Hello fellow players,
I get many questions a month asking me how long it will take for them to learn to play steel guitar. Growing up with a father that owned one of the largest music schools on the east coast and watching his teachers work with students over the years, it seems as though the answer to this question boils down to aptitude, personal drive and native ability.
Dad used to give students a test after six weeks and this test let him know what the student was capable of. For instance, he’d play two notes, one slightly higher in pitch than the other, then ask the student which one was lower. Then he did the same thing with volume. He’d play fast songs and slow songs. He would ask the students questions about what he was doing.
He’d play melodies with big chords, then melodies with just simple one note harmonies. Then he would play a note in a popular song with a choice of notes and then ask which notes sounded better for harmony to what he was playing.
After many of these musical type questions, he would pass judgment on the ability of the student. This determined what direction and how far to go on with the student’s musical education. Some students could play very well after six weeks. Other students played no better than they did when they came in. So when somebody asks me how long it will take to play steel guitar, my answer is usually, just as long as you want it to.
To me steel guitar is one of the easiest instruments there ever was to play, but then again, I tried to play many instruments and don’t feel I did very well and of course, we’ve all seen professional steel players that didn’t play very well at all and undoubtedly never will. It’s sort of like everything else.
I have a buddy that was mowing my lawn three years ago that took flying lessons and got all his licenses and is now flying right seat in a business jet for a very famous big company. I wouldn’t loan him my airplane to fly around the pattern because I know he would at least tear something up on my airplane and at the most kill himself and anybody else that was standing around.
If you’re blessed with a lot of drive and you have the aptitude and an innate native ability, you’ll probably be a great steel guitar player. If not, you might borrow somebody’s steel guitar and injure somebody while trying to play it. Just like learning to do anything, you’ll have to spend some time, spend some money and start by really enjoying what you’re doing.
If it’s fun to you, you’ll do it much faster than if it’s not. It’s nice to have equipment that will make all your rivals envious just like when you were a kid with a sparkling new chrome and metallic bicycle, you were a lot more proud than you were of your old bike.
My first few years of learning steel guitar was pretty well hampered by not being able to afford a good guitar. I was out of the Air Force by the time I could afford a guitar I could be proud of. This is one of the reasons that I have gotten into the steel guitar selling business. I want people to have what they need to be a good steel guitar player. I was playing professionally in Dallas and barely had the equipment good enough to do the job at all, much less feel comfortable with what I was doing. I just know in my heart that I’d be a lot better player today and done my band leaders more justice if I would have had a better guitar and amp.
I look back now and have to snicker, but it’s amazing how far determination and drive will take you. When a young player comes in my store telling me how badly he wants a new guitar, I’ll do my best to see that he gets what he needs.
Another great subject I’d like to touch on here is the brotherhood that steel players are in. The care they take for each other, the interest in each other’s welfare is a wonderful thing for a band of brothers to have. Let somebody’s guitar get stolen, as soon as every steel player in world finds out about it through the internet or whatever, the guitar will undoubtedly turn up and get back to its correct owner.
Your fellow brotherhood members will give you help in finding rare equipment like old Standels, old Bigsby guitars, that rare push pull Emmons and so on. Help in finding work and jobs is a very important thing that this brotherhood will do for each other. After all, what other instrument by itself has their own shows and meets, either on a local level or international level?
And remember this, steel players have their own Hall of Fame. The brotherhood of steel guitar is a wonderful thing and not just for country style players. There are many jazz oriented players that have found great camaraderie in each other. And then of course, there is the great Hawaiian steel guitar club.
Steel guitar is a much loved commodity the world over. Being a member of one of the big steel guitar organizations may feed you information and continuing love for the guitar and music we all now care so much about.
Check out our monthly specials at http://www.steelguitar.net/monthlyspecials.html and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.
Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday