How to Use the Volume Pedal on a Steel Guitar

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

The volume pedal; the old timers called it the expression pedal, which is
an interesting way of looking at it. Of course, what it basically does is
raise and lower your volume level. It’s no secret. It’s just like the
volume control on a guitar or on your radio, if you still have one of

But, what it allows you to do with a pedestal is prolong the presence of a
note as it’s decaying and it also gives you a, sort of, mysterious, sort
of, creeping sound. And, you’ll see I’m bringing up the volume as the note
decays, so as to try to keep as steady a sound as possible and as long a
sound and to cultivate that hovering, airy sound that we love so much that
this instrument can provide.

A good exercise to try is to hit notes and to keep the note at the same
level as long as possible by increasing the volume as the note decays. You
can do exercises like this. It will start to give you a sense of how to
approach it. It is not a rhythm situation.

You don’t want to be pumping away like that. It’s not a calliope. I had
found this to be one of the more difficult parts of the pedestal guitar,
interestingly. Even though it, sort of, technically, it has nothing to do
with the instrument itself.

Getting control of your volume pedal, not fluctuating wildly, not having
sudden surges of volume, this is a pretty crafty thing to work on and it’s
not easy. But, basically, it just gives you another means of expanding the
life of the note and, also you know, there’s just different, sort of, you
know, expression strategies, in terms of how you want the note to unfold.

Try not to over use it. You know, it’s still something that I’m still
coming to grips with. It has a huge effect on the sound of the instrument
and it’s something that needs attention in its own right. But, that’s
basically it. That’s what you would do with a volume pedal.