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Pedal Steel Guitar: Tutorial Videos

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Welcome to the Wavelore Pedal Steel Guitar Tutorial Video Series!

Lots of people have had trouble wrapping their heads around our most popular product. We believe that's not necessarily because it's a super-hard VI to play, but rather that the reason is the instrument's unconventional approach to keyboard mapping. These videos were produced in 2010 to supplement the library's user guide; However, now that Wavelore has its own YouTube Channel, we thought publishing them there and on this page would be a good opportunity to take another look at them, and add some explanation and insight that may not be offered in the existing documentation.

Watch the video below: You'll notice things going on that may not seem logical from a visual or auditory perspective. Don't fret! It will all be explained as you work through the videos!

Also, please note that these examples do not apply any vibrato or expression; We encourage you to try adding modwheel and expression pedal movements to each example once you get it under control, and that's why almost all the videos use the right hand exclusively on the notes.

Video Tutorial #1: Using the Pitch Wheel (Factory Default)

The first video tutorial in this series shows how to perform the most simple, common task you might want when using the Wavelore Pedal Steel Guitar; A double-string bend resulting in a smooth transition from an E-Major chord to an A-Major chord. The factory default values for the instrument's pitch wheel behavior allow this technique to be performed very easily. Simply play the E-Major chord in any inversion (the video uses first inversion, G#, B, E) with the instrument set to open position, and move your pitch wheel all the way upward. The G# will bend to an A, and the B will bend to a C# while the E remains static, resulting in an A-Major.

Notice also the demonstration of the reverse technique: The chord is played with the wheel at maximum, and the wheel is then released, causing the notes to descend, sounding the E-major chord.

To use the pitch wheel in this manner on other I-IV progressions, simply shift the position using CC#4 or one of the keyswitches, and use the wheel in the same manner. For example, try setting the position to seven. Now, rather than play the E-major chord, play the chord with its root seven semitones higher: B-Major. In this case, raising the wheel as above will make the chord transition to E-Major.

Video Tutorial #2: Using Polyphonic Portamento to Create a basic I-IV Progression

This video demonstrates a similar sound to that of the example above: I-IV bending in the key of E-major - Of course, you could call it V-I in A-major, or for that matter, any relation in any key that have their roots a perfect fourth apart...but we'll leave the theory out of this as much as possible. Ultimately, whatever key you're in, it's an E-Major bending to an A-Major!

The difference in this example is that the bending of the B and G# are executed using fingered portamento. Here's how it works:

  • In any given range of the keyboard, (e.g. B2 to D3) playing a single note will sound that pitch on the string that occupies that range: In this case, string ten.
  • Playing more than one note in the same range will cause the first note struck to "bend" to the other.
  • The original note will bend to the "target", or second note, at a speed proportional to how hard the second key is struck, and can also be controlled by CC#5 - see the manual for further explanation of available parameters.
  • Playing two notes in different ranges (e.g. B2 and E3) allows polyphonic playing, so that chords are available.
  • Bends executed as explained above do not affect pitches in different ranges; If you play the chord above (B2 and E3), and hold both notes while playing a C#3, the B will bend to C#, but the E will remain static!

Now let's apply this to the sound made in the video: Since the portamento is invoked in two different ranges simultaneously, we have to adopt some unconventional fingering techniques if we are to reserve the left hand for pitch/mod wheel manipulation. This principle is key to getting a strong grasp of what the Wavelore Pedal Steel can do, and the other videos on this page will explore the idea in even more detail. Notice the fingering of the initial E chord: The B, as we would expect, is played with the right hand thumb, and the middle finger on E is also quite normal in this context. The odd thing is that instead of placing the pinky finger comfortably on G#, we use the ring finger. Why?

The answer lies in what happens next: At the same time, the index finger lands on C#, bending the B to C#, and the pinky lands on A, bending the G# up one semitone. We need the pinky to remain free in this example, in order to invoke the bend between those two notes. It is possible (and sometimes necessary, as you'll see) to play G# with the pinky, and gently slide that finger off the G# and on to A, but be careful: If the G# is released before the A is struck, the instrument will simply play two separate notes.

Video Tutorial #3: All close inversions of I-IV in Open Position

This video demonstrates the other ways to play an E-A progression in open position, as well as re-hashing the above example.

See the description above to learn about the first progression played, a second inversion E-Major chord bending to a first inversion A-Major.

The second progression (starting at about 6 sec.) is a performance of the same two chords, but with different inversions (Root position E to second inversion A). To play it, play E-Major using the thumb, index and ring fingers of the right hand on E, G#, and B respectively. Then, lay the middle finger on A, being careful not to release the G# until after the A is firmly pressed. At the same time (or afterward, if you'd like to stagger the bends), lay the pinky on the C# above B. In this way, the G# bends to A, and the B bends to C#, voicing the A chord.

The third progression (starting at about 9 sec.) is again a performance of the same chords, but again in different inversions (First inversion E to root position A). Before trying to play it, watch very carefully what the right hand thumb does: It plays the low G#, and bends to A not by using a different finger, but by sliding gently off the G# and down on to A. Try this technique with just the G#-A movement a few times at first until you get the hang of it. To play the full example, play E-Major using the thumb, index and pinky fingers of the right hand on G#, B, and E respectively. Then, slide the thumb onto A, while laying the middle finger on C#. This choice of fingering could be substituted for by alternatives (especially if one considers two handed options), but we'd recommend trying to master this one, as the sliding technique is very valuable in a lot of situations.

Finally, the last progression (starting at about 6 seconds) is the highest possible inversion of these chords in the open position (Second inversion E to first inversion A). The fingering technique for this lick is exactly the same as the first example, since it is the same voicing one octave higher. That lick is described in tutorial #2, above.

Video Tutorial #4: Open Voicing of I-IV in Open Position

This video demonstrates a few examples of an E-A progression in open position, this time using two hands to play "open voicings", rather than voicing the chord tones as close together as possible.

First off, note the difference between the first progression (same as the progression in video #2, and the first progression in video # 3), and the second: While the first example hows how the I-IV can be played in close-voicing using a single hand, the second example brings in the left hand so that wider spacing can be employed. The left hand plays the B-C# movement, and the right hand uses the thumb and pinky on G# and E respectively, bringing the index finger down to play the slide to A from G#.

The third progression (starting at about 9 sec.) does exactly the same with the left hand, but raises the notes played by the right hand to E and G# using the thumb and middle finger, subsequently laying the ring finger on A to complete the slide.

At about 14 seconds, the fourth progression begins, this time playing a static low E with the left hand thumb, while playing a sixth with the right hand, between B and G#. The index finger lands on C# for the B-C# bend, and the pinky "slides" off the G# and down onto the A for the remaining bend. Try practicing the right hand part first: Use the thumb and pinky on the B and G#, then put the index finger on C# while sliding the pinky from G# to A.

Video Tutorial #5: I-V7 and I-ii Progressions in Open Position

This video demonstrates four close-voiced examples of each of two common progressions, namely I-V7 (E to B7) and I-ii (E-F#m). Each group of examples progresses from lowest voicing to highest.

In the first example of I-V7, the right hand plays B, E, and G# with the thumb, middle and ring fingers. Next, the index finger bends the middle note, E, down to D#, while the pinky bends the G# up to the seventh, A. Note that this lick could also be played using the "finger slide" trick employed earlier; One could play G# with the pinky, and then slide that finger down onto the A for the bend.

The second example of I-V7 (starting at 4 seconds) uses a new trick: Overlapping fingering. Notice how the index finger reaches over the thumb to play the note below, D#. Simply play the root position E major triad using the conventional fingering of thumb, middle, and pinky. Then, play the A with your ring finger and reach over your thumb with your index finger to play the D#.

The third example of I-V7 (starting at 6 seconds) also starts on a conventionally fingered chord. After the E chord (G#, B, E) is played, it is the thumb that plays the unconventional role, "sliding" from the G# to the A as we've seen several times before. Play the D# with the ring finger to complete the double-bend.

The final example of I-V7 (starting at 10 seconds) starts on a slightly awkward stretch (B, E, G#, with the thumb, middle, and ring fingers respectively), in order to accommodate the completion of the progression: bring the index and pinky fingers down on D# and A to perform the bends to those notes while the thumb remains static on B.

in the first example of I-ii (starting at 15 seconds) the right hand plays the E-major chord with the thumb, middle, and pinky fingers, as might be expected. The target chord, however, ends on a slightly unexpected fingering; The index and ring fingers come down on C# and F#, bending both of those notes in parallel, while the pinky slides from G# to A.

The second example of I-ii (starting at 18 seconds) uses the thumb, middle and ring fingers on a root-position E chord, such that the pinky finger is free for the high C#, and the index is free for the low F# above E. In this example, the middle finger must perform the "slide" from G# to A.

The third version of this progression (starting at 21 seconds) uses the thumb, index and ring fingers on the starting E chord. Next, the thumb slides from G# to A while the index and pinky fingers land on C# and F# respectively.

Finally, at 24 seconds, The thumb, middle, and pinky fingers play B, E, and G# respectively, and the index and ring fingers play C# and F#, while the pinky slides to the a chord.

You may have noticed that all four of the I-ii examples use some sort of finger slide; This is because the two chords involved do not have any notes in common, and thus cannot be performed in legato fashion by a single hand (you'd need six fingers!). This is a good general observation to make; Since adjacent chords with one or more common notes are very common, most of the time you can get away with at least one static note. However, since chords whose roots move by scale degree are still quite common (at least in pop/rock music), practive of the finger slide technique is still invaluable to your ability to bend chords from one to another!

Video Tutorial #6: Two Common Secondary Dominant Examples

This video demonstrates two common "secondary dominant" progressions. A secondary dominant is what you hear when a chord is changed chromatically giving it a greater tension/stronger resolution to its target. For example, instead of progession to a ii chord (F#-minor) via a vi (C#-minor), one might adjust the E note in the C#-minor up by a semitone, making it a C# major chord. Once the change is made, the two sonorities now have a relationship of V-I in the key of the target chord, which explains the increased tension. Often, the secondary dominant chord is made into a 7th chord for even greater gravitation to the target.

Note the way these relationships are symbolized in the video's subtitles; The first progression is labeled V/ii - ii, which reads as, "Five of two, to two", "Five of two", in this case, refers to the C#-Major chord, which is the secondary dominant of the F#-Minor.

Hopefully that's enough theory behind the subject. On to the fingerings:

The V/ii - ii progression is played by starting with the C#-Major chord using the thumb, index finger, and ring finger of the right hand. Next, lay your middle finger on the F#, which resolves the E# up a semitone, and lay your pinky on A, which raises the G# to an A.

The second example is a secondary dominant of C#-Minor, labeled V/vi - vi ("Five of six, to six"). In the key of E, a G# chord would be naturally minor, and called "iii", but we can make if the dominant of C#-Minor by raising its third, making it a G#-Major, and giving it a stronger draw to C#-minor. Play this example by playing the G#-Major chord with your thumb, index, and pinky fingers. Then, use your index and ring fingers on C# and E, respectively, to execute the bends.

To close tutorial #6, now might be a good time to consider what these progressions mean in other keys; We've been putting these videos all in the context of the key of E-major, but remember: If you can play a V/ii - ii in first position, you can use the exact same technique in any key where C#-Major to F#-Minor is desirable. Think of these progressions, for example:

  • V-i in F#-Minor
  • V/iv - iv in C#-Minor
  • V/vi - vi in A-Major
If you practice all the progressions vigilantly until they are comfortable, and then spend some time thinking about their relationships in other keys (practice playing and sequencing them always helps, of course!), you'll begin to see just how many possibilities the Wavelore Pedal Steel is designed to offer.

Video Tutorial #7: Other Diatonic Progressions in Open Position

This video shows the performance of ten other diatonic progressions in the key of E, Open position. In order, they are:
  • I-vi (E-Major to C#-Minor)
  • I-iii (E-Major to G#-Minor)
  • ii-IV (F#-Minor to A-Major)
  • ii-vi (F#-Minor to C#-Minor)
  • iii-IV (G#-Minor to A-Major)
  • iii-V7 (G#-Minor to B7)
  • iii-vi (G#-Minor to C#-Minor)
  • IV-V7 (A-Major to B7)
  • IV-vi (A-Major to C#-Minor)
  • V7-vi (B7-C#-Minor)

From a "classical" perspective, most of these progressions are not typically found. However, in contemporary music, anything goes, so they are all fair-game! The ones that are part of the vocabulary of the "common practice" are the first example, the seventh (probably most common in jazz), the eighth, and the ninth, which is what's called a "deceptive cadence", where one is "decieved" into expecting to hear the V7 resolve to I, but instead hears the melancholy resolution to vi, the tonic chord of the relative minor.

By now, you should be developing a strong sense of how to approach fingering various chord changes using the Wavelore Pedal Steel, so we'd like to challenge you to reproduce these progressions without a finger-by-finger breakdown. Do your best, but send us an e-mail if you get stumped; We'll give you a response, and add the instructions if we get enough requests...next time, it's back to your regularly scheduled explanatory text :)

Video Tutorial #8: Less Conventional Changes

These two examples show the Wavelore Pedal Steel playing chord changes with slides greater than a whole tone; The real pedal steel typically only bends notes to a maximum of +/- two semitones, but, because of the unusual nature of the instrument, the virtual version allows bends of up to 3 semitones in some cases, as exemplified in this video.

The first progression is a ii-iii progression in the key of E-Major (F#-Minor to G# Minor). Instead of moving all three notes upward by a whole tone to make the change, the outer voices move down by scale degree while the middle voice moves down by three semitones:

As in the video, play the C#-B bend with the left hand by using the index and middle fingers. With the right hand,play F# and A with the middle and pinky fingers, and bend those notes to their targets by playing D# and G# with the index and ring fingers respectively. The A bends down to the G#, but the F# bends down to the D#, which is the irregularly large bend mentioned earlier.

The second progession is the more common ii-V7 (F#-Minor to B7), but uses almost exactly the same techniques: Simply repeat the above procedure, but don't bend the A down to G#. The result is C#-F#-A bending to B-D#-A. It features the same wide movement in the inner voice, but leaves the top note, A, as a static pitch.

Video Tutorial #9: Two Pedal Down Examples

Thus far, we've made no mention of the fact that depressing the sustain pedal (CC#64) changes the layout of the keyboard zones. As you know by now if you've studied the videos posted so far, certain strings are mapped to particular ranges of the keyboard. Well, without changing position, you can step on your sustain pedal and change the mapping of the keyboard to quickly accommodate different harmonic possibilities.

Try the following techniques, as shown in the video: To play the first progression, press and hold your sustain pedal.Then play B, D#, and F# with your thumb, index, and ring fingers respectively. Next, play E and G# with your middle and pinky fingers. This will bend the D# and F# up to E and G#.

These bends would not be possible with the pedal up method, and the keyboard splits are mapped differently when the pedal is up.

P.S. We'll be sharing some details on the different keyboard mapping for different neck positions with and without the pedal in some of the upcoming vidoes. Stay tuned!

Video Tutorial #10: Introduction to Auto-Position Mode

Up until now, we've stuck with playing in first position, since it's required that you get comfortable there before trasposing examples into other positions. Although sometimes we can get away with transposing a lick into another key without changing position, it's not always possible. Have a look at the two videos below:

In the first example (left) a descending A-Major arpeggio is played, and then the ring finger presses and releases the D note, briefly sounding an A-sus4 chord before lowering back to C# for a return to the A chord. Essentially, the middle note changes while the outer notes stay the same. In the second example we attempt to perform the same trick on a B-Major to B-sus4 progression, but something doesn't work out right: The first two notes, F#-D#, do not sound seperately. Rather, the F# bends down to the D#, taking away the three-note structure of the phrase. This bend happens because in open position, D# and F# are in the same zone of the keyboard, representing string 3 of the pedal steel. The probelm doesn't occur on the A-chord phrase, since E and C# are in two different zones, allowing polyphonic playing. How do we get around this? Check out what happens below:

Here we attempt the B-chord phrase again, but this time we set the instrument to second position first, which allows up to traspose the A-chord phrase up a tone without losing the appropriate keyboard splits. In the video, CC#4 is used to make the position shift, but with the latest version, you can also use keyswitching, which is easier to do accurately in real time. Note that also present in the latest version is something called "Auto-Position Mode", wherein the instrument selects which position a phrase will sound in based on a user-defined starting string:

Notice in this example how the lick is played in both A and B, but that in both cases it works without doing anything to change position in between. How is this accomplished? First, set the instrument to auto-position mode by playing G#1, the keyswitch which engages it. Now, what you play will over-ride the manual position controls. The default is for new phrases (starting from no keys held down) to always select string 3 as the string on which the first note of the phrase will begin. The instrument then calculates where on that string the first note would reside, and this calculation represents the new position. For example, in the video, the first lick, in the key of A-Major, starts on string 3, which plays the MIDI Note E4. Since E4 is the open pitch of string three, the instruments reacts by setting itself to open position, with the keyboard zones arranged accordingly. When we release all the keys and start again in the the key of B, the instrument recognizes the first pitch (F#) as residing on the second position of the default starting string, and sets itself to second position, thereby arranging the zones to accomodate the new key. Cool, huh? See the final example below for a demonstration of what happens when the same lick is sequenced over a number of ascending chords, including both majors and minors.

If you try something like this (it doesn't have to be the exact same chords), you'll see that auto-position mode makes it really easy to work out a bread-and-butter lick in one position, and to play it in other positions flawlessly without having to constantly change position manually. Just remember: Whichever string your original lick started on is the string you must set as the starting string. It's also easy to work out new variations by intentionally leaving the start string alone while playing arpeggios in different order - Experiment!

Video Tutorial #11: How the Keyboard is Divided by Position

Before proceeding with any future videos, we recommend studying this series of animated diagram, in order to fully understand the way the keyboard divides dynamically depending on the currently active position. Pause the video at the beginning, and study the top diagram; You'll see six color-coded ranges, each representing one string. The easiest way to see the method behind the madness is as follwws:

  • The six strings represented have the open pitches B2, E3, G#3, B3, E4, and G#4, in ascending order. This series of notes spells an E-major chord, which is why all our examples so far consider open position to represent the key of E.
  • Each of the E strings and each of the B strings' (there are two of each pitch-class) available ranges extend from their open pitches by the same amount: You can bend down ones semitone or up three semitones. The pairs of pitch classes have the same color because they are identical, aside from being in different octaves.
  • The same is true of the two G# strings (they are identical to each other, with matching colors). However, the G# strings can not bend down. Ideally, they could both only bend up by a semitone, but the highest string (string three), can bend up all the way to the highest note on its length, due to the fact that it is the highest string on the instrument.
  • This arrangement, modeled on the tuning and bending capabilities of the real E9 pedal steel, is what makes the really common types of movement easily available, as demonstrated in the first few tutorials on this page.

Using this diagram, try playing a chromatic scale, connected, from B2 all the way to A4 or higher. You'll hear where one string stops playing bends and jumps into a new note on a new string. Playing chromatically up and down a few times while considering the points above will help you galvanize your understanding of the open position's keyboard division.

Repeat the above process for the lower diagram, which represents the keyboard division of open position with the pedal down. This keyboard setup is much less "symmetrical", which is why it will help to have a solid understanding of the uppder diagram first. Note first how the B strings are still present, and still identical to each other, though their ranges are narrowed to allow for the insertion of "Secondary" strings nine (root note D3), and two (root note D#4). On a pedal steel, the D string cannot bned up, and can only bend down by one semitone. The D# string can bend down a semitone, and up a whole tone. After F4, the remainder of the instrument's range is occupied by string one, whose root pitch is F#4.

Other than these differences, note that the lower E string is still present, but also narrowed in range to accomodate string eight (root note F#3). Also, The lower G# string is still present, but only occupies the note A3, since string eight can bend up as far as G#3.

The pedal down setup is much harder to wrap one's head around, so again, make sure you know the pedal up state well before attempting to memorize and master it. Do this by reviewing the other lessons with the content of the above list in mind. Then, review any pedal down examples with the lower diagram in mind. Your manual contains all these diagrams in image form, so it may help to print any of them for quick reference while playing your keyboard.

Finally, play the video through, and observe how with each advancing position, all the color ranges move upward by one key. Because of the arrangement of black and white keys on the keyboard, the fingerings and chord shapes you use in any given position might look and feel different, but they are essentially the same. While experimenting with reproducing licks in different positions, it may help to sequence them in your DAW, and then transpose them using your DAW's transpose function to see how it works. This technique is great, because you can transpose your keyswithes by the same amount as the notes, and it will work flawlessly!

Video Tutorial #12: More on Auto Position Mode (Pedal Down)

Despite appearing as if it's played in second position, this video is actually played in open position with the pedal down; We've already explored some ways to use the pedal to access extra options, but, where use of the pedal normally complicates things, this example makes the bending easier, since we can simply use the wheel to bend the B-Major chord to a C#-minor. To reproduce it, either set the instrument to open position, or, preferrably, set it to auto-position mode. Now, depress the pedal and play the B-major chord descending (F#, D#, B), then raise your pitch wheel all the way to bend the notes to C#, E, and G#. Now, try setting the instrument to second position, and you'll find that the same sound can not be reproduced as easily!

This video shows what would happen if you attempted to play the previous example one octave higher without first changing positions. In open position with the pedal down, string one occupies the entire uppermost two octaves of the instrument, so any phrases played in that range will slide between all notes. In order to play polyphonically in this register, we must transpose, and Auto-Position mode is the easiest way to do this. See the following examples...

Next, we try the same transposed version again, but this time the instrument is manually set to position twelve beforehand. This amount corresponds to the amount by which we are transposing the phrase, so the keyboard splits align to the new register in a way that matches to open position version.

Here, we play the descending B-Major chord with the pedal down, bending as before using the pitch wheel. The lick is then played one octave higher, but no manual position change is required, as Auto-Position mode handles the choice of new position each time a new phrase is begun. To reproduce, simply set the instrument to Auto-Position and play the phrases as shown.

This example is like the previous one, only instead of jumping to a new octave, we sequence the phrase in different keys, and Auto-Position Mode handles the setting of the instrument to the appropriate position for each new iteration. Simply play any root-position major chord, with the pedal down and the instrument in Auto-Position Mode. Make sure you play them descending from the 5th of the chord (to start from other chord tones, you must set the starting string to match in the instrument's interface). Your wheel, in this sort of case, will always bend the chord to a minor chord with its root one tone higher.

That concludes our series of tutorials - we really hope that they've helped you get the most out of this instrument!

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