Since starting my blog I have acquired some insight as to the direction I want to go based on my observations of what you the reader is looking for. This will be a learning experience for me as well. Read more and let me know what you think.
One of the things I have noticed about learning the pedal steel guitar is the difficulty of the instrument. While is is a difficult instrument to learn, I think the perception of difficulty is greater than the reality. In part this may be due to how instructors present the methods and techniques of learning. I also think that we live in a society of instant gratification where if it does not come easy then find something else to do.
I started thinking back to when I first learned the lap steel as a kid and tried to remember the steps that our instructor took. The first guitar I was given to learn on was an acoustic lap steel the music school issued. I would have to hold the guitar on my lap and play. After six lessons we had to decide whether this is something I wanted to do. My parents bought me an Ohau lap steel guitar with amplifier and a 2 year contract.
I was taught using tablature and did not start out learning how to read music. By the time my 2 year contract was up I could:
1. Tune my guitar by ear.
2. Could do forward slants
3. Could do palm blocking
4. Could do harmonics
5. Started to learn how to read music -- tablature went away
Not much else I remember from that time.
Moving forward 40 years alot has changed with guitars. At the time I first learned console guitars were the next big step. The techniques learned on a lap steel was the same on the console, you just had more necks. You just had to learn how to transition between the different tunings on each neck. Today it is the pedal steel guitar and there is no transition. If you start out learning the pedal steel guitar, you miss out on some techniques of the lap/console guitars commonly called the Hawaiian method. However, if you started out on the lap/console guitar the techniques and methods could be used on the pedal steel guitar. While the pedal steel guitar offers distinct advantages over console guitars, it also added a big disadvantage in cost differential. It is now more expensive to get right into the pedal steel guitar. Even student models are still over $1,000 for just the guitar not counting amplifier and associated goodies like volume pedal, bars, picks, cables and tuners.
I have asked manufacturers how can the expect an average family to spend $1,500 plus for a steel guitar and accessories when they do not know whether their child will continue with the instrument. The answer I usually get is etiher they are not interested in building a cheap guitar or they have the cost down as low as they can get it. This leaves the only option of going with used equipment which can be a hit or miss proposition.
Another area to consider when learning the pedal steel guitar is time commitment. The more you practice the better you will get sooner. Your not going to learn this instrument in 2 days. When dealing with children the entire learning process is different. I try and commit at least 10 hours a week. So far this week I have 9 hours of practice. I missed last night and have a lesson tonight. I will get probably 4 to 5 more hours this week. I start my count on Sunday.
When I talk to people about my learning of the steel guitar, I get a lot of people commenting that they wish they had learned an instrument when they were younger. I have to laugh because many of these people are 20 to 30 years my junior and I started learning again just 3 short years ago. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN. Regardless what instrument you choose.
The earlier you start the better you will be. We are losing more steel guitarists than we are recruiting and that is sad. The steel guitar is not just restricted to country music. It is making inroads in jazz. I have heard many arrangements of Beattles tunes and Eagles Tunes. I know a steel player who is working on a CCR tune. I have heard arrangements of 40's swing tunes and even classical. We as steel guitarists must find ways to reintroduce this instrument in new ways. If you are a steel player, why not volunteer to be a guest in music classes at local schools? Work with music shops and give a free seminar. Get a booth at your local/state fair. If your promoting the steel let me know and I will share it here as well.
Parents are a child's first teacher and to instill the love and passion of learning regardless the topic is the greatest gift you can give. Childhood is a time to learn grow and find your likes and dislikes. Encouraging a child to give it their all is the best advice I have. If they do not like something let them move on to something they do love. They will eventually find their way. The education system in this country is in a shambles as well. Educators discourage creativity that comes naturally in children. Little automatons that follow a prescribed methodology. Works great for things like math and science to a degree but fail when it comes to music and art. Yet, the creativity that is styimed is exactly what everyone needs whether you are a musician, artist or an engineer.
There are as many opinons about how to teach this instrument as their are players. I am no expert by any means but it seems we need a core set of techniques taught in a conistent manner that make it fun as long as the student puts the work into it. I will leave it to the Masters of the steel guitar to come up with the methods. I am just challenging you to do so.
I want to see us promote the steel guitar and be able to share styles and techniques.
Any thoughts or comments please share. There is no wrong answer.