How to Play Major Scales on a Pedal Steel Guitar

Learn how to play major scales in this Howcast video about how to play a pedal steel guitar.

Major scales, well the pedals will help you fill in the notes that you’re lacking in the major scale, given this that you have this instrument in open tuning, E ninth chromatic. So the simplest way to approach it is to start on the eighth string, which is going to be your root wherever you happen to be, it’s going to be the root of the chord that’s being formed on that thread in the open position.

So let’s start on G, and you would… So that eight, seven, six, B pedal on the six, open fifth string, pedal on the same thing. Now here you have the choice, you can lower the E string and then release it for the major seventh to the root, and finish the scale. Or you can reach up to the second string, which is already the major seventh, so it can be… And so that last bit would be fifth string, engage the pedal, reach up to the second string, and then hit the fourth string.

Otherwise, lower the E, release it, that’s one major scale. Then you would be in the other main position you would be adopting, A and B pedals down, you’re going to have the pedals down, you hit the sixth string, then you hit the fifth string open, engage the A pedal. Then you reach for the second string, but you’re going to have it pre-lowered a half-step, okay, you’re going to go where the field stop as for the half-step. And then you come back down for the fourth string. So six, open five, A pedal five, second string lowered, fourth string open, first string, third string open, third string pedal.

his is a perfect illustration. By the way, we have not yet pointed out that the pedal steel, the third string is the highest one of the bunch, the tuning is… Why is that? Well because some guy, probably Buddy Emmons, figured out that it was easier to play scale things if you were going back and forth and working toward the center, or a little bit, not exactly the center, but working toward a center point on a given thread, as opposed to working constantly higher and higher and higher, both going horizontally and also up the neck.

So this is an example of how you’re basically playing both ends off the middle, and that is a perfect example of what pedal steel can do really well, and how it sounds can integrate scales in a smooth and fluid kind of way. There’s million of scales available on this, these are just two of them, but there you are, major scales.