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Post new topic How Good is a Fessenden?
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Author Topic:  How Good is a Fessenden?
James Quillian


From:
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 28 Sep 2019 10:01 am    
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I am toying with the idea of getting second pedal steel, D10.

I have had one guitar for seven years and I am actually fairly impressed with it. The fact is that I have never played any other pedal steel.

My impression of the pedal steel is that as far as sound is concerned the right hand technique is more important in getting the right sound than is the influence of a particular brand.

Also, I am not one to try and emulate a lost sound from a golden era. There is nothing wrong with that approach. It is just not my approach. All people are never all looking for the same thing.

There are brands that sound good, like Mullen, MSA and Sierra. What would I find different in those guitars and the Fessenden I own now?

Also, I have read about things like geared levers that allow a player to choose between changing a string by a half step or a whole step depending on how much pressure is applied. Are those types of levers available on all guitars or with just certain manufacturers?

If there is nothing better, I might get a second pedal steel like the one I already play.

Thanks

James
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 28 Sep 2019 5:01 pm    
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James - I am of the same opinion as you RE: tone - it is the player, the amp, the speaker, the pickup, the volume pedal, and then the guitar, in more or less that order. I admit this opinion does not come from having played many different instruments, but from vigorously A/B-testing the ones I have had access to, and listening to the many sound samples that have been posted over my years of following this forum.

What does exist with different brand pedal steels are three different types of unique features. First would be unique design ideas to the central design of pedal steel that take a particular brand into new directions. Fulawka might have been like this, and I'd say the new Sierras and Excel also fit. Second would be mechanical solutions to problems all pedal steels deal with, like design of the reversing mechanism for levers that do not naturally provide a pull motion to the changer of all-pull guitars, key or keyless designs, or design of the bell cranks. Every brand has their approach to this. Last category would be unique, original thinking that does not address the central design of pedal steel, but makes the guitar more adjustable, or otherwise easier to play. MSA fits this category easily with their L-frets for playing on dark stages, the pedal rods that can be adjusted while seated and do not require numbering the rods, or their quick-change pick-up mounts.

One factor that can be very important is weight - there is a wide range of weights for new steels with the same pedal/lever count. Personally, I have no desire to carry a very heavy instrument around - too many back issues already! Others may view it differently.

Of course, I have not mentioned cosmetic distinctions - lacquer? laminate? polished? Anodized? powder-coated? We will, presumably, spend many hours sitting at these things - it helps if they are pleasing to the eye.

Beyond that, while many thing there is a superior brand/model of pedal steel out there, the fact that there is no clear popularity winner indicates that this is a personal choice. Even among the pros, there is no clear favorite. But you have an advantage over me - you live in San Antonio, where there are a bazillion pedal steel players. It should be fairly easy to try out many different brands just by placing an advert here, or attending that San Antonio steel organization if it is still meeting routinely. I would suggest deciding which factors really matter to you, narrow your search to brands that have those features, then try to find one near you to try out.

Good luck!
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Johnie King

 

From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 28 Sep 2019 5:15 pm    
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Fessenden Steels our one the best steels I know of you just can’t go wrong with a late model Fessy.
I think Jerry Fessenden has a brand new one for sale here on the forum.
3 over 3 modern changer
Best bell crank design I know of.
Very easy to change copeadent
An Jerry is still building so parts should be ready available,
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James Quillian


From:
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 28 Sep 2019 6:59 pm    
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My impression has always been that Fessenden is a mechanical marvel. The engineering is so simple there really isn't much chance of anything going wrong. But, I have never played anything else. My opinion of the Fessenden service is not as complementary as yours. I find that getting parts is not worth the trouble. The one time I needed a part. I gave up and had a machinist make it. I ended up with a far superior part that actually cost less money. The only drawback to Fessenden is the enormous hassle of getting parts and such. But, I still might get one. It is the guitar that counts and I know a machinist who can make anything and make it well. Professional steel players probably get treated royally but ordinary players who pay the same prices get little respect.

It is hard to beat Fessenden's prices.

I get a lot of rock out of the legs but that is probably my fault.


Johnie King wrote:
Fessenden Steels our one the best steels I know of you just can’t go wrong with a late model Fessy.
I think Jerry Fessenden has a brand new one for sale here on the forum.
3 over 3 modern changer
Best bell crank design I know of.
Very easy to change copeadent
An Jerry is still building so parts should be ready available,

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Johnie King

 

From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 28 Sep 2019 7:14 pm    
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James water hose rubber gasket might help on the legs slip the gasket over the 1/2 threads part or a heavy duty o- ring.
I guess if I was in your shoes I would diffenly want too try some other brands.

Hey love your Song loose shoes on YouTube
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Johnie King

 

From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 28 Sep 2019 7:23 pm    
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Man Douglas you absolutely nailed the description of steel guitar I agree 100 percent with you!
What’s the saying
It’s not the arrow it’s the Indian
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Eddy Dunlap

 

From:
Nashville, Tn
Post  Posted 29 Sep 2019 8:39 am    
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Jerry builds one of the best guitars out there! They sound fantastic and Jerry is a tone connoisseur.
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Johnie King

 

From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 29 Sep 2019 11:40 am    
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oh wow very seldom will a pro steeler gives a thumbs up too a steel guitar builder if Eddy gives the Fessenden a big thumbs up that’s good enough for me!!
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John Macy

 

From:
Denver, CO/Rockport, TX
Post  Posted 29 Sep 2019 1:41 pm    
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I have a pair of Fessenden’s that Jerry built for me in the late ‘90’s that I dearly love and use. Jerry has been nothing but great to me and the tone is incredible.
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James Quillian


From:
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2019 5:04 pm    
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Johnie King wrote:
Man Douglas you absolutely nailed the description of steel guitar I agree 100 percent with you!
What’s the saying
It’s not the arrow it’s the Indian


Thanks Johnnie. I keep writing em. The few other people who play them sound a lot better than I do.

Perhaps I should remind folks. Its not the musician its the song. But, that limps compared compared to the Indian-Arrow saying. And, it is not nearly as convincing. Also, I wish it was just as true. That is a good one.
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James Quillian


From:
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2019 5:20 pm    
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Douglas Schuch wrote:
James - I am of the same opinion as you RE: tone - it is the player, the amp, the speaker, the pickup, the volume pedal, and then the guitar, in more or less that order. I admit this opinion does not come from having played many different instruments, but from vigorously A/B-testing the ones I have had access to, and listening to the many sound samples that have been posted over my years of following this forum.

What does exist with different brand pedal steels are three different types of unique features. First would be unique design ideas to the central design of pedal steel that take a particular brand into new directions. Fulawka might have been like this, and I'd say the new Sierras and Excel also fit. Second would be mechanical solutions to problems all pedal steels deal with, like design of the reversing mechanism for levers that do not naturally provide a pull motion to the changer of all-pull guitars, key or keyless designs, or design of the bell cranks. Every brand has their approach to this. Last category would be unique, original thinking that does not address the central design of pedal steel, but makes the guitar more adjustable, or otherwise easier to play. MSA fits this category easily with their L-frets for playing on dark stages, the pedal rods that can be adjusted while seated and do not require numbering the rods, or their quick-change pick-up mounts.

One factor that can be very important is weight - there is a wide range of weights for new steels with the same pedal/lever count. Personally, I have no desire to carry a very heavy instrument around - too many back issues already! Others may view it differently.

Of course, I have not mentioned cosmetic distinctions - lacquer? laminate? polished? Anodized? powder-coated? We will, presumably, spend many hours sitting at these things - it helps if they are pleasing to the eye.

Beyond that, while many thing there is a superior brand/model of pedal steel out there, the fact that there is no clear popularity winner indicates that this is a personal choice. Even among the pros, there is no clear favorite. But you have an advantage over me - you live in San Antonio, where there are a bazillion pedal steel players. It should be fairly easy to try out many different brands just by placing an advert here, or attending that San Antonio steel organization if it is still meeting routinely. I would suggest deciding which factors really matter to you, narrow your search to brands that have those features, then try to find one near you to try out.

Good luck!

There is one thing that has helped with tone, for me, and that is running the steel through this Peavey VPM-2 pre amp I ran across years ago. Of course that would be true with any guitar.
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Billy Knowles

 

From:
Kenansville, N. C. 28349 usa
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2019 5:25 pm     Fessenden
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Fessenden is a great steel guitar built by a master builder.
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David Nugent

 

From:
Gum Spring, Va.
Post  Posted 1 Oct 2019 4:30 am    
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Tommy White played Fessenden guitars for a period.
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Drew Howard


From:
48854
Post  Posted 1 Oct 2019 7:00 am    
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I've owned a few of Jerry's guitars and presently play an SD-10. I love the tone, the ease of pedal and lever action, and the guitars are easy to work on.
Jerry has always been accessible by phone and is a font of information regarding steel guitar. I think you will be highly satisfied should you come to own a Fessy.
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Patrick Huey


From:
Nacogdoches, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 1 Oct 2019 4:51 pm    
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Johnie King wrote:
Man Douglas you absolutely nailed the description of steel guitar I agree 100 percent with you!
What’s the saying
It’s not the arrow it’s the Indian

Johnie,
That’s very true however, there is a certain amount of “tone” that is the actual guitar itself,,
as each different brand tends to have a bit of its own unique sound, some more so than others.
Examples....the Telecaster and the Les Paul are both six string electrics, however, give them each the same pickups and such and they will still each produce a very much different tone.
Great example...
I’ve heard Tom Brumley play Together Again on ZB’s, Mullen, and a Zum I believe, and he has the “Brumley touch” of course, the solo on each being pretty much the same and the usual Brumley awesome....HOWEVER none sounded like the original solo off the original recording on which he played that old Fender that had that unique not unpleasant Fender “screechy growl undertone” as I call it, that is absent from the other versions. That’s strictly that particular guitar’s contribution to the overall tone equation.
And then the famous world renowned good well set up Emmons push/pull tone.
So yes, the guitar itself does contribute often, and often contributes a LOT, to the overall tone equation itself IMHO
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Pre RP Mullen D10 8/7, Carter S-10 3/4, previous Cougar SD-10 3/4 & GFI S-10 3/2, Peavey Session 500, previous Peavey Nashville 400, Boss DD-5, Hilton Digital Sustain, '88 Les Paul Custom, Fender Stratocaster, Takamine acoustics, Marshall amps, Boss effects, Ibanez Tube Screamer, and it all started with an old cranky worn out Kay acoustic you could slide a Mack truck between the strings and fretboard on!!
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Mike Wilson

 

From:
Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 4 Oct 2019 4:33 am    
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If it’s good enough for Wayne Hobbs a Fessenden should be good enough for anyone else.
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Leo Grassl

 

From:
Nashville TN
Post  Posted 6 Oct 2019 3:55 pm    
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Jerry builds a fantastic sounding guitar. A great choice for another guitar. IMO it doesn't matter if it is a late model or an earlier one.
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Jim Pitman

 

From:
Waterbury Ctr. VT 05677 USA
Post  Posted 7 Oct 2019 3:44 am    
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I've noticed PSGs can differ noticeably regarding sustain. My vintage MSA and Zum had little compared to the Fessenden I later played for years. The sound man in my band at the time noticed the difference too. Great tone to boot.
caveat - I play a U12.
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Bob Carlucci

 

From:
Candor, New York, USA
Post  Posted 7 Oct 2019 4:49 am    
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I bought a loaded black Fessy S10. Dead mint condition. Had 5 and 5 I think.. Bought it from a fairly well known pro steel guitarist whose name I won't mention. I think he was having a new fessy made.. From what I gather he really liked the guitar he sold me.
I know this goes against the grain of this thread, but lets just say that was not the guitar for me. I could not warm up to the action on the pedals or knees no matter how much adjusting or lubing I did, and I simply could not get comfortable with that guitar.. Sound wise it was ok, but had a strong loud powerful timbre which was simply not for me, as I prefer a lighter, twangier more vintage steel guitar tone.

Sold that guitar within a few weeks after buying it. Used it at a few gigs, and realized it just wasn't for me.

I can say the same thing about a couple other modern brands as well. Its not the guitars, its my taste or lack thereof. The Fessy seemed to be as well built as anything else out there, and easier to change copedents quickly due to the well engineered bell crank/pull rod design.

I would say that if a modern pedal steel with a big sound , big sustain is your cup of tea, the Fessy is a good choice.. If you like a vintage pedal steel sound and feel, perhaps not.
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Johnie King

 

From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 1 Nov 2019 7:06 am     Re: Fessenden
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Billy Knowles wrote:
Fessenden is a great steel guitar built by a master builder.
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Johnie King

 

From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 1 Nov 2019 7:09 am    
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Eddy Dunlap wrote:
Jerry builds ☝️ of the best guitars out there! They sound fantastic and Jerry is a tone connoisseur.
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