Moving in Phrases

You may remember that playing the chromatic scale at a single position with pedals is still kind of tricky, especially the notes on string 5 (SEE CHROMATIC LESSON HERE). In order to solve this problem, we can play a combination of vertical movement and horizontal movement. I call this "moving in phrases."

There any number of ways to move in phrases. You can move the bar every 2 notes, every 3 notes, every 4 notes, etc. Different strings can be used to make up these phrases too. Below are examples of 2, 3, and 4-note phrases using strings 5, 2 and 4.

Here is the chromatic using 2-note phrasing (in other words, the bar moves every 2 notes):

Chromatic Scale in Phrases 1

Here is the chromatic using 3-note phrasing:

Chromatic Scale in Phrases 2

Here is the chromatic using 4 note phrasing:

Chromatic Scale in Phrases 3

These patterns can be played very quickly if you have all the necessary pedals, namely the R Lever in this case. If you don't have the R change on your instrument (1/2 step lower on string 2), then see if you can find another set of strings where there are chromatic phrases. Like I mention above these are not the only strings on which to find chromatic phrases. Use the NOTE FINDER to see if you can find others.

Once you get the hang of 2, 3, and 4-note phrasing, you may wanna try to see if you can find 5, 6 or 7-note phrasing.


Moving through a scale 4 notes at a time is called playing tetrachords. A tetrachord is a 4-note section of a scale. All 7-note scales can be divided into 4-note halves. For example, the C major scale:


can be divided into


Translated onto the steel guitar, this means that you can play four notes at one position and move the bar and play the remaining four notes. This allows for rapid scale movement and is the preferred way to play through scales for many steel guitarists.

Where to play them? Because of the harmonic variety at each bar position, there are many locations across the neck to find tetrachords for numerous scale types. For now, I am going to list just 2 locations of the C major and A minor tetrachord patterns. This will give you an idea of how tetrachords work on the steel guitar.

C Major Tetrachords

C Major scale with Tetrachord pattern (root note on the 5th string):

C Tetrachord 5th String Root

C Tetrachord 5th String Root Notation

Note this pattern requires the LL Lever. If you do not have this lever on your instrument, you may use a bar slide to play the E and B notes. However, the trick to playing tetrachords quickly is to use as little bar and pedal movement within each pattern. In this case, then, it is probably better to play a tetrachord at a location that requires more basic pedals.

Here is an example (root on the 8th string):

C Tetrachord 8th String Root

C Tetrachord 8th String Root Notation

This tetrachord formation only requires the B Pedal, which is equipt on nearly every Pedal Steel Guitar.

A Minor Tetrachords

Here are 2 ways to play the A minor scale with Tetrachord patterns:

Am Tetrachord 5th String Root

Am Tetrachord 5th String Root Notation

Am Tetrachord 10th String Root

Am Tetrachord 10th String Root Notation



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