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Author Topic:  New Steel Design
Dennis Manuel


From:
Hixon, B.C., Canada
Post Posted 13 Jan 2018 4:53 pm     Reply with quote

I have been thinking of ways to construct a newly designed steel. My thoughts were computer based and have the pedals control servos which in turn would lower and raise the strings. Or have the pedals change the sound of the strings thru synthesis. A player could simply reprogram or pull up a program and have their arrangement available immediately. Any thoughts?
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Michael Meader


From:
Michigan, USA
Post Posted 13 Jan 2018 5:01 pm     Reply with quote

Man, I'm still trying to wrap my head around 50 year old technology Whoa!
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Brian Gattis


From:
Georgia, USA
Post Posted 13 Jan 2018 5:16 pm     Reply with quote

No thanks. It’s beautiful as is. That would be like cutting its balls off!
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 13 Jan 2018 5:59 pm     Reply with quote

Go right ahead Dennis, and don't let the naysayers affect you Very Happy

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=1528210#1528210

As that old post reveals; I would prefer servos over synthesis. That's mainly because I personally want "all personal picking-flaws" to get through, as that's where the soul of the music is.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post Posted 13 Jan 2018 6:05 pm     Reply with quote

Guitars made over 50 years ago are still operating reliably, or they can still be troubleshooted and fixed fairly easily. You can't say that for most computerized and servo controlled gizmos anywhere near that age. (Try finding someone near you who can still fix a VCR or video-tape camera.)

Sorry fellas, I can't play steel tonight. My I-Guitar has a "stack dump error", and I can't get it to reboot. Oh Well
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Harry Dove


From:
Edmore, Michigan, USA
Post Posted 13 Jan 2018 6:09 pm     Reply with quote

You can probably find links to this topic all over the place. It has been discussed many times. The consensus seems to be that a good portion of a player's style and sound depends on the feel and timing in which they engage and release the changes. I suppose this is similar to electronic keyboards. They weren't very well liked until they came up with weighted keys and variable volume response, directly related to how hard and fast the key was struck. I'm sure if one could figure out how to make the changes feel and respond like the mechanical pedals and levers, you would win a lot of players over. Being able to make a change in your copedent in two minutes, without tools, would certainly be a big plus if it was possible. I have to wonder how hard it would be to tune the changes. If you solve all those problems you will be a popular guy.
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b0b


From:
Northern California
Post Posted 13 Jan 2018 9:17 pm     Reply with quote

You might enjoy this controller I designed some years ago.

https://b0b.com/wp/?p=1076
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-b0b- (SGF Admin) a.k.a. Bobby Lee ♪ CopedentsRice & BeanWine Country SwingStella
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Slim Laurence


From:
Austin, Texas
Post Posted 13 Jan 2018 10:32 pm     Reply with quote

b0b, I downloaded your user guide. It was a good read, thanks!

Slim
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 14 Jan 2018 4:36 am     Reply with quote

When thinking "computerized" for a PSG, keep in mind that whatever the player do topside has to come out through the sound-chain as natural string-sound in real time. So, a slant and a slur, chimes, and various forms for "melodic noises", must not be counteracted, delayed, or "killed off" by some "smart" programing.
A "natural sound" requirement like that pretty much rules out syntetic (re)modeling as anything but an addition - ways to make sounds that are impossible on a regular PSG possible - like effects.
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Al Evans


From:
Austin, Texas, USA
Post Posted 14 Jan 2018 5:52 am     Re: New Steel Design Reply with quote

Dennis Manuel wrote:
I have been thinking of ways to construct a newly designed steel. My thoughts were computer based.... Any thoughts?


I was talking about such an idea with my wife the other night, what with good robot parts becoming readily available and microcontrollers cheap and ubiquitous. Heck, why not a tuning program for my iPad?

She said, "But it wouldn't be a pedal steel guitar, it would be something else...."

Oh. Right. Shocked

--Al Evans
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 14 Jan 2018 6:11 am     Reply with quote

You married a clear-thinking woman, Al Smile
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 14 Jan 2018 1:31 pm     Reply with quote

Replacing most of a PSG's mechanics with servos and controllers, doesn't make it any less a PSG. Doesn't even have to change the look/feel of the instrument - until one takes a look inside.

Not much point in building one unless the resulting instrument aims to beat all regular - entirely mechanical - PSG in several ways, and is no less than equal to them in every way but the parts of "personal taste" that cannot be (re)programmed.



A few points for servo-drives...

• Replacing the pedal-rods with electronic linkage - a cable - is not a simplification, as then both the mechanical resistance, position-sensor and electronics for it has to be built into the pedal-attachment itself. Much simpler and more cost-effective to integrate all that in the body.

• Servos must land on target within something like +/-0.5 cents/halfnote for the string that needs the shortest throw, also for half-pedaling and pedal/lever combos.

• Either the instrument exhibits no "bodydrop" detuning by pure mechanical strength, or the electronics has to correct for it for all pedal/lever combos.
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Stephen Williams


From:
from Wales now in Berkeley,Ca, USA
Post Posted 14 Jan 2018 2:54 pm     Reply with quote

If autotune for guitars can adjust notes in real time, it ought to be easy to just change the program to various co-pedants.
I think it works with a piezo pickup so that may be an issue but modelling is pretty advanced these days.
The advantage of this is that it could be very lightweight, maybe even retrofitting a lap steel? The pedals and Kneelevers are going to be switches after all....velocity sensitive though.
Again it might be a different instrument, but that doesn't mean it can't sound good in a different way.
Anybody own one of those Peavey geetars with Autotune? btw we are not talking Cher stuff on the PSG here!
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Paul Redmond


From:
Illinois, USA
Post Posted 15 Jan 2018 8:40 pm     Reply with quote

Dekley had this in the works back in 1981.
PRR
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Nathan French


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 20 Jan 2018 8:37 pm     Reply with quote

Georg Sørtun wrote:
A few points for servo-drives...

• Replacing the pedal-rods with electronic linkage - a cable - is not a simplification, as then both the mechanical resistance, position-sensor and electronics for it has to be built into the pedal-attachment itself. Much simpler and more cost-effective to integrate all that in the body.


I don’t think this is true. There are certainly some new challenges in a servo based instrument. But the benefit is something that is mechanically very simple. Electronics and software have scaled in this era, pulley systems have not.

The cost of such an instrument could be shockingly low.
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b0b


From:
Northern California
Post Posted 20 Jan 2018 10:44 pm     Reply with quote

Nathan French wrote:
The cost of such an instrument could be shockingly low.


The cost of pedal steels is already shockingly low, considering the amount of labor and the high level of craftsmanship that goes into each one. Whoa!
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-b0b- (SGF Admin) a.k.a. Bobby Lee ♪ CopedentsRice & BeanWine Country SwingStella
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 21 Jan 2018 12:33 am     Reply with quote

Nathan French wrote:
There are certainly some new challenges in a servo based instrument. But the benefit is something that is mechanically very simple. Electronics and software have scaled in this era, pulley systems have not.
I'm not worried about the size of electronics - sensors and all. (FWIW: mechatronics is my main field of expertise, and covers pretty much all that's needed to design a servo-driven PSG. *)

I would however prefer to have an adjustable counter-force for the pedals so I can get a suitable feel for them as they're pushed down and released. That requires some space, and there isn't much space available in a "normal-looking" pedal-bar.
With most of the pull-trains replaced with electronics and servos inside the body there will be plenty of space there for such mechanical refinements, allowing each player to customise feel without affecting action.


* Main reason I haven't bothered to complete the design of, and build, a servo-driven PSG myself, is that I have in later years prioritized other "projects" in life after my encounter with cancer.
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Ken Boi


From:
Illinois, USA
Post Posted 21 Jan 2018 7:17 am     Reply with quote

Dennis,

Your post reminded me of the SynthAxe released back in the 80's. A PSG would have some different aspects to account for such as triggering where the slide bar is positioned. But it seems like the idea could be viable. As 'food for thought', here's an old YouTube video:

https://youtu.be/JqdVQ9VdoAg
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Nathan French


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 21 Jan 2018 7:40 am     Reply with quote

b0b wrote:
Nathan French wrote:
The cost of such an instrument could be shockingly low.


The cost of pedal steels is already shockingly low, considering the amount of labor and the high level of craftsmanship that goes into each one. Whoa!


Sure, nobody is getting filthy rich making pedal steels. But I mean a $100 starter instrument would be possible. I think that’s a great goal, the cost of getting into pedal steel makes a lot of people hesitate.
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Rich Rubel


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 21 Jan 2018 10:24 am     Reply with quote

Interesting thought. I play a Vbass equipped with a GK -3B pick up (it has a mag pickup for each string) into a Roland VB99 and a GR55 to amazing effect. I could easily envision a similarly equipped basic lap steel feeding a synth that could emulate any copedent one could envision. But controllers….eye there’s the rub. You would want to have a controller set up which mimics a pedal steel with pedals and Knee Levers. This brings you right back to the PSG. Add to that all the wires from those controllers and an expensive processor to connect them to and you end up with an expensive messy looking arrangement that can create all the sterile sound digital music is famous for. My impression is that most PSG musicians get there set up and are content to leave it there so flexibility probably isn’t enough to offset cost, complexity and sound degradation. Of course this is only my opinion but one you can take to the bank as I am senior citizen noob who is unencumbered by the twin horrors of knowledge and experience.

One the other hand, if someone could find a way to create a GK type pick up that could pick up all 10 strings or add a piezo saddle for each string you could use the VG-99 or GR55 right now. That would allow you a access a mind-blowing array of orchestral instruments and sonic options. If you’re curious about the possibilities you might want to goggle the “VGuitar Forum”. Those guys thrive on the leading edge electronics that are way above my pay grade. But it is amazing to see what is possible.
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Bill Moran


From:
Virginia, USA
Post Posted 21 Jan 2018 10:37 am     Reply with quote

With a computer all things have to be perfect. Knowing a steel guitar body and mechanics are not. I doubt computer control would be any better than human control. Now if a computer had a ear ?? You know what I mean.
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b0b


From:
Northern California
Post Posted 21 Jan 2018 12:57 pm     Reply with quote

Nathan French wrote:
Sure, nobody is getting filthy rich making pedal steels. But I mean a $100 starter instrument would be possible. I think that’s a great goal, the cost of getting into pedal steel makes a lot of people hesitate.

You can barely ship a pedal steel for $100.
_________________
-b0b- (SGF Admin) a.k.a. Bobby Lee ♪ CopedentsRice & BeanWine Country SwingStella
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Nathan French


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 21 Jan 2018 2:31 pm     Reply with quote

b0b wrote:
Nathan French wrote:
Sure, nobody is getting filthy rich making pedal steels. But I mean a $100 starter instrument would be possible. I think that’s a great goal, the cost of getting into pedal steel makes a lot of people hesitate.

You can barely ship a pedal steel for $100.


True! Though they get a lot lighter without all that linkage.
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 22 Jan 2018 8:14 am     Reply with quote

Expect something in the $2500 to $4000 range each for a series of at least 100, if it is supposed to be a playable PSG (with strings, pedals and levers) that should sound somewhat normal and last more than six months.

FWIW: I estimated the cost of building a fully functional prototype (w/computer controlled servos) to cost about $12000 to build from scratch, and then I had left out all fine wood and finishing work which I don't care much for anyway.
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b0b


From:
Northern California
Post Posted 22 Jan 2018 9:07 am     Reply with quote

Georg Sørtun wrote:
FWIW: I estimated the cost of building a fully functional prototype (w/computer controlled servos) to cost about $12000 to build from scratch, and then I had left out all fine wood and finishing work which I don't care much for anyway.

If you started with an existing all-pull guitar, would the prototype be a lot less expensive? Can we talk you into making one?
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