Backup – Keep It Simple; Pro vs Student Model Pedal Steels

February 28, 2013

This is Bob Hempker and today I’d like to pass along a couple of replies I’ve had about previous newsletters. The first one concerns backing a singer. Here it is:

Bob, You could have not said that any better. I was just telling a student yesterday that it is all about playing pretty and that no one in the audience cares if you are a hot lick steel player or not, but if you play careful behind the singer you will be noticed every time. Can’t believe I got this letter this morning on the same subject and I also told him that it was more fun playing behind Ray Price and Darrell McCall and Johnny Bush and Willie. Yes, It is nice to show that you can play when the time comes, but just sit back and follow the song and singer and you will win every time. He called me this morning and told me that he practiced all night with the Ray Price Tracks that I had given him and that appreciated the yesterday lesson more than he could tell me. I just told him, next week you can SHOW ME what he had learned. I have always enjoyed teaching and seeing what others pick up from you and I also sent you a couple of my students to get hooked up with your newsletters. Please keep them coming. Your news letters are better than any guitar magazine that I could purchase! Thanks and keep them coming!
J. Bates

The next one comes from Jay Noel and to me, it contains an important message.

The comments from Vic Cox the other day got me to thinking. I spent 22 years playing lap steel wanting to play pedal steel and not wanting to invest in the cost of a pedal steel. A good friend of mine, who has won several Texas Country Opry awards(there used to be several Oprys in DFW Texas, Mesquite Opry and Johnnie High type shows for example), well he had a used steel that he couldn’t seem to learn to play and just flat-out gave it to me, on the condition that I would play steel for him if he ever went professional. (He didn’t) I did end up playing in a band called “The Rough Ryders” in the late ’80s and early 90’s but the band broke up and for awhile I quit playing. A couple of years ago I started playing again, and took the advice of an old friend, Junior Knight, got myself a new pro model steel.

I can’t put into words how much it has meant to me just playing and enjoying it, but it occurred to me how much better I might be today if I had invested in a pro model steel 35 years ago. My advice is simple. If you love steel guitar, and even think that you might like playing a pro model,– make the investment. First of all you will find with a little practice you can emulate many of the steel licks you’ve heard and have a lot of fun playing them. Second of all even if you decide you no longer like the steel guitar, most steels, especially name brand pro models hold their value well. And a good repair shop can make a used pro model play just as good as a new one, and the investment will be a bit less. Or you might decide to invest in a brand new steel like I finally did, but please take my advice and don’t waste years wishing you could. Just go ahead and do it. Oh, and by the way, if you miss playing the lap steel you can always play it on a couple of tunes, and you will be surprised how well you can play it after playing a pedal steel for awhile.

Jay Noel
Fort Worth, TX

First of all I’d like to thank Jay Noel for submitting some superb sound advice. Frequently people bring instruments in here that they have bought off Ebay or at an auction somewhere or something at a bargain price. The instrument will many times need more fixing, adjusting, pedals or knee levers added to it and no telling what.

They end up with more money invested in a second rate instrument than they would have if they had just gone ahead and spent a few extra bucks and got a top quality instrument to begin with.

I personally am not a fan of student model guitars. We even sell them here but I try to tell people they’re better off spending a few extra hundred dollars and get a professional quality instrument. Once they get good enough to play with other people and bands and play in public, the better quality instrument will be up to the job instead of being a frustration.

Another point to consider is that by chance you keep your guitar awhile and you want to trade it up on a nicer instrument or you just decide you don’t want to play anymore, you will be more prone to recoup most of the money you’ve got in your instrument, whereas the student model is hard to sell, people really don’t want to take them on trade and they’re next to impossible to add knee levers or pedals to upgrade them.

Again, thanks Jay for your input. Guys and gals, this is great advice!

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