The Right Hand
Much of the skill involved with playing the steel guitar is in the right hand. The legs and the left hand are important too, but the right hand requires more quickness and precision. As a result, it is important to start out with a good foundation in right hand technique.
The right hand picks the strings with finger picks. The fore finger and middle finger use metal finger picks while the thumb uses a standard plastic guitar thumb pick.
The thumb picks the strings away from the body; the fingers pick the strings toward the body.
There are some players who don't use finger picks, but without picks the attack is not as strong, and the bell-like ring is absent. Using finger picks is a little uncomfortable at first, but the more you use them the more they will feel natural. In fact, even after a few months of playing I found it more difficult to play without them.
Try to pick as close to the pickup as possible, with the right hand palm hovering just over the pick up.
Right Hand Exercises
The fingers are abbreviated as follows:
Thumb - T
Index - I
Middle - M
There are six ways to pick with two fingers:
T-I or I-T
T-M or M-T
I-M or M-I
Here are some 2-finger picking exercises. Always use a metronome. Start slow and gradually work your way up to a faster tempo.
In exercise 1a, use the thumb and index finger.
In exercise 1b, use the thumb and middle finger.
There are six ways to pick with three fingers:
Forward Rolls: T-I-M, I-M-T, M-T-I
Backward Rolls: M-I-T, I-T-M, T-M-I
Repeat each of the six examples in exercise 2a and the six in 2b below for several measures. As you become more confortable, increase the tempo on the metronome and try them all again. Repeat and increase speed for each one.