When a player practices left foot pedal technique on pedal steel guitar, they must keep in mind that a major goal is to condition excellently the muscle memory in their left foot/ankle. This is much attune to a tennis player practicing their strokes over and over again on the court. As pedal steel players, we need to think about doing the same with our pedal strokes, or pedal work.
Do you ever get sick of people telling you that you should practice things slowly? Well, drop that thought, cause I’m about to tell you that you should do the same when working on your left foot pedal technique. Think about this: if there was such thing as a perfect basketball shooting motion, and we had a competition to see who in the world could perform this motion the best- at a very slow speed, do you think anyone could do it better than Michael Jordan? Not many, because he can make a great shooting motion, whether it’s full-speed, or slo-mo. We should be able to do the same with our pedal work, if we are striving to improve.
If you engage the A pedal on the E9 neck, which raises our pitch two half steps on strings 5+10, and fret the bar at fret position 12, you have a C# note on these strings. Now slowly disengage the pedal, while sliding up two frets and you have the same note since you disengaged the pedal and moved the bar up two half steps simultaneously. Since these are the same notes, if you gradually slide between these two positions (engaged 12th fret, disengaged 14th fret) while gradually (dis)engaging the pedal, you shouldn’t hear a change in pitch. This is easier to do quickly, Bam! You did it. But can you do it super slow, and avoid the microtones!!!
Here’s what I mean:
If you do this process and move the bar real slowly from the 12th fret position (engaged pedal) up towards the 14th fret position (disengaged pedal) – but only move the bar super slow, and you want to keep the pitch constant — your foot will need to engage/disengage the pedal just as slow as the bar moves, until you reach your destination.
Experiment with this idea for a little bit each day, and you’ll start having ankles and feet made of Steel!