another simple thing I’ve practised a lot recently is just playing grips, and moving between grips.

To be an effective accompanist you need to be able to play chords quickly and cleanly and this is pretty hard to do at first.

One thing I’ve practised is as follows:

1 F# _________________________

2 D# _________________________

3 G# _________________________

4 E _________________________

5 B ________5__5__5___5__5___

6 G# ___________5__5b_____5___

7 F# ________5_________5______

8 E ________5__5__5___5__5___

9 D _________________________

10 B _________________________

I find these positions difficult to move between. I dont find the 8, 7, 5 grip that hard or the 8, 6, 5 grip. But playing them one after the other took some practice.

I think practising this generally helped minimise hand and finger movement, which seems to be the holy grail in terms of PSG technique (just my observation).

Players like David Hartley make what they do look easy because there is no surplus movement to their technique.

They keep their hands pretty still (which helps maintain a reference to where the strings are), and they

pick with a firm finger stroke that does only what it needs to. This means the finger has less distance to travel to get back into position, and that it is less likely to hit another string.

Apparently using the joint in the middle of your finger to perform the pick is the key to developing this minimal technique.

This takes practice..

Posted in Pedal Steel Guitar, Uncategorized Tagged with:


Wow almost a year since my last post, very slack!

Then Dave from the British Steelies Society said he’d read by blog and that it could be useful to other fledgling steelies.

So I thought I’d try and catch up with it a bit.

One of the things I’ve been doing is practising with a metronome, it feels a bit mechanical but it’s great for improving technique and being able to play things precisely in time. It really exposes where your weaknesses are.

I’ve been following this advice posted by James Crowbear Schmitt from the British Steelies. One of the standard major scale patterns. But played over the cycle of fourths, through all the keys from C to C.

This helps with playing scales with all the notes, even the ones that are difficult to get like the maj 7 on the 2nd string in this case, which might otherwise be omitted due to being awkward to get.

It helps with blocking, the difficulty being muting string 2.

It also helps to learn the positions, this is just simple parrot fashion C, then F, then Bb. I say them out loud when I’m playing them cos otherwise I can never remember where the positions are without working it out.

Another thing this helps with is moving between positions. Obviously 4th/5ths are fundamental to most western music and developing an instinct for these moves (and sounds) is invaluable.

Start on fret 8 C then go to fret 1 F then 6 Bb then 11 Eb then 4 Ab then 9 C# then 2 F# then 7 B then 12 E then 5 A then 10 D then 3 G & back to 8 C

(play it 10 times)- fingers : t = thumb – i = index – m = middle








8—8t—————————–/—————————————–/ *1t Blam ! yer in F on 1 !

————————————————————————–now go w: that till you get to the Bb & move on to Eb & so on

Posted in Pedal Steel Guitar, Uncategorized Tagged with:

Lesson: Gerry Hogan

I had another lesson this weekend, this time with Gerry Hogan in Newbury. He organised the late:'(, great Newbury Steel Guitar Festival. In so doing has got to know the likes of Buddy Emmons, Jimmy Day, Jeff Newman, Paul Franklin, Joe Wright..

In fact about every steel player I’d ever heard of (which is not many) he has a picture of with him!

Gerry is another really nice bloke, really enthusiastic and encouraging (

– something you need from time to time when confronted with 10 strings, three pedals, a volume, some knee levers etc). He was very polite about my playing (much more so than BJ, but I kind of prefer the hard truth approach).

We looked at a few chord/scale shapes. I’ve been trying to learn how to noodle using 6 chords, something you hear a lot on the steel guitar, so Gerry showed me a few moves going between A&B down and then moving down two frets to and dropping the Es.

And also creating a dominant 7 sounds by moving the 6 shapes down a tone/ two frets.

He also pointed out a couple of technical problems that I had

– I was playing with my right arm raised. This prevented it from relaxing, and also meant that my picking hand rotated anti-clockwise a little.

– When I finished a phrase I often (somewhat dramatically!) raised my picking hand up off the strings. Doing this I immediately lost my reference and would be less likely to be able to find my position on the strings again. He suggested practising always keeping my little finger in touch with the fretboard. Keeping your hand low then becomes second nature, _and_ it assists your muscle memory by giving it a point of reference.

Gerry charges £150 for a half day lesson that includes a CD with all the playing from the lesson and some delicious cheese and ham sandwiches for lunch!

Posted in Pedal Steel Guitar, Uncategorized

size isn’t everything : volume matters

I’ve been recording myself recently. A painful step to take but a great way to hear what you’re doing wrong.

My Volume Pedal use was glaringly horrible in a number of ways:

Overuse – everything was a fade in

Consistency – the volume of the psg relative to everything else varied

Timing – because everything faded in I was always behind the beat

I practised loads to improve this but wasn’t getting anywhere so I scoured the Steel Guitar Forum for inspiration.

Quite a few different opinions on there, some even saying that the use of a volume pedal on a steel guitar is a bit of a cheesy cliche and that relying on right hand articulation was your best bet. I’m gonna keep my volume pedal and follow these tips that other SGF users had to offer:

  • Keep the normal operating level of the VP at about 30 – 50%.
  • Use the VP for sustain rather than swell.
  • Do this by increasing the volume on longer notes/chords as they fade.
  • Practise keeping the volume consistent by returning the same place on the VP each time you hit a note. This is hard.
  • Practise moves that use your right knee while keeping volume even

don’t use it!

One guy said that the main job with the volume pedal was not using it. Which I think, err, speaks volumes. 😳 . sorry.

Some players said they almost never had the VP full on.

Unplug it

One thing that a number of player recommended was playing with the VP unplugged. Not just not using it for while, but having it under your right foot, just unplugged.

Your foot still plays the pedal and you kind of think that your doing something with it. Then when you actually plug it back in what you’re doing with the pedal sounds so exaggerated you back off.

I think it’s easy to become immune to bad voluming when you practise and this stops that happening.

Limit it

Another thing that’s been suggested is limiting the range of your VP. Some have adjustment pots for this, restricting the movement of the pedal was also suggested.

I used my first VP with a limited range, my new Goodrich one doesn’t have the pot and I prefer it without.

Get one designed for seated use

Lastly, getting a VP that is suited to pedal steel playing is important. It has to be comfortable in the all the way off position, and ones designed for guitars require you to lift your foot up too far.

Get one designed for steel

Very last thing that b0b from the SGF pointed out: a PSG VP should have a 500k pot. Apparently this is because the VP being in the 30 – 50% position most of the time, a lot of treble is lost from the signal to ground. hmm :-/

Posted in Pedal Steel Guitar, Uncategorized Tagged with:

slow down!

on a blogging roll today, but i’ve felt :idea:inspired:idea: on the psg recently.

not good at it, but inspired!

another thing I’ve found really helpful to my practising is playing really really slowly.

just taking a phrase and really slowing it down, paying attention to every detail I can think of. not just playing the right note but being able to craft and nurture every little moment of its existence.

these were things I concentrated on:

vibrato – slowing it down, varying the frequency and depth

the transition of the pedal changes in relation to the bar changes

the volume pedal – where in the phrase to i want to back off or swell

Posted in Pedal Steel Guitar, Uncategorized Tagged with: