce tones with dynamic ranges that other instruments can't come close to. The old Sho Buds, the Franklins, the Emmons Steels etc...The sweet spots on those instruments are not to be reckoned with . Some of those instruments make the hair stand up on the back of your neck they sound so good. Not all Steels are equal .

    Ok now the next big issue, many Steel players are a ONE Instrument band member. This causes a huge problem for a small combo be it 4 or 5 piece. Many ask, why no Steel player with the band ? Well this is probably the #1 reason. They can do only one thing. Sure they may be able to strum a guitar but more often than not the band already has a strummer/singer, they don't need another.

    As a PSG player for near 50 years now I don't want to change the tone of the instrument, I would prefer the players who are sitting behind them play the SONG on the Steel rather than the Steel on the song. Not the same thing. PSG players are indeed in a rut, all of us , and we have been for decades, but not because of the tone of the Instruments. The music, the gigs, the added band member who gets paid, etc..many things contribute, but its not the tone of the instrument.

    This is going to come out awful but it needs to be said. I have many fine PSG player friends in the area, most are pretty good (ok) and can get thru a gig, but most are not really proficient players . They get hired by bands mostly because they OWN a Steel guitar . No different than guitar pickers or Tele pickers , which in my mind is even worse ! In most cases they play the same 6 licks over and over, so much that even the other Steel players in the room leave . For some odd reason, many of us, be it Guitar or Steel get to a point where we can play in a band then all of a sudden STOP studying. I have arrived, I'm in a band now. Its easy to do.

    A recent band leader told me not long ago, that an average guitar player and/or Steel player makes him change the entire setlist. There is no more " lets play XXX and wing it" . A lead guitar player and a Steel player in a band "ARE" the music , both need to be equally able, if they are not, one will take over . The other will retreat to the background and he or she knows why.

    All this being said, I don't want to change the tone of my Emmons Steels. I don't want them to sound like another instrument. I bought them because they ARE Emmons Steels ! Being a player for 5 decades, I have always been a double or triple duty player, still am. Up until Covid I have never been out of a gig, my entire journey.

    PSG and the Tele are great Instruments as they sit, to me the best sounding instruments on the planet ( just me of course) .

    My take, PSG's are not getting recognition for a few primary reasons, repetitious players who play the same 5 licks, no room on the Bus for someone who may only play one instrument, especially if they are carrying a well schooled guitar player, and the BIG one.. "Man that sounds like Country Music".

    Its not the tone of the of the instrument. ( my opinion )

    anyway, its a good conversation, a good post.


    billy logan and johnnylaw like this.
  3. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

    Jan 15, 2013
    meridianam altum centralis
    I'm not fully understanding the question: talking experimental flattop designs, for new voices? Or talking the value of pedal steel voicing and techniques applied to flattops?

    Maybe there is already some information in why a pedal steel looks like a console steel looks like a lap steel, that evolved from a Hawaiian guitar? It evolved on purpose, to increase sustain more and more, and then added the pitch-changing pedals, that allow pitch changes without loosing sustain. And then, they added a volume pedal, so that as the string fades, you increase the pedal to offset the fade and add sustain.

    Pedal steel is a difficult instrument, and a dangerously powerful instrument, destined to destroy rather than add in the wrong hands. Even the slower passages and beauty in the vocabulary can be exceedingly difficult. I'll point out, there is no fast country music anymore, its all near 100% sway and swoon speeds. So no doubt, the days of breakdowns played on pedal steel are over. That's all fallen to banjo and fiddle players now, which both have been out of favor with country music for a while now.

    In fact, the three most definitive country music instruments, are now avoided in country music: banjo, fiddle and pedal steel guitar. Fiddle and banjo music predate country music, so they have a place that can't ever be cancelled, but the pedal steel guitar, if its going to survive, pretty much has to make it in country music.
  4. johnnylaw

    johnnylaw Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 17, 2007
    New England
    PSG is my favorite instrument bar none.
    In my universe, the song is really the point, always. “Playing” any instrument may get you through a door, but playing songs carries the water.
    I started playing music in my early twenties when I was a full-time student with a series of full and part-time jobs. Feels like I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. A local music shop (sold records) had a Fender pedal steel for sale for $600. The previous year I bought my first guitar ($150 Takamini). I wanted to take the steel plunge so bad it kept me awake. Money was needed for tuition and bills (really, my tuition was around $600 per semester in the good old days).
    A few decades hence, and I play in an Americana three-piece with a Hipshot bender on my partscaster Tele. I play bass in a terrific garage/pop/art rock band. And, for safety, drums secluded in my abode. Your safety, that is.
    My work with these devices is more about learning music than the instruments themselves.
    I dare not imagine what I may have learned with a pedal steel hanging around.
    billy logan and T Prior like this.
  5. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Charlotte NC
    WOW ! two incredible spot on quotes from above. Which totally confirm my take on the matter, which is , it ain't the tone of the Instrument.

    1) "Pedal steel is a difficult instrument, and a dangerously powerful instrument, destined to destroy rather than add in the wrong hands"

    2) "the song is really the point, always. “Playing” any instrument may get you through a door, but playing songs carries the water"

    billy logan likes this.
  6. That Cal Webway

    That Cal Webway Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Nov 16, 2012
    I've re-read the original post and I'm still not clear on what is being said... or presented (??)

    The box at the feet of the classical guitarist holding the guitar vertical... ??

    Any videos on what this is about?

  7. billy logan

    billy logan TDPRI Member

    Sep 18, 2019
    weatherford tx
    I'm the OP and I'm (w/o any knowledge or justification) calling for the invention of a new instrument that converges/morphs the sound shape of a B-Bender flattop with the wild, multiple pitch-bending abilities of a pedal steel guitar.

    Sort of a "B" plot is this heresy: too much sustain can be undesirable.

    My goal is that PSG would ascend in the universe of instruments.

    Paul Galbraith's box-on-the-floor is just a suggestion from me of one strategy that might result in a PSG-variant having an interesting different tone.
    T Prior likes this.
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