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Pedal steel guitars helped define the sound of country music with a history that goes back to the 1940s. Evolving out of the popular Hawaiian and lap steel guitar styles of the 1920s and '30s, innovators like Paul Bigsby, Buddy Emmons, and Zane Beck began adding new features to steel guitars like pedals and knee levers which expanded the musical range of these instruments.

Played with a sliding bar on an open-tuned set of strings, the various features of a pedal steel guitar allows the player to modulate and alter different notes which creates a distinctive pedal steel guitar sound that’s described as a twang. This sound proved central to the popular country style of the '50s and '60s, and remains a central feature of country stages and studios in Nashville and beyond.

Whether you're looking for a starter pedal steel with one neck, or a vintage classic with two, you can find your next pedal steel guitar on Reverb.

What are Pedal Steel Guitars?

Pedal steel guitars are a stringed instrument that’s played by a seated player who presses a bar against the strings in one hand, plucks the strings with the other hand, and uses their feet and knees to bend strings up and down with levers and pedals. Pedal steel guitar music is most closely associated with Hawaiian and Country music, but can be heard in a wide number of musical genres, including ambient music, blues, jam bands, and rock and roll.

Why are pedal steel guitars so expensive?

Pedal steel guitars are expensive partly because so much work goes into the mechanics on the underside of the instrument. The mechanics (meaning the foot pedals and knee levers) bend the strings, which creates that classic pedal steel sound. Also, the costs of the wood and metal, as well as the manufacturing of the pedal steel guitar parts, is expensive. As a result, even entry-level pedal steel guitars can cost upwards of $1,000, if not more.

Even a pedal steel case can be expensive, since it has to be made to perfectly fit the pedal steel guitar and support the weight of the instrument. The good news is that they tend to retain their value, and if you're willing to shop used, you can definitely find a solid deal here on Reverb.

How does a pedal steel guitar work?

Pedal steel guitars are played by pressing a steel bar on top of the pedal steel guitar strings with one hand while plucking them with fingerpicks on the other hand. The pedal steel itself has four legs, several foot-operated pedals, and often multiple knee-operated levers that bend certain strings up and down. They’re most often tuned to E9 or C6 tuning.

Is pedal steel guitar hard to play?

Like with any instrument, it takes years of practice and determination to master the pedal steel guitar. However, most players can pick up some basics and perhaps even learn a song or at least a scale and some chords in the first few lessons. If you’re interested in learning how to play pedal steel guitar, there are numerous books and video lessons available.

Pedal Steel Guitars Near Me

To exclusively browse pedal steel guitars near you, reference the list of top cities and countries available on Reverb to search within a desired location. You also can review shipping details within an item’s “Shop Policies” section.