For a decade now I’ve been playing all styles of music on a D6th pedal steel. My current and probably final copedent has 6 pedals and 6 knee levers (click here for details). That’s an unusual configuration, though – most 10-string pedal steels don’t have more than 4 pedals, and most players don’t need more than that. Here’s how the D6th Hybrid could be trimmed down to a more standard instrument, one with 4 pedals and 4 knee levers:
To start, we raise the C6th tuning to D6th. This brings the string gauges and timbre of the high strings closer to E9th while maintaining a substantial low end for rhythm comping and fat chords.
Pedals 1 and 2 give us the classic I to IV change of the E9th’s A and B pedals. LKL and RKL are similar to the E string raise and lower levers on E9th. The changes on LKR are also common on the modern E9th.
Pedals 3 and 4 are the home position of the C6th neck (typically P5 and P6). If you back out the tuning nut on RKL’s 7th string change, the lever becomes the standard 3rd string lower of C6th. Many C6th players also raise strings 3 and 7 from C to C#, similar to LKL here.
The E9th has a maj7 (D#) as its 2nd string, which is lowered on a lever to get the b7th and 6th notes. In this copedent, the 6th on string 4 is raised to get the b7 and maj7 notes, as it is on C6th. This is the part of the copedent that’s trickiest for E9th players. The notes are all there, but it’s backwards from what they’re used to.
The 8th and 9th string changes on P1 and RKR are my own inventions, handy but not really necessary. They aren’t really a part of E9th or C6th traditions.
If the target guitar also had a vertical lever, I’d use it to raise high D to E for E9th “C pedal” functionality, and maybe raise the middle D as well if it wasn’t too stiff. I have that LKV lever on my 6+6 Sierra guitar.
Lastly, I always point out that P2 by itself gives you the 6 notes of the standard dobro tuning. Start on string 9 and you have G B D G (skip A) B D. That can be very handy!
I hope this post has been enlightening food for thought. Do we really need 20 strings (or even 12) to play the full range of music that our listeners require? Guitarists do it with just 6 strings. Think about it.