The Steel Republic’s “Steel 101:” An informative blog that tells the basics of pedal steel guitar (also known as pedal or console steel guitar)
Pedal steel guitars are generally played in a lap with legs extended. The player’s right arm pushes and pulls on the neck to bend strings, while the left hand picks notes and/or chords on fretboard. The left foot works pedals which change pitch, while the right foot works a volume pedal.
The following are common features of pedal steel guitars:
* Strings: usually 10-12 strings of various gauges. They are placed in 6 different courses (two strings per course). However, some more modern pedal steel guitars have 8 strings per course for a total of 24 strings.
* Neck: usually made of maple, mahogany, or walnut; sometimes a metal bar is added for strength. The neck has 9 raised frets, so that it can be played like an ordinary guitar. Pedal steel players typically raise their right leg up to reach the neck and push or pull it to bend the strings’ pitch. The neck is mounted on an “A” frame which holds two knee blocks, one on each side of the neck. These blocks allow easy access to the knee levers which change
Pedal steel guitar, or “steel” for short, is an amazing musical instrument. It is played with a slide on a fret board and pedals that are connected to levers that change the tension of the strings to create different tones. It is unlike any other instrument in that it can make many different sounds and do things that other instruments cannot do. There is so much more to this instrument than most people know, so I have created this blog to give you some basic information about pedal steel guitar.
I hope you enjoy reading what I have written here and find it useful in your quest to learn more about pedal steel guitar.
Pedal steel guitar is an instrument that is played in a seated position, with the guitar resting on your lap or on a stand. It has a long neck with up to 10 strings (usually 8, though some have more), and pedals and knee levers that change the tuning of the strings. The strings are raised off the fretboard by some distance (as much as 1/4 inch) for much of their length, which gives you room to work the bars and levers underneath them.
The pedal steel is usually played with a pick held in one hand, while the other hand pushes and pulls the steel bar across the strings to create glissandos, bends, and other effects. Unlike standard guitar playing, where you play single notes using mostly one finger at a time, pedal steel is more like piano playing: both hands move at once. You use one hand to push and pull a metal bar across all or most of the strings (what’s called “playing the bar”), while your picking hand stays in constant motion, striking individual strings or groups of strings with a pick.
If you are new to pedal steel and have no idea what a lever or pedal does, this post is for you.
You may be asking, “What exactly is a pedal steel guitar?” It is an electric guitar with around 10 strings, mounted on legs that can be raised or lowered as needed. The strings are tuned to a different pitch while they are still in their holder (the guitar neck), so when they are lifted up they create a higher sound. This allows the player to play several notes at once by simply moving his/her fingers around on top of the strings.
The pedals and levers make it possible for the player to raise or lower certain strings by pressing a foot pedal or pulling a lever. The player can therefore play several notes at once without having to move their fingers on top of the strings.
A classic example of how this works is to tune all your strings to E, except for one in the middle which will be tuned to A. In this position all strings would be in perfect harmony with each other, but if you press down your low B pedal you will change the tuning of all those strings from E to A and thus create a perfect harmony between them again. You can also use this technique with other tunings such as C
The pedal steel guitar is a console-type of steel guitar with pedals and levers added to enable playing more varied and complex music which had not been possible with antecedent steel guitar designs. Like other steel guitars, it shares the ability to play unlimited glissandi (sliding notes) and deep vibrati—characteristics in common with the human voice.
The pedal steel guitar is a console-type of steel guitar with pedals and levers added to enable playing more varied and complex music which had not been possible with antecedent steel guitar designs. Like other steel guitars, it shares the ability to play unlimited glissandi (portamenti) and deep vibrati—characteristics in common with the human voice. Pedal steel guitars are typically plucked with a thumb pick and fingers, or two or three fingerpicks. The distinctive feature of pedal steel guitars are the namesake pedals as well as knee levers. While there are some fairly pedal/lever-less lap steel guitars, such as Fender’s Squier line of instruments, these still have a far smaller number of possible chord positions than a typical non-pedal lap steel.
The word “steel” comes from a piece of polished steel held against the strings and moved by the player to change the pitch (a wet sponge can be used in place of a piece of steel). Similar to the way that a slide is used (hence “slide guitar”), generally thought to have originated from Hawaii, where it was introduced by Joseph Kekuku in 1885. The instrument became popular in American country music after World War II when both Hawaiian and
In the early part of the 20th century, steel guitar was played in Hawaii by Hawaiian born players, who used a knife to slide on the strings of their instruments. The music they played–called “Hawaiian” music–was popular with people around the world, and they were much in demand as entertainers.
By the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, a number of mainland Americans had become interested in the Hawaiian steel guitar, and had decided to learn how to play it. The first Hawaiian steel guitars had been made by instrument companies in Hawaii, who were already making guitars, ukuleles and other stringed instruments that were popular with Hawaiian musicians. By this time, however, there were no longer any companies making Hawaiian steel guitars on a regular basis. As a result, mainland steel guitar players began to look for other sources for their instruments.
The first source for mainland steel guitar players was the Rickenbacher company which was located in Los Angeles. Rickenbachers had previously made electric lap steels (which are quite different from pedal steels) starting around 1936. In 1939 Rickenbacher began making pedal steels (which are similar to modern pedal steels). Some of these early pedal steels have turned up recently and