Intonation: By Eye

Another way to be in tune is to focus on the fretboard. Develop your ability to precisely move the bar to the fretline.

One technique that I think Joe Wright suggests is moving between intervals – start with a semitone, then a tone then a minor third, all the way up to an octave and then back down again.

It is important not to rush this and to be able to have a clear idea of when you will land on the target note.

Using a metronome and aiming to begin and end the slide on a beat is helpful here.

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Intonation: By Ear

Developing your ear:

I have tried different approaches to developing my ability to hear notes accurately.


When you tune a note against another one and they are close but not quite in tune, ‘beats’ are produced.

These beats slow down as the two notes become more closely in tune.

They can be hard to hear at first but this becomes easier as you come to recognise them.

(This is more the case for strongly consonant intervals like octaves and fifths and fourths, but also true for other intervals, just less easy to perceive)

I have found it useful to practise playing octaves and fifths, and slighly angling my bar to put the interval out of tune. Then adjusting my bar to make the beats disappear.

This is a useful pedal steel technique, and very useful for coping with cabinet drop issues if your guitar suffers from that.


Another beat related technique is to set up a drone note (there are mobile apps and PC apps that can do this and many metronomes will play drone notes).

Then play your pedal steel to the drone, play any notes that come in to your head and experiment with dissonance and assonance, the simplicity of it can really help you focus on


Lights On Or Off?:

I find that doing these exercises in the dark helps me concentrate on the sound and prevents me from trying to use the fretboard as a reference.

You will thank yourself for this when you are on a stage with bad lighting!

Higher or Lower?

The beats technique lets you know whether you are out of tune or not but it doesn’t tell you which way.

We all have some ability to recognise if we are sharp or flat. In my opinion this is a different skill to recognising in tune and out of tune, and so should be developed


I have been using a mobile app called ‘Intonatio’, which plays you notes that are either sharp or flat to another note, or within a chord and asks you which way it is.

It is pretty damn hard when they’re close together but I think I am making progress. If anyone has any good approaches for developing this I’d like to hear.

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Howdy everyone, it’s been a long time since I posted. Not for want of trying but because I was having problems with my blog software..88| and I call myself a web developer 😳


Intonation, playing in tune, is a fundamental pedal steel guitar skill, and something most pedal steel players will continue developing for all their playing days.

I have found it a frustratingly slow skill to progress, and like so many things, some days I reckon I’m on top of it and other days I may as well give up altogether.

Inspired by Joe Wright’s obsessive approach to practising, I have tried to break it down and approach it from any angle that seems beneficial.

I have broken this down into smaller posts:

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Free Jazz

oh yeah, baby!

I got involved with some crazy South London cats last weekend, and before I knew what was happening we were in a rehearsal studio, freaking out with some free jazz improvisation!

They were a great bunch of guys and really good musicians and god knows what they thought when I got my pedal steel out.

Anyhow, it was seriously fun and I hope they ask me back some time!

A short clip of what we got up to here:

Ned – Bass

Jonathan – Guitar

Henry – Pedal steel

Ralph – Flute and Sax

Simon – Drums

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My New Universal

I picked up my little Universal 12 string last weekend.

A long time in coming and a lot of work done in preparation (moving from three picks to four, watching an *awful* lot of Jeff Newman instructional videos about C6 and the Universal tuning, getting into pick blocking, etc.)

I sit down at it for the first time and think is this really a good idea?

I’m basically an E9 player do I need these extra strings and changes?

Do I need the extra octave?

Am I really gonna use the C6 sounds?

After a week I love it 🙂

I am still very early on in my understanding of C6 but with the few pedals I’ve got (pedals 5,6,7,8) and the lower B (or lower C on a C6) lever, there’s so much useful stuff that you cant do on E9.

Also it seems like a lot of the single note playing on C6 is in the open position, which is basically the dropped Es position.

What’s the big deal here? Well it means that it applies very directly to what I can do on E9. My concern was that the Universal wans’t *really* that universal, it was just a way of getting two tunings on one neck.

This may be true of the C6 foot pedals, they only really make sense with the Es lowered (although pedal 7 is useful on E9, and pedal 6 is nice for dropping the middle E to a D in E9), but all the soloing that goes on on the C6 side of Universal drops straight on to the lowered E position on E9.

Also, the lower B knee lever, this seems to unite both tunings. Some uses on E9, like dropping two frets and lowering B for a 9th chord, or getting Lydian sounds on the open position, or getting a #9 sound in combination with the B pedal.

But then when you go into C6 land and drop the Es, you get a minor chord (G#m at fret 0) dropping the B then gives you another minor chord down a 4th at D#m.

This is where these two tunings really come together as one. This D#m chord is a natural and logical extension of E9 and also sits in the heart of the C6 movement.

On my setup I have the lever that lowers Es also lower the 2nd string from D# to C#, raising this takes the D#m chord

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