BudBuddy Emmons Q & A: Buddy Emmons and Bobby Lee Quasar have graciously given their permission to re-post selected Buddy Emmons highlights from Bobby Lee's Online Steel Guitar Forum. The questions and answers selected are those limited to topics regarding history, tone, technique, tuning, set-ups, equipment and general playing advice. Postings are in chronological order from the oldest to the newest. Thanks Buddy and Bobby for this fabulous forum!

For more Q & A with Buddy Emmons, visit Ernie Renn's Official Buddy Emmons Web Page. You'll also find all of Buddy's records, tapes, CDs and courses as well as plenty of photos from Buddy's private collection and other fun stuff.

Q: What is your current E9th set-up?

BE: Pedal #1 raises strings 5 & 10, 1 tone. Pedal #2 raises 3 & 6, 1/2 tone. Pedal #3 raises 4 & 5, 1 tone. Pedal 4 raises 1, 1 tone. LKL raises 4 & 8, 1/2. LKV lowers 5 & 10 1/2. LKR lowers 4 & 8, 1/2. RKL lowers string 6, 1 tone and raises string 2, 1/2 tone. RKR lowers string 2, 1/2 tone and 1 tone along with string 9, 1/2 tone. Split tuning is on pedal 1 and LKV and pedal 2 and RKL.

Q: I have always believed the strings and their gauges to have a role in the overall tone of the pedal steel. What gauges are you currently using and what insight can you provide on this topic?

BE: I'm not too fussy about the string gauges. If I use a lighter gauge than whatever the standard is, it's for longer wear or less travel on the string. I like to keep breaking and changing strings at a minimum. For the E9th I use:

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10)
.012 .015 .011 .014 .017 .022 .026w .028w .034w .038w

Q: I'd like to hear your thoughts on how strings have changed since you started playing and if such changes had an effect on how you played and what you played. Was there anything in string manufacture or quality that is different from your perspective? What strings do you use now?

BE: When I first started, Black Diamond was the only brand available. I wasn't aware of differences in strings until we sold strings under the Emmons label. For the most part I've use nickel which may be what black diamonds were. It has been so long since the Black Diamond days I couldn't say much about the differences I do remember not changing often and not believing the difference in sound when I put new ones on. That much hasn't changed. I use George L strings.
Q: Over the many years of watching you play, I have seen you do a 1-fret backward slant (E9th) on strings 5, 6 and 8. The question has been raised as to why you didn't just use the F knee lever that raises 4 and 8. My feeling is you get a better diminished chord by doing it the way you do it. Would you comment? And since you now tune straight 440, does it negate your having to do that now?

BE: The slant creates a slightly different tonal characteristic or timbre to the notes. The use of the knee lever, which might be a bit truer, is kind of dull and plain sounding by comparison. There is something about the slant that creates overtones.

Tuning 440 doesn't make any change in the overall effect. What I forgot to add was when I use that particular slant and slide back in diminished positions four frets apart, more overtones are added to the sound. When I reach my destination, straighten the bar and apply the 5th string raise, the sound seems to spread in all directions.
Q: In reading your E-9th changes I noticed that you have split the change where both the second string and the first string are raised (i.e. the D# to E and the F# to G#). Is there an advantage in isolating the D# to raise on one knee lever and hanging the F# to G# on your 4th pedal?. To be honest I have trouble with my right knee lever left because I have three pulls on there already. The first string to G# the lower G# to F# and the 4th string on the back neck to B flat. Is that too much to ask of one knee lever?

BE: More often than not, there are advantages to having independent pulling of the strings. If you're using the lever for the two and three part harmony sounds then the two strings are fine on one pedal. I like to play around with the splitting harmonies and that is where the isolation of each string has the advantage.

Another example is the lowering of the 5th and 6th string one tone with one pedal. I've always had these strings separate because of splitting the unison of the two A notes when 5 is lowered and 6 is raised and then lowered against it. I could probably live with either way but prefer the separated strings.
Q: Do you think it's a good idea to pull up and stretch the strings when you are changing them before tuning to pitch? Does stretching the strings in this manner shorten the life of them?

BE: I've never felt good about pulling on strings to stretch them. It appears to me that they would stretch slightly more at the point you are pulling from. I like to keep an firm and even tension throughout the winding of the string. Once I get them close to pitch (except for the high G#) I step on the pedals and tune the raises until they settle into their proper pitch. That way the guitar stretches each string uniformly or at least more uniformly than pulling the strings from one point.
Q: I met you at the 18th Steel Convention in St. Louis. At that time, you told me you felt the original Emmons was the best steel out there. Do you still feel that way? I've got two originals I was thinking of trading for a LeGrande, since the action seems easier and I've been experiencing knee problems. Any suggestions?

BE: The Emmons original was the best for my ear but until I get my Legrande lll with 20k single coils, I won't be able to give a fair evaluation of the sound comparison. I have a beautiful sounding black push-pull, and if the sound of the Legrande lll is not a clone of my push-pull, the split pedal feature and anti detuner it will be worth what little trade off is involved in sound. My studio Legrande has humbucking pickups at 20k. From the sound of it, I feel that the road guitar will be close enough to make me happy.
Q: When you played a show in Edmonton in '82, you played one of the first Legrandes with the short keyheads. Could you compare that guitar tonally with the new III you just got- especially in the studio? I have one of those early 80's guitars and my original just smokes it in the studio. I'd like to dump it and get an all-pull guitar that was closer to the original in tone.

BE: With so many years and so many changes in guitars since then, I'd hate to steer you in the wrong direction, especially with today's prices. All I have to compare at the moment are two push-pulls and one Legrande lll. One push-pull has 17.5k single coil pickups, another has single coil 20k, and the Legrande has humbucking 20k. All sound different as far as thickness in the mid-range yet all are similar in timbre. Each guitar has an Emmons guitar sound. They all go on tape well but the Legrande seems to have more warmth and body than the others, which is what I'm looking for today.

Every guitar has a signature sound that's practically next to impossible to change unless you work on the physics of the design. In the last fifteen years I've played four different brand guitars and heard over two dozen different pickups and found that nothing ever changes the actual sound of the "guitar." Changing pickups does no more than enhance or degrade the signature sound. Since all three of my guitars are in that ballpark I love to play in, I choose the Legrande for the split tuning feature and tuning stability the anti de-tuner offers.
Q: You have told us that Jerry Byrd was one of your favorites. Three of Jerry's "signature" chords were:
  1. 2 fret slant, strings 1, 2 and 4 (C6th) keeping 2 strings straight and one slanted creating a 9th chord.
  2. 2 fret slant, strings 2, 3 and 5 keeping two strings straight and one slanted creating a 7th chord.
  3. Tuning his 6th string to C# on some tunes ("Coconut Grove" for one) creating a 7th with the root on top.
Did you create any or all of the pedals on the C6th tuning and if so were the 5th, 6th, and 8th pedals a result of what Jerry Bird had done?

BE: Jimmy Day's setup was the basis for today's C6th setup. He had an 8 string Wright Custom with some pedals lowering only and others raising only and would use them in combinations to achieve what is accepted as today's standard. I'm not 100% sure about how today's setup evolved from his but I'll ask him first chance I get.

I added the bass end when I went to ten strings, which merely extended the bottom end of the eight string chord. I will crow about the C to A note on the eighth pedal though.
Q: The 7#9 chord that results from raising the low C to C# is certainly a identifiable characteristic of the C6th tuning. I personally think that it is overused by steel players.

How often does the music actually contain a 7#9 chord? Not very. Unless the whole band is doing it (as in"Hold It"), it sounds pretty "hokey" to my ears.

BE: Another use I have for the eighth pedal is when I play turnaround chords from C to A7 to D7 to G7. It requires holding the pedal down for the last three chords. Start at fret twelve for the C chord, stay at 12 and press pedal 8 for the A7 (A7#9), slide back to 11 for D13, and back to 10 for the G7#9. It's only two bars with the chords lasting two beats each. The grip for the last three chords is strings 3, 5, and 7. It's also a 13 b9 chord.
Q: There has been some discussion recently on the forum about the U-12 tuning, and your name came up as one who had tried it and somehow found it lacking something. As you are one of the prime developers of the modern steel guitar tuning concepts, I am asking I guess if this is true (that you found it lacking something) and if so, what that something is.

BE: When I first came to Nashville, the E9th was an 8 string tuning: E, B, G#, F#, D, B G#, E, with both B and G# pulling with pedal one. My Bigsby steel allowed me to split the B and G# strings to pedals one and two which freed the triad sound up and made it easier to play melodies. Jimmy Day dropped the low E and put an E in the middle. Ralph Mooney added the high G#. By 1962, Shot Jackson and I were building 10 string Sho-Buds and I added the F# and D# to strings 1 and 2. Because I grew up with the E9th and C6th tunings, I do find the 12 string tuning lacking. If I were starting out today and didn't have those differences ingrained in me, I don't know whether they would matter that much. There's a lot of good music coming out of 12 strings these days and I really haven't spent enough time on the universal tuning to qualify as an expert opinion.
Q: On the forum we have discussed tuning problems for a long while. As a matter of fact it is an ongoing topic. Would you care to share with us "How you currently tune" with the band, especially where keyboards are present. Lets look at E9th first:
  1. Do you tune all strings, pedals straight up 440 ?
  2. Do you use a tuner or harmonic soundings?
BE: Ideally I like to be 440 all the way or as close as my guitar will permit. 438 to 440 on thirds is acceptable for for me. Sometimes I'll tune the thirds at around 438 to keep from snapping the high G# if conditions are where I think the temperature might get cooler. The length of a rod on an all pull guitar and its expansion factor determines the pitch of the note (blow dry your rods for 5 seconds and see how flat the pitch becomes when you engage a raise pedal). From there, I tune with harmonics which is my gauge for cabinet drop of any guitar. That way I'm tuning to all the guitar's gremlins.

I will be tuning my Legrande lll right at 440 under average and controlled temperature conditions. I know it's a bear to have to play 440 when you first play by yourself but in time your ear gets used to it and someone else's thirds start sounding flat. Meanwhile you'll be in tune and will have made friends with all the fixed pitch instrument players in the band. Of course if you don't like anyone in the band, tune any way you want.
Q: Would tuning across the board to 440 make it unnecessary to tune sharp to 442.50 the way Jeff Newman and some others do or would that be too sharp to use?

BE: Sharp is sharp no matter how you slice it. I've never understood the theory of being sharper than the instruments you're playing with. Aside from that, even tuning 440 as I do, the guitars I've played throughout the years have never truly been in tune. A problem in detuning that is rarely discussed is lowering strings which releases tension on the cabinet and raises the pitch of some strings. The 6th or G# is vulnerable which is another good reason to tune it to 438. Problems can also come from other sources. I've blown several accounts constantly tuning my guitar only to find out the fretboard had been photographed at an angle that threw the scale off. Another guitar had a fretboard positioned wrong. I had a Quadraverb that had a chorus on the reverb.
Q: I've only been at the PSG for several months now, and it seems like I'll never understand the subtleties of tuning. I got hold of your "Harmonic Tune-Up" tape recently, and in it you advocate RAISING the G#s slightly above what the ear makes us think is in tune. This contrasts with what you've been saying in this forum and with other approaches. Am I missing something here?

BE: I used the slightly sharp to the ear idea at that time as a compromise between true 440 and tuning the pleasing sound to the ear. I too had a hard time dealing with the 440 sound and tuned the compromised way for several years. Although it worked, it still left many pedal combinations that would not tune up properly, especially on the C6 tuning. It was an attempt to get a pleasing sound closer to standard pitch for those like myself who couldn't stand the straight 440 sound. Now that I tune 440, I feel uncomfortable trying to convince others that it's the only way. All I can say is that knowing each note will on the money has made a big difference in the way I use pedals.
Q: Do the new guitars have different tuning quirks than old faithful? Pushing to lower applies pressure one way while lowering the string reduces the pressure at the same time.

BE: I've played three guitars outside of old faithful and the one quality that all of them have improved upon the most is cabinet stability. In answer to your question, the quirks are still there but at a much more tolerable level. My fourth and last guitar, I hope, is the Lashley Legrande lll with a counter force anti detuner. The detuner does what it's supposed to do, which makes me one happy camper.
Q: When were your first experiences with electronic tuners and what type were they. Also, on the Decca recording of Ernest Tubb, "Through that Door" is that you and were you using a capo?

BE: My first introduction to a tuner was a strobe tuner with an external mic used by guitarist Harold Bradley. Before that, everyone got their Ežs from the piano and that was it. As the session progressed pride and ego from studio musicians thinking they were the only ones in tune created a lot of hassles. Harold solved those arguments and embarrassment by setting his tuner in view so everyone could use it as a reference. My first tuner was a Korg tuner which was only good for six notes.

Yes to the capo question.
Q: What usages do you have for the C - C# knee lever on the C6th. I only see one, that is a transitional 1 chord 3 frets up from home with the 5th pedal.

BE: Another would be as an augmented for the 6th pedal. If you raise your 4th, it could be used for a C# diminished.
Q: Did you use a low D on the C6 when you recorded the album Live at St. Louis? If not, have you ever used this tuning on any instrumental recording? Second question-have you ever considered doing tab for the C6 instrumentals on the Black album? For some reason I seem to have more trouble picking out your single string solos on that album than the later ones.

BE: I did use the D in the middle of the tuning. I started with the standard C6 tuning and pulled strings seven through ten to the other tuning with the fourth pedal. It obviously added a lot of stress to the wound strings so I took it off. The standard C6 was used for the head of The Great Stream and the other tuning was used for the single note solo. I also used it on Mardi Gras, which is on the same album. It's a much faster tuning on the bottom end than the standard C6. Terry Crisp now uses that tuning full time.
Q: I've been using a one-inch thick bar for about eight years and have been teased (all in good fun) about it from time to time by other players. Yet, no one has been able to give me a good reason why it's a bad way to go. I find it much easier to control versus the 7/8 and can definitely hear a difference in tone. Have you had experience with this? Do you know of any technical advantage for the 7/8 versus the one-inch?

BE: It's not a bad way to go at all. In fact if you want a better quality sustain, that's exactly the way to go. My friend Ron Elliott uses one and after using his, I got one. The only reason I don't still use it is because the diameter blocked my normal view of the frets on the upper part of the fretboard, and made it harder to see if I was dead on. If you don't have that problem, hang on to it.

Correction in follow-up post-

BE: I measured the bar I said Ron used and instead of it being one inch in diameter, it's also 7/8, but still sounds better than the 3/4 that I normally use.
Q: A year or two ago I saw The Everly Brothers (incredible, Buddy AND Albert Lee!-don't miss them if they come around). What did you use to get the dobro sound from your steel? This show was in "the round" and of course I couldn't see what was going on.

PS: you spent the first tune under the guitar fooling with the pedal-rods.

BE: I used a Match-Bro, a Dobro simulator I designed which is available through the Goodrich Company. As for the guitar, it's no longer with us.
Q: I was curious on your opinion about amps vs. rack gear. I personally use a Vegas 400 and I love my tone. I have spent lots of money on rack gear over the years for both my steel and Tele and always come back to just an amp. I do use a lexicon reverb but that's it. What do you record with now, and what do you feel was your best recorded rig?

BE: For direct recording I'm using a Digitech 2112 into a Lexicon PCM80. I love the combination of both units better than anything else to this point. At $2,000.00 the Lexicon sounds steep, but if I had bought it $6,000.00 ago it would have been a bargain. For live situations I use one Peavey Session 400 and a Boss DD-3 digital delay pedal.
Q: I have assumed that a delay was effective only with two amps (ala Jeff Newman) where the second amp has a millisecond delay behind the first amp. What effect do you get with it using only one amp?

BE: I think I understand what you're saying about the two amps. My principle behind using it mono today is the same as when I used the old EchoPlex in the studio. I went mono into an amp for those recordings. The purpose was for a broad and thicker sound and not so much for the echo effect alone.
Q: Does your Nashville 400 have either the Peavey or LeMay tone mod?

BE: I meant to post this earlier but no, it doesn't. I have three Peavey amps and all of them have the factory specs.
Q: I just purchased a stomp box delay and wondered whether you could give me a couple of fundamental settings including the percentage of delay to use in the dry signal. Is there a different setting for fast and slow songs or does one setting cover it all?

BE: A good rule of thumb in either case is to make the delay land on beat one and three. That's the reason a tap feature is on some of the later delays. Once you establish the tempo of the song, you tap a button and the unit syncs the delay with the tempo.

For a mix, I usually set the unit for three delays, with the third delay barely audible. In either case, fast or slow, you want the delays slightly below below your dry signal. It takes some hands on use to establish the right level for your technique. Some play softer and some harder, which affects the level of the delay.
Q: I was wondering about gauges for the low G#. What do you feel are the benefits or disadvantages of the .020 and the .022 plain or wound?

BE: I normally use a .022 plain but I go along with the wound being easier to tune. A wound string requires slightly more travel which allows for finer tuning. It's kind of like having a fine and course thread on a tuning screw. It also matches the travel of the high G# much better and takes the bumpy feel out of your pedal. For ballads it's a good way to go but I still like the snap you get from the plain .022.
B.E.'s First Sho-Bud Q: I took this snapshot at the Country Music Hall Of Fame a few years back. Can you tell us the story behind this guitar? How was it set-up... etc.

P.S. What's up with the "Buddie" spelling?

BE: That guitar is one of the first four Sho-Buds Shot and I built. Don Warden, Porter's steel player got number one. Ben Keith got number two and I build the third and fourth for Jimmy Day and myself.

I later sold it to Pete Drake and he put a cover over the name and had it converted to ten strings. There's no telling how many hits Pete played on with that guitar. Pete took the cover off and gave the guitar back to me saying he wanted to make sure when he was gone it would end up where it belonged.

I received a call from the Country Music Hall Of Fame asking for a derby for their musician's display. I saw a chance to showcase the history of a Nashville based steel guitar company and its contribution to the evolution of the steel guitar as well as donate a piece of Pete Drake's legacy so I gave them the guitar. In that respect, the guitar is truly where it belongs and Pete got more than his wish.

The guitar has Pete's setup on it.

The name Buddie was carried over from an adolescent idea I came up with to make six letters in my first and last name.
Q: I have a Sho-Bud cabinet with Jimmy's name on it, you told me some time ago that you had built it, was this guitar one of the original 4? Jimmy still owns it, he would not part with it, wants to rebuild and perhaps play it again- Lynn Owsley.

BE: If it has his name on the front in handwriting like mine, it would be the third one. Outside of tuning setup I made our guitars identical. It would have routed out shapes at both sides or ends of the guitar. We stopped doing all that shortly after the first few guitars.
Q: How much hands-on did you have in the Sho-Bud era? Were you able to do most of everything skill-wise? And how about the early Emmons guitar era?

BE: I built the cabinets, buffed parts and helped with some of the construction of the Sho-Bud. Shot did the welding and layout for the pedal setups.

The Emmons original design consists of approximately 75% of the changes I wanted on the Sho-Bud guitar. Among those changes were a burn resistant finish, pedal attached to the pedal bar, aluminum end plates, and a slimmer cabinet. Shot didn't want to rock the boat with design changes so I eventually had enough ideas rejected to design another guitar.

The push-pull system is basically what Shot was doing underneath the guitar integrated into the fingers at the bridge. Some of the other input for the Emmons came from Jimmy Crawford, and Hal Rugg. The rest of the guitar design was fine-tuned by Ron Lashley.

If Shot hadn't been so set in his ways, there would never have been an Emmons guitar.
Q: I've watched several of the early Porter shows this week and have seen a few close-ups of the first Sho-Bud that you and Shot built for Don Warden. That's a pretty rustic looking beast.

You mentioned that you did the cabinet work on several of the first Sho-Buds. How did you go about picking and finding wood for them? I suspect that some of the imported hardwoods, like Purple Heart, that Sho-Bud used on some of the guitars before the Professional series were pretty hard to come up with locally. Was it an evolving process, or did you know to start out with certain hardwoods?

BE: We ordered our wood from a company in Chicago which I believe was Craftsman Wood Company or something like that. Their catalog had a variety of exotic woods to choose from. I came close to making an ebony wood guitar but the cost was so high and from what we had heard, so hard to work with, Shot didn't want me to let anyone know it was available. We chose birdseye maple because it was being used on the Bigsby guitar at the time.
Q: What's the function of your RKL with the D#-E change?

BE: It give a unison split-off of a tone and one half when played with the 4th string and followed with the lowering of the 2nd string a whole tone. You can get the same unison effect by lowering the E's, moving up one fret and playing the 2nd string with it and then sliding back to the original position.
Q: Have you ever used, or experimented with, a knee lever for the E to F# raise instead of (or perhaps in addition to) the standard C pedal raise, and combining the KL with A & B? I feel there are some pretty sounds available when all three strings can be raised or lowered independently.

BE: Yes I have tried the knee E to F# on a push-pull model and was uncomfortable with the travel because of the allowance I had to leave for the half tone lower. The all pulls of course would not have this problem. You are absolutely right. Any time you have independent control of strings you'll have more combinations.
Q: It seems I saw one of your push-pulls several years ago in St. Louis where you were raising the 4th string to an F# with your 8th pedal. It was a nine pedal guitar.

BE: I've had that change all over the place at one time or another. Having it on pedal nine gave me the independent use of it but the trade-off was loss of expression by having to take my foot off the volume pedal.
Q: What volume pedal are you currently using and and do you set the degree of "swell" or leave it as per factory settings.

BE: I use the Goodrich L120 at its normal setting. They refer to as low profile. It gives a little more leg room underneath but I don't think it affects the travel of the pedal.
Q: Have you ever considered raising the 9th string (E9th) from a D to a D# using the knee lever that raises 4 and 8. It looks like it would open up some real possibilities. Albeit you would lose the 4 note diminished chord.

BE: It would open some possibilities but I sure would hate losing the diminished. It's such a fine change for ballads and western swing I think I would really miss being able to use it.
Q: You mentioned that you are using the Boss DD-3 delay. What settings do you normally use and do you leave it on the majority of the time.

BE: I usually set the delays in tempo with the song I'm playing. On ballads the delay would land on beats two and four. Medium tempos can be set like ballads or on the and of the beats (between beats 1 & 2). Those settings are more critical in the studio than for live playing. When I'm playing live I usually keep a long and short delay that covers most songs I play.

I understand Boss has a new pedal that lets you tap the tempo and sync the delay. This would allow you to lock every tempo in before you start. My repeats are set to diminish after the third delay. The dynamics of players differ so you'll have to adjust the feedback according to your touch or attack. That will also affect the mix level you use.

Yes, I do leave it on most of the time. Exceptions would be on the faster songs.
Q: In the studio, do you record dry and then come back with the Lexicon?

Second, did you use the "Blade" for most of the Swing series? Swingin' by Request is one of my favorites.

BE:
I use the Lexicon as I record.


I used the Blade on our first swing record: Swingin' 40s Thru The 80s. I also used a Fender triple neck Custom on that album. There might have been a couple other swing albums I used it on but the rest were cut with an EMCI, Derby, and possibly a Sierra.
Q: I've got an LP titled "Shot and Buddy Sho-Budding Again." Can you tell us the story behind this recording? What guitar and amp etc. The title indicates that this was a reunion of some kind. Was this recorded after the Emmons guitar was designed? If so, how long were you back on the Sho-Bud and what happened next?

BE: That album was originally called "Aces Back To Back" and was recorded when I left the Emmons Guitar Company around 1970. When I returned to Sho-Bud, Shot put the album together in a hurry to alert the steel public that he and I were reunited again.

The guitar was a Pro which I had problems keeping in tune. The move and having to play the guitar turned out to be a mistake that haunted me throughout the entire album. My frustration hit a peak on a song called "Hold It" when I played the last chord, raked it back in anger and said, "That's it, I'm through." Shot had promised me if I wasn't happy with the move he would release me from our contract and true to his word, he did. We remained good friends up to the time of his death. I went back to the Emmons company shortly after that.
Q: My son and I are sitting here talking about the forum and we were wondering how many steel guitars you have. I know it would be impossible to say which one you like best but maybe one came down the pike at some given time that really caught your heart and ear!

BE: I have an Emmons push-pull and a Lashley LeGrande lll. I've had as many as five at one time. If I had to choose a favorite, I would pick the one I used on songs such as "Touch My Heart" when I was with Ray Price.

I thought all Emmons guitars sounded the same at the time so I sold it to Dickie Overby. Years later, Dickie told me he sold it and when he tried to find the owner to get it back, he traced it to a family that had bored holes in the front and back of the body, put axles and wheels on it, and used it for a wagon. It is a true story according to Dickie.
Q: What exercises do you like to do before you practice? Play? Some detail about riffs, chords, finger exercises would be great.

BE: One I use is similar to a drummers warmup. Find a string that you can play a unison with like strings 3 and 4 with your bar on the 3rd fret of the 4th string and play T 2 TT 2 T 22 over and over. There are others but this one is the easiest. After a while, change to lower strings because the hand position is different when not supported by the wound strings. Also try the same thing with string 3 and 5 with the bar on fret 5 of the 5th string.

This widens your hand spread and gives it a workout for licks you'll be using those spacings for. Then on to the 6th string with string 3. Unisons are all over the place.

After you have that down, use strings 3, 4, 5, and 6 on C6 with the thumb raking strings 5 and 6 and fingers 1 & 2 on strings 3 & 4. This gets the first finger involved. A more difficult example is TT 22 T 2 TT 22 TT 2 T 22 and so on.
Q: If a person was just starting out with the steel guitar and was truly interested in learning to play (not be great, just be able to play), what equipment would you recommend if they insisted on everything being the BEST and how would you recommend having it set up? Also, What amp would you suggest they buy.

BE: It would be hard for me not to suggest the equipment I'm using. Lagrande lll, Digitech 2112, and Lexicon PCM80. That's a combination I wouldn't be ashamed to take anywhere.

If they weren't into changing the guitar, I would recommend a used Emmons push-pull from someone like Billy Cooper. In my opinion there's a magic in that guitar that sets it apart from all others. And the Legrande is the closest thing to it.

These are suggestions based on what I feel is best and not what's best for someone who isn't hooked on a particular sound.

I still haven't found a better match for my guitar and my ear than the Peavey line of amps. Because of the wonderful mid-range in my steels, I'm able to set both the Para-Mid and Shift controls on the amp flat, or straight up. But it's all in the eye of the beholder.
Q: Wes Montgomery's octave playing always sounds so great to me because, in addition to his fantastic phrasing, he used his thumb and muted the in-between strings. It sounds lame to me when I play octaves on steel picking each note. Do you have a technique for strumming octaves or muting the middle strings?

BE: I originally had a bar with a slot cut out so I could block the exposed strings with my left palm edge and flip it over for the steel bar. It worked but I found it difficult to keep in line and hard to keep it from dropping off the octave strings so I went back to blocking the three strings between the octaves with my bar thumb and raking the two octave notes with the thumb pick.
Q: I know that you played a role in the development of the E9th tuning and I figure age wise we are somewhere in the same ballpark (I was born in '42). So what I am saying is I started out playing a 6-string Multicord and at that time the birth stage of the E9th (as best as I can remember) went something like this:

1- E
2- B
3- G#
4- F#
5- E
6- ?

I don't even remember what the 6th was tuned to. If I remember correctly, the 8 and 10 string guitars came along and the 9th-D and the 10- B were added and somewhere in all this commotion Ralph Mooney added the high G# 3rd string. The first pedal steel I had after the Multicord was an 8x4 built by John Hughey in Memphis. Instead of the F# and Eb being strings 1 and 2, they were 9 and 10. So I wondered if you might comment a little bit on how this was figured out and how the ABC pedal setup was developed to pull what string? Also, could you comment on how the modern C6th setup was structured and came about? To make a long story short, I'm just glad somebody in the bunch had enough sense to figure this mess out!

BE: The original Isaacs tuning had a D for the 5th, B for 6, G# for 7, and E for the 8th string. Jimmy day started the change by dropping the low E and adding it in the middle. I split B & G# (2 & 3) around 1956. Ralph added the high G# in the late fifties and also came up with the E to F# pull, but I don't believe he had it pulling with the C#. I added the F# and D# in 1962 before my first session with Ray Price.

I originally put the F# and D# on strings 9 & 10 because the Sho-Bud had a permanently welded pull system and it was the only way I could get them on the guitar before the session. I came close to taking the strings back off because of the difficulty of playing with them in that position. I didn't know if rewelding my guitar underneath would be worth risking keeping it on. It was only after seeing a couple guitars strung up that way in the Opry dressing rooms that I realized it was going to be a keeper and if I took it off my guitar, I would be dated by my own creation.

I have said Jimmy Day came up with most of the changes but I called Speedy West yesterday to confirm a thought I had regarding his input. Although Speedy's C6th tuning was E he also had a few pedal similarities to the tuning. So, I guess it was a collection of different ideas form different directions that led to the final tuning as it is today. After we went to ten strings, I added most of the bass end additions.
Q: You mentioned on posts yesterday that you could not make some recording sessions due to other time restraints with the EB etc. Can you just sit down in the studio and record your parts on a Sunday morning with the engineer like days gone by or has the studio thing changed where they want the whole band there for the "feeling" they might get.

Hopefully this question comes across like it was meant to. I record almost always by myself in the studios here. Partly to cut down on errors that affect the whole session and partly to be able to rework the lick or passage to really enhance the song. I know you have done both, just wondering what is happening these days.

BE: Over-dubbing or replacing prerecorded tracks is common here but when it's someone like George Strait, the sound should be there when he's there. The collective input of a full team is very important for the final arrangement. When you have other players like Paul Franklin who can cut it equally well, it wouldn't be wise for a producer to jeopardize George's music by recording with less than a full band. Ray Pennington has allowed me to overdub, but you must have a good relationship with a producer along with his faith in you to be able to pull it off.
Q: Someone told me once that you use your ring finger to block. That you follow yours 2nd finger blocking with the third finger. Is this true, and if it is, how often do you do it? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

BE: That's true. I use the ring finger to block all 2nd finger notes as far as I can tell. When I get in the thick of things at tempos above average, I don't know exactly what's going on because some of my blocking is done by pulling the bar off a note and letting the 2nd finger block as I move from the top to bottom strings.

Depending on the pattern, in addition to the ring finger, I will use the thumb of the bar hand, second finger of the bar hand, and the palm of the right hand. Most palm blocks follow a thumb pick or 1st finger note.
Q: At the end of the turn around on the song "The Day You Left Me" (Goin' Out Swingin') you did a harmonic phrase that gives me goose bumps. Would you please dissect and explain it?

BE: On the C6th in the key of G (fret 7) there are four sets of harmonics in the effect:
  1. The 1st harmonics would be on 19.
  2. Move the bar to fret 8 and play the 2nd set of harmonics on fret 15.
  3. Keep the bar on fret 8 and play the 3rd set on fret 13.
  4. Let the bar drop back to fret 7 as you play the 4th set of harmonics on fret 14.
  5. As it dies out, slowly press pedal 5 and the chord, G major 7th will turn into a G7.

Q: Is it possible to explain (in English) what you did to wrap up "You Pushed Me To The Limit" (Swingin' By Request )? Talk about monsters... that one is Godzilla on a pac-a-seat.

BE: That was the Pat Martino descending lick in three parts. Gregg Galbraith played the same scale with me a fifth position above what I played. During the playback he asked if I wanted a third part on it and I said it sounded pretty cool the way it was but if he felt like doing it go ahead. If we didn't like it we didn't have to use it. He did it and we used it.
Q: Since you are now tuning straight 440, would you please tell us how you do it. Do you do it with a tuner or by ear using a circle of fifth's or harmonics, etc?

BE: I start by tuning everything except the thirds straight up. I tune the thirds at 439 just to keep them from getting sharper in case of a temperature change that might shorten the rod. It's a psychological thing that probably doesn't amount to a hill of beans, but that's common with me.

When I'm in good temperature controlled conditions I'll normally touch it up through harmonics. I do check the needle from time to time and if the E drifted, I'll go back to the tuner.
Q: This "straight up 440" tuning that's been discussed I need some clarification on. I'm assuming what you're talking about is:

Since the only true "440" is an A note, whatever the note the tuner is recognizing, that the indicator needle or lights or whatever should be dead on to the centerline, as indicated by the finely honed electronics of the tuning device. This should be in effect for each note of the open tuning (no pedals ) and for each pedal change, no matter how "wrong" it sounds to an individual alone in a room with just the guitar and once that guitar is playing in concert with other well tuned instruments it will sound better in tune than if we tune by our ear.

Am I correct in these assumptions of the details of the tuning procedure under discussion?

BE: That is correct. Another way of saying tuning 440 is "straight up," referring to the needle position for all tuned notes.

Either method has it's pluses and minuses. You have to take your pick and learn to live with whatever problems either of them present.
Q: Now this is sort of a loaded question so if you choose not to respond it is understood.

First of all I think your one of the greats on this instrument, so my question to you is how did you get there? When you started playing I think I read somewhere you were 11 years old. I'm assuming the pedals we have now you did not have at that time? It also looks to me like you where also the one who had a lot to do with the adding of pedals and tunings that are standards today and probably will be for a long time to come. So you are not only a great player you are also an inventor of a lot of these things that we take for granted or call the 'norm' of the day.

Now comes the loaded question. What do you see when you look down at the fret board? What or how do you mentally prepare when you sit down behind your guitar? Whatever it is, I'm not getting it because my progress seems awful darn slow to me. I could sit and practice tab and other source's of teaching aids which I do, but I'm still sort of a trying to catch up with the others approach. Seems to me this is something you sorted out years ago.

It's an awful belabored question, but any input from you would be greatly appreciated. Maybe my approach to this could be changed, or should I just keep slugging away?

BE: I started playing at age eleven on a six string Supro (mother-of-plastic finish), and sort of grew with the evolution of the instrument. Because of not having to divide playing with work, I had nothing but time to devote to learning. I spent most of it wearing a white groove in the middle of a black vinyl record learning solos and turnarounds of my favorite players. Although I never learned the theoretical side of music, I developed an ear for intervals.

When I look at the strings on my guitar, I see intervals. I see strings 1 and 2, 1 and 3, or 4 and 5 as whole tones apart. I see major thirds, minor thirds, and see which fret to put the bar for a certain note between those intervals. I see fourths, fifths, sixths, and octaves telling me what string to play when I hear those notes in a melody. To make this work, you must be able to recognize intervals when you hear them.

I put as much emphasis on the mental part of practice as the physical. If you don't keep your mind active in certain areas, it gets rusty. When I haven't practiced in a while and miss strings, it's not only because my lack of use of certain areas of the hands but because my mind has not walked those paths with my hands for a while. Your hands don't have a mind of their own, they only do what your head tells them to do (with the possible exception of steel guitar shows).

Lastly, I see what I call pockets, which are zones where all strings will work within a given chord. Sometimes I jump around, other times I use strings between the pockets to get from one to the other to better complete a musical thought. It's my road atlas for getting me from point A to point B. Once I'm in those zones, my co-pilot is the interval knowledge I have to help keep me from getting lost.

What you must add to everything above is a lot of listening to different kinds of music, but only the kind you enjoy listening to and not just music per se. You'll be so bored and disinterested in listening to music you don't like that you'll be wasting more time than its worth. If you want to learn more about the steel, listen to country music. If you want to find different licks and perhaps cultivate a different style or approach, listen to anything you enjoy outside of country music.
Q: I just got a new Match-Bro and am experimenting with it. Do you change your tone or reverb settings, and do you use any delay? Any other suggestions would b appreciated.

BE: I set my Match-Bro where the tone is at 12 o'clock and the Timbre control points at a corner. I keep my echo on when I use it on the road because of having to split a Dobro/steel solo back to back. A word of caution regarding the Timbre control: Some Match-Bros were made with controls that worked right-to-left to increase Timbre. In that case, the Timbre knob would point at the opposite corner or position to that posted by those with the left to right controls.
Q: If a guy wanted to get his first Buddy Emmons album, Which one would you recommend ? And where could I order it?

BE: There are three I can listen to all the way through without flinching: Christmas Sounds Of The Steel Guitar, a live album from a steel convention in St. Louis, and a real old one called Emmons Guitar Inc.

I guess it would depend on the kind of music you like to listen to. The Christmas album is obvious in its content, but the second and third are a mixture of different types of tunes and musical styles.
Q: I got your amp settings from Ernie Renn's web page a week or so ago and really had problems with a "boxiness" in the sound. My usual settings are Low-3pm., Mid-9am., shift-800, high-1pm., presence- 2pm. Should I try out your settings with a band to see if they blend in better rather than judge it in my bedroom? One thing I do notice, most sit-in steelers turn my treble down, but when I hear them out-front they are muffled. This is using my Legrande going through a Steeldriver 2.

BE: Tone is such an elusive dream and I guess that's why practically everyone I know is still chasing it. When I bought my push-pull a few months ago, I was using the Blade with E66s. When I plugged the new guitar in it sounded dark and muddy by comparison, which is probably the key-word in describing tone. Nevertheless, I set my rack and amp to where it sounded best to me and after a few jobs, I fell in love with it.

Once you're used to a sound, you compare all new settings to it. Now that I'm used to it I wouldn't want to return to the old one because by comparison, it is brittle and thin.

I don't remember what settings Ernie posted but I now use the bass at clock positions 3, Paramid 12 (variable), shift welded at 12, treble around 12, and Presence at 2 o'clock.

Give these settings a shot on the bandstand and if it's still too boxy, and I have the feeling it will be because of the drastic change, start moving slowly back toward the sound you're used to. As an experiment, try using only the bass, mid, treble, and presence controls. Peavey claims the mid and shift are flat at 12 o'clock and if that is true then you can leave shift at 12 and think of it as only having four controls to fool with. Good luck.
Q: I have a Nashville 400 and I have #@*%ed the settings and can't get them back to a smooth sound. Can you help with where the settings should be?

BE: First of all you're dealing with parametric EQ which from a tech standpoint should be the best EQ you could work with, but it's not; at least for a steel guitar. I've had a Furman, Boss, and TC parametric and for the most part, all they give you is a sound that would look good on paper.

Try starting by playing a low open chord on your guitar and move the bass back and forth around three o'clock until the woofy sound disappears. Then set the rest of your knobs straight up. Forget the shift knob even exists.

Move your mid control in the 11 to 2 o'clock range until you hit a sweet spot. Adjust your treble to put a little grit into the mid sound but not a gritty high. I actually set my treble more toward 11 than 2 o'clock, but it will depend on your guitar and your playing environment. Treble should be called upper mid, so think of it as that and work your mid sound accordingly. Then turn the presence until you get the highs filtering through the mids. Before you go to the shift, move the mid again if you need to regain some warmth. If it still lacks some of the sweetness you started with, move the shift ever so slightly in either direction and if that doesn't do anything for it, take a hammer and break the knob off at the 650 setting.

The parametric EQ was supposedly integrated into the amp to give you more flexibility in choice of sound but it has caused nothing but problems since it came out. These setting problems were unheard of in playing circles when the very first Sessions came out. Everybody in Nashville wanted a Session and once the magic setting was found on four simple knobs, it was wonderful experience.

In spite of it all, it's still the best sounding amp for my guitars. I just remember when it was a lot better.
Q: Do you mean you prefer the original Session 400's over the Nashville? (I have a 70's with a BW and love it.)

BE: Yes. There was a warmth in those amps I haven't heard in a long time. And with the Bass, Mid, Treble and Presence, it was so simple to set.
Q: You mentioned that you just use your PCM80 and Digitech 2112 direct in the studio. I assume that you go through a similar EQ exercise there with the 2112. I've been using one for the past 6 months and I love everything BUT the EQ. Got any tips?

Do you use the tube or solid state preamp? Do you use the in-line 10-band graphic or one of the fancier EQ modules?

I use the tubes with the 10-band and keep trying to boost the lows a bit and then get a little punch out of the high-mids to highs but I seem to always have problems dialing it in just like I want it.

BE: I'm using the tube preamp and 10 band. My low end is +1 at 140 and +2 at 250. 1.5k is +1, 5k is +2, and 8k is +1. These work well with the Emmons humbucking pickups. It has some grit in the high end with those internal settings, but I can smooth it out with the external Bass, Mid, and Treble controls when needed.
Q: Rick Nelson told me years ago that you played on "Garden Party". I always thought it was Brumley (only because he was w/The Stone Canyon Band). So who was it.

BE: It was Tom. I was on a few recordings of Rick's just before Garden Party but I don't recall the titles.
Q: Buddy, one of Pat's approaches to a guitar fretboard that blew me away was to play the diminished 6th chord and then choose any one of the four notes and lower it 1/2 tone, resulting in a dominant 7th, also resulting in having all 12 dominant 7th chords and their associated scales within a 3 fret spread. I never had an opportunity to receive formal theory instruction, so I had never seen that relationship until studying Pat.

I've made an attempt (however feeble) over the years to try to revisualize the C6th tuning in this way, but my old habits (and my conventional pedals and levers) "die hard," to the point that I'm not sure the standard changes are a help or a hindrance.

You were playing linear solos 100 years ahead of the times long before you began listening to Pat. I know it's a cliche to say that we can all learn things from those around us, but:
  1. Did Pat's approach to guitar let you see the 6th tuning differently than before?
  2. More specifically, do you feel that Pat's approach to the diminished chord improves continuity in linear solo's? (of all the amazing things you do, to me, your ability to tie your phrases together at any speed is the essence of music in it's purest form.)
BE: I was very impressed with the diminished to 7th changes. As neat as it is, I can't translate the theory to the C6th.

Pat opened my eyes to the C6th tuning with the live album he recorded years ago. I changed my C6th to a D wound string between the C and E to get some of the lower notes of his solos. The strange part of learning Pat's solos was suddenly I found I could play in minor keys, something I never could do well before. When I met him and told him that he said, "That's because I use minor scales for my solos."

As I gained knowledge of his approach to scales, I put the old C6 tuning back on my guitar and concentrated on using top notes of the tuning. I believe the diminished approach does improve the continuity by working in identical four note clusters, but unless you are into it and understand it like Pat does, it's tough to make it work. At this stage, I can only admire it from a distance.

Pat opened my eyes to the C6th tuning with the live album he recorded years ago. I changed my C6th to a D wound string between the C and E to get some of the lower notes of his solos. The strange part of learning Pat's solos was that I found I could play in minor keys, something I couldn't do well before.

When I met him and told him that he told me it was because he used minor scales for his solos." As I gained knowledge of his approach I put the old C6 tuning back on my guitar and concentrated on using on top notes of the tuning.

I believe the diminished theory does improve the continuity by working in identical four note clusters, but unless you are into it and understand it like Pat does, it's tough to make it work. At this stage, I can only admire it from a distance.
Q: I have two questions:

On the Charlie Rich tune "Every Time You Touch Me I Get High," please tell us how you get that last chord. Fret, stings pedal(s) etc.

I notice you use strings 5 and 8 a lot instead of 5, 6 and 8. Is there a particular reason for this. "Silent Night" is and example on your Christmas CD.

BE: I don't recall what key I played the song in but I can tell you the last chord is strings 4, 5 and 6, pedals down and (e) lowered while rocking on and off pedal (a).

As for the 5 and 8, it's just the way I hear harmony for certain places I play. I try to steer clear of full triads except for 3, 4, and 5, with pedals down, probably as a result of being gun-shy from the way I used to tune. I had the theory the less harmonies involved the better control I had over appearing in tune with everyone else.
Q: Which would be the more suitable amp to buy for a steel guitar, Nashville 400, session 400 or LTD 400? I am coming to Nashville next weekend to purchase an amp. Also, any accessories you would recommend to a "sub novice" player with determination?

BE: I prefer the Session but when buying an amp you have to consider what kind of sound you're sending to it. Brand of guitar, pickups, and the tone you get with your hands are all considerations. I guess it wouldn't be a fair comparison unless you had them all in front of you. I've played through all three models and don't consider any of them a bad choice. My LTD had a 12 inch speaker which was a bit shy on the bottom end but a pedal graphic EQ took care of that.

As for accessories, for live playing I use only one amp with a Boss DD-3 digital delay pedal or a ProFex in the case of the Everly shows. If I were to use two amps I'd use a TubeFex or something similar. You could send the delay from the DD-3 to a second amp also, but when I get into stereo situations, I prefer an offset ping delay.

Another thing I might add that might make me a lesser choice for asking about amps is that outside of the Everly job, which I'm miked and monitored to where I really don't know how I'm sounding, 99% of my other work is going direct into a studio console. The newest Peavey I have is about four, maybe five years old.

When I play at the house, I'm go through a mixer powered by a Peavey preamp and power amp and two Peavey monitor speakers. I feed an FM tuner and CD player to the mixer so when I play I'm a part of the total mix of whatever I'm listening to. That's why today I'm more inclined to talk in terms of a direct sound than that of a stage amplifier.

Whenever I play something like the Ernest Tubb record shop with Darrell, I pick the lightest amp, throw it in the car and that's it. Nothin' fancy, no doodads, no frills, just get on with it.
Q: What do you mean with the FM-Tuner and CD player?

BE: I run a FM radio tuner and a CD player to the inputs of the mixer. Then I either play along with an FM radio station or find a jazz or country CD, and play along with it. With all the music coming from the mixer, it sounds like I'm part of whatever music I'm playing with.

It also helps me find a reference point where I can set the tone of my steel in relationship to the styles of music I play along with. That's one way of finding out how different your guitar sounds in different musical environments.
Q: You once offered an instructional course called "Blues To Use". Is that still available and where I can I get it. Also, is the "Black Emmons" album available on CD? I have the LP but would love to have a CD to play in the car.

BE: "Blues To Use" is no longer available. I've been thinking about putting a "Four Burner Blues" course out consisting of four different chord approaches starting with the basic simple blues changes and progressing to the outside changes you hear in some of the more modern blues tunes. It would end up being a study in minor sevenths, diminished, flat nines, and a lot of other passing chords you could relate to through a simple blues foundation.

I believe Ernie Renn or the Emmons Guitar Company has the CD Black Album available.
Q: Do you have a 10th string lower on any push pull guitar and do you still raise that string?

I love the tone, but oh those splits are not fun to adjust sometimes.

BE: I have the 10th string lower of 1/2 tone on E9th with a whole tone raise, and a 1 1/2 tone lower on C6th with a whole tone raise. It takes just the right length spring in order to make the travel smooth but it doesn't pose too much of a problem leverage wise for me.

I guess the length of the pedal travel one prefers would make the difference in whether its a major problem.
Q: Can you tell us who you feel among the major artists you were around in the mid-fifties were the most supportive of the pedal steel when it was just beginning to be used? Was there resistance to it? Does anyone stand out in your mind (major artist) that was a proponent and supporter of steel guitar players during that period? It seems like it must have been a fascinating and really exiting time in country music history.

BE: In the mid fifties I can't think of anyone who was not supportive of pedal steel. It added such a new and different sound to country that most everybody (with the obvious exceptions) wanted a piece of it. As we explored and found new avenues, the artists interest increased, especially when players like Weldon, Hal Rugg, and others branched off into their different styles. Competition was rampant but it was the best thing that could have happened to pedals. We hung out together like brothers and I must say there has never been an era since then that can compare with those discovery days.
Q: Could you describe your approach to playing backup, for pop songs versus country or swing? I'm interested in how you approached integrating the sound of the steel into the Everly Brothers' songs.

I am the utility player in a band whose specialty is 4-part harmonies. Unfortunately, we don't do enough country or swing. I try to look for the missing holes and fill them appropriately. I also try to identify whether using steel is additive or subtractive on a song. Unless the song demands something else, I try to integrate the steel.

BE: Backing the Everlys or any vocal group is more of a challenge than a mono voice but the rules are the same for most any style of music. I try to stay away from their harmonies and vocal range. Also, low pads work well when more than one voice is involved.

As far as different styles, waiting for the holes and not swarming on top of the lyric is probably the number one rule to go by.
Q: When you talk about padding, are you talking about doing a low volume rhythm behind the singer?

BE: A pad is a chord played and sustained under a vocal. It can sit in one spot or move to another inversion of the same chord or from one chord to another. It kind of "floats" under the lyric. A rhythmic pad is more often referred to as "comping" under a solo.
Q: I've reached the point in my swing and jazz playing that I can play mostly inside with pentatonic, major, blues and minor scale fragments but I have problems integrating more outside licks into my playing. Could you shed some light on whatever door you came through in your jazz quest? I have also learned whole tone and diminished and augmenteds but again have problems integrating. Thanks from John in advance.

BE: Up to the time I heard Pat Martino I was playing more or less "the tuning," which sounds very much like your reference to pentatonic, etc. I could play inside as you say with speed and ease but never with what I thought sounded like an intelligent approach to solos. For some strange reason Pat's scales seemed to open the door for me to a world that was already there and I didn't know it. His substitution of the G five minor seventh chord for C seventh solos was a scale I had played before but never associated it with a minor.

Now I use the Bb major 7th (5th fret, strings 1 through 9) and C9th position (10th fret, pedal 5 pattern) for both Gm7 and C7th solos.

Of course this is probably the tip of the iceberg for what you were inquiring about, but it is a good start on key substitutions. It allows you to sound like you've learned something new when all you've done is played an old pattern in a new location.
Q: I don't want to distract from the GREAT technical stuff you are posting, but a couple of questions from the past. I saw you in 63' or 64' with Ray Price when you and Jimmy were alternating on steel/bass. Jimmy Belkins was playing one fiddle, Cotton? on the other, was that Charlie Harris on guitar? Bush on drums? A great band at the time, and for the times. Also, the one and only time I ever heard you play (live) four wheel drive, you used both feet for the ending chord. What were you doing, and what was that chord?

BE: It was Charlie Harris and Johnny Bush.

As for the chord, unless I was in one of my "horsey" moods, it should have been a C 13th with an augmented 11th, which translates to pedals 6 and 7. Why I used both feet, I don't know.
Q: I've got small mixer, CD, tape rig that I use to practice on. Also, Band in a Box for something specific. Often I will roll a tape during the practice just to see how the guitar is coming across. For me, the hardest thing to do is to play riffs that are interesting to listen to, develop melodic tension and release, have the right feeling...in other words, something I could listen to and feel good about playing.

When you build a tune for yourself, how do you decide what's on your mind that is good, and what is rejected until another song.

BE: I rarely ever create a song while I'm sitting at my steel unless I accidentally run into an interesting or melodic lick. Usually the song or idea pops into my head first and then I sit down and work with it.

Once I get to the point where I want to construct an instrumental, keys are important to me. What unisons can be utilized? Can a note on the neck be used that would serve as a counter-point to an open string raise or lower? How would hammer effects or harmonics fit in somewhere in the arrangement?, or in the solo part?

All these and other things are what I try to utilize in my thought process to keep a song interesting.
Q: You co-wrote "Are You Sure" with Willie Nelson. Did you contribute primarily to the music, and leave the words to Willie? Or, did you did you take a major part in both?

BE: Heh heh! Now here's how to write a song. I was sitting with Willie in a bar when a guy walked up to the booth and plopped down next to me and forced me over next to the wall. I thought it was Willie's friend and he thought he was mine so neither of us said anything. After we both realized he was neither and he kept squirming for more space, I looked at him and said, "Are you about where you want to be?" He said yeah, and I said, "are you sure?" When he said yeah again, I said, "good, now get of here."

After he left Willie said, "that's a good title." I asked him what he was talking about and he said, "are you sure." He followed with, "I'll write it and give you half." I told him no way but he insisted saying an idea is as good as a song. So there you have it.
Q: A while back you wrote about the importance of learning scales and intervals. That is, being able to recognize them when heard, as well as to find them on the fretboard.

What suggestions do you all have for ear training and other interval and scale learning?

BE: The first ear training method I heard years ago was the Rutgers University Music Dictation Series. The instructor started by playing a C and D note on a piano followed with the interval name, major second. Then he continued to play the C along with each following note in the scale and named the remaining intervals. It was a five record set that covered everything you'd care to know about music, but I don't know if it's still available.

For starters, intervals in the E9th tuning, strings 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and 2, in any key are broken down as follows:
    Strings 8 and 7 = major 2nd.
    Strings 8 and 6 = major 3rd.
    Strings 8 with 6 raised 1/2 tone = 4th.
    Strings 8 and 5 = 5th.
    Strings 8 with 5 raised 1 tone = 6th.
    Strings 8 and 2 = major 7th
    Strings 8 and 4 = an octave.
Intervals are simply the space between notes in a scale. In the key of C, the A note is the sixth note or degree as it is commonly called, so a C and A note together is called a 6th. In a theory book you will hear names like perfect and dominant with a few of the above intervals but for the sake of simplicity and because they're rarely discussed in those terms, I've left them out.

Harmonic intervals are two or more notes played at the same time. Melodic intervals are two or more notes played with one preceding the other.

It gets more complicated as you start flatting and sharping notes but what Ižve explained above is the basic foundation behind the overall theory of intervals. I hope this gives you a kick start.
Q: You recorded this "Nashville Bar Association" album with Sonny Garrish, John Hughey, Jimmy Crawford, and Russ Hicks. I heard it in the early 1980s and could not believe my ears.

Sounded like a bunch of quality horns with no steel in sight! I was/am amazed. Any comments on this recording as to how this was done and how you chose that cast of characters to play on it? The picture of you all dressed up like judges is a killer too.

BE: I believe The Nashville Bar Association was Jimmy Crawford and Russ Hicks' idea and because of various schedules of all the players, it took about a year to finish. We just put the songs together, listened, and added as we saw fit.

The was so much overdubbing we ran out of tracks and ended with bits and pieces of everybody on the other's tracks. It was a nightmare to mix but somehow it came out.

Russ played the trumpet on "Horn On The Cob."
Q: When you are recording with a artist (singer), how is the decision made on just how the break, kick-off, or even the ending will sound.? what I mean is, do you give the people there a choice of two or three to pick from, or do you put down what you think sounds the best for that song and go with that? I just wondered how that decision is made.

BE: When I'm assigned an intro, solo, or turnaround, it's up to me to come up with something. Several things affect the outcome of either. I'm conscious of the entire band, including drum and bass patterns. I listen for melodic or rhythmic hooks that the music or singer might trigger for an idea for an introduction.

The intro hook can happen in the melody or the extra empty bar or two that follows the end of the melody. Once I establish an intro and have to play the turnaround, I try to keep an identifiable relationship to it, not necessarily note for note but something eventually relating to the hook. As for the ending, the ideal situation is to integrate some if not all of the hook in order to maintain the musical theme throughout the framework of the song.
Q: When did you first meet Lenny Breau? Is there any live recordings of you and Lenny out there? I'm asking because I've got a live recording of you with Danny Gatton but not with Lenny. Also, how many albums did you record with Ray Charles? That must have been a treat!

BE: I have been on four or possibly more albums with Lenny. One of the titles I remember was Minors Aloud on the Flying Fish label. Another was on a direct to disk project with Buddy Spicher, and the name of the last album had "Lighting" in the title; something like "Lightning Strikes Again." To the best of my recollection I met Lenny in the mid sixties. I have recorded three albums with Ray Charles but can only recall "Volcanic Action Of My Soul" as one of the titles.
Q: How many licks, songs, bands, etc. did you play in that you heard this same complaining about that's not "real country music." And then it turned out that what you played over time became the standard of we now consider country. What innovations that you came up with got the most complaints at first?

BE: I suppose most of the players I know from the early days have played many slightly ahead-of-the-times licks on records. They've all done as I have and that's to keep it filed and wait for the appropriate time to test it again.

The Cherokee Cowboys worked up the arrangement for The Night Life on the road and I know from previous experience if we hadn't had the intro nailed before hand, we would have never been allowed to search for it in the studio. Those chords were unheard of for that period.

I don't remember getting too many complaints about introducing new steel innovations. I did have a midi setup that got a cold shoulder from most producers, probably due more to letting them know I had it to begin with. I had a swiveling volume pedal that gave a full steel sound to the left, full midi to the right, and mixture of midi and steel dead center. The common response was, "If we wanted so-and-so sound, we would have hired that instrument." Funny though, Ižve never heard them say those words to a keyboard player. Anyway, the demand for it wasn't worth carrying eight spaces of rack mounted equipment. Today might be different. . . but I'm tired and I'm weary.
Q: I saw on the forum a few days ago where you said that you tuned your steel totally to 440 pitch. Am I to understand that with a tuner you tune each string on the open E and C necks to exactly 440 pitch and then tune each raise and lower note also to exactly 440 pitch? I have tried this and it really sounds out of tune! Did it take you some getting used to before you were comfortable with it?
BE: It took a long time to make it to sessions tuning that way, mostly because it sounded so strange when I was playing by myself. It doesn't bother me now because I've grown used to it. The day I decided to go 440 was when I was playing with an FM station and Bobby Garrett walked in. I asked him how the tuning sounded to him and he said "fine." Of course when the music stopped he couldn't believe the sound of the thirds. Tuning that way also calls for extreme accuracy with the bar. As Pablo Casals said, "tuning is a matter of conscience." I find I'm more relaxed now knowing my pedals are all equally tempered.

By the way, all the sound files I have in Ernie Renn's site are 440 tempered. Anything harmonically that catches the ear in those files disappears when other instruments are added.
Q: Do you think it is better for novice players to stay at home and practice, practice, practice or is it good to jump out there with the sharks right on the bandstand and sweat it out.

BE: It's a good idea to get a little at home experience under your belt. The way I started was to either have my friends come over to my house or gather at theirs. We had a trio in school, so playing as a group in private helped us when we decided we were good enough to take a chance. Nothing beats the actual experience of playing live in front of an audience. As far as jumping into the shark pit, it all depends on what condition their teeth are in. Some sharks can be pretty fierce when they know you're struggling.
Q: Have you ever adapted John Coltrane's Giant Steps to the steel guitar? If so, how hard was it for you to solo over those wicked changes?

BE: I have been in and out of the tune for so many years I can't remember. About six years ago I found somewhat of a formula for getting from one change to another but lack of keeping on top of it made me lose it in a hurry.

This brings to mind a time when Hal Rugg was at my house a couple months before the St Louis convention. I said to Hal, "I think I'd like to play Giant Steps at the convention this year. His only reply was, "Why?" That was all I needed to trash the idea.
Q: I'm sitting here listening to "Goin' Out Swingin'" and wondering what guitar you used and how it was recorded- great dynamics!

BE: I used a Derby steel on the Goin' Out Swingin' album.Some tracks are studio cuts while others were finished at my home on an Alesis 8 track adat machine.
Q: How do you create a Dim. chord on the E tuning with the E to A pedals up (and down) ? does this give you a four note chord and what are the string combinations?

BE: Strings 9, 6, and 5 with pedals up. With pedals down, strings 4, 5, and 7, with a forward bar slant 1/2 tone on string 7.

The knee lever that raises the two Es one half tone in the open position gives you an F diminished with strings 8, 6, and 5. Add the 9th string and you have a D diminished 7th.
Q: After playing for so many years, are you able to listen to and average tune on today's current crop of Country songs and know what each chord is without sitting at your guitar? Assuming you knew the key? I am having extreme difficulty even at my guitar, determining some of the chords.

BE: Most steel players I know in Nashville can listen to a song and tell by the harmonies, pedal sounds, and the timbre of both, what part of the neck the song or fill is being played. It all goes back to conditioning your ear to intervals associated with the steel guitar.
Q: I have always been intrigued by titles of instrumentals. When a song contains lyrics, a title can be a lot more obvious, but how do you come up with titles for some of the instrumentals you've put together? I've seen stories about "Highland Swing" and "Blue Jade", but what about "Loose Tights," "Top Heavy" and "Kicks to Boot?" Is there a story behind any of these or any others?

BE: There is no particular story behind them other than an oddball sense of humor and somewhat of a knack for catch-phrases. Sometimes I name instrumentals after I've recorded them and heard the arrangement. In that case I just keep listening until an unusual name pops into my head.
Q: There are many steelers it seems who prefer to not use a double stop knee lever on the second string of the E-9th. They say that the D note is out of tune and that it comes out differently every time. I remember going to a Newman seminar where he said the function should be split into two separate knee levers. Do you ever notice this or should we put this into the category of "Don't sweat the small stuff?"

BE: I think it would be a matter of what you were raising or lowering in addition to the split. I am lowering the 9th string which is set to take off at the half tone split. I also have a half tone raise on C6 with the same lever which is also makes contact at the half tone stop. This reinforces the stop and makes it more accurate than if other types of raises or lowers were involved. In my case it stops firmly but I have had problems when it was set otherwise.
Q: I used to talk to Danny Gatton a good bit and he said what kick it was for him to play with you. I wonder what your feeling were about those jams and recordings.

BE: Playing with Danny was always a new experience for me. He was the most unpredictable musician I have ever worked with which once I realized that, became something to look forward to each time.

If you've ever heard Danny play live you know he could drop "Orange Blossom Special" in the middle of "Harlem Nocturne" and then on to "Killer Joe." As many times as I worked with him I found his choice of scrambling tunes came off the top of his head and never as a result of arrangements. He delighted in throwing me curves and I was delighted as much in trying to keep up with him. He was truly one of a kind.
Q: Did you do a show with Tal Farlow awhile back? if so, any recordings of it, and what was that all about?

BE: Dave Burley (last name?) put a show together at the Longhorn Ranch in Dallas quite a while ago. The guitarists were Tal Farlow, Herb Ellis, Les Paul, and Bucky Pizzerelli. The rhythm section was drummer Louie Bellson and bassist Slam Stewart. It was recorded but I'm not sure if ever released. Steel players were Curley Chalker, Doug Jernigan, possibly Julian Tharpe, and myself.
Q: What is your version of a "lick thief"? Do you think that all of us are guilty of that to some degree?

BE: A lick thief is someone who draws from another player to improve upon his playing, which includes myself and just about any musician I've ever known with the possible exception of Jerry Byrd. In all the years I've known Jerry, I've never asked him about a particular person or persons who may have influenced him. My guess is it would have been someone from Hawaii.
Q: In your course on E-9th Chords you mentioned that you weren't fond of the A pedal F knee lever position because of the out of tune nature of that interval. I find myself having that same reaction to flatting the G# string with the split tuning feature. If I tune it to a perfect E minor the five chord you can get one fret above the pedals down position using the E to E flat knee lever,pedals A and B and the G# knee lever split sounds a little off. I realize this probably occurs because of flatted notes combined with already pulled notes. Does this position bother you or have you solved it with 440 all the way across?

BE: I have solved it with the 440 or 438, whichever suits my surroundings better. Once you tune a perfect interval, it will affect anything else that is tuned flat and used with it.
Q: I am aware that you are using the 2112 in the studio. Is it +4db output or the standard -20 and if -20 do you ever have any complaints of not enough signal. Some guys have suggested that I have my More-Me modified to +4 output level.

BE: I use the standard -20 output from the Digitech into the More-Me which is also standard.
Q: Are you going direct? And stereo? If so, how are you splitting the signal to the console and the More-Me? I use a pocket More-Me, and sometimes derive a dry signal off the insert in the Evans preamp, or use passive splits on the output of my final effect, if I want to hear a lot of effects.

BE: My rack chain is Digitech, Lexicon PCM 80, and More Me. The stereo outs of the Digitech go to the stereo ins of the Lexicon and the stereo outs of the Lexicon go to stereo ins of the More-Me. From there I send the XLR stereo outs from the More Me to the board.
Q: What's a More-Me?

BE: A More Me is one space rack mount piece that receives the steel signal and as well as the output of the board via the headphone box. You then plug headphones into the More Me and control the level of your steel with the track to suit yourself in your personal headphone mix.