Pedal Pressure

Hello fans and fellow players,

We’ve had a crazy week at Steel Guitar Nashville and haven’t been able to get a newsletter together. So I dug back in the achieves and found a good one for 7 years ago.

This is the reprint of that newsletter.

The subject this week is so very important to steel guitarists and I never hear it discussed because most steel players don’t even know what it is.

It’s pedal and knee lever feel. What a guitar feels like has more to do with knee levers and pedal distance and pressures than anything you do with a steel guitar with your hands.

The most common misconception in the difference between a steel guitar that feels good against one that doesn’t is pedal pressure. Most players think that the easier a knee lever or pedal pushes, the better the guitar feels. This is totally untrue. If it were true, all we would need would be electric solenoids in each pedal or knee lever and the pedals and knees could just be switches to make the strings raise and lower. I have played guitars with knee pressure so light that the crease in my jeans will detune the guitar before I can feel the knee lever being pushed. How’s that for lack of feel?

Pedal feel needs to have a certain amount of pressure as I have just explained, if it doesn’t, how can you get half pedals or slow pedaling or snap pedaling. You have to be able to feel the pedals and what they do. Many players like to be able to relax their legs on top of the pedals and not have the affected strings go out of tune when their legs relax.

A pedal should move from three quarters of an inch to an inch in travel. This allows for half pedal and good feel on the strings that just move a half a tone.

Now here’s the most important thing that needs to be understood about pedal feel. Where the pressure comes in, this means does the pedal get increasingly harder to push as you push it down or does it get easier to push as it travels? The big reason that the Sho-Bud fingertip guitars never really felt good was because the pedals pushed real easy in their first quarter inch of travel and then got increasingly hard to push rapidly before they got to the stop. This makes for a very poor pedal feel. The reason the Emmons pushpull guitar is in favor by so many great professional players, is because the pedal pushes no harder at the end of it’s travel than it does at the beginning. It’s like shifting gears in a very expensive European sports car.

Piano players are fanatical about how the keys feel on expensive pianos. Does the key pop back after it is depressed? How easy does the key push and how much feedback does the piano give the player? If piano keys push too easy, they give the player no feedback or feel. In the early days of electronic keyboards, good piano players complained about the lack of feel until the engineers and makers of the electronic keyboards simulated the feel of a real piano by doing what they call adding weighted keys. This feedback is as necessary in steel guitar pedals and knee levers as it is in pianos or other instruments.

With over 50 steel guitars on our showroom floor, the ones that feel best to play are easy to figure out and we have decided that how easy the pedal pushes does not equate to feel or your playing of the instrument better necessarily. It seems that more thought has been put into how a player wears his picks and what kind of plating is on their bars along with what diameter their cords are than the most important thing which is the feedback and feel of the steel guitar itself.

As we all know, tone is brutally important on what a good steel guitarist feels in his instrument. The feedback you get from where you actually contact the guitar, which is pedals and knee levers, is an extremely important point.

Helper springs make pedals push easier and almost never help the feel or feedback of the instrument.

The big thing in this message to remember is a pedal should be setup to push just as easy at the end of it’s travel as it pushes at the beginning of it’s travel. Naturally, this applies to knee levers also.

I can think of two guitars being made today with the pedal action so easy that have no feel at all.

Let’s take a tip from our keyboard friends and have a guitar that we play well, not one that just has pedals that are easy to push.

Check out our monthly specials at and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.

Your buddy,

Listen To Steel Guitar Music Streaming 24 Hours A Day!

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday

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.