Category Archives: Steel Players

Greg Leisz – Tonal Personality

Updated on 12/13/17

Greg Leisz is a puppeteer, behind-the-scenes, yet essential to the show.  He knows just what strings to pull, at just the right time.  His pedal steel playing is tasteful, not hasteful.  He has tone down to the bone.

Beautiful volume pedal swells, with sweet sustain, envelope listeners in an ethereal way.  He is the go-to-guy in the business for atmospheric/textural playing.  Not to mention he has chops and can throw in speedy runs with ease.  Although his ability to fit perfectly in a song, is what has made him have a long and successful career.

Smooth, timely, celestial, warm, and rounded are great adjectives to describe his tone.

Greg Leisz Pedal Steel Atmosphere

I still can’t believe how many sessions (great sessions with great artists I should add) Greg has been on throughout the years.  I have a theory that most people in America over the age of 18, have heard Greg’s pedal steel playing at some point in time.  He has been on so many cool, important recording sessions: most people have heard his playing on some song or recording, whether they know it or not.  Greg has also begun producing, and is certainly one of the coolest “studio cats” in the business.

Volume Pedal Swells - Greg Leisz

Albums or songs worth checking out w/ Greg Leisz…

(These are affiliate links)

Please Do Not Let Me Go – Ryan Adams

The Golden Age – Beck

Disfarmer – Bill Frisell

Guitar in the Space Age – Bill Frisell


Check out more Tonal Personalities!

Buddy Emmons’ Characteristics: How They Can Improve your Playing

Updated on 9/27/17

Buddy Emmons has left a deep impression on the musical world, as well as the steel guitar community. He was an amazing player, with chops and ideas that we all wish we had. His playing seemed perfect, and it usually was. But he too was human, and we can all relate to that. Here are some characteristics of Buddy that we can all connect to, and use to improve our selves and our pedal steel playing.

Smile

Buddy Emmons had impeccable chops, incredible tone, and ingenuity when it came to the pedal steel guitar; add a smile and laugh to this, and you have “The Big E”. We all admire Buddy’s playing, and consider it to be nearly flawless, but he also made mistakes every once in awhile. That is how we learn and grow as people, and begin to push boundaries in a beneficial way: we make mistakes and learn from them. It seemed that whenever he did this (made a mistake), he accepted this and tried to shake it off quickly and move on: he did this by smiling or laughing at the mistake. To error is human, so when he made an error, he did something every human can enjoy: a good smile and laugh. He also did this when his playing was “on fire” too!

Try it sometime on the bandstand, or in the practice room. Look lively and excited once in a while, and your steel playing may just sound the same. There is current evidence in science that suggests if a person makes their body react in a certain way, it sends signals to the brain to act in the same way: for instance, if you make yourself smile, then your brain will sense this and make you feel happier. Seems like Buddy was onto something there.

Use Your Intuition

Buddy seemed to be an intuitive individual, as we can tell from many of his inventive contributions to the pedal steel guitar. He had a knack for following his instinct, or doing what felt right at that moment, many times with an improvisational approach. His intuitive addition and use of the strings D# and F# (strings 2 & 1) on the E9 neck is now a modern day staple of the 10-string E9 neck tuning. He came up with the three pedal configuration that we now consider standard on any E9 neck pedal steel. Also, did I mention the Emmons and Sho-Bud brand pedal steels that he helped develop, which are still sought after for their ingenious design, taste, and tone?

His intuition is also evident in his creative, improvisational approach to many of his studio sessions, and own personal work. Coming from a jazz background, and favoring the improvisational approach in this regard, Buddy liked to follow his instincts in the music too, and follow it wherever it took him. That’s one reason we love his playing; we never knew where it would take us.

To better follow your intuition at the pedal steel guitar, try not to play licks, songs, or riffs that you have memorized, and can already play over and over. Try to improvise. Step out onto the plank, and dive into the deep waters…try something new – you don’t know where it will take you, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s like life, sometimes you just have to improvise, and that can be the fun in it.

Be A Bookworm

Buddy liked to read, and he was a very thoughtful person. He used to go to libraries just to study jazz-related material and music. Ever wonder how he had such a solid sense of music and the theory behind it? Besides practice, he soaked up literature that he could translate into ideas on his instrument. He studied approaches to music through books, not just listening. He used to read about Einstein, and astronomy too…those atomic particles on Emmons fretboards are a part of his character/signature because he was interested in them. He wanted to know more about many things, as any great inventor does. He gained inspiration not just by listening to music, but also by reading literature, which he translated into inspirational music on the pedal steel.

Buddy Emmons Music Thoery Books

Read more about things that interest you. How can they be applied to your instrument, or playing the pedal steel guitar? Also, be sure to read a music theory book once in a while…they’re not that boring if you relate it to pedal steel playing!

Have Hobbies/Interests

Buddy was interested in boxing, photography, physics, astronomy, music history, and much more. He related to these things personally, and he let these things impact him because they meant something to him. We can see and hear this impact through his pedal steel playing…he made notes punch you in the face like boxing gloves; and used his love of physics to help in the design of a signature fretboard.   Life is music, and music is life: if these are interchangeable, then why not let life’s influences on you show in your music.

Buddy Emmons - Einstein and Astrology Books

Try to think of something you are passionate about besides music and pedal steel, and see how you can apply it to your instrument and playing it. Do you enjoy restoring old cars? Then chances are you’d be great at restoring a vintage pedal steel. Do you enjoy playing golf? How can the physics and technique behind that sport relate to the technical aspects of playing the pedal steel guitar. Put a golf ball on your practice stand for inspiration and ideas.

Buddy was a star, a genius, and an icon to pedal steel players all over the world. He still is. Let’s let his character and human traits influence us to be better players. His playing was inspirational, and so was his spirited character. Keep on picking and smiling everyone!

Read more about Buddy Emmons below…

Buddy Emmons – Tonal Personality


Keep that Emmons mindset and practice…more tips and techniques here:     Practice Tips and Techniques

Getting the Most out of your Steel Guitar Forum Experience

The Steel Guitar Forum is an invaluable asset to steel guitarists, enthusiasts, and to the instrument itself. It is a fountain of knowledge; and for an instrument with such a steep learning curve, we should all be enjoying a drink from this fountain. Full of advice, details, experience, intelligence, players, and so much more, The Steel Guitar Forum is a truly phenomenal community.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks for browsing the forum, which have helped me improve as a pedal steel player. The Steel Guitar Forum allows a player to process useful steel guitar information in the brain, then take it to the instrument and translate it into music. This is a valuable system that all steel guitar players can benefit from using: and with today’s technology you can utilize it from pretty much anywhere, at anytime.

There is a wealth of information on the forum: years and years of great discussion, caring advice, and intelligent players add up to form a community that is unparalleled compared to many other instruments. If you are a steel guitar player, chances are that any other steel player you’ll ever meet in your life will be kind and generous to you for sharing a passion in this magnificent instrument. This is important because encouragement is the backbone for this instrument; due to its difficulty and rarity. The steel guitar is like an endangered species: it is rare, low in numbers, yet important to the environment. Luckily for us, no one wants to see any kind of rare, endangered species die! Especially other musicians, who will graciously invite a steel guitarist onto the bandstand in hopes of being spotted with such an atypical animal.

As steel players, we’re similar to gold dust; every little bit counts, and it all adds up over time. There’s still gold to be found in the world, and thanks to the Steel Guitar Forum, we have a map to help us discover it.

Pedal Steel Foot Pedals and Steel Guitar Forum Love

Here are some tips for maximizing your time on The Steel Guitar Forum, and utilizing the information contained within it:

Use The Search Function:

Even after browsing the forum for years, I still to this day discover helpful information from many years past. There are so many variables involved with playing or learning about this instrument, that the top page of most recent discussions is unlikely to hold all the answers you are seeking. Treat the search function like you would when searching for anything else on Google: be specific with your search wording, and try to find a more exact answer or topic regarding your question. Are you wondering how to shape your fingerpicks, so that they’re comfortable and properly adjusted for good right hand technique? Then don’t just type in fingerpicks. Type in: shaping fingerpicks to be more comfortable. These searches will both yield good results, but they will be different results, and the search more adjusted to your needs will get you on your way more efficiently.

Find All Posts By A Member:

How many other places in the world have such incredible, world-class, legendary musicians posting their advice for free to other aspiring players? I mean really: Steel Guitar Hall of Famers, professional players, road warriors, and many other players who have years and years of expertise and experience, all sharing their knowledge because they want to be generous. This is too good to be true. We’ve even had “The Big E” grace us with plenty of posts: 1470 to be exact, all from one of the greatest players to ever grace the earth. You can read all of them on the forum, and they’re all thoughtful and helpful, just as he was as a person. This would be like Jimi Hendrix having posted a lot of advice to many guitar players on a forum! The guitar players would’ve freaked out!!!

Many other great players, and legendary ones, have posted and continue to do so on the forum. Do yourself a favor: read more of the posts from players and people who make an impact on you. Just like you listen to music selectively, do the same when considering advice and players to listen to on the Forum. Most of the advice is helpful, but some of it will be more helpful to you personally as a player/person. Are you interested in restoring a 1970’s pedal steel from a particular builder/manufacturer, and there weren’t many designed with this style and different mechanisms? Chances are, there is a particular forum member(s) who has been working on these steels for over thirty years, and is the best person on earth to give you helpful advice and feedback on your project. You can search for their particular posts too to gain more insight into their expertise.

To find all posts by a member:

-Go to a topic or thread that this member has posted on (or search for one).

-Click on that member’s profile button at the bottom of their post.

-In their Total Posts category, click “Find all posts by …”

The Steel Guitar Forum - Foot Pedal Work Picture

Have Fun, Be Positive, and Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

Most importantly, have fun while you’re on the forum. Also, try to be as positive and helpful as you can if you’re posting. I quickly leave topics that become negative in energy, or contain people bashing one another. Criticism and opinions are important on forums, but usually only if they are constructive and helpful.

Also, with so many experienced and intelligent veteran players on the Forum, I know it can be intimidating for newer players to reach out and make posts about questions they may have. I know this because I was once like this. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about learning the instrument, as most members on there enjoy helping others pick up the steel guitar.


After all, getting more people to learn and play this instrument is the only way for our species to survive. Maybe if more people begin playing steel guitar, and we take them under our wing, we won’t end up like the Dodo birds.

Share the steel guitar love/knowledge, and thanks to b0b and everyone involved for making The Steel Guitar Forum such a great community to be a part of!