Steel Guitar Tips

Hello fellow players,

I just saw a topic on the steel guitar forum that makes me want to scream in anger, then throw away my steel guitar with a can of gasoline and a match.  It�s about some popular steel guitar player that is well known for rocking his steel around and doing a lot of childish moves in the name of show biz.  

I say childish because it�s the children that see him play that are going to be impressed.  They�ll be impressed until they go to take lessons and their teacher doesn�t teach them how to do all these childish moves when they play for their parents.  Yes.  Rusty Young, years ago, would lay on his back and kick his guitar over and kick at it with his feet letting it feedback violently in front of his Marshall amps.  But Rusty did this tongue in cheek, doing it just to be funny.

Robert Randolph is into a certain amount of show biz.  This is obviously to satisfy the immature non-musical patrons in the audience and not people that paid money to hear good steel guitar.  Don�t get me wrong, I�m definitely not against a certain amount of show biz to help sell your playing.  Nice stage wear, smiling at the audience once in awhile and acting like you�re having a good time will not detract from the good things you�re playing.

Unfortunately, there are many very questionable players that are getting paid to act like a steel guitar player on the stage while they are rocking their guitars back and forth and trying to make up with show biz for what they don�t have in musical knowledge.  

I have hundreds of steel players a month, or let�s call them steel guitar owners that come through my store telling me what big star they are working with and they have a rough time sitting behind a guitar in the showroom and getting anything out of it.  Now they aren�t players, but however they are taking a real steel players job because of acting immature on the stage behind a steel guitar.

Should you be jealous because these clowns are making $50,000 a year while you�re playing much better and making much less?  It depends on which you�d rather be.  Do you want to be an actor?  Or do you want to be a good musician?

I know that when I go to hear a steel guitar play or I see one on television, I�m very disappointed if he jumps over his guitar backwards and makes everybody laugh but still can�t play it.  In the end, the show biz guy will get very little respect from anyone except possibly a non-musician.  He may be lucky by jumping around and being a steel guitar clown for awhile, but he�s not going to be hired by a serious band that wants him for his musicianship.  

Unfortunately, most band leaders that hire, barely know the difference between a good steel player or a clown.  I don�t care how much a steel guitar job pays, if I have to be a clown to make big bucks to work in it, sorry, but I�ll open a steel guitar store.  Wait a minute.  I�ve already done that.

Every once in awhile I have somebody say, �Boy.  You ought to see that guy play with such and such a band.�

My reply is always, �I don�t wanna see any steel guitar player play as bad as I want to HEAR him play.�  If we as steel guitar players encourage this childish stupidity and keep telling them it�s show biz, we�ll have nobody but ourselves to blame when all the great steel players have gone and we have nothing left but great show biz rock n roll style noise makers with their fuzz and smoke machine.

If it�s just money you want to make as a steel guitarist and money only, I still don�t know if this is a good way to go because there are many other ways to make money without embarrassing yourself in front of guys that can really play the instrument.

Doug Jernigan, Jerry Byrd, Jimmy Day, Curly Chalker and many other great players will impress me forever much more than any show biz guy ever will.  These are great players that sit down and concentrate on what they�re doing.  Their show biz is in their fingers and if their listeners know anything about music, they will appreciate the great player by what he plays, not what tricks he does to try to convince you he�s the player that he isn�t.

Sure, Buddy Emmons can bounce the bar off the strings and catch it behind his back in the middle of a great solo without missing a note and yes, I do think it�s cool, but to see him do it through the whole song would end up boring me to tears.

Remember another thing.  We�re not getting paid by the note as steel players, we�re getting paid for the beauty of the notes we play and the great taste on how those notes fit in the song we�re playing.

Don�t you just hate it when somebody comes up and twists the tuning key on your guitar and won�t tell you which one they turned?  But then, if you�re just a show biz guy it won�t even matter.  Let�s remember the really great steel guitar players and give them credit for their great playing.

After all, you can�t see their shenanigans on record, you can only hear their playing.  Remember who they work for has nothing to do with how good they play.  Some people think just because you�re playing with famous singer so and so, that you have to be a good player, but let me tell you, this is not true.  

There are some pretty famous bands that have steel players that can�t play Three Blind Mice.  Like I�ve mentioned before, there are people that have never played steel guitar in their lives that get a job with a big star, then come in my store and buy a steel guitar, run home and try to copy the licks that are on the record because their tour starts in a week.

Believe me friends, I�m not kidding you here.  Sure, there are some great players on the road, but you need to realize that there are many players on the road that got their job some other way than being able to play.  If you say, well after all, he must be a great player because he got such and such a job, I�m sorry but this is not true.

As a matter of fact, it is very well known that the greatest players in the world are not working the road.  Doug Jernigan, Lloyd Green, Buddy Emmons, Johnny Sibert, Joe Mack Vincent, Weldon Myrick and so on.  Their playing is a little too important to waste on the road being criticized for not jumping around and being steel guitar clowns.

Before you pros that read this letter get mad at me, I will say here and make perfectly clear that there are some wonderful players playing the road like CJ Udeen, Tyler Hall, Eddie Dunlap, Steve Hinson and of course the great Texas players like Bobby Flores, Rick Price, Dicky Overby and then of course, we have the gigantic talent of Maurice Anderson, but these guys concentrate on their craft and not bounce off the walls and jump up and down in the strobe lights while they�re playing.

So learn to play you�re steel guitar well and don�t worry about being a country music clown.  Let your fingers do the show biz, you�ll have a much longer career with more respect by doing 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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