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Carter Cole

 

From:
Roanoke, IN
Post  Posted 19 Sep 2022 5:15 pm    
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Sorry if you guys hear this all the time, but I’m a complete beginner and I wanted some perspective as to how hard this thing is really supposed to be at first as well as some tips/corrections.

I bought my first steel of any kind and received it over the weekend. I’ve played guitar and bass off and on over the last 7 years or so, but this is the first time I’ve ever even played a steel. At times I feel like i’m getting a good grasp on it, I can play through Steel Guitar Rag for the most part, but operating the pedals and levers feels so incredibly unnatural. I’m not sure if it’s the shoes/lack of shoes that makes it so hard for me to hit just one pedal or both pedals at the same time, but I’m constantly hitting the wrong one at the wrong time or letting off when I shouldn’t be. It hurts my elbow to move the bar. My volume pedal seems like it sits way higher than it should. I don’t have a seat yet so I’m just using an office chair and I’m always worried I’m just developing a bunch of bad habits. Picking/blocking is obviously hard, but at least that’s something I’m confident I can improve with a little more woodshedding.

I’d appreciate if any of you can share some experiences you had at a stage as early as mine, as well as anything you think I may be doing incorrectly/should change.

TL;DR — This godforsaken instrument is way too awkward and I need to be told it gets better
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Bill McCloskey

 

From:
Nanuet, NY
Post  Posted 19 Sep 2022 5:29 pm    
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I'm in exactly your position (well almost, I've played lapsteel for years) except I'm about 10 days in. Smile I hear you on the foot pedals. I've been experimenting with different shoes, it makes a difference. There is a thread right now on shoes https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=384732

I joined Paul Franklin's Method and I joined Travis Toy's Tutorials. Both well worth the price and both have helped tremendously, I also bought all of Casey James Saulpaugh' books on E9 chord positions, scales, licks, harmonies and more https://playpedalsteel.com/the-chord-guide-for-e9-pedal-steel-guitar/?fbclid=IwAR0zEFYbz6oRL_X4Tvgh-6Hh7AkQP15zJgVhE3IZoDI8rH5t1l4_Nta5tVk

I'm ahead of you since I'm used to playing steel guitar, but the pedals are still a mystery and a challenge. Good luck.
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 19 Sep 2022 6:53 pm    
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There are a hundred things to learn before you start adding pedals and levers, but I can understand the desire to "try them out" before those other things are mastered! So for now, practice resting your heel on the floor and "hovering" the toe of your shoe over the A&B pedals, operating just the A pedal, just the B pedal, and then both together. Make it a point to keep your foot (heel) planted between the A&B pedals, and operate them separately by rolling your ankle, and not by swinging your leg. (When you are rocking on and off the A&B, your knee should not move sideways.)

On some guitars, you will be able to actually rest your foot lightly on the pedals before they actuate. While on other guitars, almost any pressure at all will activate the strings to pull. This depends on the type and brand of guitar, and it's a fact that's seldom discussed, but should be kept in mind when you're starting out. (You don't want to activate the pulls slightly by accident.)

Learn to activate the foot pedals before you start adding in using the levers. (One step at time!) Winking Your volume pedal may be too high, we'll be able to comment more when we know what kind you're using. Also, I'd recommend a regular straight chair. Office chairs move and swivel, and that can be detrimental. Also, your elbow should not be hurting when you move the bar unless you have some sort of physical problem.

That's enough from me for now.


Last edited by Donny Hinson on 20 Sep 2022 3:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 20 Sep 2022 2:03 pm    
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I remember all that - it's all reassuringly normal. Don't worry - just keep going. Yes, it's supposed to be hard.
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David Dorwart


From:
Orlando, Florida, USA
Post  Posted 20 Sep 2022 8:16 pm    
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Great advice from Donny. I would add repetition. Do it - whatever it is- several times then Do it again. Try just sitting at the steel practicing the four major right hand grips. Learn right hand blocking First with open strings then add the bar. Search drone tracks on YouTube for intonation references once you incorporate the bar. Get comfortable with the hands then move on to the feet and knees
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Don R Brown


From:
Rochester, New York, USA
Post  Posted 21 Sep 2022 7:02 am    
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3 days in, you have a reasonable grasp on it, you can play through SGR for the most part - and you're worrying because you don't have the entire instrument down pat?

Relax, I'm sure you're doing fine, give yourself some time. Nothing wrong with asking for advice as you are doing, but don't expect to master it in a week.
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Mitch Ellis

 

From:
Collins, Mississippi USA
Post  Posted 21 Sep 2022 7:07 pm    
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Hello Carter!
Donny has already mentioned the first thing I thought of after reading your post. The chair. If I were you, the first thing that I would do is get a steel guitar seat. They are expensive I know, but they are worth it! With proper care, a well-made seat will last you a lifetime, so it's a one-time investment. Plus, it will give you storage space for a lot of things that you will need. But the main reason that you need a steel guitar seat is posture. If you are setting too close or too high from the floor, it will put your legs and arms at an angle that will make it uncomfortable for you to play. It will also make it harder for you to sit up straight while you play. All of these things can cause back, arm, and leg pain. If you stick with it, you'll probably buy one sooner or later anyway, so I HIGHLY recommend buying it now. You will not regret it. Good luck to you and keep on picking!

Mitch
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post  Posted 21 Sep 2022 7:33 pm    
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My question - what kind of steel did you get (brand, year, model, and copedent - the tuning and chan ges the pedals and knee levers make.

Its's virtually impossible to advise without knowi ng what tools you ha e - and there are hundreds of steels and setups.

The ad vice so far assumes a lot of facts not present.

Forget the seat; forget specific books; forget specific lesson packages - they may have NOTHING to do with YOUR guitar

There's a tendency among veterans to assume every player bought a single or double neck 10 string with 3 pedals, 4 knee levers, one neck tuned to E9 and that it will be used for country music.

Which is often completely wrong. It's the most common setup - but by no means the ONLY one.

So please post what you DO have - and then maybe folks could withhold their advice until they know what they're talking about!

Rolling Eyes
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1930's/40's Rickenbacher/Rickenbacker 6&8 string lap steels
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 21 Sep 2022 9:10 pm    
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Jim Sliff wrote:
My question - what kind of steel did you get (brand, year, model, and copedent - the tuning and chan ges the pedals and knee levers make.

Its's virtually impossible to advise without knowi ng what tools you ha e - and there are hundreds of steels and setups.

The ad vice so far assumes a lot of facts not present.

Forget the seat; forget specific books; forget specific lesson packages - they may have NOTHING to do with YOUR guitar

There's a tendency among veterans to assume every player bought a single or double neck 10 string with 3 pedals, 4 knee levers, one neck tuned to E9 and that it will be used for country music.

Which is often completely wrong. It's the most common setup - but by no means the ONLY one.

So please post what you DO have - and then maybe folks could withhold their advice until they know what they're talking about!

Rolling Eyes
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Carter Cole

 

From:
Roanoke, IN
Post  Posted 22 Sep 2022 8:17 am    
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Jim Sliff wrote:
My question - what kind of steel did you get (brand, year, model, and copedent - the tuning and chan ges the pedals and knee levers make.

Its's virtually impossible to advise without knowi ng what tools you ha e - and there are hundreds of steels and setups.

The ad vice so far assumes a lot of facts not present.

Forget the seat; forget specific books; forget specific lesson packages - they may have NOTHING to do with YOUR guitar

There's a tendency among veterans to assume every player bought a single or double neck 10 string with 3 pedals, 4 knee levers, one neck tuned to E9 and that it will be used for country music.

Which is often completely wrong. It's the most common setup - but by no means the ONLY one.

So please post what you DO have - and then maybe folks could withhold their advice until they know what they're talking about!

Rolling Eyes


Thanks everyone for the advice, it’s been super helpful. I’m learning lots of new things i wouldn’t have even considered.

The “veteran assumptions” have been correct so far, I ordered a brand new Justice S10 Standard 3x4 Emmons that will be used primarily for country music
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Roger Rettig


From:
Naples, FL
Post  Posted 22 Sep 2022 10:31 am    
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Carter:

A word to the wise:

It's a good idea to listen to Donny. His advice is usually succinct and well-founded.

Good luck on your journey.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania and Gallatin, Tennessee
Post  Posted 22 Sep 2022 10:44 am    
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Listen to Donny. He know of what he speaks.

Only thing I'd add is that I'd try to find a fixed (no wheels) chair of the right height. The general rule is thighs more-or-less parallel to the floor, but that probably depends on how long your legs are and how tall the steel is. Try a few different heights - add one or more large books or pillows to increase if necessary, or get a lower chair if that's the direction you need to go. For example, I'm tall with long legs and my thighs make a slightly positive angle with the floor - my steel and my seat are higher than normal. But find what makes the moves Donny describes comfortable for you.
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Ken Pippus


From:
Lake Oswego, OR
Post  Posted 22 Sep 2022 10:45 am    
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That instrument will certainly not impede your progress.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania and Gallatin, Tennessee
Post  Posted 22 Sep 2022 10:52 am    
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Oh - another thing. 3 days is not even close to enough time to be expecting to have progressed very far. This is not remotely like strummy strummy guitar, where you learn 3 cowboy chords and you're off to the races singin' and playin' Kumbaya at summer camp.

But I believe that, for the vast majority of people who seriously work at this thing, it does get better. But it takes time - both seat time and elapsed time. Some things require a lot of practice, and some things just require some elapsed time to sink in. For me, anyway.
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Jeff Peterson

 

From:
Nashville, TN USA
Post  Posted 30 Sep 2022 5:14 pm     Truth for the ages...
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And, lo, Cthulhu did appear and bringeth he great despair when he gave unto them the steel guitar!
“Taketh this, mine instrument of madness!” said he of infinite sorrow.
“Learn well thy Nashville number system and despair at flat keys!
Know thou not..? Thou must use thy KNEES as well as thy feet and hands?!!
Drummers be joyous at not using thy knees!
But THOU must never rejoice for thou art STEEL PLAYERS!!!
And thou must play the very scales of insanity in registers that KILLETH thy dog!!!”
Thus spoke Cthulhu as he demanded E11’s and 13(b9)’s all whilst using knees...
(KNEES!!!).
And mankind did weep in the maw of madness…
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Richard Alderson


From:
Illinois, USA
Post  Posted 2 Oct 2022 7:31 am    
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Dear Cole - It will take quite a while - even years - before certain pedal combinations and knee lever combinations feel comfortable. Be patient and play things that are comfortable and pleasing to you, as well as the challenges of constantly learning new material.

Here are a couple of items that are simple, but which really help over the long run.

1) Use the same seat, at the same height every time, and line up at the same fret every time you play; Many of us were taught to put our belly button at the 15th fret. But its important that its the same, that its consistent. This gives you the same sight lines every time you play (helps with bar movement,intonation and playing in tune), and helps with muscle memory to establish what 'feels right' vs what 'feels awkward'. It gives you the same angles and distances for your hands, feet, and arms everytime.

2) Your footwear might not be helping you any. Many of us cannot play in street shoes, and use soft sole shoes. In my case, I am just not the same player without my playing shoes - moccasins actually - that allow for more tactile sensitivity. I need to "feel" the pedals, and thousands of us use soft soles or even play in their socks.

3) Of course, tune the guitar every time and make sure the pedal and knee lever changes are in tune. This also takes a while to get used to, and it will look easier six months from now than it does today.

I don't know how it feels to play 10 strings after only playing six strings. I went from six strings to 8 strings first, and only later I also started learning 10 strings. Jeff Newman has a course of study for just the A&B pedals by way of example, just learning one part of the instrument and getting used to things gradually. As a new player you could play with just the A&B pedals and the E-flat knee lever, and that would be a lot to get used to, and then add the C pedal and the E-raises lever to your repertoire. I am sure whatever course of study you choose, or teacher you choose, that person or that self study course will take things one at a time, so you can divide and conquer.

One final question is if you have played with a slide or a bar before; If you have not, that is a new experience. Players who have done any dobro, lap steel, or slide guitar tend to feel more comfortable with all that sliding and bar movement.
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