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Author Topic:  Learning Pedal Steel
Reed Spencer

 

From:
Alberta, Canada
Post  Posted 3 Apr 2020 11:52 am    
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There are many excellent tips out there but I have not found anywhere that puts it all together. You learn an scale or intro or ending or lick but what do you do with it? What about the rest of a song? Many talk music theory at a level that is difficult to navigate. I know grips, scales, chords and have no idea what to do with my 'knowledge' or lack thereof. HELP!!! I am getting ready to throw in the towel. Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 3 Apr 2020 1:06 pm    
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You might like to give my tabs a try.
I like to think I have it pretty much all together.
Besides the tab, I have the notation, chords and lyrics
for the complete song.
It's about as close to a lesson as you can get.
Don't give up! Very Happy
Erv
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Jim Cohen


From:
Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 3 Apr 2020 1:11 pm    
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Not to detract from Erv's offer but you might want to take some Skype or Zoom lessons with someone next. They can show you how to put your knowledge to use.
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 4 Apr 2020 7:12 am    
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Another suggestion would be to get ahold of DeWitt Scott's "Anthology of Pedal Steel". I learned a lot from that book. Very Happy
Erv
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 4 Apr 2020 9:27 am    
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Get thee into a band.
If no band is available, get thee some backing tracks and play along. Play the entire melody of a song, and see if any of your “licks” are in the melody. Scotty’s book might not be a bad place to start, since I believe backing tracks are included.

Generally speaking, pedal steel is not a solo instrument. It is meant to be played in an ensemble of some sort. And even at that, it would be rare to be playing all the way through a song from start to finish, unless you are playing an instrumental tune where steel is featured.

Listen to recordings of other players as they play through a song. There are tons of examples linked from the Forum. Try to copy what the great players do, or at least some of it. Sometimes they play something very simple that sounds perfect. It’s not just the notes being played, but the timing of the notes and the placement of the lick in regard to vocals. This will help develop your ear for recognizing licks in the context of playing through a song.

A guitar student of mine asked me a very similar question not long ago. The work doesn’t stop after you learn your scales and chords and rhythms. That’s really just the beginning.
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John Spaulding

 

From:
Wisconsin, USA
Post  Posted 4 Apr 2020 3:04 pm     Paul Franklin Methode
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Hi Reed-

No need to throw in the towel!

Everything you are asking about is being taught in The Paul Franklin Method.

You might start out with the Foundations: E9 Pedal Steel Basics course to make sure you have the bar control, blocking, grips, practical theory, chords and harmonized scales tied together.

You can always apply the $99 to the full Method if you wish to continue.

If you have not signed up for the FREE mini-course on backing a singer where Paul shows how to put phrasing, dynamics, nuance and emotion to work (with a lesson taken from the Method), you can do so here: Backing A Singer: Shenandoah


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Reed Spencer

 

From:
Alberta, Canada
Post  Posted 5 Apr 2020 5:20 am    
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Thank all for the replies. My big question was "What do you do when someone says Key of A - 1 4 5"?
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Carl Kilmer


From:
East Central, Illinois
Post  Posted 5 Apr 2020 7:23 am    
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Key of A - 1 4 5
1 is A
4 is D
5 is E

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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 5 Apr 2020 7:46 am     Re: Learning Pedal Steel
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Reed Spencer wrote:
There are many excellent tips out there but I have not found anywhere that puts it all together. You learn an scale or intro or ending or lick but what do you do with it? What about the rest of a song? Many talk music theory at a level that is difficult to navigate. I know grips, scales, chords and have no idea what to do with my 'knowledge' or lack thereof. HELP!!! I am getting ready to throw in the towel. Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad


Can you hear in your mind what you want to do ? You can't write a book if you don't have a story to tell.

If you don't have a story to tell yet I would suggest going slowly and learning a song you like. Learn to just play the chords and then learn to play the melody. Once you can do that you can find different ways to play the chords and transition between them. Once you really know the melody you can play it on different places on the neck and then harmonize it.

If you are whistling in the dark tab might be starting in the middle and not so helpful. The main thing is to practice. If you don't have the time or focus to put in at least a couple hours a day, every day, than don't expect to progress.
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Curt Trisko


From:
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Post  Posted 6 Apr 2020 4:17 pm    
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Reed Spencer wrote:
Thank all for the replies. My big question was "What do you do when someone says Key of A - 1 4 5"?


I remember being at that stage. First of all, Fred and Bob have good advice. Second, improvising on a song on the fly might never feel intuitive.

I'll echo what Fred said about learning the styles and musical sensibilities of other players. Getting into a pre-made 'mode' that you already know you like takes a big load off.

Bob is dead on about it being really helpful if you have something to say on steel guitar. Many people won't notice if you're just mumbling, but they will definitely notice if you're blathering. He's also right that if you don't have anything to say, deconstructing how and why the song 'works' and then reassembling it in different ways will at least allow you to be musical with it.

I apologize that everything I am saying now is abstract. If you're at the stage of your journey that I remember being at it, then you are taking your first steps into a deeper dimension of music where your thinking will be reoriented and you will have to find your identity on steel guitar. Even if it could be taught, it probably isn't what you are looking for because it sounds like you are talking about developing intuition instead of rules and logic. The funny thing about this journey is that even though it is intensely personalized, somehow we all end up in roughly the same place. That's an awesome thing about music.
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James Quillian


From:
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 6 Apr 2020 7:31 pm     Re: Learning Pedal Steel
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Reed Spencer wrote:
There are many excellent tips out there but I have not found anywhere that puts it all together. You learn an scale or intro or ending or lick but what do you do with it? What about the rest of a song? Many talk music theory at a level that is difficult to navigate. I know grips, scales, chords and have no idea what to do with my 'knowledge' or lack thereof. HELP!!! I am getting ready to throw in the towel. Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad

Here is what I suggest, not so much as a steel player but as a retired teacher. One of these pros would be better at telling you how to.

For now put bringing it all together on the back burner.

If you never have, think of only one thing at a time. That is not as easy to do as it sounds. You have to be disciplined in doing that.

Then what?

Pick a very simple song, even if it seems trite. Red River Valley is my favorite than that. Erv has the tab for it for $2.00.

Learn that song without even thinking about why you are doing what you are doing. Play is so slow that you fall asleep. (just that will go a long ways towards bringing together.

Learning the mechanics of something first makes it easier to learn the Whys next.

Also, it is unrealistic to expect to get real good real quick. I'll tell you. I have been playing steel for 8 years and I can't honestly say I am real good.
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Karlis Abolins


From:
(near) Seattle, WA, USA
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2020 2:57 pm    
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Hi Reed,
Don’t throw in the towel yet. It is simpler than it seems. For a country song, everything is about the diatonic scale - do re mi fa sol la ti do or 1 _ 2 _ 3 4 _ 5 _ 6 _ 7 1 where the underscores represent notes you skip in the chromatic scale. If you think of the scale in numbers, you only have to learn 1 set of patterns and then move them up or down the neck to play in the appropriate key. For the diatonic scale, the available chords are made up up major, minor and diminished chords.

A major third interval has two notes that are four semitones apart - two full steps
A minor third interval has two notes that are three semitones apart - one full step and one half step

A major chord consist of a major third interval followed by a minor third interval
A minor chord consists of a minor third interval followed by a major third interval
A diminished chord consists of a minor third interval followed by a minor third interval

Using these rules and the notes in the diatonic scale you can construct the following chords

The first chord (1) is a major chord and has the notes 1 3 5
The second chord (2) is a minor chord and has the notes 2 4 6
The third chord (3) is a minor chord and has the notes 3 5 7
The fourth chord (4) is a major chord and has the notes 4 6 1
The fifth chord (5) is a major chord and has the notes 5 7 2
The sixth chord (6) is a minor chord and has the notes 6 1 3
The seventh chord (7) is a diminished chord and has the notes 7 2 4

So getting down to your question of what you play: you play the notes in the diatonic scale when the singer is not singing. Usually a vocal line has a pause at the end of the line so the singer can breathe. It is usually a half measure or a measure and a half. During that half measure play a scale snippet that begins on a note in the chord for the bar. If the bar was in a 1 chord you can start on a 1 or a 3 or a 5. You want the scale snippet to end on a note that is in the chord for the following bar. So if the bar that the singer ends is in a 1 chord and the next bar is in a 1 chord, you want to begin with a 1 note or 3 note or a 5 note and then end with a 1 note or a 3 note or a 5 note. Some of the possible scale snippets are 1 2 3, 3 2 1, 3 4 5, 5 4 3, 1 7 6 5, 5 6 7 1, 1 2 1, 3 4 3, 5 6 5, 1 7 1, 3 2 3, 5 4 5, etc. If the singer ends in a 1 chord and the next bar begins in a 4 chord, you want to begin with a 1 note or 3 note or a 5 note and then end with a 4 note or a 6 note or a 1 note. Some of the possible scale snippets are 1 2 3 4, 3 4 5 4, 3 4 5 6, etc.
I won’t list all the movements. Avoid full three note chords. Single note or two note harmonized scales give you a limitless number of possibilities. It is really simpler than it looks.

Karlis
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Kevin Fix

 

From:
Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 7 Apr 2020 6:50 pm    
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Use what you have learned get you some rhythm tracks and explore. You Tube is a fun place to play along with. I am a ear player but know music theory. john Spaulding has a great avenue for sure.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2020 1:02 am    
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well its an interesting question, easily answered, from my point of view.

Start listening to records with Steel on them and PAY ATTENTION to the Steel parts and phrases. You don't even need to have an instrument in front of you. Its like "reading a book" for knowledge. Its called LISTEN and LEARN.

Not every song has wild in your face Steel licks, some are very gentle, almost not even there. Those are the most important ones to listen to.


LISTEN AND LEARN

Many times we have all run across players, any instrument, who play well but don't know how to FIT in the music. So they just play. They have never actually studied how to be PART of the big picture.

LISTEN and LEARN is a teaching reference.

We as Steel players have an incredible songbook to learn from, Paul, Buddy, Lloyd, Weldon, Tommy, Pete, Doug and on and on, all who have played wonderful pieces behind singers/songs showing us a how great a very small amount can be.
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Andy Henriksen

 

From:
Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2020 9:45 am    
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Reed Spencer wrote:
Thank all for the replies. My big question was "What do you do when someone says Key of A - 1 4 5"?

It's a two-step process:

1. Find A (your I chord) (your choice of which one. The two most common are no pedals at 5, or A+B at 0 or 12.)

2. Play I-IV-V from there. If you think in terms of intervals and relative position to the I chord, you don't even need to know that IV is D and V is E.

Wherever the no-pedals I chord is (5th fret in your A example), then IV is A+B at the same fret, and V is A+B 2 frets up from there.

If you start at 12AB for your A chord, then IV is two frets below (10th fret) with no pedals, and V is at the same fret as I (12th), but with no pedals.

These two I-IV-V pockets are the foundation for tons of popular music. Play along with lots of simple 3 chord songs, and you will see these patterns/pockets emerge everywhere. You just need to know what fret to start on.
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Tucker Jackson

 

From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2020 11:55 am    
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That's a 'Bingo,' Andy.
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2020 12:51 pm    
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Reece's words of wisdom:
Quote:
If you can't hear it in your head, you can't play it.


Tony's thoughts are really good too:
Quote:
LISTEN AND LEARN

Many times we have all run across players, any instrument, who play well but don't know how to FIT in the music. So they just play. They have never actually studied how to be PART of the big picture.

LISTEN and LEARN is a teaching reference.

We as Steel players have an incredible songbook to learn from, Paul, Buddy, Lloyd, Weldon, Tommy, Pete, Doug and on and on, all who have played wonderful pieces behind singers/songs showing us a how great a very small amount can be.


Words to live by! Winking
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2020 1:28 pm    
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Reed Spencer wrote:
Thank all for the replies. My big question was "What do you do when someone says Key of A - 1 4 5"?


well this a is a "theory" question, relative to any instrument we may play or begin to play.

Its that minimum theory that many say they don't need to learn or know, but the fact of the matter is, they do know.

We learn music, each key is a scale of notes, 1 thru 8. regarding Country Music, in its simplicity its a 3rd chord structure, 1-4-5 C,F and G G,C and D A,D and E . each note is a degree of the ROOT scale ( the key)

I recommend you sit with a Piano teacher for basics, 2 or 3 lessons. This is probably not something you can learn for a Forum thread.

best

tp
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Jerry Malvern

 

From:
Menifee, California, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2020 2:28 pm    
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Try and find a teacher.
Get Jeff Newmans courses.
Go to every jam session you can.
At one of the jams, the guitar player offered this advise. "Go home, set up your steel in front of the radio, and play whatever is on". Best advise ever!
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