George's Pedal Steel Guitar Web Site

Out of the frying pan and into the fire!!!

After a few weeks of practicing with the Jeff Newman course and backup tracks I decided to record my self and needless to say I sounded like the stuff that is in the hole below an out house seat. Time to look for some more help.

Finding a teacher in the state of Conecticuit is next to null and any one close was at least a 2 and a half hour drive so it was back onto the forum for some questions and answers. The answer was to record using headphones with the steel in one ear and the backup in the other or to have a mix and NO REVERB. Great advice and a few hundred dollars more and I had a mixer, a new amp with a line output and Band in a Box as well as Power Tracks Pro Audio 7. Great, I'm all set and ready to try again. I still played badly but sounded more in tune with the backup tracks that I was now playing with. It was now practice every day for 2 to 3 hours after work and 5 to 6 hours on Saturday and the same on Sunday. All this time I was getting better and not catching strings and learning the neck. By this time 8 months have passed and I decided to see if I was any good so I opened up a web page on AOL who gives you 2 meg of free space per screen name free and put a song on it that I recorded. I went up on the forum and let it be known and asked for help, which I got plenty of. The forum is a great place. It was suggested that I search out a jam session as 4 hours there would teach me more than a month worth of practice. Why not? I'd been playing for 8 months and knew my way around the guitar or so I thought.

My wife and I camp in upper New York state on the weekends and I always brought the steel up to practice on while there. Another steel player happened to hear me one day and told me of a local jam session so I decided to check it out. I packed up my steel and amp and headed down to the local jam the next weekend. Now, my idea of a jam session was a few musicans and you play. Yea, Right. I get into the place and there must have been 50 couples sitting around tables with drinks and waiting for the band to start. This is not my idea of a jam session and thought I was in the wrong place but decided to stick around and see what happened. Well, about 9 pm the singer for the band comes out and welcomes everyone to the Friday night jam session. Okay, I'm here and my stuff is in the van, lets not be to hasty, lets see what they play. The band starts playing and it's all traditional country and slow as well. Songs like "Storms Never Last" and things that I knew I could play. This is great only a few up tempo songs but 99% slow stuff. The band takes a break and I decide to introduce myself and see if I can sit in. Yes, did you bring your guitar, of course, go get it and set up. Well, I set up the guitar and all the time I'm shaking like crazy. The lead guitar player had suggested that I could use his amp and I thought that would be fine as it saved me from bringing mine in. Bad move. His amp was set up behind me and he had a delay or seemed to because it sounded as if it took a second after I picked a note before I heard any thing come out. The break is over and time to play and every person in the place is looking at "ME"!!! My right hand is shaking like crazy, my left hand is twitching, God only knows what my feet were doing but I do know that knee levers where moving back and forth about 1000 miles per hour and I hadn't played a single thing yet. Well the band had been playing mostly slow stuff all night so I'm thinking I should be able to keep up. First song comes up and the band takes off at about 90 miles per hour. At this point I'm thinking what did I get myself into. I don't remember what the song was now nor do I care to remember. I can tell you that I couldn't get a note out if I tried. Next song and it's a slow one. Great or so I thought. I'm still about as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs but I know I can play this thing. Well, the song was in the key of G and it's been said to use a little vibrato to help out with tuning and fret position. My hand was over the third fret and it went about 3/4 of the way up the neck and almost off the peg head end on the oppisite end. Somewhere in there was the G on third fret that I past at least 1500 times in less than a second and I some how came to the conclusion that, this much vibrato they didn't mean. My right hand was grabbing for string groups that I never knew existed and certainly didn't practice, in other words I was hitting every string there was on the guitar and then some and none of the string groups were the ones that I wanted. I got real quite and you could barely hear the steel. A few more songs and I started to calm down and every once in a while you could hear the steel. Well, the singer also happend to hear it and say's lets give it to the steel player when he gets to the break in the next song. My eyes just about popped out of my head and I shook my head so fast back and forth in a no way fastion that I thought I would have spun my head totally around. I'm thinking let's not and say we did, needless to say the lead guitarist took the break. Some where towards the end of the night I actually started playing and I winged my way through the last song of the night with the steel coming through loud and clear. The first eperience was nerve racking as well as a massive learning tool at the same time and unfortunately it ended way to quickly. The next weekend I went back and decided come hell or high water I was going to play as I knew I could. I got to the place early and set up and loosened up with my own amp. That night was much better and you could actually hear the steel coming through the intire night, be it good or bad, I was playing and enjoying what I was playing. Comments from the pattrons after the end were all positive and all had said that I had done much better.

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