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Copedent Coping


The secret to finding logical copedents is to understand how chords and single note phrases are created. We do that by having a complete understanding of altering intervals and what problems they may cause on certain levers or in a specific placement. Pedal steel pioneers like Buddy Emmons, Curly Chalker, Doug Jernigan, etc all knew and understood the intervals and basic chord formulas as they created very workable copedents.


For example, let’s look at how to get b9 interval. We all need access to a b9 interval and a b9 needs to have a b7 that can be easily accessed in conjunction with it. Buddy gave us the first really important Jazz altered chord…The A7#9…by lowering the C to A and raising the next C to C# on strings 3, 5, 7, and 10. 

The last C6th pedal in Buddy’s copedent (pedal 8), is also known as a #9 or “Nightlife” pedal.  Using the A as the bass note, Buddy has the root, 3rd, b7, and #9. Those are the intervals for the A7#9 chord. 

I believe it was Chalker or Jernigan who took that idea and expanded it back in the 60’s. By placing a knee lever on the right leg raising 4&8 (the 6th intervals into b7’s), when you activate the Nightlife change in that chord center, that b7 becomes a b9…so now the C6th tuning has two very important and easily accessible altered chord changes.

Buddy (and all of us who adapted that change) could then activate the pedal and lever, pick strings 4 5 7 and 10 to get a root, 3rd, b7, and b9 which is the second most common altered chord, the A7b9 chord. Easily accessible on the right leg, not as much anywhere else. That lever gives the b7 when it is used alone, but with the pedals it is irreplaceable in my mind.

In conjunction with the pedal that lowers the 6th string a half tone and raises the 2nd string a half tone (which changes the bottom 3rd into a b3 and the top 3rd into a 4th), the chord possibilities open up much wider. With that pedal and lever combination I can pick strings 9 6 4 which is a root for a 4 chord so I have a root, b7, and 4th. That could be called several chords because it is a shell voicing. In this case it’s an Fsus7th or an F11th shell (a very modern chord). If I add both diminished pedals, that lever continues extending many more chordal options.


Over the years I have read posts on the forum from guys who comment that the 4&8 raise “didn’t offer much beyond a 7th chord” so they dropped it – usually for something even less usable. That happens a lot if players don’t understand which intervals are crucial for accessing single-note phrases as well as chord options.

I hope everyone stops blindly exploring C6th and E9th changes. It takes time to switch the muscle memory over to learning new knee and pedal positions. I personally don’t have that re-learning time, do you?   Sure, I can do that, but why?

My set up is logical, so is Tommy White’s, Buddy’s, Doug’s, Curly’s, Terry Crisp’s, etc. To date, no player has a perfect setup, but the guys in front of the line are the ones to help guide anyone with the placement of changes.

Ask them why they placed it where they did if you don’t know why it’s there, and then study your butts off to find out how many ways it can be used. The answer for finding new things to play is not in finding a new change, it’s in finding a “New Way” to use an existing change. Do that and really start learning the guitar.

Don’t become a player who looks for new changes as a source for playing something new and inventive. Look at Lloyd Green, he plays new things all the time with a setup he locked into by ’69 or ’70. He can do that because he understands interval harmony.


I would guess “new changes for pedals” is probably the most common “solution” tried by those who never learned how to play the copedent they have in front of them. Searching for new changes is tempting quicksand for way too many meandering players.

Hey, don’t mistake me for not understanding the desire for chasing changes, I get that part. Resist it…..I do believe this quest for new changes has gotten out of hand and the internet makes poorly-chosen interval concepts instant news. Back in the day changes would happen and within a few days or a week the legends would either adopt it our reject it before it became widespread within the community of students and players.

That is my concern for everyone who really wants to learn how to play. Lloyd could wear out your E9th with his knowledge and Tommy White could do the same on your C6th. Both would be playing things you never thought were possible on your copedent.

Expand your imagination, not your copedent!



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