Discover setup and understand the pedal steel
The Copedent (Chord Pedal Arrangement)
From Robert Randolph to C/B/A copedent (like Jimmy day setup), or simply add or remove action on a knee or foot change That's what steel players called copedent. Copedent is a term coined in 1970 by Tom Bradshow in an Guitar Player article. It means conciseness "Chord Pedal arragement". Each player has his own copedent or use a standard like Emmons, Sho-bud...
Overall tuning of the strings:
8,10,12,14 strings (it depend your pedal steel model) ,the custom models may be more or less. For a standard pedal steel either a double or a single neck 10
strings is the most current setup. The gauge for each strings. Specifying if the strings are used Wound (denoted W) or plain strings (denoted P).
Actions of pedals and kneelever:
Create different alterations on strings . These alterations could be noted on the copedent like this: (+) halftone fitted by a pedal or a knee (+ + for a tone)
and (-) By halftone semitone lowered by pedal or kneelever (- for ton declined).
like half/stop are of course also noted on his copedent.
We also note the frequency of every strings with and without alterations on the chromatic tuner. Generally it will be reported in Herz (for example 336.5 for
a F).Some prefer "cent" notation instead of HZ.
Copedent chart exemple (frequency in red)Try to report your own copedent as soon as you can
The roding chart
The roding chart is used to define the undercarriage rods arrangement and more precisely the hole you choose on Bellcranck and changer to get the best résult and desired setup. There's no real universal convention to write a roding chart so every player must write is own copedent. Anyway, here we will try to establish a way to write his copedent.
The guitar is turned and the number is from the guitar board to you. Now the person who read our roding chart knows in wich way we have to work on our steelguitar.
Write like this:
P1: 10 33 533
We can read for P1 (pedal 1), string 10 like this:
Pedal 1 / Sttring 10 / Position 3 on bellcrank (from the guitar to us) / Position 3 on changer (from the guitar to us). it's very simple !!
For the rest our roding chart will be note like this:
P2 613 343
P3 522 443
LkL (for me E to F) 812 422
LKR (for me D# to D and D to C#) 955 255 (with half stop: 955 245)
LkV (for me B to A#) 545
RkL (for me E to Eb) 845 455
RkR (F# to G# and G# to G) 715 143
For the bellcranck: the hole close to the steel body will give you easier action but need more course and the hole far from the steel body will give you stiffer action but shorter course.
For the changer: The hole close to you will give you easier action but need more course and the hole close to the changer will give you stiffer action but shorter course.
All pull changer is is currently the most modern and most used system on a Pedal Steel guitar, for many reason i would say. When compared to the push-pull system, all pull allows greater ease of adjustment and more choice. In a all pull system the raise and the lower are two separates systems accorded to You can have many choice on a push pull too but it need brainstorming session and hat trick to get the best results. All pull system is not tune in the same order than push pull (more logical). First is the string open tune (no pedals, no knee) with the keyhead; and the second step is the nylon tuning adjustement with pedal and/or knee engaged. On a Push-pull system you need to engage first the pedal or knee for tuning the string and adjust your open string with no pedals or knee using the screws behind the changer. It's two different technology with two different turn of mind (and certainly two different steel guitarist afficionados).
We can find two main changer type for all pull system:
1.Wraparound "All-pull" Changer finger:
The raise finger is around the finger shaft and resides next to the control finger. This system is maybe less sophisticated than the rivet system. You can find it on Super pro Sho bud and many others models such as Emmons Lashley, Carter pro...
-Onlly one rivet to connect the raise and the lower finger.
-Only 1 return stop for the lower.
2.Riveted "All-pull" finger changer
It contains 2 rivets for the Raise finger:
- 1 which connects the raise finger to the lower finger
- 1 which connects the raise finger to the control finger.
- Two return stop (one for the raise and one for the lower).
1. Tune the Changer
For the pedal or knee lever that you are setting up, reach under the guitar and push the bridge finger for one of the strings you plan to raise, left all the way until it hits the body of the guitar. Hold it there and tune with the left hand at the keyhead- tune the string to the note you want it hit when you raise it. Next release the bridge finger and tune the string with the raise tuning screw on the guitar endplate to the open unraised note. Repeat the above for each string you want to raise with the pedal or knee lever. For any string you want to lower with the pedal or knee lever reach under the guitar and pull the bridge finger for that string right toward the endplate until it reaches the note you want it to lower to. Withyour other hand reach over and turn the endplate tuning screw for the lower (the upper screw of the two endplate screws) so that it is touching solidly the lower finger held with you other hand.
This step, although it is often overlooked by inexperienced owners, is extremely important. When you complete this step you will have a physical and visual guide to successfully completing the setup. Physically all the raises and lowers have already been set to where you want them to be. Visually you can now set up the guitar without constantly turning it over and checking your progress. In fact once the changer is set you should not have to turn over the guitar until you finish as you can see where everything is suppose to be while you are working on it.
2. Release All Collars and Pedal/Knee Lever Stops
On each raise and each lower of the pedal or knee lever you are setting up, undo the screw in the collar nearest the bellcrank. Then release the screws on the collars that set the travel length for the knee lever (if that’s what you are setting up). If you are setting up a pedal, back out the large screw that sets the travel length on that pedal so that it no longer hits the bar on the front apron of guitar.
This is a common pitfall with inexperienced owners. When they get one string or pedal working exactly the way they want it to they do not want to change it for fear of losing what they have worked so hard to get. The most common scenario you will run into is as follows after many hours of work you have several pedals and knee levers set up perfectly BUT on the last one you suddenly realize that the only way can you can get at some screw that will let you complete their final task is to removenumerous rods on the pedals you have just set up. You have to get used to it and just plunge ahead. If you follow this method it will become second nature and probably resemble a root canal – not necessarily fun, but necessary.
3. Set Up Longest Pull
Determine which string of the strings you are raising or lowering has the longest travel. This will be the string with the thinnest gauge. Next set and tighten up the screw on the collar on the bellcrank of this string so that when you push the pedal/knee lever the changer finger hits the appropriate point (either the body for a raise or the lower tuning screw for a lower) that you set when you set the changer. After this you may want to tighten the screw on the travel length collar or the pedal travel screw, so that it hits its final stop at precisely the same time as the changer finger reaches its final stop. You may also wait until you have set all the other pulls before doing this, however the distance will be the same.
What you want to hear at this point when you depress your pedal or knee lever, isa distinctive click. This is music to an Emmons owners ears. This click is the sound of the travel adjustment screw hitting its final stop. If the pedal feel is good and you here the click it usually means it is setup right. On a pedal with a string lower, listen closely to make sure the click is coming from front apron or the knee lever stop and not from the changer. If its coming from the changer, it means that the lower rod is hitting the endplate tuning screw before the travel adjustment screw is hitting its final stop. Adjust to correct.
4. Set Remaining Pulls
Now set all the remaining raises or lowers so that the fingers they are actuating reach the final tuned points at precisely the same time as the longest pull you set above.
It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to have all the raise/lower pulls reaching their final travel points along with the travel adjustment collars or screws, at exactly the same time. If you don’t the pedals or knee levers become stiff and eventually, because they are working against each other, will work their way out of adjustment. Now set all the remaining raises or lowers so that the fingers they are actuating reach the final tuned points at precisely the same time as the longest pull you set above.
5.Tune and Check
Tune the guitar and go over all the pulls, even the ones you have not set up, as one adjustment on one pedal may effect other pulls, (even on the other neck of the guitar). If everything works:Problem:
The most common problem you will encounter after this is where one of the strings you have set up to raise with one knee lever or pedal, will not work properly when you want to lower it with another knee lever or pedal.
With the Emmons push pull guitar the changer was designed so that a raise will have priority over a lower. That is, if you lower a string with one pedal and then raise it with another, the raise will work as if you haven’t lowered it. Knowing this you can see that with the above problem you are going to have to make the raise travel of the common string longer to allow the lower to work properly.To first identify if this is your problem, look at the changer fingers. On an Emmons push pull the changer consists of two parts-a raise finger (the one with the hook attached to it) and a lower finger (the one with the lowering rod pushing against it, close to the body of the guitar). When you make a lower these two parts stay together throughout their travel. If at the end of their travel you can see them pull away from each other, no matter how minutely, you must adjust the raise pull travel. (if they don’t separate, the problem usually is that you do not have enough travel to complete the lower and the appropriate collar or pedal travel adjustment screw will have to be adjusted). To do this identify the string with the thinnest gauge on the pedal or knee lever that is raising the string in question (Remember to undo all the screws on the collars and the travel adjustment screws like you did above). This string may in fact be on the other neck (some pedals or knee levers operate on both necks) and appear totally unrelated but it is the only way that this problem will be resolved.
Again what you have to do is increase the travel on this pedal. To do this you move the collar at the bell crank on this pull a little further from the bell crank. Now reset the pedal stop screw as you did above. From here set up all the other collars the way you did above. Now check and make sure that everything completes its travel at precisely the same time. If you have allowed enough travel on the raise, the original problem will have been corrected.
When you have completed the setup as described above you can substantially improve the feel of the pedals by doing some minor adjustments. They take a lot of patience and practice but the benefits will be self evident.
Improve pedal feel:
On a raise that has been set up, hold the collar and undo the set screw that holds it in place. Very carefully move it ever so slightly away from the bellcrank and tighten the screw again. Look at the raise finger when you push this pedal or knee lever and see if it still is hitting the body of the guitar when fully raised. If so move the collar again slightly. Keep doing this until the raise finger is still hitting the body solidly when fully raised and the collar cannot be moved any further from the bellcrank. Now do the same with all the other raises on the pedal or knee lever. At this point you will have hit a sweet spot where the pedal will lose whatever stiffness it had and will feel noticeably smoother.This fine tuning should be done on every pedal and knee lever on the guitar.
6. Setup first and third pedal:
Another common difficulty arises with setting up the fifth string on the pedal 1 and pedal 3 on the E9 neck. Although they both hit the exact same note on this string, adjusting pedal 3 can be a frustrating task. For various reasons the amount of room available for adjusting the collar on string 5 is minute and very difficult to lock into. In general on pedal 3 you have to move the collar for string 5 minutely away from the bellcrank and tighten the screw. Turn the guitar over and check to see whether the string is reaching the correct pitch when raised. You may have to repeat this several times until it is correct. Further, as they both share the same tuning screw on the endplate, the only option you have is to manually adjust them with the above hit and miss method. Some guitars actually have a half-stop tuner installed on this pull which allows you to match notes exactly on both pedals thereby eliminating this source of frustration completely.
7. Fine adjustment:
A common problem on older guitars (what Emmons push pulls aren’t) is strings not returning to their proper pitch after they have been lowered. This occurs mainly because the lower return spring does not have enough tension on it. These springs after years of repeated use lose some of their flex and have to be tightened up. On most of these guitars the lower return spring is attached to a rod which feeds through metal rack and is held in place by a collar. To increase tension take a set of needle nose pliers and stretch the spring with one hand and undo the collar set screw, then fasten it so that it is tight against the rack. If you over tension the spring the pedal or knee lever on that string will become stiff. You have to adjust for this while making sure the string is returning to its proper note.
Tighten it up:
When you have done all the above and feel the guitar is playing exactly the way you want it to, the final step is to go through the entire guitar and tighten every screw as tight as possible. This will ensure that all the settings that you have spent all that time making, will remain in place for as long as possible. If you use the guitar a lot it’s a good idea to repeat this every few months just to be on the safe side.It is not uncommon for a guitar that has been set up and tightened up properly to not need any adjustments for several years.
With the above information and a lot of practice, you should be able to set up all the pedals and knee levers on an Emmons push pull guitar. This guide is designed to illustrate how to do a basic setup. However there are many truly talented craftsmen available who with their years of experience, can perform what can only be described as magic on your guitar. It is highly recommend that you seek these people out and have your guitar set up to its full potential.
8. Some Additional Notes on Spacers and Shock Springs
If your guitar has all the parts that came with it from the factory you will notice that the lowering rods have metal spacers both at the changer and next to some of the bellcranks. At the changer they provide a support interface for the lowering rod so that it will be able to push the lowering finger.
On an Emmons push pull guitar the bellcranks have a raise arm and a lower arm. When the bellcrank is correctly set the lower arm will extend past the center of the crossrod. In practice this means that when you go to set the collars on a lower they will end up at some point directly below the crossrod making them extremely difficult to get at. By adding spacers you can place the collars in space between the crossrods for easy access.
When approaching the setup of any pedal steel guitar there is wide variety of opinion as to what the pedals should feel like. Some people like really short pedal travel for playing fast on and off raises while others prefer long smooth pedals for accurately playing half pedal notes. With an Emmons push pull guitar the range of adjustment is immense. So where do you start?
If you sit at any guitar fresh from the factory the pedals are typically set up so that each pedal on a D-10, from one to eight feel almost the same. There will be some variance in pedal travel but overall they feel very similar. This would probably be a good starting point for setting up the push pull.
Now if you look at the gauges of the strings being pulled on these pedals the range is usually from 011 to 70 again using the example of a D-10. This obviously presents quite a challenge. With an Emmons push pull guitar shock springs provide the answer.
First off shock springs do four basic things. First they smooth out multiple pulls on pedals. Each push or pull on a pedal has a different distance to travel before it reaches its final raise or lower. Without shock springs each push or pull is not only felt but heard when it is engaged. Shock springs correct this so that the pedals travel in one smooth noiseless motion.
Shock springs also can change the length of pedal travel. The shorter the springs the shorter the travel and vise versa.
On the E9 neck the string gauges are much thinner than on the C6 neck. So the pedals will have to travel farther to reach the raise or lower note position. On the strings with the farthest distance to pull (typically the C pedal raise of the 4th string to F# and the B pedal 3rd string to A) no springs or just the slightest bit of spring are used. Some players prefer to have a slight bit of spring on these pulls for two reasons. The spring will relieve the stress on the hook and pull finger and it will compensate for temperature changes. With the no spring setup, on cold days, the rod shortens and adds the stress mentioned, and on hotter days, the rod lengthens, which can cause the finger to pull slightly short of the stop. The slight compression compensates both problems. We are only talking a millimeter or so of travel beyond the stop, which some players feel is worth the benefits.With raises(only) you have the further option of connecting the raise rod to three different holes on the changer raise finger. For this example we can number them 1,2 &3, one being the hole closest to the changer axle and three being the one farthest from this axle.
Hole 1 will give you the shortest travel but will give the stiffest feel.
Hole 3 will give you nice smooth feel but the travel will be a lot longer. So using the above example you would typically connect the C pedal raise of the 4th string to hole 1, and the B pedal raise of the 3rd string to hole 2. From here you can experiment with the other pulls on these pedals. As a rule install shorter springs on pulls of thinner gauge strings.
To get the final balance on all the pedals none of the springs on E9 pedals are typically more than ½ inch long.
When you get to the C6 neck you have to reverse your thinking somewhat. Due to the much larger string gauges you actually try to increase pedal travel to get the final balance. To do this again you use shock springs but in longer lengths. Usually the springs are from 1/2 to 11/2 inches in length. If you don’t have springs this long and you want to add travel you can leave a space between the spring and the bellcrank . The spring will smooth this out when the pull is engaged. Also be careful that collars are not set so that the spring is compressed in any way when pedal is at rest. This can cause various problems.
This process involves a lot of trial and error. However it should provide you with a good understanding of the ways you can adjust the feel of the pedals and achieve an overall balance in your guitar.
Others systems (Hybrid,inovations)
Split mean "Share". This is a changer action that allows to obtain an "in tune" middle note" when 2 actions pedal and knee are engage on the same string. in this case alteration is shared between pedal and knee action.
For exemple (E9 emmons setup), string 5 give a B open string.
With A engage we go from B to C#.
With X knee engage we lower B to Bb.
When we engage pedal A and knee X together we obtain a middle note between C# and Bb.
Our goal is to obtain a C with A and X engage (Then with A,B and X engage we can get a minor chord).
NB: Some call Knee "X" with the letter "V" (knee or lever V).
1. Split tuning with allen screw behind the changer
1. Locate the split screw (allen screw) located behind the changer (some are taped for all strings others have only few holes for split screws). The backing movement of the changer arm is now limited by the split screw.
2. Tune the open string.
3. Engage the pedal and tune the raise with the nylon tuning.
4. Engage pedal end Knee and tune the lower with the nylon tuning.
5. Engage the knee (only) and adjust with the split tuning screw.
2. Using an extra Pull rod (Carter, Mullen before G2, MSA...)
Changer Arm Backing movement is limited by the Raise Finger that does not go against the internal stop changer but against the nylon screw of an additional rod (extra rod). This tunable extra rod is here to adjust lower action (knee action).
1. Tune string 5 (open string)
2. Tune the raise with pedal engaged (with his nylon tuning)
3. Tune the split lower (pedal and knee engaged) with the Lower finger's nylon tuning
4. Tune the Final lower (knee engaged, no pedal) with the colored raise nylon (in red)
"Half Stop" is a changer action which allows to obtain 2 notes on a lever course in 2 steps. In general this action is applied to the lower. You obtain a first alteration with a stop feeling (for exemple a Half tone) and a second alteration by extending the course to the complet course (one more haf tone in general).
The most current exemple is applied to the string 2 on E9 neck wich give a D# open string. First half stop goes to D and second finish the lever course to C#.
The sytem will allow adjustment of the half-stop of the lever to "feel stop" and then setting the final stop.
You can obtain the full stop with different methods.Those examples are for "All pull systems" but some can be applied to other changer (we'll talk about it soon)
1.Half-stop adjustable by a fell-stop system on the lever course:
2.Stop ball system Lozach'/Wiesner-Schild:
This system designed by Jean Yves Lozach' for Wiesner guitars in the 90's is probably the best Half-stop ever made for a pedal steel guitar. A rod in wich a groove is machined make the feel stop when the ball is engaged in the groove. The rod is mooving when the knee is actioned and you can adjust the leght of the rode (and the distance between the rod and the knee to tune your first half). Behind the half stop a screw give more or less course for the rod to tune the full action. The ball is pushed by a spring and you can adjust the spring with a screw (not on pics) to obtain softned or harder feeling.
3.Half stop system with a free lower finger:
4.Half stop using extra finger: