Intonation: Bar Control

One simple thing to ensure you do is keep the bar straight (unless you are compensating or slanting), this is easily overlooked and needs to be second nature.

Developing strength and detexterity in your left hand will also help as it will allow you to make micro-adjustments to the pitch, these adjustments work in parallel with what

you are doing with your left arm.

It will also enable you to hold your bar in a variety of different ways which will improve your stamina, and allow you adjust the way you hold the bar as your arm moves up and

down the neck causing the position of your hand to vary.

On recommendation again from Joe Wright, I have begun wearing weights on my left(bar) arm when I’m practising to accelerate development of vibrato and fret accuracy!

Intonation by eye and ear are skills to practise independently.

In your playing these two approaches have their own roles, typically you will move the bar by eye to the approximate place and then adjust by ear, the two skills will complement each other.

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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