How to Use the Tone Bar on a Pedal Steel Guitar

Learn how to use the tone bar on a pedal steel guitar in this Howcast video.

Okay, How to use the tone bar. This is a stainless steel tone bar made by John Pearse. It’s probably eight or ten ounces it’s, I think eight ounces. It’s a good solid piece of metal. You want to make sure that your tone bar does not get dinged around. It’s amazing how even the slightest blemish on it can sort of cause problems and sort of catch the strings, a very unpleasant feeling, so take good care of it. And this is the fret you know you are going to be using the guidelines on the neck to find your way through the cords, in this case I’m on the G fret on the third fret.

[plays guitar]

You don’t want to be pushing too hard but you want to be pushing hard enough so that there’s a good steady tension that you’re covering the strings in question. The sweet spot of the tone bar is going to be right around, probably, this whole section here. I keep my finger on the top here so it’s almost sort of like corresponding with the best sounding part or at least in the vicinity of it. You can through in a little vibrato as the note is decaying.

[plays guitar]

Keep your fingers on the strings behind the tone bar so that you don’t get any unwanted rattling sounds from the other side. And that’s pretty much it. You also sort of lift the tone bar occasionally for percussive effects kind of a little chattery kind of a [plays guitar] type of thing. the more you use it. It’s a pretty heavy thing, your hand will get a little tired at first but the more familiar with it you get, you can start to do more evolved things. [plays guitar] Like slants where you’re actually turning the bar to reach for different notes that you couldn’t possibly get in any other way. You can also just slide up a little bit if you need the note, I mean between the pedals and the tone bar there’s a lot of different ways of accessing notes.

[plays guitar]

So that’s it for how to use the tone bar.