use the force

One of the things that Winnie Winston suggests is trying to play with your eyes shut.

I’ve started doing that and it’s brilliant.

Very frustrating to begin with, not least for my neighbours, but pays dividends.

In my opinion it cuts out the middle man:

why, when you want to make a note change by an audible amount, translate that into a distance, as visible on a fretboard, and then try and then try to effect the change using your eyes?

Surely it makes more sense just to do this by ear.

Just by practising this you get a better feel for how far your hand need to travel to change pitch.

you also get in the habit of moving to slightlty flat of your destination note and then gradually rising to it by ear.

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Another thing that BJ Cole pointed out in my playing was that my vibrato stopped and started whenever my concentration was taken up by something else: pushing pedals, lever, picking. even just moving the bar.

He encouraged me to try and maintain vibrato at all times and just vary the frequency and depth.

Kind of reminded me of what it looks like to play a theremin but i’ve never played one.

Difficult thing to do, keep the vibrato going with all the other stuff to do, but practice does pay off.

I think the most obvious place where I noticed this was sliding between notes but keeping the vibrato going. Just makes everything a bit more cohesive.

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Let’s face it, pedal steel guitars weren’t built for comfort. At least mine wasn’t, but I think they’ve come a long way since the ’60s.

I’ve spent a bit of time during my recent practice sessions paying attention to what my body is doing. With the idea in mind that trying to relax what I’m trying to do physically will allow me to focus more on what I’m trying to play.

I’ve found the more I’ve looked at it, the more I realise that I am in contortions most of the time and need to sort this out.

The main culprit? My left foot. I tend to move it and lift it up much more than I should.

When it’s lifted, I am off balance and need to compensate for this by leaning, or using other limbs. Limbs that are most likely trying to do push, pull, press, raise or any other of the multitude of psg operations.

I’ve tried to keep my left heel locked to the floor as much as I can to improve this. And to reduce the movement of my heel when switching between AB and BC pedal combinations.

I saw a YouTube post that recommended(for an ABC setup) having your heel between the B and C at all times and just swivelling your foot. This means you point straight at the B and C pedals and at a slight angle when you swivel left to the A and B pedals, making it a little easier to roll your ankle.

It’s working for me.

Also been trying not to lift my left foot off the floor when raising B and C together.

Dunno why I got into the habit of doing that but it makes me lean at a weird angle and throws my playing off.

Another thing I’ve been paying attention to is where I’m sitting in relation to the guitar:

To far either way and the knee levers in the opposite direction become a stretch, and stretching == bad.

Volume pedal placement I find tricky. I’ve got long legs and big feet and it’s most comfortable to have the pedal out the side of the guitar, but this makes using the right knee levers difficult. I’ve found just a bit right of between the two knee levers works best for me.

Any advice welcomed!! And if I’m talking >:XX please tell me that too

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Lesson: BJ Cole

I went for a PSG lesson with BJ Cole, who is probably the UK’s foremost pedal steel guitar player(I’m new to the psg scene, so dont flame me if you reckon are the UK’s foremost psg player!).

What a great guy! very chilled out bloke and awesome player.

He asked me to play something, and then assessed my playing with the words “you’re kind of snatching at the strings aren’t you?!”.

Needless to say, it was a fair observation:-/.

A couple of hours later, having gone through a Jimmy Day phrase in a lot of detail, with particular attention to vibrato, voluming and not attacking the strings too hard I was on the way to playing with a little more sensitivity and feel.

I would thoroughly recommend a lesson with BJ if you fancy a visit to north London.

£60 quid well spent. And then I got a congestion charge fine.|-|

Thank you BJ!

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6 Chords

I watched this steel tutorial the other day. Some useful stuff on there. One thing it touched on, something that I’d heard players do but hadn’t got around to trying myself was 6th chords.

A sixth chord is simply a chord with the 6th scale tone added into it.

e.g. C maj contains C, E, G. if you add A then you’ve got a 6 chord.

Not to diffficult.

What John was saying in this video is that when you have your A and B levers down, you effectively have an A6 tuning on your open strings.

Playing Lines with 6th Chords

Playing strings 6-7-8 at the third fret (to make the example in C) give you C, A and G.

The nice thing about this is that this inversion of C6 puts C at the top so it is a great candidate for playing melodies harmonised with a 6 chord.

Using this little three string chord (2nd inversion C6 with C on top) you can use the top note as your melody note and play tunes with the chord by moving up and down the fret board.

This seems to be a big part of the steel guitar idiom, particularly lap steel.

Another C6 shape you can use is dropping your Es (means something different in Brixton). This gives you a B6 chord on your open strings(excluding the 9th string). If you play strings 5-6-7 in the same position as the A and B lever shape, you get the same 6 chord, but up a tone.

Now I can use a little more lateral movement and dont have to run up and down the fretboard to find your notes.

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