June 20, 2013
When we get too busy to sit down and write a newsletter, we’ll pull up one of Bobbe’s newsletters from past years. Here is a replay of an 8 year old newsletter. Enjoy!
What is a steel guitarists main function in a band?
As you can imagine, it’s not to play rhythm or interfere with the bass’ low notes or to be playing loud at the same time the singer is singing. Steel guitar and fiddle are two of the instruments that are added to a band to add beauty and sweetness to the music. Every song needs this to make it more appreciated by the masses.
Every instrument in the band, except steel and fiddle, are percussive. Drums, guitars, piano, every note is staccato. Steel guitar is a warm, floating note. A band without something pretty in it like steel or fiddle is kind of hard to listen to for very long. Your subconscious mind feels as though it is being hit by every note and sound and can be very fatiguing over a period of time. Steel guitar, with it’s beautiful, flowing tones weaving amongst the other percussive instruments, creates a very pleasant, exciting but pretty feeling which contrasts wonderfully with the percussive instruments.
Steel guitar, being a lead instrument, should not be played on top of the voice, but it’s licks should be used to fill in the holes where the voice isn’t singing and is also used to take the present chord into the next upcoming chord like at the end of a verse and walking or sliding into the four chord of the bridge. This is where the bass player usually walks up from a one chord to a four chord. The bass player’s thumping percussive notes on this walkup can be made beautiful by a steel guitar flowing up above him to the same four chord. The drums and bass in a band are the chassis and the motor and steel guitar is the beautiful bodywork. They can get along without us but they won’t look very good!
Remember, when playing steel with a band, that fillin means fill in the holes where the singer’s voice isn’t and be sure to give the lead guitar his fills and stay out of his way and ask him to play very quiet rhythm if he plays anything at all during your fills. Some lead players think they have to play all the time and if they don’t, they think they have to play their rhythm just as loud as their fills were. I personally will not work with one of these kind of players over one time. The lead player is there to do the same type of job you’re doing, the difference being, he just isn’t equipped as well (grin).
What should a well equipped steel guitar player have in his pack-a-seat?
You should carry an extra volume pedal. Effects such as digital reverb, echo and chorus. You never know when a song will need this icing on the cake. At least, one or two extra cords. Extra bar in your pick pouch along with several extra thumb pick and at least one extra finger pick.
It goes without saying that a pack of .011’s is very necessary along with any others that may be prone to break due to your style of playing or your guitar. A complete set for both necks is nice to carry, even if you have to break a set due to an emergency. Some sort of distortion device. A power strip and at least one extension cord. My power strip is built into the side of my pack-a-seat.
Carrying a sitar bar can also be useful for the inventive player. Hand tools such as a speedy string winder, nylon tuner wrench, three or four allen wrenches sized to your guitar, a small multi-service Swiss Army knife or something with several tools built into it such as pliers, straight and phillips head screwdrivers etc. You may carry some of these things for years without needing them, but the day you do, you’ll be awfully glad that you had been carrying them.
I carry a headphone amp so that I can tune onstage or offstage where there’s a lot of noise and I want to hear me, not them and where I don’t want them to hear me. I can also tune by ear between songs by plugging the headphones into the third output jack on my volume pedal and leaving it there all the time. When I need to tune, I just turn the volume down on the amp and tune without bothering anybody or anybody bothering me. Most of you have seen professional players at big steel guitar shows using these phones to tune up while another act was on.
Why do you think they call it a pack-a-seat? Go ahead and pack it up.
Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Open 9AM – 2Pm Second and Third Saturday of each Month