Sometimes if you’re in a crunch, or at a jam, or experimenting, you’ll need to play your pedal steel guitar through an amplifier that is built for electric six-string guitar. Many of these amps are well-designed, sound good, are affordable and reliable: but they just don’t have the physical capabilities of reproducing the pedal steel’s spectral bandwidth (frequency range). This doesn’t mean that you can’t get great sounds and cool effects to speak from these guitar amplifiers though. Sure, you will lose a good bit on the high and low ends, and it is more likely to distort and dirty up your signal, but for blues and rock n’ roll this could work temporarily until you’re back on a steel amp.
Mesa Boogie makes great amps that have a killer distortion tone – use this for getting a bluesy, classic rock six-string guitar tone from your pedal steel. I played through a Mesa Boogie F-50 for numerous gigs closer to the Rock idiom. It sounded great, and gave me a Duane Allman type of tone with bar slides. It was really rocking, but I began missing the clarity and versatility of a pedal steel amplifier.
If you have guitar amps around, try running your pedal steel through them, and this can give you different ideas of what your pedal steel guitar can sound like when electrified. You can also begin to hear/learn specific frequencies that you are gaining or losing when you switch between the amps. If you play through a guitar amp for a few days, then switch back to your pedal steel amp, you’ll be amazed at how many frequencies you recover and rediscover!
Check out the pages below for more on pedal steel amplifiers…