I’ve recently decided to remove all of the tab/video lessons from my site as I plan to revamp my instructional material to reflect a more fully developed and representative approach to lap steel guitar from my personal perspective. While studying the playing of the greats has proved invaluable to my development as a steel guitarist, it was through the process of transcribing itself that I was able to see the road maps of the fretboard unfold before my eyes and the deeper task of problem solving to find the best position for certain parts really escalated my level of analysis to a point where I could begin to do it in real time in my own playing. I highly recommend every musician, not just the lap steel player, to engage in this activity. Without it, you are missing a big piece of your development as a musician. The ear is the most crucial and invaluable tool we have. Strengthen it.
There is a part of steel playing that one has to get used to, and that is the specter of the past that always seems to hover around you. No matter how far you stray from tradition, there is something there that either pulls at you or serves as a reminder that it is difficult to move completely beyond it. Listeners, particularly steel players, have an attachment to the instrument’s past. There will always be comparisons to what it is “supposed” to sound like, how it should be played, etc. These things can get in your head if you let them. I have great respect for Susan Alcorn, who has no doubt suffered these slings and arrows but has emerged from it as a strong, fully developed and unique voice. She has always been an influence to me, especially as I first started played seriously, showing me what is possible.
Admittedly, I have had some struggles with this. Is it my own doing? I sometimes allow myself to give in to my own nostalgia and sometimes I wonder if maybe I that’s where I really belong. But I have to follow my own heart and what I hear in music, which is what we should all do. Part of the growth of learning an instrument and developing a voice is also a mental process. Only we can know when we are getting closer to it.
Thanks for reading. –Mike