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E9 Blues Emotion

Paul replies to a student on the The Paul Franklin Method private Facebook Group, who as a regular guitar player is accomplished at playing slide blues, but is having some difficulties duplicating their expertise on the E9 neck of the pedal steel guitar.

From the students-only Facebook Group:

STUDENT: I’ve been playing slide Blues on guitar since the late sixties in standard tuning, open E, Open G, and for a while on lap steel C6. For some reason I get lost on E9. I tried some of the different positions using the “AB pedal down, or a position using the E lever to flatten the E (which works OK on my Universal, but not E9 10 string).

One (minor) reason for messing up is that I haven’t mastered the blocking of some strings while sliding around (sometimes producing unwanted overtones), but the main reason is that once I hit a pedal to do something, my mind clicks into “pretty melodic Country mode” which I also like… but not for Blues. So using pedals doesn’t work for me, at least not yet.

Can you provide any tips on playing Blues on a E9 without use of those wonderful pedals? I know this is probably the most asked question going through a Blues guitarist’s mind who happens to also love Country music, when playing the E9. Thanks.


At the E9th open position the traditional Open E chord tuning is there without pedals. Strings 3 4 5 6 8 10 (missing the low E). Pedals A&B gives you an A tuning (strings 3 4 5 6 8 10). Strings 1 and 7 in E give notes of the pentatonic within both of those positions. The 9th string gives a b7 in the “E” position and a 4 in the “A” position.

So respond with Blues emotion. The notes are almost identical to those played in Country. Ralph Mooney was more of a rocker to match James Burton’s guitar and Mark Knopfler more of a Country player on “Sultans of Swing”. It all works because their note choices and harmonic info is pretty much the same but phrased differently. Musical phrasing ideas change (within us according to what we know about the genre) for the emotions needed as we play. The information for where things are found and applied is always coming from the same book of knowledge.

Watch the “Modern Steel & Rock styles” videos which should head you into the right direction. The Sacred Steelers play pedal steels as lap steels, mostly holding them down to get the tuning right and then utilizing the bar for the emotion of the Blues and Gospel. Try what you already know. Try thinking non-pedal style by listening to and mimicking the emotions of Derek Trucks, Ry Cooder, and David Lindley. Lots of common lick ideas are found within those open and pedals down positions. Also listen to the phrasing of players like Eric Clapton and Joe Walsh. They are Masters of using fewer notes.

I listen to the best: Derek Trucks, Sonny Landreth, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robben Ford, etc. Getting deeply into their playing by listening, not copying, I memorize their “Blues/Rock” emotions while I continue training my memory to store the fretboard per genre.

Once the sounds of the pedals and slides are more deeply memorized for the sound of any specific genre, the muscle memory takes over on the gig. As you know, playing live with a band is a totally responsive scenario. That is the time I have fun with what I know… and it will also reveal the weak spots for the next day’s practice.

Here’s the dirty little secret: There is no way I could get around memorizing all of the seemingly basic knowledge listed in the course for any genre I play. Players like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, and Robben Ford (to name a few of the most copied Blues/Rock guys) utilize everything I have laid out here for in their own particular brands of music.

They play everything from Diatonic Harmony, Tri-tone substitutions to Augmented, Diminished and upper-extended chords, and they use the approach note/intervallic improvisational methods taught here. That’s the same info Hank Garland and Grady Martin played in Country. The same info that Joe Pass and Pat Martino played in Jazz…and on and on. The sooner anyone gets these concepts, approaches and techniques stored, the faster it appears on the bandstand.

My best advice to everyone is to submerse yourselves into listening to the very best players in the music you like whether its Country, Rock, Pop, Blues, or whatever while you continue to memorize the complete fretboard, how to block, how music is pieced together, and all of the basics.

Listening beyond the instrument is crucial for the instrument’s growth into the future


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