This library is all about capturing and performing the unmistakable sound of the pedal steel guitar, a classic of American music for over 100 years. The instrument originated in the Hawaiian Islands as a regular guitar, de-fretted and played with the edge of a dull knife to produce a signature sliding tone. It then evolved into the Dobro, followed by the lap steel guitar, before arriving finally at the pedal steel we know today: complete with electrified output and pedal control.
As the name suggests, pedal steel guitars rely on not just the hands to fret and play melodies and chords, but also the feet and knees to trigger pedals and levers. By doing so, the performer can produce unlimited inversions and chords under expressive sliding melodies. Our goal with our Pedal Steel was to offer this level of flexibility, without requiring intimate knowledge of the techniques required to play the actual instrument!
In creating this library, we recorded a modern standard 10-string E9 pedal steel (Nashville tuning) through a DI box, later re-amped with Fender and MESA/Boogie tube amps. The amps were recorded at their speaker output using a reactive load box so that they can be used with any cabinet IR including our own Console FX rack and mixer.
Capturing all the nuance and flexibility of a pedal steel guitar was a huge challenge, but making it playable on a standard MIDI controller was an even greater hurdle. Our goal with this library was to offer easy playability without requiring intimate knowledge of a pedal steel guitar. To that end, it has a few key design concepts:
1. There is no visual fretboard, as we wanted the focus to be on simply playing the instrument.
2. Multiple modes of playing depending on whether you want monophonic leads, polyphonic chords, or lead + harmonies.
3. An innovative harmony system that uses simple keyswitching with a powerful editor to produce nearly unlimited voicings.
The project’s goal was to create an expressive instrument that doesn’t distract you with unnecessary complexities. We hope we came close, and that you will find this virtual instrument inspiring and enjoyable!
How to Play
Pedal Steel uses a unique layout allowing you to create harmonies underneath melodies without using multiple tracks. Of course, the instrument can be used in simple polyphonic mode (for chords w/ legato) or monophonic mode (for leads), but the real star is Harmonized Mono mode.
In this mode, the right hand plays the instrument's melody range (blue keys), while the left hand controls harmony triggering (yellow keys) and tonic note (red keys).
By holding a harmony (yellow key) and playing a melody note, a harmony will automatically be triggered under the melody note. The specific harmony is based on the tonic note, harmony key(s) and melody key played. For example, Harmony 1 will simply trigger the tonic note underneath the melody you're playing, while Harmony 4 will trigger major thirds built from the melody.
You can edit how these harmonies are created with our flexible Harmonization editor, but the possibilities are endless even with the default 11 harmony setups - and you can hold multiple keys at once to seamless switch between no harmony or huge sliding chords!
Console: Modular FX Rack and Mixer
Console is our new mixer and modular effects rack, designed to give you full control over your instrument tone and space. Unlike our previous FX racks, which were limited to a small amount of preset modules, Console gives you 30 effects modules to choose from!
These include multiple EQs (digital and analog-style), compressors, spatial FX, modulation FX, amps, distortion pedals, reverbs, and a selection of over 30 custom cabinet IRs! Using Console, you can easily save and load FX chains or presets between projects or even different Console-enabled ISW instruments. It also allows you to mix and blend between mic positions, with custom inserts on each if you'd like.
Download the Console manual here to learn more!