How to Use the Knee Levers on a Pedal Steel Guitar

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

How do you use the knee levers on a pedal steel guitar? Well, you use them in the same way that you use the pedals, basically because they change, as the pedals do,they change pitch of the strings. So it’s a question of understanding what role these various alterations can play and how best to use them.

The first knee lever you use is the E-raise, and when used in combination with an A pedal, this gives you a major chord. It gives you a major chord three frets above the root position, so since we’re in an E tuning, open is E and third fret is G. Now three fret’s higher than that, as I just said.

If I have the A pedal engaged and the F-lever as it’s called, because it raises the E’s from E to F. That’s a G chord again, a G major chord. An E lowers, a common application if you were in G again, if your were playing at the top of a blues progression the D chord in a 1-4-5, G-C-D progression. A D 7th is available by lowering the E’s and keeping your foot on the B pedal.

Now a lot of times with the lower especially, you can get some nice effects just by, sort of like throwing that at the beginning of something, instead of you could also do a climb with your tone bar, but both of those notes are being involved whereas here it’s just the E. And you can, when you’re in the the position we just discussed, three frets higher on the G chord.

If you’ve got your A pedal engaged and your F lever engaged, you can release the F lever, reach down and lower it. Come back up to a neutral place, so you’ve got three sounds with this string. That’s pretty happening. The next knee lever that you can use is the six string lower and first and second string raise. There you can get some unison’s. So there I’m just raising the F sharp to G sharp. Got a nice unison.

Likewise, your getting a unison on the second string, from D sharp to E. Now this second string, the way I have set it up this is, not every guitar has this change on it, but it’s pretty popular nonetheless and it’s really a nice change to have. I highly recommend it. This string has probably the most options of any, because you not only have raising it a half step.

You’ve got the open position, you’ve got your half step lower and a full step lower, so that’s four notes that you have, just on the second string. So that’s a very pleasant sound to have and the combinations are limitless. Now the last knee lever is going right, and that lowers the second string a half step and again a whole step, and there’s something called the feel stop, when the second string meets the ninth string note, there a half-step apart.

So you’ve got this horrible discordant sound. But then it settles into unison and together they go down, yet another step. So that’s basically, the sky’s the limit. You can use it in single note iterations or you can use it in chords. This is one of my favorite licks.

By lowering and just raising and releasing, get these really nice sounds. So quarterly and single string-wise, there’s just tons of stuff you can do with the knee levers, and in combination with the pedals, it’s pretty much infinite. So that’s scratching the surface on what the knee levers do.