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Post new topic Which Steel Players Play The Best Licks In Just One Position
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Author Topic:  Which Steel Players Play The Best Licks In Just One Position
James Quillian


From:
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 20 Apr 2020 6:55 pm    
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Which of history's steel players played the best and most licks in one position without moving the bar?

I would like to listen to what they do.

It isn't that I don't want to move the bar. When BB King played guitar, he could get more sounds on one fret than most players could get up and down the neck.

I am curious if there have been steel players who have done a similar thing.
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 20 Apr 2020 7:26 pm    
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James Quillian wrote:
Which of history's steel players played the best and most licks in one position without moving the bar?

It isn't that I don't want to move the bar. When BB King played guitar, he could get more sounds on one fret than most players could get up and down the neck.



I watched BB a lot, but never saw him concentrate on playing just at one fret. Can you give some example songs where he stayed on one fret and played a lot?
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Ron Funk

 

From:
Ballwin, Missouri
Post  Posted 20 Apr 2020 8:15 pm    
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Julian Tharpe

(altho without the bar)

"Danny Boy"
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 21 Apr 2020 1:16 am    
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Well the easy and short answer is BB and other seasoned great players knew the fretboard and the value of playing across the neck which allows playing an entire song without changing fret positions, but he DID CHANGE FINGERING positions which allows playing multiple scale shapes ACROSS the neck from a single position. The 6 string ( Spanish) guitar tuning is developed to do this effectively. Tuned in 4ths with the exception of that pesky 2nd string. Moving across the neck is theoretically " on purpose". By design.

I recall an early session with one of my OLD SCHOOL JAZZ guys he would say, if you get lost in a solo, don't go up the neck, go across , move over ONE string and play the same thing you just played ! " and he would laugh. Of course he was just making a point , waking up my brain. Move across one string you are at the 4th, move BACK one string you are at the 5th. This is predominantly why seasoned players make it look so easy. The fact of the matter is the guitar tuning makes it all accessible.

A seasoned, studied guitar player should learn this theoretical concept , playing across the neck out of the gate. It's how the guitar tuning is designed, maybe even WHY it was designed . Actually , the playing across the neck study is in a very early Mel Bay series of study . We study using 4 fingers for varied scales and chord shapes going across the neck, not UP or DOWN. Its not a secret.

Plus they, BB and others, are not in ONE fretboard position, with 4 fingers they are covering 4 fretboard positions without moving the hand. Thats 24 available notes without moving the hand. Not one fret which is 6 notes.

Now think of this, which you probably already have, a seasoned , studied player knows scales and chord shapes not just across the neck but up and down as well. Those players stand out from the rest of the pack. They view the fretboard in theoretical root pockets. Up, down across, back, whatever.

Of course many think theory is unnecessary but evidently others feel knowing where the notes are might be a benefit ! All Instruments are designed to make music in a theoretical structure, it's not by chance. A very small amount of theoretical understanding ( education) can result in a lifetime of music and enjoyment. We all don't need to be Miles Davis !


For Steel players we can accomplish a similar thing except we don't have FINGERS, we need to replace them with a Lever or a Pedal. The right NOTES need to be available and accessible or it could be a struggle. The standard C6th tuning is perhaps more appropriately laid out to do this over the E9th.

Referencing Julian Tharpe is interesting, but he I believe had 14 strings , his tuning was specific. He didn't play EVERY song across the neck. As far as we know, just ONE ! And a good one ! Very Happy
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Last edited by Tony Prior on 21 Apr 2020 5:23 am; edited 3 times in total
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 21 Apr 2020 1:53 am    
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If there is an upside to this wretched epidemic, it's that we have time for questions we'd normally be too busy to consider, so thank you James! Smile

What Tony says has set me thinking, not just about guitars, but about the whole business of having full command of any instrument.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 21 Apr 2020 5:02 am    
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Ha Ian ! This past year or two I have been on guitar a lot more than I had previously. I found myself struggling playing the same things over and over. Pretty boring to say the least. I went backwards to my earliest study, and revisited playing many things out of 2 or 3 different fretboard positions., then it dawned on me, this was where I started as a teen ! Playing various scales and shapes across the neck then up and down. This isn't making me a great player by any stretch but it is changing HOW I play. Its almost like a little game I play with myself during a song or solo. Its like.." Moron, good grief that phrase has been right here all along "

Better late than never I guess ! Laughing
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 21 Apr 2020 6:51 am    
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Jeff Newman’s demonstration on City Of New Orleans was an eye-opener for me
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gY53zX4D9ik

Somewhere there’s a clip of Joe Wright playing Steel Guitar Rag all in the open position too, but I can’t find it.

Probably all the great players could do it, because, as has been mentioned by others here, knowing the instrument up and down and all across and backwards and forwards is a skill that can lead to greatness.

I’ve been exploring just the opposite thing - playing a whole song or harmonized melody vertically on just two or three strings - which seems to come much more naturally on steel than it does on guitar.
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 21 Apr 2020 7:28 am    
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I see the Tharpe version of Danny Boy (with no left hand used) as merely an interesting novelty. Nobody would really play like that, normally, except to show that it could be done, or possibly for the "fun" aspect.

As Tony alluded, playing across the neck as opposed to playing up and down is just another way of doing things. It's certainly easier, requiring less movement and the knowledge of a few patterns. But it's not necessarily better...except in certain instances.

You've got a whole neck at your fingertips, it'd be a shame not to use it. Cool
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 21 Apr 2020 8:45 am    
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Playing a tune in one positon and playing it on one string are the mathematical extremes. Anything tasteful will fall between the two.
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Bob Hoffnar


From:
Austin, Tx
Post  Posted 22 Apr 2020 6:46 am    
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On a practical level if you can play in a bunch of different keys without using the bar you have the ability to eat a sandwich during one of those 3 hour gigs. It also makes it easy to play using open string harmonics which is a super useful texture .
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Curt Trisko


From:
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Post  Posted 22 Apr 2020 7:10 am    
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Bob Hoffnar wrote:
On a practical level if you can play in a bunch of different keys without using the bar you have the ability to eat a sandwich during one of those 3 hour gigs. It also makes it easy to play using open string harmonics which is a super useful texture .


Hi Bob, I remember you making some posts a while back encouraging us to put effort into learning how to play the same licks up and down the neck. I'll admit that at the time I thought it wasn't a good use of time and thought it was more about mastering the music theory of the instrument above and beyond playing it in the most effective way... and also disregarding that the same licks at different places on the neck are not actually the same because the texture is different. Now that I play more music that is intensely focused on the texture, it has dawned on me that this was probably your whole point.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 22 Apr 2020 7:51 am    
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For me texture is everything. There may be gigs where you can make the same sound all night, but I'm always looking for alternative positions to play the right notes so that they're not just musically correct but tonally appropriate too.

To do this you need some theory to start with but you soon build on it.
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Darrell Criswell

 

From:
Maryland, USA
Post  Posted 22 Apr 2020 10:34 am    
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On pedal steel is there a different quality to the sound of unfretted strings like there is on six string guitar?
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 22 Apr 2020 12:51 pm    
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Darrell Criswell wrote:
On pedal steel is there a different quality to the sound of unfretted strings like there is on six string guitar?


There's a difference in the overtone structure of a note played on an open string, and the same note played on a lower (fretted) string. As to which sounds better, it would probably depend on the overall context and content, i.e. what other notes and instruments are being played at the same time. Sometimes there are practical (playing) considerations, too, as many things that are noticeable at home or in a studio can tend to get lost or be less significant on the bandstand.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 22 Apr 2020 2:23 pm    
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Darrell Criswell wrote:
On pedal steel is there a different quality to the sound of unfretted strings like there is on six string guitar?

Listen to the Jeff Newman clip I posted earlier in this thread and judge for yourself.
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Curt Trisko


From:
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Post  Posted 22 Apr 2020 5:34 pm    
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Donny Hinson wrote:
As to which sounds better, it would probably depend on the overall context and content, i.e. what other notes and instruments are being played at the same time. Sometimes there are practical (playing) considerations, too, as many things that are noticeable at home or in a studio can tend to get lost or be less significant on the bandstand.


Agreed. I'm hesitant to play open strings unless there are other instruments cranking out enough noise to mask the difference.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 22 Apr 2020 11:10 pm    
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I dislike the open strings and rarely use them. Not only do they stick out tonally but also I hate having no bar control. I don't play any music that calls for them to be featured; although I've heard people doing clever hammer-ons that's not for me Smile
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Franklin

 

Post  Posted 23 Apr 2020 2:44 am    
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Hi James,

I always viewed playing at a single fret as a showmanship thing for concerts which is why there are not historic performances with many players playing pieces this way. They would be seen as copying Julian's concept and they were all about being viewed as original thinkers.....The answer to your question....Anyone can find these songs through "Interval Knowledge" Intervals are the source code for playing music

Here is the formula:

Any song composed from the major scale using no more than 1&1/2 octaves can be played at a single fret or in the open position because that is the typical melodic range of a single fret....Anytime all of the intervals are there then those same intervals will make up all of the chords or harmonies needed to play those modal or single fret melodies....Danny Boy, Silver Wings, City Of New Orleans, Home On The Range, and Amazing Grace are just a few melodies written from a single scale mode. Learn as Buddy, Lloyd, Hal, Curly, Tommy, I and that whole generation of players did.....It takes about two months of memorization to learn where the intervals are located over the fretboard and using the pedals....Learning music as we did is how to make all of the mysteries go away.

Paul
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Morgan Scoggins

 

From:
Georgia, USA
Post  Posted 23 Apr 2020 4:19 am    
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There was a piano player and composer back in the 1950's named George Shearing. He was a big proponent of "block cords" for piano, that is playing solos using three finger chord positions rather than playing single notes.
He had a hit song back then "Bye Bye Blues" which was a textbook lesson for block chords.
Herb Remington had that song in his "Fun Tab 2 Series" and it was played almost entirely using full chord strait bar and slant bar positions.
I am not real sure this is the help you need but it is the closest thing I can come up with that might help you.
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 23 Apr 2020 5:18 pm    
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Ian Rae wrote:
I dislike the open strings and rarely use them. Not only do they stick out tonally but also I hate having no bar control. I don't play any music that calls for them to be featured; although I've heard people doing clever hammer-ons that's not for me Smile


Ian, its more than just hammer-ons. You're missing some really beautiful stuff by not using open strings. Moving harmonies, played by combining open strings with barred strings (along with some pedal work) can yield some really unique and wonderful sounds. It also lets you command some interval harmonies and unisons that normally wouldn't be available. Mr. Green

I wish you were nearby. I get the feeling we could teach each other a lot.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 24 Apr 2020 1:56 am    
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Donny, I know you're right about those mixed barred and open sounds. I have some lessons by Neil Flanz that go into that territory, but in the time I have left (I'm in my late sixties and I've only been playing a few years) I want to get on top of the basics. It's more important to me to go out stylish than intricate.

Also I do most of my work with a singer who likes to call out a different key to keep us on our toes, so whatever I work out has to be transposible. I have never used open strings much on the bass either.

But I think my aversion is really to do with a feeling of being trapped. I can't use the bar for expression or intonation. It's the same on the trombone. Tommy Dorsey avoided 1st position because he needed to maintain slide vibrato, and the best straight players treat it with caution as you can only correct in one direction.
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Jeff Harbour


From:
Western Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 6 May 2020 3:05 pm    
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James Quillian wrote:
Which of history's steel players played the best and most licks in one position without moving the bar?


My vote would be Jimmie Crawford. Due to his preference of MANY levers, he was able to do some amazing things at one fret position. If you didn't already know, he played with FIVE levers per neck on just his left knee (now known as the "Crawford Cluster"), in addition to the levers played by his right knee. You definitely need to give him a listen (… or a watch).
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 7 May 2020 7:20 am    
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I rather dislike open chords with no bar.
You have no vibrato. Sad
Erv
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Mark van Allen


From:
Watkinsville, Ga. USA
Post  Posted 12 May 2020 5:23 am    
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Worth giving a listen to John Hughey’s instrumental version of “Half as Much”, he plays the whole first verse at the first fret. Not “tricky”, but sweet and lovely, and doesn’t sound like just one fret.
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Bill Ferguson


From:
Molino, FL USA
Post  Posted 12 May 2020 6:22 am    
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Maybe I am missing something here in my older age.

But it seems as though Julian is looking to see the different possibilities of "one fret" that steelers have or can do.
I don't think he is looking at reasoning as to "why" it was done.

Yep Julian did Danny Boy, Jeff did City of New Orleans and also "Friends Don't Take Her". Jeff's were definitely not a novelity. What he did made sense and could be used on the bandstand.

Great question Julian.
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