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Volume Pedal Equilibrium Point
My recently acquired pedal
steel guitar (from hereon: PSG) was set up
with a copedent suiting the needs of the
previous owner. I adapted all this to my needs,
and alongside I installed a raiser kit to
accommodate my leg size. All worked well - until I
put my volume pedal beneath. Read on how I solved
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Setting the "action" of the PSG
has limited mechanical headroom to
accomodate your legs, plus you want
to comfortably reach and operate
your pedals and knee levers.
There is an optimal distance for
this. The PSG is, so to speak,
tailored to the size of a person,
and if you are taller than this
person, you wonīt be able to play
the guitar well, or not at all as in
my case. This headroom is crucial to
playing in a relaxed position.
On a well done setup, everything is
optimized, the levers are hit by the
legs at the right point where
distance vs. ease of activation is
Note that at this point you might
have raisers installed that adapt
the guitar to your bodyīs properties
(- and shoes).
case, I needed 4cm
raisers. (not shown
Since this very much affects the
playability of the guitar, we can
call this setting the action, although
instruments this term
would mean something entirely
At this point, no other devices have
been accounted for.
Weīll see next why this is
If you are playing
a PSG you may want to use a volume pedal. But you donīt
just slide this under the guitar like so.
knee (actually, upper leg) rises by the
height of the volume pedal.
Unfortunately, the higher your knee, the
harder the knee levers are operated due to
the law of levers (pun intended), to a point
where you neither can operate the volume
pedal well nor the levers.
In the worst case, your (right) knee
bumps into the undercarriage, where you
cannot play the guitar at all.
So we need more overhead here.
Or in less technical terms
for the mere mortal:
product of the
weight and its distance from the
equal to the
product of the other
weight and its distance from the
Physics law of levers
your knee to the undercarriage
the harder you have to press the
And every centimeter matters..."
The Pedal Steel Guitar Playerīs
law of levers
Obviously, the PSG was not
originally designed to account for a bulky object
like a volume pedal, and equally obvious, that
issue has never been responded to on a broad
scale, as little as an on-the-fly height
adaptation without having to insert a raiser kit.
are inserted (commonly referred to as
"raisers", "risers" or "extenders" to
compensate for the volume pedal (letīs call them the
However, those are meant to compensate
for individual leg lengths, not for
a volume pedal, because you might
already have fine-tuned raisers there
for this purpose.
(In my case this would have meant
another 4cm raisers on top of the action
raisers. My drum throne would have run
out of adjustment travel besides
resembling a bar stool...)
I was striking a half-way compromise,
which was better, but the headroom was
still too low, RK levers hard to
operate, and LK levers increasingly hard
Next problem was that due to the
imbalance of the leg heights the rim of
the throne was creating discomfort on
the left leg.
This is a ball and chain, and people live with it,
thinking there is no cure.
Steel Guitar players, fret not!
There is a cure, and a strikingly simple one
I cursed the damned volume pedal that
had blown all my beautiful setup sky high and wished
it would disappear into a crevasse in the ground -
stop! Thatīs it!
So the first thought that came to mind was that, with
the guitar set up properly, the volume pedal should
disappear into a cavity in the floor plane under the
guitar more or less flush.
An intuitive approach would be making a pedestal that
rises the floor inclusive guitar and chair, with a
cutout for the volume pedal, so that the pedal
disappears flush. Hmm, working but cumbersome.
But it so happens that the chairīs spindle (for at
least the drum throne I use) is length adjustable, so
are the steelīs legs. Perfect. This enables us to make
the volume pedal relatively lower by raising
point I have to mention, that it is beyond
my comprehension how people can put up with
the otherwise very appealing dedicated steel
guitar chairs, when they are not variable in
height. Are all people made equal? You have
to raise your guitar but sit too low?
Buyers, demand, manufacturers,
leg and floor pedal raisers
(extenders) shown in place.
is the solution.
of lowering the volume pedal
until it is out of the way (flush
the floor) we raise the other
elements by the same amount.
Superficially, this picture looks not much
different than the ones before, but look
close. The distance between the pedal
bar plane and the floor plane
has increased by the amount of the plane
risers, which are chosen the same
height as the volume pedal.
This moves the guitarīs pedals into a
position that would be impossibly high,
but a footrest the same height as the
plane risers (i.e. the volume pedal)
compensates for that.
Now, relatively speaking, both
feet are again at the original and ideal
height, but the volume pedal is removed
from the equation.
Note that action raisers you may have
installed beforehand are untouched
by this procedure. This guarantees optimum
playability independent of the volume
The practical solution then is:
- Adapt the
PSGīs height to your bodyīs demands.
Ignore the volume pedal for the moment. A good
rule of thumb often mentioned is that the arms
should be in parallel with the string in a
plane, but most important, the levers should be
in a position where your legs can access and
operate them effortlessly. This action
frequently requires the addition of raisers on
the legs above the pedal bracket, plus a
comparable extension nut for the pedal
rods. Set up
this way, things are automatically in
balance for both legs.
- Next, measure
your favorite volume pedalīs maximum height.
Find a suitable raiser of same size.
Mount this under your pedal bracket (see
pictures). Now your pedals will stick out far
too high, which looks weird at first sight.
- Find a piece
of bug-infested plywood or mahogany of suitable
size, a spare cooking plate or some weighty tome
of the required height and use it as a rest
for for left foot. Aim for a height
comparable to the volume pedal.
your stool so that your upper leg is
approximately horizontal for a start and then
ratchet up and down until it feels perfect. (At
this point you may find, that your stool is less
suitable than you thought.)
Make the foot rest more perfect and stable,
paint it together with your kids, add non-slip
stuff to the floor side, secure it to the
steelīs legs or whatever, add a tactile
orientation point so that your foot finds the
pedal, get creative! And, most important: let
probably used a computer or typewriter for
years. Did you ever consciously notice
that the "F" key and the "J" key have some
feelable markings (a prominent dot or
something) there that allows your fingers
to find the starting position quickly
without looking? More stuff to ponder...
thereīs your plane shifter. Really
elevates your playing too. And I mean it.
works great! Conversion time: 10
minutes, live setup time: unchanged,
cost: next to nothing, weight: little,
D.I.Y. factor: very high, benediction:
all-embracing, satisfaction: guaranteed.
footrest is still "prototype". It
probably needs to be attached to the PSG
frame to stay in place.
wait.... There is one thing we never
addressed: your footwear. Either
never play with high heel boots, or if,
never play without! Another plea for
on-the-fly height adjustment.
Volume Pedal Equilibrium Point
It turns out
that the expression pedal on the MultiFX-device I
use (technically a perfect volume pedal) is
clearly designed for a person operating it from a
position standing right behind the unit. The
pedalīs equilibrium point (full toe
position) thus maintains a certain angle towards
ground, which makes sense because the lower leg
meets the pedal at this very angle.
But not for a
seated player where the lower leg meets the pedal
perpendicularly, such as under a PSG. This changes
the useful pedal sweep and feeling substantially.
get away with
it well for a
front. But you
are limited on
Again, the remedy is easy. A
small spacer corrects the tilt to taste.
I like it best when the full toe down
position points a hair downwards, but I
encourage you to play with that to find
your own sweet spot. This also depends
on the taper of the volume
model might call for
or none at all.
the way, such
a device wonīt
not for those
who have a lot
Read more on this
subject in a steel guitar
line designates floor plane
arrow points to tilt spacer
click on the images to enlarge
noticed, that when engaging the RKL lever I exert
a sideways force onto the pedal it would not
encounter under its destined purpose of usage,
which gives it a tendency to make it tipping to
the right. To counter this, I functionally
broadened its base plate by extending the spacer
plate to the right side. Done. You see, those
changes can be done optically unobtrusive
and quickly undoable. The spacer plate can be
attached with velcro or double-sided tape.
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- June 18, 2021 initial release