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The C Scale Tuning for Pedal Steel Country Guitar

May 7, 2008
In this article, I will talk about using C Scale tuning for pedal steel country guitar playing. This tuning lends itself easily to most musical forms, including classical, new age, jazz, and adult comtemporary. In modern pop and dance music, it turns the pedal steel guitar into a versatile controller for the latest electronic effects.

Once the tuning is learned, fast scale runs with tight harmonies are nearly as easy on the pedal steel as they are on a piano keyboard. In progressive rock, the steel guitarist can work a level playing field with other band members without fear of accidently "countrifying" the band's sound. The tuning is likewise at home in orchestral music, show tunes and film scores.

On the other hand, it's nearly impossible to coax the Nashville pedal steel sound from this tuning. Country dobro and blues licks are available, of course, but the characteristic full step bend is missing. The western swing style is also compromised because it relies on full step pedal changes within strummed chords. Bluegrass, with its reliance on fast arpeggios and pentatonic runs, is another form that's harder to play in the C Scale tuning than in the standard Nashville E9th.

A scale-based pedal steel tuning has firm historical roots and a solid foundation in music theory. The C Scale tuning in particular can be applied to either inexpensive or professional level instruments for musicians who have little interest in country music but want to play the pedal steel guitar. It permits a wide variety of musical expression and makes it easier to play fast diatonic music in any key.

Mastery of a scale-based tuning can expand a steel guitarist's musical vocabulary. For professional country musicians, it's a good choice for the rear neck of a double neck instrument. For those involved exclusively in other forms of music, the C Scale tuning effectively blocks the accidental use of undesirable country music cliches, especially the "full step bend".
About the Author
Are you a country music lover? Want to play sensational country guitar licks? Download professional country backing tracks at Planet of Rock. These are great for karaoke or as guitar backing tracks!
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