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Author Topic:  Advances in pedal steel construction
Bill Duncan

 

From:
Lenoir, North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 4:59 am    
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There are several very good builders of pedal steels and they are exquisite. But as far as mechanical advances to me I don't see any. There are still the same scissor style changers, most appear to me to be Carter clones with more pull holes. Even the bell cranks are still about the same as in the seventies. Most have gone to square crossrods instead of round, but that is hardly groundbreaking technology. Easily interchangeable pickups are an advance I believe. Am I way off base?
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Larry Bressington


From:
The beautiful sunsets of Nebraska
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 5:54 am    
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It's hard to reinvent the...Steel? Very Happy
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Tom Campbell

 

From:
Houston, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 6:25 am    
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The last thing I want to see is any digitizing/computer assist "anything" on the steel guitar. The "KISS" theory is working just fine!!!
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Jack Stoner


From:
Inverness, Fl
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 6:26 am    
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+1 What Larry said
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Fred Justice


From:
Mesa, Arizona
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 6:48 am    
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Bill, the pedal steel guitar is a very intense machine if you really take a close look at it.
There is nothing else quit like it.
Its first a machine, then an instrument that you can play most anything you like on it.
"If it works, don't fix it" just oil it when you need to. Very Happy
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John McClung


From:
Olympia WA, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 6:53 am    
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To me, the best improvements are ones that make my steels more capable, and easier to tweak to do those things. So when comparing brands, here are the things that float my boat and I see as incremental but valuable improvements:

• split tuning screws for all strings. I only put in screws where needed, though, easier to know which string I'm fussing with.

• single-blade bell cranks (Mullen, Rittenberry, GFI others), much easier to pass rods by these compared with twin-blade bell cranks (vintage Zum, MSA, Carter, others).

• bell cranks with lots of holes for pull rods.

• hex crossrods, bell cranks stay put better than on square, shiny crossrods.

• interchangeable pickups (older Sierra, current MSA).

• more holes in the changer for raise and lower rods. My extended E9 has grown pretty complex over the years, and I routinely want 1 string with 4 raises, and another string with 4 lowers. Current MSA's provide the 4 raises, but only 3 lowers. The only brand that has all that is Excel.

• as important as all that are: tone; playability; and how the entire machine "fits" my body, all subjective matters. I have a 1990 Zum S12 and its 2 staggered LKL's are too far to the left, so without some custom flags and modifications, I don't enjoy playing it much, even though it the pedals are solid and smooth and the guitar sounds great.
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Last edited by John McClung on 19 Jun 2020 7:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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Curt Trisko


From:
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 7:06 am    
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I'm not advocating for digitizing the steel, but there are at least a couple things about the instrument that lend itself to doing that:

1) It is not an acoustic instrument, so having the bends be digital effects can remove the need for the components related to that.

2) A big downside of the instrument is the need for assembly/disassembly. With digitization there would be no need for the pull rods. The pedals can communicate with the rest of the instrument by bluetooth instead.

Basically, you can turn it into a lap steel with a separate, disconnected pedal rack.
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Jim Cohen


From:
Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 7:24 am    
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Curt Trisko wrote:
I'm not advocating for digitizing the steel, but there are at least a couple things about the instrument that lend itself to doing that:

1) It is not an acoustic instrument, so having the bends be digital effects can remove the need for the components related to that.

2) A big downside of the instrument is the need for assembly/disassembly. With digitization there would be no need for the pull rods. The pedals can communicate with the rest of the instrument by bluetooth instead.

Basically, you can turn it into a lap steel with a separate, disconnected pedal rack.

Not to mention the ability to change your tuning at the flick of a button, reassigning the functions of your pedals and KLs instantly. You would only need a single neck guitar to have it all. BTW, I believe someone is actively working on doing this...

(Now, I already know that this is not gonna be everybody's cuppa tea so there's no need to pile onto this thread to say how much you hate the idea of digitizing the steel... Wink
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 7:27 am    
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I believe Sho~Bud tried that at one time. Rolling Eyes
Erv
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Jim Cohen


From:
Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 7:28 am    
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Erv Niehaus wrote:
I believe Sho~Bud tried that at one time. Rolling Eyes
Erv


Yah, well the technology available today is lightyears ahead of what Sho~Bud had available in the dialup phone era. They didn't even have desktop computers back then, did they? Just sayin'...
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Tom Campbell

 

From:
Houston, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 7:39 am    
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The digitizing being mentioned has already been done...it's called a 'synthesizer-key board.
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Fred Justice


From:
Mesa, Arizona
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 7:52 am    
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Jim I agree we should not pile into this thread too heavy.
Opinions are like butt holes, everyone has one. And I think everyone should be able to expel theirs any time they like.
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Gary Cosden


From:
Florida, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 8:06 am    
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We will most likely see evolution as opposed to revolution.
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Jim Cohen


From:
Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 8:12 am    
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Fred Justice wrote:
Opinions are like butt holes, everyone has one. And I think everyone should be able to expel theirs any time they like.

Well that certainly is a florid image, Fred... LOL!
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 8:18 am    
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I think our builders have done a marvelous job of refining the modern pedal steel guitar. While the basic design may APPEAR to not have changed, many tweaks and updates that make steels better and easier to play have been done.

Look at a 70s era MSA, Zum or Mullen for example compared to recent models...or the Franklin. Those guys have not stopped trying to improve on an already fine product and I think we owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their efforts.

Think about the geometry that lets you stretch a string a step and a half over and over without breaking or tweaking the cabinets out of playability.

Then there's Ross' really innovative Sierra design.

I welcome a digi model if it works, but the finite nuances and micro slurs and bends that we do make for a real challenge for natural operation it seems to me.


Last edited by Jerry Overstreet on 19 Jun 2020 8:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bill Duncan

 

From:
Lenoir, North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 8:20 am    
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I remember the feeling back in 1977 when I sat behind the MSA D10 I traded my Sho-Bud for, and I loved that Sho-Bud. I never realized how much the Sho-Bud moved around when I used a knee lever until I tried the MSA. The Sho-Bud was bright red and beautiful, but to me that MSA was not as pretty and was really heavy, but it was way ahead in the way it played. Smooth! I have never felt a difference like that since. I realize that mechanical items designed for a specific purpose can reach a design point where not much improvement mechanically can be done. Is pedal steel guitar there?
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memphislim


From:
Austin, Texas
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 9:39 am    
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Bill, I think if you take a close look at the new Sierra by Ross Shafer, you'll see advancements in technology far greater than even designs of 10 years ago, not to mention the era you speak of. The advancements in material, design and construction, not to mention play-ability and tone, prompted me to investigate and eventually buy one soon after they were introduced. I made a video shortly after receiving mine documenting what makes the Sierra unique. I forgot a few points but think I captured most of it here. It would be well worth anyone's time to view if you're truly interested in where the "state of the art" is today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PieN4MnJ7Go&t=1s

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=316783&highlight=sierra
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Patrick Huey


From:
Nacogdoches, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 10:22 am    
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Tom Campbell wrote:
The digitizing being mentioned has already been done...it's called a 'synthesizer-key board.

Yes it’s been done, remember on the organ my. Great uncle had when I was a kid had a steel guitar button, and they today have Wavelore, and other MIDI type deals, none of which have successfully truly emulated or duplicated the pedal steel and what you can do with a pedal steel. People have tried for over 50 years to recreate and duplicate that Hammond B-3/Leslie speaker sound and nobody has yet to truly duplicate that either. 🤔
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Skip Edwards

 

From:
LA,CA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 10:35 am    
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MSA changed the game in '73 when they came out with their Classic line of steels.
Before that every steel was different from each other - Emmons/Sho-Bud/ZB - all very different underneath.
Almost everything after the MSA Classic has been similar to that system.
Not that that's a bad thing...
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 11:18 am    
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And guess what?
People are still playing Emmons p/p's! Whoa!
Erv
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 11:40 am    
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Hard to imagine the design R&D to surpass this without a complete departure from the mechanical nature of pedal steel guitar. Thanks for posting the very informative video.

memphislim wrote:
Bill, I think if you take a close look at the new Sierra by Ross Shafer, you'll see advancements in technology far greater than even designs of 10 years ago, not to mention the era you speak of. The advancements in material, design and construction, not to mention play-ability and tone, prompted me to investigate and eventually buy one soon after they were introduced. I made a video shortly after receiving mine documenting what makes the Sierra unique. I forgot a few points but think I captured most of it here. It would be well worth anyone's time to view if you're truly interested in where the "state of the art" is today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PieN4MnJ7Go&t=1s

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=316783&highlight=sierra
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Tom Sosbe

 

From:
Rushville,In
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 11:52 am    
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if your going digitize it why not go all the way and install a mp3 player. perfect instrument no strings to break nothing to tune. just turn it on and drink a beer. Wait we already have those. never mind
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Skip Edwards

 

From:
LA,CA
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 1:54 pm    
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I am as well, Erv...
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Bob Watson


From:
Champaign, Illinois, U.S.
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 3:38 pm    
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I like the idea of a pedal steel guitar being a completely mechanical instrument that is amplified with a pickup, like an electric guitar, lap steel, or even an Acoustic instrument with a pickup on it. I will try and keep an open mind and if someone develops a digitized pedal steel guitar, I would certainly be interested in giving it a try, but I would have to consider it to be an entirely different instrument. Using the pedals would essentially be "pushing a button", so to give it the same feel that a mechanical pedal steel would have, you'd have to develop some sort of way to emulate the same physical feeling you get while playing a pedal steel, which to me would be disingenuous. It might be cool, but lets face it, nothing gives you the same feeling of playing an old Sho Bud or a Push Pull Emmons than actually playing an old Sho Bud or a P/P Emmons. It would be interesting to hear if there are any builders out there with revolutionary ideas for upgrading the mechanical aspects of the changer and other integral parts in the current design.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 19 Jun 2020 3:49 pm    
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There is nothing you could change on a modern pedal guitar that would make me a better player. The PSG has finished evolving and can only be refined by adding small extra features. The big work is done. I have a Williams which is very traditional and an Excel which is innovative and there is nothing about either of them which bugs me.

They started putting valves on brass instruments in the early to middle 19th century, and it took about seventy years or so for the trumpet to reach its present form - about the same amount of time the pedal steel's been around. For the last hundred years the trumpet hasn't changed, and neither will the steel in the next hundred.

You can buy a plastic thing to blow down that looks a bit like a trumpet and has a midi socket, but that's a step sideways, not forward.
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