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Author Topic:  A beginners journey learning the PSG.
Tim Vandeville


From:
Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2012 4:06 pm     Reply with quote

Hello everyone,
My name is Tim and I have decided to take the plunge into learning the PSG. I decided to post a running blog here because after I decided I wanted to take up the psg, Ive searched the net to get some sort of idea of how long it takes to progress. All I could find were people posting everything from "its to hard and I quit" to "after 20yrs Im still learning". Both statements may be true but it wasnt specific enough for me because I wanted to be able to know how far I could progress monthly realistcally. I couldnt find anything that would spell that out for me so thats why I decided to start this blog. The way I figure it...hopefully if another newbie sees this it will let them know how far they can progress monthly. Some may get farther ahead or some may take longer but it will give them something to gauge themselves against.

A little about myself to set the baseline...Im just your average working individual. Not a rocket scientist or doctor or anything high tech. I drive a semi locally for a living. I have zero experience with music...unless you count the time I played the kazoo in the 1st grade. I have zero rythum in my body. Lets just say if Im on the dance floor its not a pretty sight. Im also a firm believer in tryig something that you want to do. In other words..I dont want to be 90 years old..in a nursing home...crapping the bed and wondering "I wish I would have tried to do this or that when I had the chance". I try to live my life with the motto of "work hard, play hard, and get as much out of this life as possible with no regrets". It is a real plus to have a wife that thinks the same way as I do.

I decided to take up the psg because I just love the sound that can come from it. I thought about guitar, drums and bass but the way I figure it...everyone does it already so why follow the crowd. The music I like the most is the old country...Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Buck Owens...etc.

I will continue this in the next post...
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Richard Sinkler


From:
Northern California
Post Posted 14 Sep 2012 4:17 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
Both statements may be true but it wasnt specific enough for me because I wanted to be able to know how far I could progress monthly realistcally


First off, that statement is not very realistic. There is absolutely no way anyone can even estimate how well you will progress. It depends on the individual. I have had students that are killer guitar players, but failed at being able to learn the pedal steel. Others that I thought were total morons and thought wouldn't be able to play a tonette (those little flutey things they made us play in elementary school), become decent players. Just being a good musician on another instrument doesn't guarantee success on the PSG, although it helps.

Quote:
A little about myself to set the baseline...Im just your average working individual. Not a rocket scientist or doctor or anything high tech. I drive a semi locally for a living. I have zero experience with music...unless you count the time I played the kazoo in the 1st grade. I have zero rythum in my body. Lets just say if Im on the dance floor its not a pretty sight. Im also a firm believer in tryig something that you want to do. In other words..I dont want to be 90 years old..in a nursing home...crapping the bed and wondering "I wish I would have tried to do this or that when I had the chance". I try to live my life with the motto of "work hard, play hard, and get as much out of this life as possible with no regrets". It is a real plus to have a wife that thinks the same way as I do.


That's not real encouraging, but it shouldn't be a deterrent either.

Lastly, welcome to this crazy world called the Pedal Steel Guitar. This is the right place to be.
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Tim Vandeville


From:
Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2012 5:17 pm     Reply with quote

When I started checking out things to learn to play the psg 2 months ago I got a complete shock. I started reading posts and the first thought was "I may be getting in way over my head". Everything was so foreign..I had no idea what people were talking about. It was extremely overwhelming.

Random thought..If this sight could have a beginners section for newbies to post questions it would be a big help. It would be a great place for beginners to look for answers to questions they may have.

My first step was to get a psg. The wake up call came when I found out quick that unless you buy used, the wait for one can be months long. First I checked youtube to listen to different brands being played. I narrowed it down to showbud and mullen. Everyones ear is different and to me the mullen had the tone I liked. To me the showbud sounded tinny. Not saying its bad...it just wasnt for me. I figure if Im going to make a major investment I want to get something I like to listen to.

I bought the best I could afford because I didnt want to have to upgrade anytime soon. I went with the Mullen S10 Discovery. I searched the net and finally found what I wanted on ebay. It was from Gary Sill at Sill Music Supply. There was a phone number so I called and talked to Gary. I explained I was a complete newbie...what I wanted to buy...and he took the time to walk me thru everything. No pressure or trying to oversell which says a lot about his character. He had everything I needed except for the amp I wanted. He called a gentleman named Duane from Duanes Music and it was set up for me to purchase my amp thru him.

Here are there links
http://sillmusicsupply.com/
http://www.duanesmusic.net/

My psg arrived within a few days. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. I got everything set up and realised the steel bar was missing. I made a call to Gary and he apologised and said he would send one right out. While I had him on the phone I also ordered a Stomp Classic Tuner. Both items arrived at the house the very next day.

While I had Gary on the phone I asked him a newbie question...how do you put the picks on. He didnt laugh or even chuckle at the question and explained it to me. He even took a close up picture of his hand with the picks on and sent it to me. Without that...I would have been wearing them like Freddy Krueger fingernails.

I wasnt expecting the amp to arrive for at least 2 weeks because Duane was expecting an order from Peavy and then he would ship my order to me. Much to my surprise, 2 days later I recieved a email from Duane that my amp was on its way.

Now Im all set to start making music. Lets just say I lost half of my fan base within a couple minutes. The dog actually got up and left the room while I was plucking at the strings.

I knew I needed lessons so I found this website that had a lot of beginner info on it.

http://steelguitaramerica.com/

The guy who does the website lives close by so I contacted him and we set it up so my 1st lesson is tommorow.

I also purchased Mickey Adams Beginner book and CD. If I could change anything in it I wish he would have dumbed it down for people who have never sat behind a psg before. Examples...how to wear the picks, how proficient should I be before going to the next lesson, video of him actually tuning the psg with a tuner. With that said it is a very informative book. I have been plucking away at the 1st lesson for a couple days and it will come in handy after I have a few live lessons. Money well spent for me.

Now for the question that I would think most newbies might have but wont ask...how much do I have invested already. Im in for a little over 3k. I bumped the ceiling of what I was willing to spend. Everyones amount will be different. Get what you can afford.

Not much else to say here. I will post another update in 30 days to and let other newbies what went good..what went wrong..and how far Ive progressed. I am thinking of putting up a youtube video then so others can gauge what they may expect after 30 days.

My goal is to take the live lessons..practice 1-2 hours a day and see what happens.

Thats where I am right now. Have a great month.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post Posted 14 Sep 2012 7:37 pm     Reply with quote

Practice is the key. Find ways to practice when you can't get to your instrument.
Keep a little picking practice pad in your truck.
Listen to a steel lick that is recorded and sing along to it until you have it memorized.

Get a metronome keep in running while you are driving. Tap your fingers right along with it.

Its a fun journey and has many benefits that are not obvious at first. The main thing is to enjoy the learning. That never changes and might be the best part.
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Dave Grafe


From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post Posted 14 Sep 2012 9:36 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
Random thought..If this sight could have a beginners section for newbies to post questions it would be a big help. It would be a great place for beginners to look for answers to questions they may have.

Here's the thing, guys: A lot of very accomplished musicians have contributed over a number of years to the vast amount of information available through the forum's search function. Isolating the new players with a "newbies only" section could quickly lead to a junior corner where the blind lead the blind, with the occasional note from the handful of folks who keep an eye on the newbies around here and don't mind repeating themselves a lot.

Comprehende vu?

IMHO the best thing to do is to just hang with the grownups as much as possible. Absorb what you can, file away what you cannot, and keep your own limits in perspective. Remember that anybody who is any good at anything is more focused on their own limitations than their successes, so you're in good company.

Everybody here has good advice for you, just try to take your questions to the search engine first, because the fact is that most of us need to be practicing rather than typing Oh Well
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Darrell Schmidt


From:
Charles City, Iowa, USA
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 3:35 am     Reply with quote

Statement(20 years and still learning) just like any instrument you may get comfortable with it,but you are always learning something new.once you get thru your first solo,lick or what ever there is a great feeling that comes with it
.just say'n
Darrell
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Hank Ruf


From:
Independence Missouri USA
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 4:11 am     Reply with quote

Beginners steel guitar group.
http://steelguitarnetwork.com/group/beginners-group
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Donny Hinson


From:
Balto., Md. U.S.A.
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 5:18 am     Reply with quote

You seem to be intelligent, well read, and have a good command of the language when it comes to being concise and communicative. That will all be a big help in your journey. Your decision to start with a teacher and get one-on-one lessons is equally commendable. IMHO, too many think they can learn PSG from a book, video, or by watching youTube. You have to have "live involvement" with other players to get the most out of the instrument in the least amount of time.

Good luck!
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Gerry Brown


From:
Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 5:51 am     Reply with quote

About two years into playing psg I still think of myself as a newbie. I have not found a single category in the forum index that did not welcome newcomer's most basic questions. You'll learn more and faster hanging in with the veteran players than you would in a dedicated newbie section. The fundamentals can be found all over the web. The problem will not be where can I find the answer to my beginner's questions so much as how do I process the boatload of information that's available.
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Ray Anderson


From:
Jenkins, Kentucky USA
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 6:01 am     Reply with quote

Welcome to the Forum, this is the place to be. I'm a 2 year Nooby and progressing all because of these guys and their thoughts and wisdom. The 2 main things to work on at this point are "scale and more scale" coupled with practice. Your attitude toward this instrument has to be one of dedication and heart, Your emotions toward it will determine your tone. No heart, no tone. Put feeling into it and she will sing every time you touch "her". I got the most help from the Newman courses, they were easy to be understood. Mark van Allens' E9 chord theory cd, showed me the fret board and where to find what I was looking for. A long journey? Yes. But everybody needs a "friend" to walk it with. Cool Happy Steelin'
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Dennis Coelho


From:
Wyoming, USA
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 6:15 am     Topic: A beginners journey learning the PSG. Reply with quote

Right from the start, I'd divide the challenges into two areas: oen, the various techniques required for the instrument such as blocking, pick use, dexterity and precision, tuning, posture, use of the volume pedal, control of the bar and so forth. For many people these are the elements that take the longest to control.

But the other area contains the elements of music and music theory. It is much easier to understand the design and intent of the PSG if you first understand the music concepts behind it. Chord theory and harmony are required and these can be studied without the instrument in front of you. Hey, it is only eight notes. How hard can it be?

I would think that good instruction would include both of the above.

These two things compliment each other, and (imo) it is very difficult to do the first without the second.

Wish you the best of luck in your journey. There really is no end to it.
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Bill Moore


From:
Manchester, Michigan
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 6:15 am     Reply with quote

It's really important to have patience, it will take some time. Don't let yourself get discouraged. Good luck, have fun!
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Don Drummer


From:
West Virginia, USA
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 8:52 am     start in the middle Reply with quote

Tim, try this. With the guitar and pedals in tune, just play play strings 8, 7, 6 and 5. Keep your thumb on string 8 and your index and middle fingers on 5 and 6. Don't get too involved with the 7th string until you grasp the function of pedals A an B. It's a start. PS don't quit. Everything said previously is very important. Bob Hofnar's advice is very important as to "practicing" without your instrument.
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chris ivey


From:
sacto
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 10:03 am     Reply with quote

i've known people who became quite good working players within one year.
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Bo Legg


Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 10:56 am     Reply with quote

First a person should understand is that a PSG is only a machine that you use to produce music.
The machine (PSG) can only function efficiently within the limits of your musical knowledge.

Even with good technique and a great deal of practice we all have a limit on our dexterity to apply to the mechanics of PSG but there is no limit to musical knowledge we can apply.

So practice practice practice but don't forget to study study study (include relative pitch ear training as a must)

Disclaimer: I'm not a PSG Icon nor in the Hall of Fame so don't take my word for it research everything yourself and make up your own mind.
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Keith Davidson


From:
Nova Scotia, Canada
Post Posted 15 Sep 2012 12:04 pm     Reply with quote

Tim, a lot of great advice here.

I too, as someone said above, consider myself a newbie after playing for 2 years. I have had the steel on the stage for about 5 months now but put in a lot of practice to get it there.

I've also had a lot of assistance from many players on this forum. These guys/gals are some of the nicest and most knowledgeable people you'll ever meet on a forum.

Personally, I think progress on any instrument comes down to a small amount of talent and a HUGE amount of desire. If you want to learn - you will.

And I believe it's far better to get at least 15 minutes of quality practice in every day than to just play around for an hour.

Best of luck and welcome to the forum.
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Rick Myrland


From:
Washington DC/NOVA
Post Posted 16 Sep 2012 6:06 pm     Reply with quote

Tim:

I would recommend Skype lessons with John McClug, who will get you off on the right foot. He's a great instructor whether you've owned your steel 5 minutes or 5 years. He will tailor your lessons to your skill level based upon where you want to go.

Also, search the forum for certain posters and see what they have to say. A lot of people post on this forum but many (1) look to be controversial for the sake of being controversial, (2) speak in such broad, esoteric thoughts that the post is meaningless, or (3) simply don't know what they are talking about. The posters who I consistently look for (and there are others, but these are the best), are...

A. Herb Steiner
B. Mike Neer
C. Mark van Allen
D, bOb
E. Paul Franklin

There are a few others, but you can't go wrong with whatever these guys say. Also, Dick Sexton posts a lot of Beginners Notes which can be gold -- don't just look at what he's developed, but why does it work.
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Tim Vandeville


From:
Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 17 Sep 2012 1:18 am     Reply with quote

Thank you to those that have made great suggestions. I do appreciate it and will use them.

Rick...Funny that you mentioned Skype. After taking the 1st lesson Sat. I started checking into it and figure thats the way I need to go. I dont have any complaints against the instructor from Sat on his teaching methods. Very nice guy and what he was explaining was easy enough to understand. Its just the style of playing (type of music) he does and where I want to go are completely different.

Ive checked into Skype lessons online and after looking at videos and what not for me it comes down to John McClug and Joe Wright. I dont feel I could go wrong with either choice. So Ill set up the computer and move in that direction.
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Sven Kontio


From:
Sweden
Post Posted 17 Sep 2012 5:52 am     Reply with quote

I think, being a newbie since 2 yrs, that the best you can do is the following: Take live lessons from the best picker you can find. Ask him to teach you the basics as right hand positioning, using picks, holding the steel bar, how and why to use pedals/levers and such. Also spend some time on understanding the functionality of your guitar. Learn how to tune it properly. Next: Listen as much as you can to the music of some of the best in the business. Also always keep in mind that you cant walk before you learn how to crawl, canīt run before you can walk. This means you need to practice first and foremost your right hand dexterity. There are tons of exercises on youtube. Mickey Adams has lots of good ones. Learn to pick the string groups, cross over, and other exercises. Some exercises can feel really awkward. Those are the ones to practice the most. These kind of exercises should be practiced every day. Eventually they will become second nature to you. You also need to learn to pitch correctly with the steel bar. That also is something that takes time, to learn how to move the bar to the correct positions. When you practice that, donīt try to use vibrato at this point. Focus on pitching. Using vibrato is one way to "hide" bad pitching, but thatīs not how and why you want to use it. From time to time you will "hit the wall" so to speak. You might feel nothing works properly. Then you give it some rest. Let things sink in. Take a break for some days. When you go back to the guitar things will feel much better. The body and mind need to sort things out sometimes. Some of us want to move fast forward, starting to play songs instantly. Be patient! Learn the basics first, properly. There is no easy way around. Someone told me the PSG is easy to play badly and difficult to play nicely. And I think thatīs true. Again, listen to how the really skilled pickers play. Iīm sure you know about "chocolate in the vanilla". Thatīs where the magic is. Somebody said itīs a good thing to use a metronome, and that is absolutely correct. Timing is everything...almost, at least itīs a lot. Now, that being said, who am I to try to tell you what to do? Well, Iīm a beginner who didnīt do what I suggest you should. And I realized I had to start over. If you skip important exercises you eventually will come to a point where you canīt move forward. You might have learned to do something in a wrong way, and those things can be hard to change. Most importantly: Have fun with your guitar! Enjoy every minute behind it! Love the instrument you own! You are on a rewarding trip, my friend. And never, ever, ever, ever give up!
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Don R Brown


From:
Rochester, New York, USA
Post Posted 18 Sep 2012 3:50 pm     Reply with quote

Tim, I'm just over 7 months in, so I certainly am qualified to speak of how a n00b feels and thinks! Laughing It's a long process but the key is to have fun. I did not get into it with the idea of joining a band nor becoming a professional musician. Like you, I liked the sound, wanted the challenge of learning it, and so far I'm having a ball with it. Since mine arrived February 7th, with the exception of vacation, I have put in at least 1/2 hour, usually much more, every single day.

Here's a suggestion which was given to me, and I'll pass it along as I think it's excellent. You know that your feelings on your progress will be a roller coaster - sometimes you'll feel like it's coming along well, a week later you'll wonder if you're EVER going to master that thing you're attempting at the moment. So you need something to keep from getting discouraged.

Get a small tape recorder, record yourself now, and maybe at one-month intervals. State on tape the date each segment is recorded. If you're feeling like you hit a wall, play back what you sounded like in the past. It will prove to you that you ARE making progress. Keep in mind that each passing month will bring more improvement.

My only regret is that I did not take up the steel 30 years ago. Keep us posted on your progress, I'm looking forward to hearing how you're doing!
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John Coffman


From:
Wharton,Texas USA
Post Posted 18 Sep 2012 5:18 pm     Reply with quote

Tim you sound like me back in 2005. No music training but a hungry to learn this beast. I can play some intermediate songs ok now. I am just now finding my style and intonation. I have had lot of help along the way. Steel player are the greatest guys around. Best of Luck I suggest anything that Jeff Newman teaches. Mickey Adams has some awesome lick and how to video on You tube. Be a sponge and soak it all in.
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Roual Ranes


From:
Atlanta, Texas, USA
Post Posted 18 Sep 2012 6:22 pm     Reply with quote

I think you could ask ANY top steel picker and you would be told that is a NEVER ending learning process. I know people that have been playing most of their lives and they will say that they have just scratched the surface.
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Daniel Policarpo


From:
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Post Posted 18 Sep 2012 7:18 pm     Reply with quote

Enjoy the ride.
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Daniel Policarpo


From:
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Post Posted 18 Sep 2012 7:25 pm     Reply with quote

Hey, Tim. Just for reference, I am using Winnie Winston and Bill Keith's Pedal steel guitar book, Scott's Anthology of Steel, and Joe Barcus youtube to get me off the ground. After about 6-7 weeks of getting my steel,2-3 hrs a day, I can just about play along to Bill Keith's recording/transcription of "Red River" and most of "Laredo", plus various simple intros. Mostly I'm working on exercises , scales, chords, etc. Been working up Lloyd Green's "Midnight Silence"....
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Shaffer Smith


From:
Oklahoma City, OK
Post Posted 18 Sep 2012 8:26 pm     Reply with quote

Tim, I'm only about 60 days ahead of you so I feel your apprehension about the journey ahead. I chuckled when I read about your picks because I did the same thing. I was so ready to get going and didn't even know how to put the darn picks on. I was so afraid of training improper muscle memory. I put a forum post looking for players in my area and had a few very helpful and generous members get me on the right foot. One invited me to his home and showed me proper posture, pick use, etc, and another came to my home and helped me adjust my setup. I've been spending about 10 hours per week of seat time and about 10 hours per week studying, online, books, etc. I'm not getting in a hurry to learn songs or to play something that sounds impressive. I've just practiced posture, the grips, drills and scales over and over... and it is all already starting to feel natural and I'm now moving around without having to stop and think.

Although I've played guitar for many years I didn't have any understanding of music theory. I am taking music theory lessons (from a guy who has never seen a PSG) and I've learned more about music in 4 lessons than I learned on my own in 20 years playing guitar. I'm so surprised at some of the basic universal concepts that I somehow missed. I too spend quite a bit of time traveling for work and I have really gained a lot from listening to Mark VanAllen's CDs in the car. I listen over and over and each day they make more sense and something new clicks. For me, learning about theory and how that relates to the Nashville number system and learning about chord construction and chord theory have been time very well spent. That combined with the drills and 60 days in it's all starting to come together for me.

I'm not going to lie, most of my first 60 days playing the PSG have been frustrating, unrewarding, and challenging. I've had many days that I wanted to crack it over my knee and throw the pieces out the window. BUT I know where I want to go and I don't expect to get there overnight. I can say at least for me, it has taken 60 days to progress enough to begin to have fun with it. I'm finally starting to get some good, consistant, confident sounds and actually look forward to practice time. I can now pull off a number of intros, can find the chords quickly and play multiple inversions.....and even play Sleepwalk hahaha.
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