C6th Pedal Steel In A New Light

By David J. Stewart

       Prepare to be amazed my musician friend. If you play C6th pedal steel, I encourage you to learn to play Hawaiian music on your C6th. You have a whole world of opportunities right in front of you that very few players ever take advantage of simply because most Hawaiian steel guitar is played on lapsteels or non-pedal steels; therefore, hardly any tablature exists for Hawaiian music on the C6th pedal steel.

Below is a standard C6th pedal steel setup. I want to explain to you how this relates to your 6-string lap steel. You'll be amazed. You'll be able to take your audience to the islands if you learn to play Hawaiian on your C6th pedal steel. You can do it, and it's not hard if you understand what I'm about to teach you. But moreover, you'll be able to understand and play your C6th pedal steel with knowledge, knowing why and what you're doing. NO STEEL GUITAR course that I know of teaches you what I'm about to give you for absolutely free. I want you to learn steel guitar. This is from my heart. I don't want no one's money. I learned these things by 20-years of experience, just by figuring it out as I went. Taking up lap steel really opened my eyes to all this.

I guarantee you that if you'll listen to me for just a few moments that you'll be amazed and look at your C6th pedal steel tuning completely different from now on. Check this out...

Note pedal 4 pedals 5 pedal 6 pedal 7 pedal 8 LKL LKR RKL RKR
D                  
E     F            
C       D   B C#    
A B     B       Ab A#
G   F#              
E     Eb            
C         C#        
A B                
F   F#     E        
C         A        

Pedal 8: The Dominant 7th Chord Pedal

Most people refer to pedal 8 as the "Boo-Wah" pedal (because that's what it sounds like when you pick the strings and then press the pedal). But no one else refers to the other pedals as anything, but they should, because they do things too. First, I don't call pedal 8 the "Boo-Wah" pedal. It is the "Dominant 7th chord pedal," because that's what it does. If you press the pedal first and then pick the strings, you WON'T hear the "Boo-Wah" sound. So it's only the "Boo-Wah" pedal if you pick and then press. But it's always going to give you a 7th chord. It is the same as using a C# on the C6th lap steel on the 6th string. Jerry Byrd almost always used a C# on string 6, and I do too. You can get this on your C6th pedal steel by pressing pedal 8. Cool huh? Plus you have an additional low A, E, and another A on the bottom (a wonderfully full 7th chord).

Here is the equivalent lap steel positions for the function of pedal 8. Notice strings 3,4,5 and 6 on the 3rd fret. These are all Dominant 7th chord positions on the C6th lap steel. This gives you a good idea of what pedal 8 does on the C6th pedal steel...

E___0_______________8___12________________________________________
C___0_______4___7_________________________________________________
A___1___3_______7___7___13___7____________________________________
G___0___3___5________________7____________________________________
E___0___3___6___6___6________6____________________________________
C#______3_________________________________________________________

On C6th lap steel, let's say you play a C6th open (no bar). If you place the bar up 3 frets (3rd fret) and pick strings 3,4,5, and 6, then you'll have a C7th chord (because you're raising the A to A#). Notice that A# is the same as Bb, used by myself and a bunch of Hawaiian steel musicians. I like using a Bb on my 6th string. It is interesting and worthy to note that BOTH the C# and the Bb on the 6th string produce a Dominant 7th chord. The difference is in the voicing and the chord key. Using a C# on the 6th string produces a Dominant A7th chord open (fret zero). So if you want a C7th, then you need to move your bar up to fret 3. Note that you can also rake across all 6-strings on a lap steel for this 7th chord. Now using a Bb note instead on the 6th string will produce a C7th open (fret zero). So depending on the chord voicing you want, and the fret you want it on, will determine whether you like the C# or the Bb. I like both, depending on the particular song. Here I play Beyond the Reef using a C#, and here I use a Bb.

In the open position, it is string 3 (the A note) that gives you the distinct 6th sound). Your major C chord is constructed of the 1-3-5 notes in any scale, or C-E-G. And then the A note gives you the 6th chord. Raising A to A# (Bb) gives you a dominant 7th chord. To understand what dominant 7th means, check this out. The Dominant 7th chord is one of the most used, important, and beautifully sounding chords on the steel guitar.

You don't need to understand what a Dominant 7th is to play the things I'm teaching you, but I had wondered for years what the difference was between a Major 7th chord verses a Dominant 7th chord, and couldn't grasp the concept until I read this article. I finally understand why it is called a Dominant 7th chord, and it only has to do with the relationship between the different scales musically. Ok, back to basics...

So if you slide up 3 frets and press pedal 8, you'll have a Dominant 7th chord. Example: Let's say you're playing on the 5th fret of your C6th neck. The 5th fret would then be a F6th chord. If you slide up to fret 8 and press the 8th pedal, then you'll have an F dominant 7th chord (same as on a lapsteel). All of the same chord positions on your C6th lapsteel with a C# on the 6th string will transfer over 100% to your C6th pedal steel if you simply press pedal 8. So I refer to pedal 8 as the "Dominant 7th pedal."

Please also notice that strings 4,5, and 6 on the C6th lapsteel with a C# on string 6 will give you a wonderful Diminished chord. The same is true on your pedal steel. So pedal 8 can also be thought of as a Diminished pedal, but I prefer to call it a Dominant 7th chord pedal because that is what you get when all the strings are strummed.

Note pedal 4 pedals 5 pedal 6 pedal 7 pedal 8 LKL LKR RKL RKR
D                  
E     F            
C       D   B C#    
A B     B       Ab A#
G   F#              
E     Eb            
C         C#        
A B                
F   F#     E        
C         A        

Pedal 5: The 9th Chord Pedal

This pedal is what I call the "9th chord pedal" because it gives you a 9th chord. In particular, I consider it the "D9th pedal," because that is exactly what it gives you. If you press just pedal 5 on your C6th pedal steel, you will have a D9th chord.

I learned to play "Moon of Manakoora" by Jerry Byrd in the D9th tuning. It is a beautiful tuning. The only difference between the D9th and the C6th tuning is lowering string 4 from G to F#. Hence, from treble to bass on the D9th lap steel tuning is": E-C-A-F#-E-C. Here's the tablature for Moon of Manakoora in D9th. Press pedal 5 on your C6th pedal steel and play Moon of Manakoora in D9th. Go ahead and check it out.

I love pedal 5, which is undoubtedly the most used pedal on C6th pedal steel (especially for Hawaiian music). Here are the equivalent chord positions on a C6th lap steel as the 5th pedal gives you on a C6th pedal steel (but a much richer chord voicing because of the awesome thicker and more numerous strings on the pedal steel).

These are all 9th chord positions on the C6th lap steel. This gives you a good idea of what pedal 5 does on the C6th pedal steel...

E___10____________________________________________________________
C___10___14___2___________________________________________________
A________13___1___________________________________________________
G___9_____________________________________________________________
E________12___0___________________________________________________
C#________________________________________________________________

You can rake across the entire 10 strings of your steel guitar with the 5th pedal down. The only odd note would be the D on string 1, but if you use a high G instead (as Jimmy Day did), then you can rake across all 10-strings. Really nice!

Also notice that strings 3,4 and 5 on the C6th pedal steel produce a very nice Diminished chord with pedal 5 pressed. Using pedal 6 expands the Diminished cord even more.

Pedal 6: The Dominant 7th Chord Pedal

Pedal 6 gives you the same chord as pedal 8, but in a very different chord voicing (and quite beautiful I might add). Here is the equivalent tabs on a C6th lap steel for the function of the 6th pedal. These are all Dominant 7th chord positions on the C6th lap steel. This gives you a good idea of what pedal 6 does on the C6th pedal steel.

E___0_______________8___12________________________________________
C___0_______4___7_________________________________________________
A___1___3_______7___7___13___7____________________________________
G___0___3___5________________7____________________________________
E___0___3___6___6___6________6____________________________________
C#______3_________________________________________________________

Notice in particular the following chord, which is picked on strings 2,3, and 5, by doing a forward bar slant. You can see that the back of the bar is across string 6. On lap steel you would do a forward slant; whereas on the C6th pedal steel you would simply press pedal 6 instead (which lowers the E to Eb)...

E_________________________________________________________________
C___7_____________________________________________________________
A___7_____________________________________________________________
G_________________________________________________________________
E___6_____________________________________________________________
C#________________________________________________________________

I'll guarantee that you've never heard the C6th pedal steel explained so simple before. Isn't it all great stuff!!! I never heard this stuff from anyone. I had bought thousands of dollars worth of C6th tablature, and played from memory, but no one really tied the C6th pedal steel in with the lap steel tuning. It wasn't until I seriously learned the C6th lapsteel that it all came together and my eyes were forever opened about the C6th pedal steel. C6th pedal steel is difficult for new players to grasp, because you have to understand chord theory to know what is going on.

In sharp contrast, you can play an entire song on one fret on the E9th pedal steel (without ever moving the bar even once). This is because you literally have all 12 notes of a chromatic scale available on one fret by use of all the pedals and knee levers on the E9th tuning. On the C6th you cannot do this, but must move the bar around to find the necessary notes to play a song.

I strongly encourage you to learn to play C6th lap steel. It's good to know anyway. You can't lug a pedal steel everywhere, but you can toss a lapsteel over your shoulder, in your car, and carry it effortlessly just about everywhere you go. They're light and versatile, and it's incredibly amazing what you can do with just 6 strings. You can get a cheap lapsteel for $100 at Musician's Friend just to learn. But don't make the mistake that most people do and try to learn the lap steel without tabs. I have plenty for free on this website to get you started. Here's a bunch of cool stuff to get you started on C6th lap steel. Here's some more. Here's a bunch of scales that you NEED to learn.

Every single bit of this will transfer over and work on your C6th pedal steel. Don't be afraid to use bar slants on your pedal steel. Bar slants have a whole different sound and are therefore an important addition to pedal steel players. Don't miss out. I have seen quite a few older non-peddlers who don't even use bar slants on their non-pedal steels. They move the bar back-n-forth to the desired note, and never perform any bar slants. I absolutely must use bar slants. That's where so many awesome sounds come from. I could never play lap steel, non-pedal, nor even pedal steel without doing bar slants. Even on my E9th pedal steel, I always do a bar slant to raise string 2 a half tone. I don't like using a knee to raise string 2. The forward bar slant sounds great going into the slide. But to each their own preference.

Note pedal 4 pedals 5 pedal 6 pedal 7 pedal 8 LKL LKR RKL RKR
D                  
E     F            
C       D   B C#    
A Bb     B       Ab A#
G   F#              
E     Eb            
C         C#        
A Bb                
F   F#     E        
C         A        

Pedals 5 and 6: The Diminished Chord Pedals

Together these pedals produce a very nice Diminished chord.

Pedal 4: Bb is Great Instead of B for Hawaiian

I love using pedal 4 as an expression pedal, producing a nice Major 7th sound. However, I like what Jeff Newman does with pedal 4, only raising his A notes to Bb instead of B. If you've ever used a Bb note on your C6th lap steel, then you know the awesome value and benefit of doing so. The Bb gives you a Dominant 7th sound, just as the C#; but a different voicing and different fret.

For Example: Raking across all lap steel strings, using a C# on the 6th (bass) string, gives you a Dominant C7th on fret 3. To play a C7th using a Bb on string 6 would require playing the chord open. Using a Bb on the 6th string, 5th fret, would be a Dominant F7th chord.

Having said all that, I like raising the A's to Bb on strings 4 and 8 on the C6th pedal steel. It gives you a nice Dominant 7th chord. The A note would be your 13th note (but is missing). Thus, using a Bb on C6th lap steel actually gives you a C13th open, because of the A note. Bb is the 7th note, and A is the 13th in the C scale. The most popular Hawaiian tuning for non-pedal steel guitar is the C6th tuned (treble to bass: E-C-A-G-E-Bb-C-C). So you can see the benefit of raising the A's only to Bb instead of B (as is standard on the C6th pedal steel). Raising A to B is the standard for Texas C6th pedal steel. For Hawaiian, you definitely want the Bb's.

Note pedal 4 pedals 5 pedal 6 pedal 7 pedal 8 LKL LKR RKL RKR
D                  
E     F            
C       D   B C#    
A Bb     B       Ab A#
G   F#              
E     Eb            
C         C#        
A Bb                
F   F#     E        
C         A        

Pedal 7: An Awesome Expression Pedal

In this brief study, I've tried to explain the connection between C6th lap steel and C6th pedal steel. Pedal 7 is unique to pedal steel. It'll work great for Hawaiian, but it doesn't replace any bar slants like pedals 5,6 and 8 do on the lap steel. I primarily wanted you to see how pedals 5,6 and 8 take the place of doing bar slants. If you understand this, then you'll be able to make much better use of these pedals because now you fully understand their original purpose and why they are still used today.

Note pedal 4 pedals 5 pedal 6 pedal 7 pedal 8 LKL LKR RKL RKR
D                  
E     F            
C       D   B C#    
A Bb     B       Ab A#
G   F#              
E     Eb            
C         C#        
A Bb                
F   F#     E        
C         A        

LKL: The Major 7th Chord Pedal

This knee will work great for the song UNFORGETTABLE and many others. It's great for playing melody lines in songs, which is true of all these simple knee changes. Notice that all these knees raise and lower strings 3 and 4 a half tone (which would be equivalent to strings 2 and 3 on the C6th lap steel).

LKR: The Dominant 7th Chord Pedal

This knee change does what pedal 8 does, but only to string 3. If you move up 3 frets with your bar, then you will have the same chord, but a 7th instead. For example: Playing strings 2 through 8 on fret 5 (no pedals or knees) is an F6th chord. If you engage the LKR to raise C to C# on string 3, and slide up 3 frets to fret number 8, then you'll have an F Dominant 7th chord. You're still in the key of F, but you've gone from a 6th chord to a Dominant 7th chord. This change works great for a passing chord, and very well for modulating from one key to another.

RKL: The Augmented Chord Pedal

A very practical and pretty pedal. Augmented chords repeat every 4 frets.

RKR: The Diminished Chord Pedal

A very practical and pretty pedal. Diminished chords repeat every 3 frets.

Closing Thoughts... I smell wood a burnin'

I'm no expert, just an ambitious amateur who loves the steel guitar. Life is too short and I only wish I could play more, learn more, experience more, try more, but I cannot do it all. I wish I could try every steel guitar, every pickup, every amp, every setup; but I have to wait until the good Lord takes me home. My only humble request to my God and Savior, Jesus Christ is that one day in eternity that He will allow me to experience and learn everything there is to know about steel guitar. I have only scratched the surface. There are so many techniques that I haven't even begun to master; but I desire to learn.

My health is not good. I have damaged nerves in my neck that make me tired quickly from the meds and burning/tingling in my limbs. Bummer, huh? Still, I'm very thankful to God that I can play at all, which many cannot. I want to learn to play better.

I cry when I hear Stu Basore's beautiful split-picking technique. He plucks at the strings from a distance which gives them a unique and unequalled sound in my humble opinion. Stu is unique, and a wonderful man. His music is so simple, yet profoundly complicated.

Lloyd Green's playing is the same way. His playing is amazingly simple, yet mind-boggling complicated when you try to copy and repeat what he is doing. Lloyd's music is incredible simple, upfront, no secrets; but he has mastered making something with very little in a special way. No one else can do it like he does. It is him, his gift from God. Jimmy Day was the same. No one could play and sound like Jimmy. It was his soul, his touch, his coordination. It was just him as a person.

I used to ask myself what equipment are they using, or what gimmick, or what model of super guitar? Then I saw them in person, with no special amp nor effects, just a little reverb. Stu Basore played beautifully. I was awestruck. It's in his mind and hands. People play music as uniquely and differently as do people who sing. Everyone thinks, feels, works, applies, rests... very differently than others. Lloyd Green and Stu Basore, and ole Tommy White are amongst my favorites; but there's too many to list I'll tell you. I've never met a steel players who I didn't admire for his effort to learn the instrument.

I am confident that if you'll spend some time studying the similarities between the C6th lap steel verse the C6th pedal steel that you will be warmly encouraged as with a toasty cup of whipped hot chocolate and marshmallows on a cold winter's day. Hawaiian music is not about a place. I've spent plenty of time in the Hawaiian islands and I can tell you that most of the locals don't appreciate steel guitarists at all. Tourists on the other hand love them, but you've got to buy a license for everything there.

There are many unpaid opportunities to play steel guitar in Honolulu. I don't care about the money, and never will; but I simply cannot afford to live on Oahu or else I'd be there playing steel guitar every day Lord willing if I could. Jerry Byrd said... If you can just play Sand, Beautiful Kahana, and the Maui Chimes, then you got a job in Hawaii. That was 40-years ago. Today you have to juggle, dance, play steel, and do dishes until midnight too. I'm still working on Maui Chimes...lol.

Maybe someday when the Lord returns, and He gives to me a new glorified body fashioned in His likeness (Amen); then the Lord will grant my steel guitar dream come true, to have the opportunities to perform and learn to play all the things I have always tried, but failed to figure out. I'd love to play music with others on a regular basis, not for money; but just for the love of making music to cheer the hearts of others and move hearts. There is so much I want to learn from other musicians, many of whom have died. Thankfully some of them are in Heaven and I eagerly look forward to meeting them and hopefully becoming friends up there in the glory land with our Lord Jesus. Amen.

No doubt there will be many who will want to learn from me as well, because I am a patient teacher and God has given me the love of sharing knowledge and teaching others what I have worked hard to learn and acquire. That's my gift from God. That's why I published this website, so you can learn many helpful things. There are many sources of learning on the internet, but many lack information. I'm sharing with you things that took my 20-years to figure out. I hope to teach you much sooner so you can progress quickly and start playing some awesome Hawaiian steel guitar music. I'm not into jazz, blues, nor reggae; I like Hawaiian and slow pretty Country (and Gospel that fits into those 2 venues). I like many standards such as UNFORGETTABLE and STARDUST, which would be from the Big Band era, songs a like MOON GLOW and SWEET LEILANI.

I hope this has been a bit helpful to teach you a thing or two. If you don't get nothing else out of this lesson, just know that my goal is to get you to view each pedal and knee (or a combination of them) for what they do; rather than call them for their location (such as, "pedal 6"), or calling them for what they sound like (such as, the "Boo-Wah" pedal). I'd much rather refer to my right-knee-left as the "Augmented lever." And My 5th pedal gives me a D9th chord. And my 8th pedal gives me An Dominant 7th 3 frets up.

This is a great passing chord. So going from say, your I-IV-V, I being a C chord. IV chord is F. Then your 5th chord position will be G. You could move back from the 5th to home position using a Dominant G7th chord, found at fret 10 using a C# on the 6th string. I was able to figure this out simply because I know that the function of the 8th pedal is to give me a Dominant 7th chord (equivalent to raising string 6 to C# on a lap steel tuned to C6th). Notice below on the copedent chart how pedal 8 raises the C to a C#. That's exactly the same as the C# on your lapsteel. That's really neat!!!

Strings 3,5 and 7 with pedal 8 down give you a fantastic Diminished chord, which repeats up or down every 3 frets. Nice!

Note pedal 4 pedals 5 pedal 6 pedal 7 pedal 8 LKL LKR RKL RKR
D                  
E     F            
C       D   B C#    
A Bb     B       Ab A#
G   F#              
E     Eb            
C         C#        
A Bb                
F   F#     E        
C         A        

I don't claim to be an expert at anything. I know enough about music theory to scare myself away if I'm not too careful. I struggled through learning what the story was on those Dominant 7th chords... whew! I'm just a humble sinner, trying to do the right kind of steeling, trusting the Lord day-by-day to watch over me (and He has done that, amen). I love the steel guitar, steeling for my Lord. I want to learn so much more and will give it my best as long as my less-than-perfect health allows, and the Lord tarries His return. One day at a time...

Note pedal 4 pedals 5 pedal 6 pedal 7 pedal 8 LKL LKR RKL RKR
D                  
E     F            
C       D   B C#    
A B     B       Ab A#
G   F#              
E     Eb            
C         C#        
A B                
F   F#     E        
C         A        

              P5     P5                                                                         

D ___________________________________________________________________
E __________8____7~~~~6__________4_________9~~8______________________
C _________8~____7~~~~6_________4_________9____8_____*Back rake with_
A ________8~~____7~~~~6________4_________9______8____a finger pick.__
G _______8~~~____7~~~~6_______4_________9________8___________________
E ______8~~~~____7~~~~6______4_________9__________8__________________
C _____8~~~~~____7~~~~6_____4_________9____________8_________________
A ____8~~~~~~____7~~~~6____4_______8~9______________8________________
F _______________7~~~~6______________________________________________
C ___________________________________________________________________

Try to Find all These C6th Lap Steel Chords on Your C6th Pedal Steel

Work at the C6th Scales On Your C6th Pedal Steel too

A Nice C6th Pedal Steel Piece by Stu Basore

C6th Pedal Steel Simplicity and Variations

Beyond the Reef Using a C# on the 6th string

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

More Song Tabs

Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to Heaven!