Tuning a 70’s Pull-Release Marlen

With its one-piece fingers, the pull-release changer is the simplest of all pedal steel change mechanisms. Initially, raising or lowering a string seemed to be enough, but players saw potential in more complex copedent ideas. By the mid 70’s, the idea of both raising and lowering each string had gained traction, particularly on the E strings of the E9th copedent. Builders designed more complex changers to accomodate the growing requirements. Leonard Stadler, builder of Marlen and Speedy West Custom steel guitars, took a different approach. While keeping the simple, one-piece changer finger, he accomplished the same thing by adding a few more stops and springs to the undercarriage.

I recently rebuilt one of those mid-70’s Marlen guitars. The copedent is configured with Jimmy Day’s “CBA” pedal arrangement. I probably lost a few hairs scratching my head, but in the end it all worked and made sense. Here are my notes for the guitar’s owner on how to throughly tune the instrument:

Download Marlen Pull-Release notes as a PDF file

Once you have confidence that the pedals and knee levers are in tune, you can just tune the open strings at the keyhead. A full tuning check should only be needed when changing strings.


General tuning procedure for each string:
  1. Tune the highest note with the keyhead tuner.
  2. Tune the lowest note with the brass hex screw at the end plate.
  3. Tune any intermediate notes with nylon tuning nuts in the changer cavity
Specifics:
  • Strings 1 and 7 – tune F# at the keyhead (no changes)
  • String 2 – tune D# at the keyhead, D at the endplate with RKR engaged
  • Strings 3 and 6 – tune A at the keyhead with P2 down, G# at the endplate
  • String 4 – tune F# at the keyhead with P1 down, D# at the endplate with LKL engaged, E with the LKL nylon tuning nut, F with the RKL nylon tuning nut
  • Strings 5 and 10 – tune C# at the keyhead with P3 down, B at the endplate
  • String 8 – tune F at the keyhead with RKL engaged, D# at the endplate with LKL engaged, E with the LKL tuning nut
  • String 9 – tune D at the keyhead (no changes)

Important: This guitar requires a wound .022 for the 6th string. The plain .020 included in most E9th string sets will not work.


Lastly, here are a few snapshots of the undercarriage:

 

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