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BC Rock

BC Rock I

In this first section, we will use the B & C pedal to play a few rock and roll licks. Over the years I've developed rock and roll licks from those long hours in the honkytonk. When the audience started requesting "Freebird" you had to deliver. The fact that you were playing steel was no excuse for not being part of the band and jumping in and playing along. My 1995 cassette Powerslide is all original Rock Steel. The lick below is in the key of C and is for the E9th tuning. We will be using the standard B & C pedal.

The lick shown above is one of the rock licks I played on my new album Powerslide. I wrote it out in traditional tab. Tablature written in this method leaves a lot to the imagination. You have to decide for yourself what fingering to use when you pick the strings. Here's a link to an article on tablature.

The best way to learn the above lick is in little bits. Learn the first four moves slowly and build those up to speed. Don't try to play them at a blazing tempo until you can play them cleanly at the slower speed. As the saying goes, you have to crawl before you can walk. Eventually, you'll be able to run, but the best method of learning is to train the hands slowly. Put the music into your hands and let it come out as you build up dexterity.

One of the biggest mistakes young players make is trying to play fancy licks before you've developed fancy hands. If you can't make the move then you won't be able to play the licks. Its as simple as that. You need to develop the physical part before it comes out as licks.

The best thing to do is spend hours at your guitar. My books all take a look at the physical, mental and the musical and how they all must work together. You can isolate any movement and make improvements but the key is to do it slowly.

BC Rock II


In all of my writings I try to stress the concept that every lick you play on your steel is a combination of movements. One of the biggest problems that I see when teaching is that players worry more about the lick itself than what is involved in playing that lick properly.

In the following lick, I show a repeated movement. It starts by picking the third string with the B pedal down. You then release the pedal and then pick the first string. I got this lick from rock guitar players. It is actually played extremely fast, but you should work on it at an easy and comfortable tempo. Learn the first three moves and repeat them and you have the lick.

When using this lick, your foot on the B pedal must come on and off the pedal extremely fast. When your finger is picking the first string, you should be pushing the B pedal down to get ready for the next time. This lick is a good example of how little bits can be put together to come up with a big fancy lick. It is also good for developing coordination between hands and feet. Although the left hand doesn't get much work on this particular lick, you can get work on right hand and left foot coordination.

In my Technique Bundle, I put together 6 books that all work on developing these techniques. My videos show the player exactly how to develop these special techiques that your hands need to know.

One thing that everyone must understand is that you must develop these abilities. Your hands and feet must acquire these tricks over a period of time. The time spent at your guitar is directly related to how good a player you can become. It is all up to you. You must put the time in to see the results at the other end. Stop and isolate a move and work on it over and over. These repetitions will soon help you develop the muscles that are needed to be a better player. You eventually will learn them over the years but why not take the time and work on the moves you need ahead of time. That way some of the frustration will be eliminated.

In my course An Intro To Rock & Roll Steel you will see more ways to play along with a band. I show things to do in the background when everyone else is playing. You can usually play along with the rhythm section and contribute to the overall sound of he band. The thing to remember is patience. Learning to play the steel is a process that takes time and effort. Put in the time and effort and you will see direct results in the future.



This section's lick is another one concentrating on the B pedal & C pedal to play Rock and Roll. For those of you who haven't figured it out, we are using the Dorian mode to play rock. The best way to look at this mode is to see where the action is taking place on your steel. We are playing in the key of C, but we are at the 6th fret, where we would normally play in the key of Bf. Are you starting to get the picture? We are in C but we are playing in Bb. So when we want to play rock on our guitar, we can use the Dorian mode by playing on full step below the key we are playing in. The results of this give us the flatted third and seventh scale tones in the key of C. We are still in C but the Bb scale gives us the notes we want to get the sound that we need.

To get the most out of this lick we need to look deeper. The important thing to see are the groups of four. To make this easier to see I placed lines on the tab to divide the moves into those groups of four. Lets examine the first group of four. We start by picking the third string at the sixth fret, with the B pedal down. The next move is releasing the B pedal. Those two moves gives us two notes. The third movement is picking the fourth string, at the sixth fret, with the C pedal down. The fourth move, is doing the same thing on the fifth string.

Look at the pattern. It is the same for all four movements. We pick a string, use a pedal, then pick two more strings. Play these licks as fast sixteenths or eighth notes. We have to see that everything is divided by four.

BC Rock IV


BC Rock III talked about learning in groups of four and this BC Rock continues in that same direction. To play the first lick below, you need to start it on your first finger. The fourth string is picked and then the B & C pedals are pushed. Think of the first four moves and we can see a forward roll, starting on the first finger. Here are the first four moves written out.

  • The first finger, picks the fourth string, at the 6th fret.
  • The left foot pushes B & C pedal down.
  • The second finger, picks the 3rd string, at the 6th fret, B pedal is already down.
  • The thumb picks the 5th string, at the 6th fret, C pedal is already down.

Those four movements could be considered the anatomy of a lick. We can even break the lick down further, by looking at the #1 above.

  • 1.1 First finger
  • 1.2 the fourth string
  • 1.3 at sixth fret

This breaks the lick down into its smallest increments. My Approach is to break things down into their smallest parts and then put them back together to make a whole. All the drills and techniques I've developed work for the pedal steel guitar. You can build these techniques by spending time at your guitar. To be honest it takes hours and hours but techniques can be developed. Just remember that it is a process. Be patient.

Make sure you take advantage of the C pedal and what it actually does. When you are playing rock on your steel, try to think more like a guitar player. Van Halen comes to mind. You need to experiment with different distortion units and other devices that the main stream rock player uses. Remember, that you are playing a guitar. The only difference is that yours is played with a slide. I can think of some excellent slide players that didn't have the added advantage of pedals and knee levers. It also helps to have a rock and roll attitude. Rock guitar players were aggressive when they approached solos. Listen to other types of music and let different instruments influence your playing.

BC Rock V


In this section we have two licks for you to work on. The first is a single string solo lick. I recommend a fuzz tone when you play this one. Learn it first slow and without the fuzz, then speed it up gradually and add the fuzz. The key to the first one is to look at the left foot movements. To see this lets look at the second group of four.

The second group of four starts with the sixth string at the sixth fret. Lets try to analyze these movements:


  • Pick sixth string at sixth fret.
  • Push B pedal down. (Outside of left foot plays B pedal, inside of foot is over the C pedal)
  • Pick fifth string at sixth fret.
  • Rock ankle to press C pedal down. (Inside rock)

To play this lick at top speed, the ankle must make a fast rock. Go back through all of your tab and look for more examples of when your ankle has to rock. In a future article, we can take an in-depth look at your left foot and the important part that it plays in your playing.

©1997 Joe Wright Productions

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