Hi guys and gals,
The following is a copy of a post on my forum by KennyB and the answer I gave him …
Do we mellow as we get older?
I have been collecting steel albums since the mid 60’s and I’ve got quite a large number from then to the present day. One thing that is very noticeable is that 3 of my favourite players – Buddy Emmons, Lloyd Green and Tom Brumley – all have one thing in common. Their tone has noticeably mellowed in recent years. Their earlier recordings had a more pronounced treble to their tone in the higher mid range.
All three have a much fuller and richer tone nowadays (not to be confused with muddy or woolly). Tom in particular has acknowledged that his tone on his recordings has mellowed over the years.
Is this to do with different recording techniques, improved steel amps and speakers, or modern pickups that have a wider dynamic range?
Taste , Tone, Feel and execution get more intelligent (better) as we learn. These guys play better now because they have been playing longer and have much more experience. Ever notice that a player that hasn’t been playing very long cares very little about tone? The longer a player has been playing and the more time invested , the more important tone is. I can tell how long someone has been playing by more than how fast he plays. This has little to do with how well a player plays. His tone will tell me a lot more. Playing slowly with great tone and perfection tells me much about a players past history. You think Lloyd played great 30 years ago? You should hear him now! Think Buddy played good 30 years ago? His taste, and perfection has improved 100% since that funky horrible over rated “Black Album”. He is many times the player today, as well he should be. Tom Brumley? I don’t know, haven’t heard him in 18 years, but he was a lot better then than in the “Together Again” years of the 60’s. These guys, along with most of us, just keep getting better with age, like fine whisky. Jimmy Day never played better that on the last album we did together,”masters Collection” . Better known as the “Seymour-Day” album CD.
Moral: Don’t curse time, give it a chance and it will make you a better everything.
Tip: The interviews I do on my website hopefully give you guys and gals a flavor for what it’s like around the guitar shop. I don’t interview all the greats that come throught the doors because quite often, I’m simply too busy … but I hope you’ll take the time to visit the website and follow the – SGN News – link … the fifth link down from the top. John Hughey, Gail Davies and Ron Elliott have been my most recent page two victims. I’m sitting and talking one on one with these wonderful friends.
Tip: The value of conformity.
As most of you know, until fairly recently it seems as though every steel player had a different tuning, pedal, knee lever setup. Now finally after many years, there is a standard configuration that most of us are using with only minor deviations. The value of this standard configuration is much higher than a lot of people would realize at first. If everybody uses pretty much the same setup, the value of your guitar is higher when you sell it … the initial cost will be lower because there won’t be any custom labor involved … you’ll already be used to the setup on the next steel guitar that you buy … teaching materials are compatible with standard setups and easier to follow. As for the playing part of conformity, about everything you hear on records can be played with only half of what most people have on their steel guitars so anything you’re playing now and probably more can be done with a standard pedal setup or less. The biggest thing you’ll be happy about is when you set in on someone else’s guitar, you’ll have that comfortable, confidence inspiring feeling of knowing how the guitar works.
In the repair business that I have, because I add and subtract many pedals and knee levers from guitars owned by the most famous professionals in the world, I feel I’m in a unique position for receiving knowledge from these great players and I’m passing on to you the benefit of this knowlegde and experience by stating that all players raise and lower their “E”s and lower two and nine with the three basic knee levers. These are knee levers that are needed for all basic basics. Any added knee levers to this basic trio are primarily added only for short-lived licks that seem to come and go. Just remember, keep your three basics and any additional knee levers can be used for the lick of the day fads. Examples are raising the first string a whole tone … lowered five and six a whole tone … lowering five and ten a half tone. I am seeing many professionals now drift away from these fad levers as other fads come in.
When I met Weldon Myrick in 1969, he was the busiest studio steel player in Nashville. His guitar was a push-pull Emmons double ten with ten knees and ten pedals. Fifteen years later, Weldon was even busier but was only using three pedals and three knee levers on his E9th neck and almost nothing on the C6th neck … and he seemed to be playing interesting licks than he did when I met him.
I am not advocating that less is better, but it’s better to have less and know how to use it than it is to have more and try to figure out how to use it.
The moral is: If you want to put on the Franklin pedal or an up knee lever to lower five and ten, I’d say forget it. Spend your time learning how to play the licks without the mechanical hardware. You’ll have gained new knowledge and it’ll be less you have to remove from your guitar in the future. More is not always better!