Watch the Pedal Steel Bends: 1 online guitar lesson by Johnny Hiland from Ten Gallon Guitar
Another aspect of chicken pickin’ guitar is where we get to do steel guitar licks. This brings us into doing a lot of bending. getting into doing steel guitar bends, the most important thing to remember is preciseness. I am using a guitar that has a tremolo, so bear with me as I compensate theses bends. What I do to get start in this is to take a note, I'm going to play an A sus ii, and bend the 2nd note up to a Major 3rd. Let's practice that first and see if we can match the note. Here's the 3rd, now let's bend the G up to match that. Do it again. You want to make sure there is no wobble in a note. If the note starts to wobble, then you are under or over shooting the bend. Let's make it go up a little further now. Now, that is one of the most crucial things - to be able to match the bend perfectly with no wobble. The first steel guitar bend is done by using the 4th finger and 3rd finger on the 4th fret (little E and B string) and use the 2nd finger on the G string on the 4th fret to bend up a whole tone. If you need to use your 1st finger you can do that for strength and stability. Personally, I like the keep the 1st finger hanging loss and bring it up which makes the neck feel good and grip it better. If you need to bring your thumb up around to grip the neck harder you can do that. Let's now take that same position and go to D. We'll move that down to a D position, which is on the 10th fret. There is some cool things we can do with this. Next thing, is playing the bend just as a whole and swooping with the pick on the G B and E, then grabbing the ghost note on the G while reaching down with the 1st finger to the 8th fret. Now we are playing a bvii note in there, then move that down with the 1st finger to the 7th fret (on the little E string) while reaching up with the 3rd finger to the B string 10th fret. Do that same bend on the G 9th fret G string and release it down and we'll have the D barre chord down on the 7th fret. Try that all together. To add to this you can playing the D barre chord again and reach down with the 3rd finger to the 9th fret and pulling that down just a half tone, release it, and then ... what I'm doing before I do that is playing the D note which is a A note D string 7th fret on the D string, I'm hitting that note and then doing the bend, releasing it and then reach up with the 2nd finger to the 8th fret A string and slide in or roll it to the 3rd finger on the 9th fret A string. As I roll that in, I play the D note underneath that which is on the 7th fret then bend the G string right underneath that on the 7th fret down a whole tone. I pull that down a whole tone and then release it. You can connect these bends as well. I'm going to play that whole thing again real slow so you can grab onto it. Now sometimes I prefer not to grab this note in the middle so you can just hammer-on it and leaving the A note out of there. Everything I am doing within the steel bends also gives you a layout where you can line yourself up. We'll talk about that in a bit.. That will take you across the D span. We can do move with that, we can look at the D from this perspective... grab the G string on the C note, which is G note 5th fret and bend it down a whole tone. When we do that we reach with the pinkie finger while the 3rd finger is on the 7th fret D string (A note), we've released the G bend off the 5th fret G and reach down with the pinkie finger and grab the 7th fret B string underneath that. That gives us a D vii. Then you can slide that D vii position, hit the open E underneath and that opens you up to slide your 3rd finger down; sliding that down chromatically from the 7th to the 6th to the 5th fret. Now we are going to slide in now on the same D string from the 3rd to the 4th fret in to that and reach down with the 3rd finger and bend up on the G a half tone from the 6th to the 7th. That sound really cool when you play it together. All of this is just simulating what the steel guitar player will do. The other cool trick is you can use your pinkie finger on your volume knob and create some really cool sounds. If you shake it, vibrato the note, as you roll the volume knob up it sounds more like a steel guitar. It gives you a neat sound. There are steel bends you can use in every key, like the first one we taught, you can slide that any way you want to go. What I am doing to make it sound different is not hitting them all together, rather playing it real percussively. That last lick I played in A, the A note 5th fret high E string and bounce that off with the 3rd or 4th finger, to the 8th fret E string, bend a whole tone with the 2nd finger on the G string 7th fret, pull it up and then release it. Then play a note bent a little bit down with the 5th fret G string and then hit the A note 7th fret D string. That is definitely an old classic country music lick. One thing I love to do when teaching steel guitar bends is to take a chord for example and show you how to manipulate those chords. Let's take an A sus ii chord for example. Take that chord and bend the sus ii in the a Major iii. We can move this position down to the 7th fret. All I'm doing is hitting the A open, 1st finger on the A note (D string 7th fret) 3rd finger on G string 9th fret, to bend down a whole tone. Slide that down two frets to the 5th and 7th. When you release this you have to release it back to the 6th fret on the G. Have fun with the chord shapes too. If you are in C, you can start in C (see video sample). I did that same thing that we did in D but moved it down two frets to C. You can have fun moving these around and using in different chord shapes.