Northeast Iowa Steel Guitar Jam; Vic’s Advice – Learn the Notes!

Hello fellow players,

This is Vic Lawson with today’s newsletter.

I got this email in reply to the last newsletter and just have to pass it on. This is what I call affirmative action. Here’s the email.

Vic, after reading your newsletter, I thought I should reply. As you are 100% correct in getting the younger folks to play steel, here in Iowa we ARE getting them to play and here is the reason. I am the guitarist at the NEISGJ, Northeast Steel Guitar Jam every October here in Iowa. I have been involved with a Jumpstart program leaning towards people learning the steel guitar. This program was started in hopes of the younger adults and teenagers to pick up and bring the steel guitar to the for front again. We have a program that has a loan program contract and a complete program at no cost to the students. We loan a pro guitar (6 pro guitars), a pac seat, accessories, amp to the student for a 12 mo period. Now to clear this up a little, this is a total donation program whether monetary or equipment. They get the set that is listed above and believe it or not free lessons for 12 months. The commitment is from the teacher also, as the student that they will perform at least 1 song at the show. I want you to understand that we don’t loan equipment out without knowing the person or references. Each one has pro gear, ready for stage that they learn on. Also to top it off, the program has been given two tubs full of learning materials, Newman, Jernigan, Emmons, Wallace and a lot more. This is also for the students to learn from is they choose.

Now a lot of our students have completed this course, and of course some hasn’t. For the most part, we have players who now play in bands quite a bit. And my students are writing their own songs and they are really good instrumentals. This program has woke up a few people and they have called and wanted to know how to do this in their area. That is a tough question, a program as we all know starts out trial by error. We have been successful that we have steeler friends who believe in this project and offer their skills as teachers. We have teachers in Wi., Ia.,Mn.,Ne.,and Il. We also have Mullen, Williams, and Russler guitars as supporters. This is a program that needs attention by people who get to the masses as yourself. We took it to Scotty’s this year and completed two seminars and sparked a lot ot interest. We need organizations to promote a program as this, and supporters to get the word out, and people who would donate second or third guitars so others can take the leap without the expense of a guitar till they know if they want to learn it. Getting the commitment on paper is the first step. Eddie Lang donated his old seat, amps, equipment that isn’t being used, Mike Sweeney with tabs. We’ve had guitars donated cause the player passed on, or just to many in the house.

If you would like to see what this is, you should go to You Tube and put Jumpstart Academy in the window you will see six students who will have big smiles when they finish their song. If you have anymore questions, please refer to me or Lefty Schrage. I will leave contact info here.
Roger Miller

I want to thank everybody for all the feedback. It’s good to see a lively discussion on this subject.

The next subject is addressed to beginning and intermediate players. One way you can learn more about the instrument is to take the time to learn what each string is in terms of the number system and what pedal and lever combinations change those notes and in what degree.

For example, the first and seventh open strings on the E9th tuning represents the two (2) of the E major scale. With the A and B pedals down in the A chord, those same two strings become the sixth (6) note of the A major scale.

If you’ll go through your guitar and take the time to write it down with each string, pedal and knee lever and learn what each note is in relation to the scale of whatever chord you’re in, it will tremendously increase your understanding not only of the steel guitar but your understanding of music as well.

I realize many of you know this and I’m sorry for the redundancy but there are many beginners on this list who can benefit from this exercise. If you’re not familiar with the Nashville number system, Chas Williams wrote a book which we carry which will greatly expand your understanding.

Knowing where to find the next note you’re looking for in the easiest place really helped my personal playing advance when I was a beginner because I stopped jumping around from position to position and started seeing the notes that were available in between.

It’s especially helpful when working with single notes to know the number system and how to find the next note quickly when playing with a band. There will be times when you want to unison the guitar. Also this helps in finding your harmony parts when playing single note parts.

Above all, this will help you have a better understanding of your instrument and should open up a lot of ideas for you to work on. Build your knowledge and understanding of your instrument one day at a time. It’s amazing how much a year of accumulated experience will do for you.

Remember, play often and play loud.

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

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2 Responses to Northeast Iowa Steel Guitar Jam; Vic’s Advice – Learn the Notes!

  1. Randell says:

    It’s important not to just play something as fast as possible, or as fast as you have heard some other guy play it on the radio. This is a lesser known method that a lot of newbie guitar players tend to miss out on when they initially learn how to play the guitar. It definitely wasn’t easy,
    I would try quitting, then a week later I would go back to smoking

  2. Wes Jordan says:

    I enjoy your messages. Fred Long was an acquaintance of mine. I understand that he left
    some of the pedal steels to association to be used in the Jumpstart Academy. Would you be interested in selling any of them, I am looking for an S 10 with emmons setup. I understand completely if you are not selling them. Thanks Wes Jordan Urbandale Iowa.
    I agree with learning the notes on the guitar. Wish I would have done the
    at when I was younger.

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