Nashville has certainly become a musical hub for musicians, audio engineers, and listeners alike, but it is also one of the most vibrant places for pedal steel guitar in the world. Because of the pedal steel’s history in country music, the instrument has grown hand in hand with the city.
Compared to most places, Nashville has an abundance of pedal steel players, pedal steel guitars, live music with pedal steel, and recording sessions that utilize the instrument. For such a niche instrument, Nashville has a lot to offer for pedal steel enthusiasts.
If you’re a pedal steel player, or just enjoy hearing the instrument, Nashville can be a great place to visit or live to hear more of the pedal steel’s sound. Let’s take a look at the Nashville pedal steel scene…
The History of Pedal Steel in Nashville
It’s hard not to mention the history of pedal steel guitar in Nashville if you’re talking about the culture of pedal steel. The instrument has deep roots in country music, from a recording and performance standpoint, and has found great success in country music of the 1960s-1970s.
So much of the country music of this time period came out of Nashville, and many players enjoyed success performing, touring, and recording for well-known artists.
There were times where you could walk in downtown Nashville and you were sure to hear great pedal steel playing by reputable players at most hours of the day. The Grand Ole Opry has also been a noteworthy place to hear pedal steel with well-known country acts.
Furthermore, the Sho-Bud company was born in Nashville, and these pedal steel guitars have become synonymous with that classic Nashville pedal steel sound.
Another unique aspect of pedal steel’s history in Nashville is that many talented and successful pedal steel players live in the city. This has made it a great spot for learning more about the instrument through networking and talking with other players (especially before the internet, which has helped players communicate quickly and find information).
Even though pedal steel was very popular in country music Nashville in the 1960s and 1970s, it still has a large presence in the city to this day.
Where to See and Hear Pedal Steel Live in Nashville
There is plenty of pedal steel to see performed live in Nashville, but you have to look in the right places. Compared to the past, it can certainly be trickier to find live performances with it, however there are still various places and venues that usually have the instrument playing with the band.
Broadway in downtown Nashville is a good bet on many evenings and nights, where groups and pickup bands often cover well-known country hits and standards. Although many of these bands cover a vast array of material and genres, many times there will be pedal steel with a band and you’ll hear it played in a genuine way.
Although not apparent to the average listener, many of the musicians in some of the groups on Broadway are world-class session and touring players. Oftentimes, when touring musicians get off the road, they’ll play gigs on Broadway for enjoyment (and the money is helpful too).
There are so many top-notch musicians in Nashville, and to realize that some of the best and most successful players in the industry will be performing in a small venue on Broadway any day of the week can make the experience a real treat.
Don’t be afraid to ask the musicians after their set (or other listeners in the audience) who they play or tour with, as you can often find out some interesting facts about the Nashville music scene.
I’ve been in a spot on Broadway before, and within one hour saw one of Ernest Tubb’s pedal steel players playing, as well as a touring member of a popular rock band. Not to mention, there were several world-class session and touring musicians hanging out, chatting, and listening to the music as well.
3rd and Lindsley
This venue is a staple on the Nashville music scene, and is located close to the downtown area. Many acts come through here, and depending on the group some of these bands will feature pedal steel.
Paul Franklin plays here occasionally with the Time Jumpers, and there are many other great pedal steel players that come through this venue.
If you’re in the area, check out 3rd and Lindsley’s schedule and look up the bands playing to see if they regularly have pedal steel in their live show.
The Grand Ole Opry
Much like 3rd and Lindsley, if you look up in advance the groups that will be performing, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find some pedal steel at the Grand Ole Opry.
Since it is such an iconic venue, and it has rich ties to country music, the Grand Ole Opry is usually a show and venue that has some enjoyable pedal steel to hear.
Depending on the group and style of music, you may hear the pedal steel played in a more traditional manner, or it may be featured in more progressive music compared to country music.
This is a neat venue to see touring bands, and if you can find a band you’re interested in seeing on their schedule, then it may be worth checking out. Again, look on the band’s website to see if you can tell if they currently have a pedal steel player with them for live shows.
Tuesday Night Honky Tonk (American Legion Post 82)
This is quickly becoming one of the most popular places in Nashville to see traditional country music played locally, and bands usually have pedal steel with them.
There is a neat vibe at these shows, since it is a smaller venue with a lot of character, and you never know who’ll be in the audience enjoying the music. Many noteworthy musical artists show up at these shows just to have fun and listen, which makes it a great spot to meet other musicians and hear some interesting stories.
One neat thing about these shows is that many people will dance traditionally to the music, and it can often feel like you’re back in the 70s listening to music at your local honky-tonk.
Festivals, Events, and More
Oftentimes festivals and events will be held in Nashville, which feature not only great music, but bands that have pedal steel as well. AmericanaFest is usually a sure way to see some live music with pedal steel.
Other musical events in the area may have bands with pedal steel, and a little research online is a good way to confirm if there will be pedal steel with the band you’re interested in seeing when you go to see them at an event or festival.
Steel Guitar Shows & Jams
Although not as frequent and common, sometimes there are steel guitar shows and jams in the Nashville area. This is a great way to dive into the culture of pedal steel, as these events focus solely on pedal steel guitar.
These usually feature several pedal steel players who take turns jamming with a backup band. Many of the players will discuss gear, technique, music, pedal steels, etc. with each other.
Also, at many of these steel shows and jams, pedal steel brands and manufacturers will set up a booth and have items for sale.
Nashville Players and Shops
One of the neatest things about the pedal steel culture in Nashville is just how many pedal steel players and instruments there are in the area. There are countless successful touring and recording pedal steel players that live and play in the area, and there is no shortage of instruments around.
Although it may not be as easy as walking into any music store to find a pedal steel for sale, if you’re looking for a used pedal steel that is in proper working condition, there’s a good chance you can meet someone in the area that is looking to sell one.
Checking Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and The Steel Guitar Forum is a good way to possibly find a used one that you’re interested in for sale in the area. Also, some of Nashville’s local music stores will carry a few pedal steels because of the higher demand in this city. Most music stores in the world do not carry a pedal steel, so it is neat to find some stores that do.
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)
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