Pedal Steel Played With No Fingerpicks

I have used an old set of National fingerpicks for about 30 years now. They are pretty crude and probably not the latest technolgy nor are they the smoothest against the strings. My favorite thumb pick is the blue Herco design. It doesn't hold its shape for more than about a year so I replace it about that often. Dependng on how slippery my fingers are when I sit down to play, I might throw some Gorilla Snot on them so the picks won't slip off or rotate. I never use fingerpicks when I practice. It's just one less thing I have to fiddle with when I sit down to play. So I decided to try recording a song playing pedal steel with no fingerpicks. One of the biggest things I noticed is that I have a little less reach without fingerpicks. This forces me to stretch my hand and fingers a bit more when reaching up to the high strings. I also think I get a bit more attack or grit with fingerpicks. On the other hand they are annoying to wear and almost impossible to get totally comfortable with and I have tried a bunch of other types than the Nationals including the Dunlop gauged and the plastic coated ones.

I am not a proponent of using or not using finger picks. I keep my fingernails extremely short and they are not specially tapered or prepared for picking the steel guitar. Too many times I have heard great pickers using them and a few times super great pickers not using them. It's like amps, cords, bars, foot volumes, metal versus wood neck and the like and all the other choices people make and prefer to use. You can great great tone using a variety of equipment. This is just an exercise I did for entertainment and a chance to hear what a fingerpick-less recording would sound like. Sometimes a practice seesion without picks sounds one way live and then totally different when recorded and played back. This recording was made on my MSA Legend guitar, George L's cords, Goodrich pot pedal, RV-5 hall reverb, Fender Steel King amp, Shure SM-57 mic into a Zoom R64 recorder. Final mix in Reaper then converted to mp3 at 320 kbps. All instruments are real except the drums are EZDrummer with a ton of manual edits on some simple stock patterns. The fiddle is an NS 5 string electric and the guitar is a Fender MIM tele both recorded into a silver face Fender Princeton Reverb amp with Hall Of Fame reverb set on Church. (How I wish I had bought a REAL fiddle with a mic on it but I got so tired of finding one that had good response and a setup that was ready to go. The NS is pretty accoustic sounding as electrics go but does not come anywhere near the gritty country tone of a real fiddle).

Some Information On The Recording Process For This Song

This song ended up using 38 tracks in Reaper:

  • 9 tracks for drums (EZDrummer)
  • 6 tracks for piano (3 stereo tracks panned left and right) - recorded in segments to give my hands a rest!
  • 3 bass tracks with a main track and the 2 short walk ups done separately for ease of recording
  • 1 track for rhythm guitar capoed up to the 2nd position - recorded with an accoustic into a condensor mic
  • 9 tracks for fiddle - 3 parts each with 3 part harmony - I actually copied the first part into the ending and edited it to fit
  • 1 track for lead guitar with Ambience plug-n Amoebe delay added to the recorded Hall Of Fame reverb
  • 9 tracks for pedal steel including 2 overdub parts - one to thicken the sound and one to add augmented harmony - Ambience plug-in Amoebe hall reverb added to the recorded RV-5 reverb

A lot of the tracks could easily have been combined at the Zoom R24 but it's much easier to do the final mix with each part on a separate track. Every track had a compressor added to it but at most very mild compression was added in Reaper. Most of the leveling and peak control was done using very tedious volume envelopes. The Piano was EQ'd to boost 5 db at 1 khz and 5khz.

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