Steel Guitar News

Hello fellow players,

I just received a very wonderful email from Aaron Doyle. He also is taken aback by the beauty of steel guitar and related a story to me of when he bought his first steel guitar. He went into detail to tell me about the red-ish color finish, the great shine it had and was pretty well captivated before he had even heard it. When he heard the sound it made, he was totally taken in.

It reminds me very much of my own story. When I was 8 years old, I had already been pretty well infected by an Uncle that was a professional steel guitarist. He was living and working in New York state and I was living and going to school in Statesville, North Carolina. My father had the main music store in Statesville. He was a Gibson dealer.

I’ll never forget the first steel guitar my father got in the store for stock. Everything that should capture you from the smell, feel, touch and sound of these great instruments absolutely ripped my heart out.

Aaron says he has 12 guitars and he really has some of them just because they are works of art. I totally understand this concept. I have two Clinesmith guitars that fill a spot in my heart when nothing else really could with the exception of Bigsby. Of course, I love and have my Emmons pushpull and some of those wonderful old Sho-Buds.

The way steel guitar produces its notes with a bar on the strings instead of contacting frets underneath the strings loans itself to nice, beautiful and long sustaining tone. This quality is hard to find in most other instruments. Saxophone, trumpet and most brass instruments don’t worry about sustain because that has more to do with lung capacity than any natural qualities within the instrument. With piano, sustain is an important quality. Not necessarily so with violins or drums.

With steel guitar, it’s very important because part of the beauty of this instrument is notes that have been picked, flowing into other chords. The way these little chords ring and run into the next little chord and the way they can all sustain together is a very nice and beautiful quality.

Like we discussed in the last newsletter, maple not only sounds great, but sustains very well because of its hardness. Yes, the wood does get better with time because it dries out and gets harder and the sap that originally worked against sustain in the wood is no longer a hindrance as the wood ages and the sap dries out.

Since it takes a steel guitar player many years to develop a taste for tone, the new younger players themselves may not have much of an idea of what they are really listening for.

If you don’t feel the vibrations from your guitar both mentally and physically, and if that big warm tone isn’t just something that slaps you upside your face and says “Here I am!”, you probably aren’t getting it.

The mysteries of tone? As you can see by this newsletter so far, the pickup on a steel guitar is not what creates the tone any more than Lady Gaga’s microphone creates her voice. (By the way, I am pretty impressed with her talent.)

The Emmons push pull guitar was manufactured quite a bit differently than most other guitars. The maple is thin, the aluminum necks are fairly thick, all the parts that go under the guitar are suspended between the front and the back boards. The less knee levers and pedals on these guitars, the better they sound.

As you can see, the difference in different models of Emmons guitars may be due directly to the number of knee levers that the owner has chosen to install on his guitar. This can also apply to other brands. I have had and played Emmons PP steel guitars with no knee levers and found them to be extremely great sounding guitars.

About the worst habit a young player has is the bad habit of being a volume pedal pumper. I’ve touched on this subject so much in the past that I’m going to leave it alone now, but one of the world’s greatest steel guitar players, Jerry Byrd, once said, “If most of the newer players would throw their volume pedal in the river, they could all sound better immediately.”

I’ll go a step further myself and say I’ve heard several professional players that would sound better if they did the same thing.

Any player that thinks tone doesn’t make a difference should come into my showroom and play any five guitars and then tell me there’s no difference in sound between them.

Next week, steel guitar month begins. Let me know what we can do to help you celebrate it. We’ll be giving some good deals and sales because of it.

Check out our monthly specials at and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.

Your buddy,

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday

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