How to Use Finger Picks with a Pedal Steel Guitar

Learn how to use finger picks with a pedal steel guitar in this Howcast video.

Okay. So how do you use the picks on a pedal steel guitar? Well, first of all you want to make sure that the picks are snug on your fingers. It’ll take a while to get used to them if you haven’t used them before. They’ll seem too tight. They’ll seem too loose. They’ll seem too tight. Finally, one day you’ll adjust them and you’ll never change them again. But they need to be pretty snug. You don’t want the picks to stick out too far and you want to make sure that the top part of the pick doesn’t get caught on the string. It’s got to stick out far enough that it’s a clean strike. Your hand is going to be slightly curved like this. I like to anchor my little finger around here somewhere and, usually, just as a basic starting point, have my thumb on the eighth string which is the E string, so it’s sort of the root of whatever chord you’re going to be in in that position. The thumb goes that way. The fingers come this way. You’re not going to be strumming. Pedal steel is not a strumming situation. The notes aren’t necessarily all going to be friendly. Out of the ten strings in question, there may well be, depending on the position you’ve got the pedals in to where you are on the neck, there may be some notes that are very undesirable.

So, it’s a very declarative instrument. You have to know what combination of notes you’re going to be hitting. The combination of strings you are going to be hitting is called a grip. Basically, a position of your fingers on what strings. So, in this case, for example, this is an 8-6-5 grip. And this is a 6-5-4 grip and so on and so forth. As far as striking the strings, you just want to strike them evenly and cleanly. [playing guitar] That’s what’s involved. You want to get good, hard picks, of course, as I mentioned before and that’s pretty much it for at least the basics of how you’re going to pick on a pedal steel guitar.