Learning the unique magic of the steel guitar

Hi guys and gals,

As many of you know, I started off my music career as a teacher teaching many different instruments before focusing exclusively on steel guitar. The reason steel guitar got me was because of the beautiful droning strains of notes that were impossible to create on any other type of instrument. The versatility of the instrument is beyond compare. It is the only instrument which cannot be faithfully synthesized or successfully emulated by any electronic means. This is one of the saving graces of steel guitar in Nashville today. You cannot be replaced by the keyboard player because sampling even with the most expensive and sophisticated samplers cannot capture the essence of the instrument.

Many instruments can be played much faster. Many other instruments are more portable. Most other instruments are easier to maintain and tune … but the pedal steel guitar has a magic no other instrument. Is it worth going to the trouble to become a master of possibly the greatest instrument of the world? I think we’d all say yes on that one.

How we learn and how we have learned to play this instrument is an art in itself. Have you ever wondered why some kids who have been playing only a year or so can play incredibly well and some people who have been playing for twenty years who are brilliant in another craft, can’t seem to play steel guitar pleasingly at all? Sometimes talent is wrongfully given credit for this when it should actually go to consistent disciplined practice. Ask yourself, “What is talent?” Is it the ability to focus, concentrate and train motor memory? I feel that focusing on the correct technique in the beginning of your playing and recognizing what the stumbling blocks are will keep you from playing as smooth and fast as some of the great players you have witnessed is the important factor. I see many players who have been playing for years who still pump their volume pedal mercilessly when in fact it should barely be moving at all. Why didn’t they recognize this flaw when they were first learning to play? If this fact is pointed out to them, they would probably say they never thought about it or even ask what’s wrong with that? (Denial) The point of this post after playing and being a teacher for over 45 years is … make yourself aware of the minute, seemingly insignificant things that make a great steel guitar player great. Watch Buddy Emmons’ volume pedal and how little it moves. Watch his right and left hand technique when he plays the intro to “Way To Survive”. Watch, learn and absorb. I see many steel players every week come into my store and play. There are some unknowns who are great and some well-knowns who are bad. I’m sure you know and have personal opinions of your own on this subject. Remember the last newsletter … just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you’re good. You can learn from the bad as well as from the good. Ever watch “Cops” on television? You’ll see some pretty good examples of what not to do. You can watch steel guitar players and get good examples of what not to do. Remember also that unlearning is harder than learning just as breaking an old bad habit is harder than learning a new good habit.

In my teaching videos, I stress the correct methods of playing and learning. Learning correctly and forcing yourself to do it correctly is the only way you can reach greatness. Watch the finest players that you can watch, watch them very closely, ask questions, buy video tapes, CDs and concentrate very intently on the aspects of your playing that you need to be aware of. The intro to “Way To Survive” is extremely easy to play but very few people can make it sound as good as Buddy Emmons does. What’s the difference in the way he does it? Watch and listen closely and you’ll be able to see it. The right hand … where it is on the string, how the picks attack and release the string, how the bar is held in the left hand, how the strings are deadened behind the bar, volume pedal technique … are a few of the things to be observed. Buddy Emmons isn’t the only person whom you should observe this closely. Remember Jerry Byrd, Weldon Myrick, Tom Brumley and many other great players are worth watching and listening to very closely.

That’s why I offer CDs, tapes and videos. I want you to be the very best you can be.

Your buddy,





P.S. Blatant self promotion: Remember my Christmas CD makes a great gift … and to those of you who have it already, thank you for all the wonderful compliments I’ve received. Now go to my website and order everything you can afford.

This entry was posted in Bobbe's Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.