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Author Topic:  Buying a used Steel checklist (what to look for?)
Simon DeBevoise

 

From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 5:34 am    
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Hi y'all, like everyone here at some point, I've become obsessed with Pedal Steel and have finally decided to take the plunge and purchase my first instrument.

Since there are so many moving parts to the instrument, I was wondering if you have some pointers on what to test/look for in a steel:
    1) to ensure the quality of the Steel and
    2) to get a taste of the character of the steel.

If you sat down with a completely unfamiliar PSG, what would you check to know it's the one? I'll be stopping by Billy Cooper's Steel Guitars in VA to test run as many instruments as I can.

In addition, I was hoping to get your opinion on some of the models (and their prices) that I'll be able to try out while I'm there. I'm looking for a S-10 E9 guitar with Emmons set up with a budget of around $3000. From the single neck models below, do any stand out to you as being particularly good deals?

    Carter S-10 with pad, 3P 5K, Black mica, Grey carpeted case - $2595.00
    Derby S-10 with pad, 3P 4K, Black mica, Like new - $3695.00
    Emmons S-10, Push Pull mechanism, 3P 4K, Rosewood mica, new legs & keys - $2950.00
    MSA SuperSustain II, S-10 with pad, 3P 4K, green lacquer - $2495.00
    Mullen S-10 with pad, ‘Royal Precision’, 3P 4K, Black mica - $3095.00
    ShoBud LDG S-10 with pad, 3P 4K, green lacquer, raised fretboard, curved headholder, teardrop knees, wide pedals - $2950.00
    ShoBud LDG S-10 with pad, 3P 4K, olive green lacquer, PF-1 pickup, straight knees, narrow pedals, flat black & white fretboard, heavy duty tour case - $2950.00


Thank you all for your help!



Last edited by Simon DeBevoise on 29 Jun 2020 7:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 6:56 am    
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Here are two points to consider:
1) If you're like most beginning pedal steel players, your first instrument will not be your last.
2) With a budget of $3000, a new student model, such as a Mullen Discovery or a Stage One, are worthy of consideration.
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Roger Crawford


From:
McDonough, GA USA
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 7:11 am    
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I’m not sure I would classify the Discovery as a beginner guitar, rather a light weight option to the RP or G2. From the list you show, the Carter S10 with a pad for $2595.00 looks to be the best bang for the buck.
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Brian Hollands


From:
Franklin, North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 7:14 am    
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A $3K budget will buy more than a student model. A new GFI or Justice pro steel is is right at $3K. A new Williams SD-10 on the 3/4 body is $3400. At $3K I wouldn't be looking used for an S10.
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Bud Angelotti


From:
Larryville, NJ, USA
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 7:20 am    
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$3000 bucks to start.
My oh my, how the world has changed.
If I was you, Id find an old Maverick beater, offer $300 bucks.
Learn how to tune it. Learn how to mash it.
Continue to beat it up. Thats what it's for. Leave it out in the rain.
Or...
Spend a bit more and get a "real" guitar that you could resell and get your money back if you don't find yourself really playing it.
Plus - a beater amp and a $100 volume pedal.
But thats just me, el cheapo.
I'd reuse firewood if I could. Razz
I just can't imagine spending 3 thousand bucks.
Some of those other student guitars you mentioned would be good also as you could sell 'em and get your money back.
But again, thats just me,
Son of depression kids whose parents had to grow their own vegetables to eat.
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Gene Tani

 

From:
The Pacific NW,
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 7:23 am    
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You can use "Search " button above to search on "buy first". Lots of threads, you aren't the first to buy your first Laughing

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=332808

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=314108
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Simon DeBevoise

 

From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 7:28 am    
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Thank you all for your responses thus far. One thing I'm interested in particular are the nitty gritty things that you'd look for in a guitar that may not be obvious to a newcomer (how pedal sounds, what knee levers feel like, etc...).

And to clarify, I'm open to new guitars as well (GFI in particular since that'll be available at the store I'm going to) but wanted an opinion on the pricing and models of some of the used steels I listed above.
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Jamie Howze

 

From:
Boise, ID
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 9:17 am    
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Since these guitars are all refurbished by a pro, I will assume that they look great and the undercarriage is clean and set up appropriately for the instrument. That leaves personal preference which is likely a bit hazy for a novice player.

Things I would check are:
Weight - there is a pretty wide variation. Get something you can physically handle. Check the case weight as well.

Sound - strum the strings open without amplification. You may find some have a better sustain or just have an unplugged "vibe" you prefer.

Sit at it, again unplugged. Are the pedals where you can reach them comfortably, do your knees come too close to the pedal rods? If so, you may need a steel with more setback like an SD-10. Can the knee levers be adjusted to fit so that your pedal/knee combos are accessible for your physical build and flexibility. I'd check for excess wobble in the legs as well, it could indicate wear from improper transport or handling.

Check the height - do your knees bump against the undercarriage if so you might need extensions; more cost and complications. Make sure your arms are comfortable in your playing position, you shouldn't have to angle your wrists to reach positions on the strings with either hand.

Ask questions. A skilled steel player can make any of the listed instruments sound great. Have someone show you how to adjust an amp to sound good with each steel you try. They will sound different and and an experienced ear can help you to discern the tonal differences in the steels.

Do you like the appearance. This is more important than it should be but, it is more fun to practice an instrument with aesthetics you like.

If you can get an experienced player to play them for you and set up their preferred sound mentioned above. You may find you like some more than others. Keep in mind that you won't sound like the other player. No one does but try to imagine how the tone of each instrument would fit what you wish to accomplish.

I'm sure others can offer more advice. Some may conflict with or augment my suggestions but this is what came to my mind.
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George Biner


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 29 Jun 2020 8:40 pm    
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My two cents

When I started playing pedal steel, I started out with a student model from GFI, bought used for $1200 on eBay. I didn't know anything, I just wanted to get started, and if it didn't work out I wouldn't be out a lot of dough. I played the guitar for 2.5 years, and by then things were different:

1. I wanted a better tone and a more solid platform
2. I wanted pedals and levers that my guitar wouldn't accept
3. I started to get crap from people that I needed to have a better guitar (exactly like long ago when I played in a bluegrass band with a perfectly good $100 acoustic guitar but they all gave me crap about it)
4. I had developed much better awareness of type, color, brand, budget (and C6 back neck or not, I chose not for now)

The student model had ABC pedals and four levers in a fairly standard Emmons configuration, and was small and light because it was a single width body. I sold it for what I paid for it.

Oh yeah, buy a newer guitar, not some old museum piece.

Then, when you paid your dues and you've been playing for a while, then pay the $3-5000 for a really nice guitar that's perfect for you.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 30 Jun 2020 1:02 am    
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well I see things just a tad differently. yep up to 3 K will get a very nice instrument in very nice shape.

Me , I always buy the best instrument I can for the allotted funds. Spend it all, don't look back.

I would probably steer away from OLDER Steels or even ( sigh) a Push Pull at this time being a first time owner.

Tone ? forget it, you are not going to have good tone for over a year anyway. All modern era Steels sound pretty darn good.

Mechanics are important, most if not all modern era steels have good ALL PULL systems.

So, do you want a double neck or a single neck ? because you will be carrying around or just LOOKING at the lower C 6th neck for a very long time. What music are you wanting to emulate ? If its typical traditional country etc, just grab a single ten and spend ALL YOUR time on it.

Any of the brands mentioned above will get you where you want to go and much further, so, now look at them and make a LOOKS decision. Which one do you like best ? Because you gotta look at it everyday !

3 Peds , 4 or 5 levers, modern era all pull system by a known builder , you won't go wrong.

This is your first Steel, you are a total novice, whatever you end up with you are going to love and hate ! The music you try to make in the first 6 months is most likely going to be horrible , it won't be the because of the brand name instrument ! Laughing

Don't analyse too much. Very Happy

Any pro instrument built in the last 2 or 3 decades will be just fine.
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Sandy Inglis


From:
Christchurch New Zealand
Post  Posted 30 Jun 2020 1:41 am    
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I started out with a Sho-Bud S10, then progressed to a Sho-Bud D10. This was very used and eventually I got a Zumsteel D10 and I love it. The old Sho-Bud D10 I keep at home to practice on and only use the Zum for performances. The Zum is much lighter and nicer to play than the Sho-bud! If I can learn a song on the Sho-Bud it will be easier to play on the Zum. Also the Zum stays in tune so much better than the old 'Bud.
Sandy
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1968 Gibson SG; Taylor 710 CE; Encore Tele Copy; Peterson Tuner; HIWATT T40 C 40W/20W Combo
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 30 Jun 2020 5:29 am    
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This is personal and may not apply, but when I bought my first PSG I had a choice of one, which happened to be a twin-neck (D10). I soon got hooked on the "other" tuning and I don't believe you've had the full experience till you've tried it!

So if there's one available within your budget, at least consider it. And tune the rear neck down from the conventional C to B. You'll find it easier to relate the two necks that way, and if you ever want to play a universal you will already know your way around.

Good luck! Smile
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Charley Bond


From:
Inola, OK, USA
Post  Posted 30 Jun 2020 7:14 am     Pedal Steel Guitar
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this beauty is as good as they come. Folks that like them, swear by them, others feel they are too heavy.

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=358574

https://www.ebay.com/itm/SIERRA-CROWN-PEDAL-STEEL-GUITAR-3-PEDALS-4-KNEE-LEVERS/114255455647?hash=item1a9a27e59f:g:YSMAAOSw5RRe4N5-


I'm 77 & I wouldn't have anything else. It will never be worth less money, but possibly will be worth more someday, They were called the Rolls Royce of the Steel Guitar & then folks started complaining about the weight. It is possibly the most precision guitar that has ever been made.

Good Luck in finding you a great guitar...
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Simon DeBevoise

 

From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 30 Jun 2020 8:07 am    
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Ian Rae wrote:
This is personal and may not apply, but when I bought my first PSG I had a choice of one, which happened to be a twin-neck (D10). I soon got hooked on the "other" tuning and I don't believe you've had the full experience till you've tried it!

So if there's one available within your budget, at least consider it. And tune the rear neck down from the conventional C to B. You'll find it easier to relate the two necks that way, and if you ever want to play a universal you will already know your way around.

Good luck! Smile


Ian, I was thinking that. I'm definitely interested in playing PSG outside of the scope of country music (jazz, rock, any which way) and would consider starting with a double neck or universal if not for the learning curve and getting daunted by the sheer amount of strings and pedals. I figured I could really nail down the E9 neck and move from there as I learn.
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Tom Keller

 

From:
Greeneville, TN, USA
Post  Posted 30 Jun 2020 10:36 am    
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If it were me I would be looking for a used professional level guitar in excellent shape.
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Johnie King

 

From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 30 Jun 2020 9:24 pm    
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Theres one brand you can buy brand new from the builder an sell a here later an make a profit!!!
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Bill Moore


From:
Manchester, Michigan
Post  Posted 1 Jul 2020 4:18 am    
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If you are a beginner, the most important thing is, never buy a steel guitar from someone that is not a steel guitar player. There are lots of steel guitars bought sight unseen from Ebay or Craigslist that are virtually unplayable.

You might pay more if you buy from a dealer, but the guitar will probably be in playing condition. And if you can find a local seller, who knows how to play, you will probably get a good instrument. A first guitar doesn't need to be a fully loaded D-10, an S-10 with 3 pedals and 3 or 4 levers will be fine. As someone mentioned above, if you stick with it, this will most likely not be the last guitar you buy.

There are lots of players in North Carolina, maybe try to meet a few and get some face to face advice. Good luck with your search.
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Jim Kennedy

 

From:
Brentwood California, USA
Post  Posted 1 Jul 2020 2:30 pm    
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I bought my first steel at 50, a Shobud S10. After a couple of years I thought a double neck would be nice, but didn't have the money. 15 years later, I have the money but do not want to lug the weight around. If you are "getting up in years," weight starts to become a factor. I suspect one reason there are so many D10 and SD10's for sale on the forum is age vs weight. If you got a ways to go age wise, and you think you will actually learn the C6 neck get one. If not, buy the best single neck you can afford. There are plenty of options in makers and you can go universal if you want a 6th option. There is also extended E9. I am also glad I stayed with just the E9 tuning. With a basic setup, there is enough to learn to fill a lifetime if you want to.
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Ronnie Robertson

 

From:
Alabama
Post  Posted 1 Jul 2020 6:24 pm     Psg
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I have a Mullen 3x4. Black with Goodrich petal and a Rains pack seat. 2350. Plus shipping Excellent condition
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Simon DeBevoise

 

From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 2 Jul 2020 6:18 pm    
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Update y'all: I have myself a brand spanking new GFI SD-10 from Billy Cooper's. I'm just thrilled to get started, I'll keep you posted on my progress! I'll be in the market for a good volume pedal as well so if anyone has any recs for that I'd love to hear it Smile
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Gene Tani

 

From:
The Pacific NW,
Post  Posted 2 Jul 2020 6:52 pm    
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Congratulations and great choice! The first time you squeeze AB and hit a chord, you're hooked for life.

VP: Stage 1, Goodrich, Hilton, Telonics.
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- Rukavina and Sonny Jenkins laps, Carter
- The secret sauce: polyester sweatpants to buff your picks, cheapo Presonus channel strip for preamp/EQ/compress/limiter, Diet Mountain Dew
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James Quillian


From:
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 2 Jul 2020 7:07 pm    
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In 2012 I bought a Fessenden D10 for right at $2000. This is the only steel I have ever owned. To this day, I have not found a fault with it.

It is not a fancy guitar in terms of appearance but it is not ugly, just plain black.

One thing I always keep in mind when buying any instrument, is that it is not like throwing money in a river because it doesn't have to lose any value. If it does it is not usually that much.

So, it can be either money in the bank or money in a guitar. I agree with Tony with respect to getting a good instrument in the beginning. I have never regretted doing that. My sons will get all of my instruments when I die anyway.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 3 Jul 2020 12:59 am    
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Simon DeBevoise wrote:
Update y'all: I have myself a brand spanking new GFI SD-10 from Billy Cooper's. I'm just thrilled to get started, I'll keep you posted on my progress! I'll be in the market for a good volume pedal as well so if anyone has any recs for that I'd love to hear it Smile


Congrats, Enjoy, a wonderful instrument. Regarding the V Pedal Goodrich, Hilton, they will serve you just fine for years , many years. The Goodrich 120 appears to be a common staple for many players, no power, (passive) built like a rock . I dare say many used one , still use one or still have one tucked away.

Also regarding the V Pedal for the first month or two , place a 10" piece of 2x4 on the floor for your right foot. Don't even bother with the V Pedal just yet. Get acclimated to everything else. This will help prevent V pedal pumping with your right foot. Add the V pedal a bit later, if you are still pumping, use the 2 x 4 again. V Pedal pumping is probably the #1 worst bad habit we develop. All of the great Steel music we hear, remember, the players right foot is rock steady at about 50 or 60% or the V Pedal level. Its not a Gas Pedal ! Laughing

Congrats on the journey ! Very Happy
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Jim Shultz


From:
South Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 3 Jul 2020 5:41 am     New member, new player
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This is my first post on the forum! I just joined this forum AFTER buying my first PSG in order to learn it at age 67, after retiring and moving to SC. I played guitar for many years but haven't in many years. Couldn't find any local dealers so I bought an old Maverick for an OK price. I wasn't sure if I would like it or not and thought I needed to start somewhere. I never thought the first guitar would be my last, but the cost of a decent guitar was prohibitive for something I had never sat behind. I figured that learning the pedals would suffice for awhile and though I have one knee lever, those functions might wait.

I am finding that being tall (6'4) with long legs is an issue, especially when I added a volume pedal. I plan to slog through trying to learn with the Winston book, YouTube and hopefully find some local player/teacher here in upstate SC.

I expected the learning curve to be steep. I have a good ear and a reasonable grasp of theory, so hope that being a member of this forum will help going forward.
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