Bob Hempker Explains the Logic of His Copedent

This is Bob Hempker with today’s newsletter.

I’ve had several comments pertaining to the newsletter comparing the Emmons versus Day setups on the E9th neck. One individual had an injured left knee and using the left-left knee lever to flatten his fourth and eighth strings was less painful on his knee.

This could be a reason for changing your setup either way. Someone else may experience more comfort or less pain with the Emmons setup. It would just depend on the individual.

I started playing when I was twelve years old, then started using pedals when I was fourteen. The Jimmy Day setup was more common back then than it is today. As a result I learned to play that way.

I thought of changing down through the years to the Emmons setup, but I know I would pretty much have to start from scratch and learn to play all over again. As a result, I’ve stayed with my original setup, that being the Jimmy Day setup.

I do a couple of outside the box things. For starters, I raise my fourth and eighth with my right-left knee lever and lower my fourth and eighth strings with my right-right knee lever.

My reason for doing this like this is because I don’t like the knee lever with the second string half stop on my leg that is on the volume pedal. I have a hard time feeling the half stop that way so I put it on my left leg. I have it on my left-right knee lever.

I lower my sixth string a whole step with the split tuner bringing it back up a half step along with raising my second string a half step on my left-left knee lever. I don’t raise my first string like almost everyone does. The prominent lick that it’s used for, it in my opinion, has gotten extremely redundant.

I do use a half step raise on the first string but I pull it with my little finger behind the bar. If you’re a brand new player, you should practice pulling strings behind the bar because it really makes you use your ear.

It’s great for ear training because you actually have to listen for the string to go into pitch rather than just push the knee lever until it hits the stop. Bar slants and reverses are also an aide to making our ears listen to what we’re playing. Half pedaling on your “A” pedal is also beneficial.

I lower my fifth and tenth strings a whole step with my fourth floor pedal. I can half pedal it on slow ballads if need be for a half step lower. I can take my allen split tuning wrench if I think to, in time, and turn the tuning screw on the split tuner of the fifth string a half turn and that is real close in the ballpark to the Bb note.

That fourth pedal is hooked up to both necks. It pushes a little harder and does travel a little farther than I like but you can’t have everything and I want that change there.

Sometimes we have to choose the lesser of two evils in order to get something we want. I like this change and sometimes I use it with my left-left knee lever. I would rather have the change with the pedal traveling a little much and pushing a little harder than to do without the change. In case you haven’t noticed, the steel guitar is an instrument with a lot of compromises.

I also lower my tenth string with my “C” pedal. I lower it down to A. With my “B” and “C” pedals depressed and my ninth string lowered a half step, I have an A6th tuning on the tenth through the third string. There are also some neat things to play with the fourth, sixth and tenth strings.

The change is also completely out of the way when I play anything else. Again, the pedal travels a little bit farther with that string added. I set the pedal a little bit higher than the second pedal which is my “A” pedal. They bottom together pretty well that way.

I raise my seventh string a whole tone with an up lever on my left leg. I like the sound of the major seventh being in the middle of the chord with the “A” and “B” pedals down or the major thirteenth with the “B” and “C” pedals down.

I’ve heard it said that a guitar will have slightly more cabinet drop using the Jimmy Day setup because your “A” and “B” pedals are closer to the center of the guitar. First of all, I play an Emmons LeGrande III which has the counter-force so I can tune out the cabinet drop with that.

I’ve had numerous other guitars and have worked on many other guitars with the Day setup on them and I find that the statement of more cabinet drop with the Jimmy Day setup is completely erroneous.

In my opinion, someone just starting to play should consider the Emmons setup because it is so much more widely used and you can sit down to someone else’s guitar usually and be able to play it without a lot of problems.

Having said that, if you find a physical trait that makes it easier for you to play the Day setup, by all means go for it. We need to be as comfortable as possible when we’re playing our beautiful instrument.

Our instrument needs to be tailored around us and not the other way around. If I ever have another guitar specially built for me, I will definitely be there to sit behind it with my playing shoes on and with my pack-a-seat before any knee levers are mounted on it so they can be fit around me.

It is much like having a suit tailor made to fit you.

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2 Responses to Bob Hempker Explains the Logic of His Copedent

  1. marcus says:

    hello from England. I wonder if you can explain this problem, or point me at where I should look. so, like me, you play the Day setup, and don’t intend changing it anytime… I have learned a little bit about playing with the C pedal (which is our A pedal, right!) but I really cannot find much point for that 5th string C# raised while the 4th string F# is also raised. also, when I hold down the lever for E lowers, that raised F# is now way out of whack. I guessed years ago that the C pedal was not much use to me. I like it being the furthest away, because it is a lot harder to press down (with the skinny sho bud pedals on my pro iii).
    i just wanted to find out what it is i am missing because, i barely ever use it. i did record one demo for a song using the C pedal and i discovered a few nice moves, but it feels like a whole different mind (and foot) set to use it.

    thanks for sharing your knowledge, best regards


  2. Bobby Lee says:

    Hi Marcus. Bob Hempker doesn’t follow this blog – it’s an archive of Bobbe Seymour’s email newsletter – but I can answer your question.

    The C pedal goes by the same name whether you use Emmons or Day setup. Emmons arranges the pedals ABC and Day arranges them CBA.

    The C pedal has many uses. Most obvious is the B+C combination which gives you a minor chord. In G at the third fret, use B+C to get an Am. The low root note of this chord is on the 7th string.

    Also in G, lower your 2nd string to D an the 5th fret and hold the B pedal down. Now pick strings 3B 4C–4 2D 4–4C 3B. Notice that this is a G chord lick, but it’s at the 5th fret, not the 3rd.

    You’re correct that the parallel 5ths movement of both strings isn’t very useful, but you do hear it a lot on older country records. I think that most players use the C pedal mainly for lick on the top 4 strings. For many years I didn’t even have a C pedal – I raised E to F# on a knee lever. I can only handle so many levers, though, so I went back to the traditional ABC arrangement.


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