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Author Topic:  Thoughts on Teaching/Learning
Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 29 Sep 2017 9:05 am     Reply with quote

The recent thread regarding the teaching course by Franklin has got me to thinking,,,,what is the MOST important thing a student of steel guitar needs to learn? Scales? Riffs? Fills? Songs? Well, I believe, hands down the MOST important thing is,,,How to participate,,how to sit in,,and feel half way comfortable on stage,,,or jam,,,or invite friends over,,or be invited over,,,to learn enough to participate as quickly as possible! To feel like you are contributing something, no matter how simple! I think we can all agree, and it’s been said many times, that the best place to learn is on the bandstand. Unfortunately those opportunities are few and far between for most of us. But there are open mics, jam sessions and one thing that I feel should be encouraged among all steel players,,or musicians in general,,,invite other musicians over,,,network,,,make it a point to play WITH someone,,,kinda like the “guitar pulls” in NV. But of course a steel player needs to know enough to “participate”,,,not set it on fire,,,just participate,,,,during the course of which one can start perfecting their technique, right hand, bar hand, riffs, fills etc. I think teaching someone enough to get by, not cause a “train wreck”,,, just to be able to “participate” is the most important thing to start a player,,,if we enjoy something,,,and can feel like a part of something,,,we are much more inclined to stick with it. Rhythm tracks are great for learning but I think too many people start, learn a few songs or something then quit because they are not a part of something,,,not participating.

With all due respect,,,with the utmost of respect,,I think that some of the great teachers in the past have failed to consider,,,or to fulfill the needs of this end of the steel guitar spectrum,,,sometimes it's hard to see what the other side of the fence looks like.
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Joachim Kettner


From:
Germany
Post Posted 29 Sep 2017 9:35 am     Reply with quote

Good post Sir! I'm not joking when I say, find a repacement for myrself.
I can play guitar and sing in a three piece band.
We're looking out for a singer/guitar player so I can switch over to steel. Playing steel by myself is not much longer satisfying to me.
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Frank Freniere


From:
Chicago, IL
Post Posted 29 Sep 2017 11:41 am     Reply with quote

Well said, Sonny.

And Joachim I'm right there with you: my band broke up a while ago and playing steel by myself (even with BIAB) is just not cutting it ...
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Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 29 Sep 2017 1:25 pm     Reply with quote

I'm thinking more on people who are getting started on steel,,,those who are trying to figure out what to do while sitting behind that monster called a steel guitar,,,whether in a band, jam session, or sitting and playing with friends (which is what he NEEDS to do if he is to continue),,,live playing of some kind!

I grew up around music in Lubbock in the 50s,,,Holly, Mac Davis etc,,,and there were always guitars around to pick up. But my first "gigs" were playing bass,,,can honestly say that "root" got me by til I could start adding 5th in 2/4,,,,then 3rd in 4/4,,etc,,,(went on the road with a name act when I was 16,,not knowing much more than root and 5th,,LOL),,,THAT's WHAT a NEWBIE STEEL PLAYER NEEDS,,,,something to get him by in a live setting of some kind,,,til he can start adding to it.

One major problem is when a guy gets a steel,,,and is lucky enough to be in live situation,,,the guys in the band look at him and expect to hear John Hughey,,or Lloyd Green,,,,but still,,,he needs to have something that will mostly work,,,until he can build on it. If not, he is going to give it up. Sure he may opt for learning songs to play at home,,,,but without that live incentive he is unlikely to continue. That's why I think the primary purpose of any teacher,,,or course is to give the guy something to get him going,,,LIVE,,,until he can build on it. Teach songs, riffs, licks etc all day,,,the guy won't stay unless he can participate,,,play live.

I'm hoping this new course coming out considers this,,,if so then I think it will be the biggest thing that has ever happened to steel guitar,,,and when guys start participating in jam sessions, open mics etc,,,it may go a long way in reviving steel guitar,,,,history in the making!!!!
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Don Kuhn


From:
Poetry ,Texas, USA
Post Posted 29 Sep 2017 6:27 pm     Reply with quote

Well put Sonny !!!!!!!!!!!! I'm excited to see what the New teaching brings.
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Don Walworth


From:
Gilmer, Texas, USA
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 6:04 am     nice post and threads Reply with quote

Fear of failure -- yep, that would keep me from playing live. That I would hit a nice, fat,5th chord - and the rest of the band just looks at me and someone says "everyone knows that is a II chord - to a IV chord back to the I". (or whatever) That is what keeps me a "Bedroom Player". I play behind Ray Price, Mel Tillis etc. via YouTube doing Improvisational picking.
I am not a musician in any sense of the word. I've seen posts here on the Forum from a lot that are musicians and it goes something like this: "I play lead guitar in a band and thought I'd start learning to play PSG - and one week later I'm playing PSG with my band". That does not instill confidence in me as anything I learn on my PSG takes a LOT of effort.
Tonight would be a great time for me to play live. Where I work (bartender/floor sweeper in a brew pub) is having a charity event (Hurricane) with a LOT of bands coming. I'm sure at least one of them plays good old Country. Age is an issue -- set foot on the stage, sit behind my guitar and EVERYONE will think "This guy has been playing for years and should be good" Real world? I'm 82 and pecking away at it for about a year.
Running too long here -- sorry. Time to walk the dog. Oh - the dog loves to sleep under my guitar with her chin on the vol pedal - keeps me from playing. Smart dog?
Don
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 8:39 am     Reply with quote

Sonny, these are really good points and questions, and if you don't mind, I would like to offer my thoughts.

1. Music is not something that can be learned in a vacuum--at least not if you ever intend to play music with others. Participation with others is important. Start off by laying low, not overplaying or stepping on anyone else. Keep it simple.

2. A musician must use his time to develop his skills on a technical level to a point where he is able to hear beyond just himself. If you are on a bandstand, you have to be able to listen to the whole picture, which is difficult if you're unsure about your own playing and just focusing on yourself.

3. Music is about notes placed within time and space. Musicians have to become masters of time and space.

4. The more you understand about the structure of music, the easier it is to understand song forms and predict what comes next.

5. When we are young, we have all the time in the world to think about these things and practice. I know that there are many steel players who pick up the instrument later in life. The only advice I can offer is to learn the instrument best you can, and learn to listen to music more deeply. Take notes on what the role of every instrument is. Think of how the steel guitar fits in. Think of the role a string section plays in adding mood to music.

6. We all don't have the same goals. Identify yours and work toward it. If you aim to play in a small country combo, then try to learn from someone who is doing that, not someone who is a hot jazz player, etc.

7. Music is not only notes and time and space, but also expression. Focus on making your notes sound beautiful, expressive, one note at a time.
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Paul Stauskas


From:
Grand Prairie, TX
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 9:38 am     Reply with quote

Mike Neer wrote:
Sonny, these are really good points and questions, and if you don't mind, I would like to offer my thoughts.

1. Music is not something that can be learned in a vacuum--at least not if you ever intend to play music with others. Participation with others is important. Start off by laying low, not overplaying or stepping on anyone else. Keep it simple.

2. A musician must use his time to develop his skills on a technical level to a point where he is able to hear beyond just himself. If you are on a bandstand, you have to be able to listen to the whole picture, which is difficult if you're unsure about your own playing and just focusing on yourself.

3. Music is about notes placed within time and space. Musicians have to become masters of time and space.

4. The more you understand about the structure of music, the easier it is to understand song forms and predict what comes next.

5. When we are young, we have all the time in the world to think about these things and practice. I know that there are many steel players who pick up the instrument later in life. The only advice I can offer is to learn the instrument best you can, and learn to listen to music more deeply. Take notes on what the role of every instrument is. Think of how the steel guitar fits in. Think of the role a string section plays in adding mood to music.

6. We all don't have the same goals. Identify yours and work toward it. If you aim to play in a small country combo, then try to learn from someone who is doing that, not someone who is a hot jazz player, etc.

7. Music is not only notes and time and space, but also expression. Focus on making your notes sound beautiful, expressive, one note at a time.


Thank you Mike
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Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 10:08 am     Reply with quote

Hey Don,,,that's exactly what I'm talking about. If a would be steel player can't get the skill, confidence, or venue to get out of the bedroom he will most likely give up on an instrument that he loves,,,and an activity that he would have otherwise enjoyed for many years to come. There are dozens, if not hundreds of members on this forum that are here because they love the sound and uniqueness of steel guitar,,,they are the ones that are looking for a course,,or a program,,or something that will give them enough skill, confidence or a venue to get out of the bedroom and start building on that. I believe 100% that a person needs that fulfilment,,,that exposure to continue the journey!!!

Mike,,,thanks for the response,,quote,,"
1. Music is not something that can be learned in a vacuum--at least not if you ever intend to play music with others. Participation with others is important. Start off by laying low, not overplaying or stepping on anyone else. Keep it simple.

The potential steel player HAS to acquire,,,from a course,,,or program,,,or whatever those things I mentioned above,,in order to get out of that vacuum,,,the bedroom,,,THEN start building the other things you mentioned. That's what these would be steelers are counting on and hoping to get from this or any course or program to do.

These opinions are not necessarily from my personal position in musical knowledge,,,,I'm just trying share my opinion to help someone who is on top of that musical mountain ,,youself, Franklin,,who have already reached those heights,,,understand what the person on the bottom of the musical mountain is desperately in need of and searching for,,,and laying out money left and right hoping to find.

As to a "beginning" venue,,,I would like to offer a suggestion (I even discussed this with Reece a couple of times and he was VERY much in agreement),,,I mentioned in my opening post,,,as soon as we can acquire enough skill to make some halfway decent sounds,,,start looking for ANY opportunity to play. If opportunity is not there,,,CREATE it,,,invite others over to your house,,,2-3 guys in the LR, or garage,,,could be other steeler,,more advanced than you,,,less advanced,,,could be fiddle players,,,guitar players,,,anything to create a live enviroment,,,get a pizza,,,some dip and chips,,,tell a few lies,, whatever. But the main thing is listen to them,,,let them listen to you,,,agree to constructive criticism. And hope you will be invited to their place,,,get a circle of "same goal" friends going,,,,then maybe go to open mics with each other for support (since you are already used to playing with each other),,,main thing is to find a way,,or ways to play "live", with someone,,,be exposed!!!

I truly believe that this will benefit the beginning player,,,,or even the skilled bedroom player,,,more than any course or program money can buy,,,,no matter who is teaching it (and like I said,,some very well known teachers have agreed with this)
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Frank Freniere


From:
Chicago, IL
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 10:54 am     Reply with quote

Mike Neer wrote:
Sonny, these are really good points and questions, and if you don't mind, I would like to offer my thoughts.

1. Music is not something that can be learned in a vacuum--at least not if you ever intend to play music with others. Participation with others is important. Start off by laying low, not overplaying or stepping on anyone else. Keep it simple.

2. A musician must use his time to develop his skills on a technical level to a point where he is able to hear beyond just himself. If you are on a bandstand, you have to be able to listen to the whole picture, which is difficult if you're unsure about your own playing and just focusing on yourself.

3. Music is about notes placed within time and space. Musicians have to become masters of time and space.

4. The more you understand about the structure of music, the easier it is to understand song forms and predict what comes next.

5. When we are young, we have all the time in the world to think about these things and practice. I know that there are many steel players who pick up the instrument later in life. The only advice I can offer is to learn the instrument best you can, and learn to listen to music more deeply. Take notes on what the role of every instrument is. Think of how the steel guitar fits in. Think of the role a string section plays in adding mood to music.

6. We all don't have the same goals. Identify yours and work toward it. If you aim to play in a small country combo, then try to learn from someone who is doing that, not someone who is a hot jazz player, etc.

7. Music is not only notes and time and space, but also expression. Focus on making your notes sound beautiful, expressive, one note at a time.


Very true, Mike.
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Clark Doughty


From:
Missouri
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 12:21 pm     Instruction Reply with quote

You have hit the nail on the head Sonny. As it turns out thats on of the most difficult things to get the opportunity to accomplish, and that's to play with a group, at least for some of us.
Thanks for the post............clark

After thought: When I was learning to play the acoustic I learned more in three years playing with a group than I did many years before that. Yes I was afraid at first but it didn't take long to get the hang of it and I had a ball......plus becoming a much better player......FWIW
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Dale Rottacker


From:
Tacoma Washington, USA
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 12:29 pm     Reply with quote

In the EARLY years back in the early 70’s, I wish I would have “Learnt” how and what to Learn... so my feeble attempts through the years have brought me to where I am today... I’ve “Hunted and Pecked” my way for 45 years or so... Left to my own devises... wish I’d had a Mentor to show me the WAY
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Jerry Korkki


From:
Arizona, USA
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 4:56 pm     Reply with quote

This is a great topic. I think it applies to everything in life. When you like something, try to get good at it, then hang out with those who feel the same way, and everybody's going to grow. Standing, performing ( somewhat shaky) in front of a lot of people with lights in your face, and getting away with it is a direct result of jamming with your friends. Jamming with your friends is fun. Makes ya wanna practice more. But you still need something to practice. Learn all you can even if it is playing to a rhythm track, or along with your favorite recording, you still win, you're doing something you like or you wouldn't be sittin there doing it. The PSG is a great place to sit and learn.
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David Mason


From:
Cambridge, MD, USA
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 8:20 pm     Reply with quote

Gorf. You can NEVER play anything you can't first imagine yourself playing. You can never play faster than you can hear, you can never get a better tone out of your stuff until you can IMAGINE the better tone - then hunt it down and kill it.

Those rare & tantalizing moments where you think that you're "playing beyond yourself" - Ummm, no. Actually you're not - you CAN'T. You're recombining parts of one doodad and adding it to or modifying it with some other doodad in a way you hadn't IMAGINED before.

When people say "WAAH! Crying or Very sad How come those notes aren't in MY guitar?!?" Crying or Very sad Umm... THEY ARE. If that strikes you as BAD news, you're stewed and screwed, dude. But if it's GOOD news - why are you jellying your brain on the internet, GO PRACTICE. Dude. And practice listening. And practice imagining the music out beyond the bright lights, those dark things creeping through the underbrush are LOOKING FOR YOU.
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Bill L. Wilson


From:
Oklahoma, USA
Post Posted 30 Sep 2017 11:20 pm     Jamming with Friends on a Saturday Night. Reply with quote

Being able to jam with friends is probably the biggest learning experience I could've had. From the get go, I was lucky my friends put up with me and my MSA Semi Classic. Coming from a guitar back ground and even earlier lap steel lessons, made the pedal steel easier to comprehend. Setting in a little farm house in Mansfield Tx. almost every Sat. night and getting to jam with singer, songwriters, and higher caliber musicians really helped me tremendously. Sometimes just setting in my music house, I play along with country records on the stereo, anything to keep my chops up. Stomping on the AandB pedals and hearing those cliche country licks is what got me going, and it's basically what I still do. Here lately, I've been setting in with four different bands, and it's still fun after all these years.
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Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 1 Oct 2017 4:27 am     Reply with quote

Exactly what I'm talking about Bill,,,(or I guess the Sunday morning response would be,,,"Amen brother!!!),,,and Any course's PRIMARY goal should be to give the student something to "START" doing that as quickly as possible,,,,
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Bruce Bjork


From:
Southern Coast of Maine
Post Posted 1 Oct 2017 6:45 am     Reply with quote

Great post, thanks Sonny. Been playing guitar for 50 plus years, playing out did more for my playing and pleasure than anything else. Took up Pedal Steel four months ago, Justice Pro-Lite 3x5 and played out for the first time a few weeks ago and will be playing out next weekend. Love jumping into the deep end of the pool.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 1 Oct 2017 9:06 pm     Reply with quote

The Franklin course will not get your butt out of the house. Hopefully, if you actually do practice the material, it will give you something to bring to the bandstand when you do decide to go sit in on a jam or get the call to do a gig.

It would be nice if there was a practical way for steel guitar teachers to hold recitals for their students, like violin and guitar and piano teachers do.

Short of that, I think it is important to find players to sit in with who know what they're doing. Jamming along with people who stumblie over I-IV-V is just as disheartening and unproductive as not knowing how or what to practice. You are better off with BIAB until you can find some real players.
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Sonny Jenkins


From:
New Braunfels, Tx. 78130
Post Posted 2 Oct 2017 6:41 am     Reply with quote

Since starting this thread I have heard from several people by PM,,,one has a very interesting story that I am trying to get him to post and share,,,,would really bring home what I'm saying,,,and some very good ideas. If he won't post maybe he'll let me post his story?
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Joachim Kettner


From:
Germany
Post Posted 2 Oct 2017 8:02 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
Jamming along with people who stumblie over I-IV-V is just as disheartening and unproductive as not knowing how or what to practice. You are better off with BIAB until you can find some real players.

Very true, Fred.
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David Mason


From:
Cambridge, MD, USA
Post Posted 3 Oct 2017 11:31 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
"This band is your band,
this band is my band,
from California,
to the gruntled postal workers,
Tra la la la etc...."


A minor quibble about:
Quote:
Jamming along with people who stumblie over I-IV-V is just as disheartening and unproductive as not knowing how or what to practice. You are better off with BIAB until you can find some real players.


If you are the best person in the band and they know it, they may BE your BIAB. Make them stop stumbling. Bring in some songs you want to play. Have them try different rhythms ("One Way Out" by the Allmans is a straight-up Cuban clave beat..?)

The reason there are so very few Robert Randolphs or Rusty Youngs is a mix of the attitudes held by other and attitudes held by YOURSELF.
I'm just a back-up guy...
I only play pads, fills and solos...
I'm not here to play THE chords and THE melodies...

The reason the steel sounds so stupendous at steel shows is because you don't hear much of that play "out there." And these roles are breaking open, finally, the stereotype Hee Haw steel player is getting MUNCHED, mostly by forum members. It's an attitude, Austin seems to be one breeding ground of bar toting monsters, as is N. California.

I'm acutely aware of this because I'm just not a fronty-type person MYSELF and unfortunately my health is WAY TOO MUCH of an issue to "go large." (Cherish your spinal discs, kids!) And I'm pretty much only doing singer/songrwriter duos, I bring a bass, a guiter & a steel & TRY to play more of it. I'd say I can do "anything" i want but of course not really - I have a weird brain and I can't let it DUMP all over a friend.
Buy THIS book:
https://www.amazon.com/Drummers-Bible-Every-Afro-Cuban-Zydeco/dp/1937276198/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507100769&sr=8-1&keywords=the+drummers+bible
Loan it to your drummer and if he won't give it back you may have something there. If he hasn't cracked it open you do need a new drummer, at least. It's a really cool book anyway, you don't even need a drum machine anymore, you can "construct a drum kit" on the net.
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Joachim Kettner


From:
Germany
Post Posted 4 Oct 2017 3:48 am     Reply with quote

How in the world are you gonna do that, sitting behind your steel?
Quote:
If you are the best person in the band and they know it, they may BE your BIAB. Make them stop stumbling. Bring in some songs you want to play. Have them try different rhythms ("One Way Out" by the Allmans is a straight-up...

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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 4 Oct 2017 8:09 am     Reply with quote

Playing with good players will make you a better player. Playing with bad players will not.

Robert Randolph and Rusty Young did not hook up with inferior musicians and whip them into shape. They would not have gotten where they did following such a path.

Oh lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.
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Bobby D. Jones


From:
West Virginia, USA
Post Posted 4 Oct 2017 8:05 pm     Thoughts on teaching and learning Reply with quote

Teaching and learning on the steel guitar is a real unique undertaking.
To teach you need the exact same implement as what the student has. To be a student you need to have the same implement your teacher has and teaching use of. First, When it comes to teaching steel guitar,In some situations would be similar to teaching a new employee to dig a ditch, And the teacher is sitting on a back hoe he has ran for 10 years and his student has a shovel.

Nashville/Day setup, different tunings, 0 pedal, Franklin pedal, Split tuning, and all the different knee lever setups can be challenging for the teacher and student alike.

The steel guitar sure is no piano or keyboard.
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Paul Stauskas


From:
Grand Prairie, TX
Post Posted 4 Oct 2017 8:32 pm     Re: Thoughts on teaching and learning Reply with quote

Bobby D. Jones wrote:
Teaching and learning on the steel guitar is a real unique undertaking.
To teach you need the exact same implement as what the student has. To be a student you need to have the same implement your teacher has and teaching use of. First, When it comes to teaching steel guitar,In some situations would be similar to teaching a new employee to dig a ditch, And the teacher is sitting on a back hoe he has ran for 10 years and his student has a shovel.

Nashville/Day setup, different tunings, 0 pedal, Franklin pedal, Split tuning, and all the different knee lever setups can be challenging for the teacher and student alike.

The steel guitar sure is no piano or keyboard.


Yes, there are some technical challenges, some of which were mentioned in the post above. But while the vernacular may be different, the musical language is the same. I think people like to confuse the issue by making a big deal out of the initial technical challenges.
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