Pedal steel guitar is like an electric six-string guitar, but it ate all its vegetables and drank a lot of milk when it was growing up. Pedal steel is the same as standard six-string electric guitar besides:
-It has ten strings. (Sometimes more!)
-The neck rests on a cabinet or table-like body.
-It has legs – it’s like an electric guitar looking spaceship, ready for lift-off!
-It is played with finger picks and a thumbpick, instead of the fingers or a regular guitar pick.
-Its pickups have a strong output, which means its signal is hotter and louder than the guitar’s when it hits the amp.
-It has pedals and knee levers which raise and lower pitches: this is just like a guitar player bending a string upwards to raise a pitch, except the pedals and knee levers on a pedal steel do it for you.
-Pedal steels are heavier. But they have much more sustain of notes in part because of this.
-They require a bar for “fretting” the notes with the left hand, instead of doing it with the fingers of the left hand like a six-string guitar player does.
-They require the use of a volume pedal consistently in technique.
-Less people know about them; and they love the sound of them because of this. It is unique in timbre.
I hope this helps six-string guitar players, and others better understand what a pedal steel guitar is, and how it works. It is actually very similar to standard electric six-string guitar in many ways.
For more on electric six-string guitars and pedal steel, and how they relate, click below…