Steel Trappings

Gibson EH-150

Did You Know? - Part 2

June 8, 2016 • Addison ChingEducation

Here is some additional information about the steel guitar.

  • Chords are formed by holding the steel bar straight or slanted across several strings and selectively picking or strumming two or more strings to form the chord. Pedals on a pedal steel can also be used to retune strings to create chords.
  • The steel bar is slanted forward or backward by holding the bar with the 2nd and 3rd fingers for control and pivoting the bar while holding the wrist stationary and using the thumb to rotate (pivot) the bar.
  • In addition to playing technique, the sound of a steel guitar is determined by the guitar's body shape, body composition (solid vs. hollow, wood vs. metal or other materials) and pickup design.
  • Reference markings on a guitar neck represent standard tuning intervals (3, 5, 7, 9, 12, etc., which correspond to the third, fifth, ninth, and octave intervals from the root).
  • To ensure a smooth transition between notes and strings, the steel bar is not lifted but instead remains in contact with the strings during the transition.
  • Muting of undesired notes is done with the playing hand palm immediately prior to playing a note and not by lifting the steel bar off the strings.
  • "Steel" bars that are used to change the steel guitar's string pitch are usually made from polished metals such as nickel-plated brass but may be made of glass or other materials.
  • Chimes, Part 1 — A musical note is made up of a primary sound (fundamental) and additional sounds (overtones) occurring at various multiples of the fundamental. Steel guitar "chimes" are musical notes with the fundamental muted so that only selected overtones are heard.
  • Chimes, Part 2 — Playing harmonics or "chimes" is accomplished by placing the bar on a note, lightly brushing the palm or knuckle on the string at a point above the note that corresponds to the desired overtone, and picking the string.
  • Chimes, Part 3 — Harmonic fret positions. The Palm Position is the number of frets away from the bar.
  • A steel guitar's tuning accuracy can be affected by air temperature changes, exposure to direct sunlight, or even through conduction of body heat when a lap steel is placed on the lap. It's a good idea to let a steel guitar acclimate to its playing environment and have its tuning rechecked prior to playing. Did you know this about the steel guitar?



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Festivals and Conventions
Instruments and Luthiers



Maui Steel Guitar Camp
April 11-12, 2018 - Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina, Maui
Maui Steel Guitar Festival
April 13-14, 2018 - Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, Lahaina, Maui
April 15, 2018 - Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, Kahului, Maui
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
June 9, 2018 - Windward Mall, Kaneohe
Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikiki Steel Guitar Week
July 9-14, 2018
Monday-Thursday - Nightly Evening Performances
Friday-Saturday - Festival Ho'olaule'a Performances
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki
Hawai'i Island Steel Guitar Festival
September 7-9, 2018 - Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, Kohala Coast, Hawai'i
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Ka Makana Ali'i
February 16, 2019 (tentative) - Ka Makana Ali'i Shopping Center, Kapolei
Kaua'i Steel Guitar Festival
March 1-2, 2019 - Courtyard Kaua'i at Coconut Beach, Kapa'a, Kaua'i

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