pedal steel

AJ Ghent Rig Rundown
AJ Ghent Rig Rundown Guitar Gear Tour

The slide guitar virtuoso and musical healer takes PG through his live setup.

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Modern pedal steels typically have 10 or 12 strings and come in single- and double-neck models.
Photo by Andy Ellis

Trace the evolution of the planet’s most mechanical—and for some, most mysterious—stringed instrument.

For many, pedal steel guitar is synonymous with country music. The instrument’s sinuous string bending and crying sound has long distinguished the songs coming out of Nashville and Bakersfield from pop, rockabilly, and blues.

Recently it’s become rare to hear pedal steel on mainstream country radio, though there are signs of a slight return. Meanwhile, pop, rock, and even avant-garde artists have embraced the instrument. Its expressive potential is still being expanded, and it’s been adopted worldwide in a variety of musical styles, from the African highlife of King Sunny Adé to the nü-jazz of Nils Petter Molvær.

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"The weird but nice combination of country and jazz has always fascinated me,"

says Finnish multi-instrumentalist Ville Leppänen.

Americana slide and steel—as viewed from Helsinki.

Finnish guitarist Ville Leppänen has only visited the United States a few times, though his deep knowledge of American music suggests otherwise. Playing conventional guitar as well as resonator, pedal steel, and lap steel, Leppänen has forged a style that synthesizes many regional sounds, from the Southwest to the Hawaiian Islands.

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