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Buying A Carter Starter (Pedal Steel): What You Need To Know

Carter Starter pedal steels are one of the best options for beginner pedal steels because of their price and functionality. Read more…

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Pedal steel guitars are known for being challenging instruments to play, and if you’re interested in buying one for the first time, you may be wondering what the cost and features are of different pedal steels.

Carter Starter pedal steels are one of the best options for beginner pedal steels because of their price and functionality. They provide players with the standard pedal and knee lever functions for learning the E9 pedal steel tuning, yet are lightweight and easy to play.

Even though Carter Starter pedal steels aren’t being manufactured anymore, there are some used ones for sale. These pedal steels usually hold their value over time.

This makes them a great option if you’re a beginner player that is interested in learning pedal steel on this model. If it’s in good condition, you can probably sell it for around $800-$900 when you’re ready to buy a professional pedal steel guitar that is more expensive.

Let’s take a closer look at the Carter Starter, and why it is one of the most popular entry-level pedal steels…

What Makes The Carter Starter A Good Entry Level Pedal Steel?

When it comes to finding and buying a beginner pedal steel, there are considerably less options on the pedal steel market than intermediate and pro level steel guitars. This is what makes the Carter Starter a nice option for prospective players who aren’t looking to spend more than $1,200.

The Carter Starter was originally designed and made for players that are looking to have a reliable and quality sounding instrument, without having to pay a considerable amount of money. Carter Starters are single neck pedal steels with an E9 tuning.

These pedal steels have three foot pedals and four knee levers, which have the standard E9 copedant changes that are commonly used by players. The traditional pedal steel sound, along with the current applications of pedal steel in more modern music, can be utilized when playing a Carter Starter.

Buying A Carter Starter (Pedal Steel): What You Need To Know

The instrument is lightweight and easy to assemble, which can be beneficial to players who are still learning about the parts of a pedal steel and their functions.

Carter Starters also sound good for their price, and players can use them effectively for practice and gigs without compromising their tone considerably.

There have been many pedal steel players who began learning pedal steel on a Carter Starter and then upgraded to a professional level pedal steel when they were ready.

Since many potential pedal steel players aren’t sure if they’ll continue playing the instrument in the long run, the Carter Starter is an affordable option to experiment and learn on in the beginning stages of playing.

You can usually sell your Carter Starter if you decide you’re no longer interested in playing pedal steel, or if you’d like to purchase a professional model pedal steel.

Price and Options: Buying a Used Carter Starter

Most used Carter Starter pedal steels sell in the $900 to $1200 price range if they’re in good condition. Sometimes they’ll cost more or less than this, depending on their condition and the seller.

Because there aren’t many beginner pedal steels being manufactured nowadays, there is a demand for beginner model pedal steels that function well and are cheaper in price.

If you’re looking to buy a used Carter Starter, often the best place to look is online. Sometimes they’re available on the Steel Guitar Forum’s “For Sale: Steel Guitars” section, where you can buy them from individual sellers/players that will ship them to you.

Also, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are good options for possibly finding a used one in your area. However, you’ll probably have to check these listings often to find one for sale in your area. Due to the pedal steel being an uncommon instrument for musicians, finding one that is available (and within a reasonable driving distance to you) can be challenging.

You can also ask any pedal steel player that you know if they are aware of any Carter Starters that are for sale. Also, taking an experienced player along with you can be beneficial for determining the condition and functionality of the Carter Starter.

When purchasing any used pedal steel, you’ll want to keep in mind that pedal steels can be mechanically complex: finding a used one that is properly setup and stays in tune can be challenging.

This is especially true if you’re new to pedal steel and are unsure of what to look for when buying one. I wrote an in-depth guide to buying pedal steels that goes more into the details of what to look for when buying one.

The Carter Brand: Professional and Student Models

Over the years, Carter has become a reputable and trusted steel guitar brand among players. Most Carter pedal steels are known for their smooth playability, quality sound, and high functionality.

Also, because they aren’t as well-known, compared to more traditional pedal steel brands like Emmons and ShoBud, Carter pedal steels are often reasonably priced and provide a good value to players.

Many used professional Carter pedal steels will sell in the $2,000 to $3,500 price range, compared to some others that can sell between $4,000 and $5,000.

Finding a brand new Carter pedal steel can be challenging, since the company stopped manufacturing and building pedal steels in 2010.

However, some pedal steel shops may have new Carters in stock and parts available for them. Steel Guitars of Canada has been known to stock and service Carter pedal steels.

The Pros and Cons of Playing a Carter Starter Pedal Steel

The Carter Starter pedal steel is a great instrument to play and learn on, however there are some disadvantages to playing it because of it is a beginner model with a lower cost production.

Let’s check out some of the advantages and disadvantages to playing a Carter Starter…


  • Affordable
  • Functions well and plays smoothly
  • Has three foot pedals and four knee levers that accommodate the standard E9 pedal steel tuning
  • Lightweight
  • Holds its resale value usually
  • Simple setup and design
  • Decent sound quality for a beginner model


  • Less durability and lower quality parts
  • Lower quality pickups that may not sound as good in quality compared to other pedal steel pickups
  • Pedal bar isn’t as sturdy
  • The knee lever that is to the left of the player’s left knee can sometimes become loose mechanically, and the stop for this knee lever may not work perfectly for keeping the pedal change in tune when the lever is fully engaged.
  • Often does not come with a case
  • Can be challenging to find one for sale at a physical location near you

Overall, Carter Starter pedal steels can be great guitars to play or learn on. I’ve seen professional pedal steel players play them at gigs because of how lightweight and easy they are to transport and set up. These players still sounded great, even though they were playing a beginner model pedal steel.

Whether you’re a guitar player interested in playing pedal steel, someone who is interested in learning the instrument from scratch, or a pedal steel player that is looking for a lightweight option for certain playing situations, the Carter Starter is one of the best options for used pedal steels in the $900-$1200 price range.

Their sleek design, along with their black and gray cabinet, offer players an attractive looking entry-level pedal steel that plays well and sounds good for the price. This is why the Carter Starter has held its reputation as one of the best pedal steels to begin playing and learning on.

Thanks for checking out this page, hope it is helpful and makes playing more enjoyable! If you’re interested in diving deeper into playing chords and scales on E9 pedal steel, check out these guides…

The Chord Guide for E9 Pedal Steel (E-Book, Digital Download)

Pedal Steel Guitar Instruction Book

Learn the chords on the E9 neck in a way that makes playing simple and enjoyable…

  • Almost Every Chord You’ll Ever Need for E9
  • Intuitive and Easy to Use
  • Make Use of Pedal and Lever Combinations
  • Example Tabs of Chord Movements
  • Easily Utilize the Nashville Number System
  • Great For Any Key and Style of Music

Includes a bonus section of over a hundred pages of extra chord charts, key references, and more!

More Digital Downloads for Pedal Steel…

The Elixir of E9 Pedal Steel: Harmonized 6ths

For more info on pedal steel brands, makers, and manufacturers click here…