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Animated scale charts

Pedal terminology

  • P1 is the A pedal
  • P2 is the B pedal
  • K2 is the F knee lever

C scale changes

The above is an example of what happens to the C major scale pattern when you press different cominations of pedals and knee levers. The first highlights the third fret with P1 & P2 pushed. The second frame has the eighth fret shaded.. The third frame has the eleventh fret shaded.


The chart is the pattern that a C scale creates on a standard E9th steel guitar. Notice how it changes when you press pedals and knee levers. I study each of the combinations as a new tuning. I use to do everything with no pedals as a starting position, but the Universal tuning that I use got me to thinking as each combination as a possible new tuning that creates a pattern.


Expanding my horizons as to what was taking place musically when I pushed the pedals helped my playing. If your hands are in great shape and can make the necessary moves then you need to know where to apply them. With my charts I can see how the music lays upon my steel. I learned faster when I could see it on paper and then relate that to my hands. Trying to learn it by ear left a lot to be desired. Working on everything that I could to make me a better player I came up with different ways of studying and improving my abilities as a pedal steel guitarist.


The above animation was done using Gifbuilder and the screens were created with an Excel spreadsheet. I trained my hands to know basic moves that can be used on any steel guitar. Whether its a lap, dobro, triple neck, or pedal steel, I could apply my basic theories of movement to all tunings. All used a slide and the strings were picked with a thumb and three fingers. At first I only worried about the C major scale. When I got to the point of memorizing that pattern, I then could apply what each pedal and knee would do to my pattern.


As I got better at reading my charts, I started studying scales. When I got done there were 53 different ones I had accumulated in my travels. Each creates a unique pattern upon the fretboard. I wrote a program in Applesoft Basic that drew these patterns on the screen. That got me to thinking about the possibilities. I came up with the above charts and printed them out as scale books.


I spent time studying the charts and working on memorizing some of the patterns. Concentrating on the key of C allowed me to learn more and the trick was to know that you could transpose it to the other twelve keys. It was a fun process and I learned a lot from studying and writing all of the books and charts. Where it helped me most was when I got in a live situation and my hands knew the patterns without thinking. I could go on auto pilot and play like myself. And that's what I wanted when I first started studying the steel. To be able to improvise in all situations.

Remember, the numbers 1 thru 7 represent the C major scale tones.


Scale tones

  • 1 is C
  • 2 is D
  • 3 is E
  • 4 is F
  • 5 is G
  • 6 is A
  • 7 is B

As you study the chart above notice that there is a C pattern on every string. The pedals realign the intervals and we see our triads that can be created. The whole key is to take the time in practice to study these patterns so when its time to play you have an idea of where you can go on your fretboard. Knowledge is power......JW

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