The pedal steel guitar is a type of electric guitar that uses a metal slide to stop the strings, rather than fingers on strings as with a conventional guitar. The pedal steel is placed horizontally on a stand, with the strings facing up towards the player, and is typically plucked with fingerpicks. The instrument's pedals are used to change the pitch of its strings while being played; the action of the pedals may either be fixed, or may be configurable by the player to select which strings are affected by the pedals. The pedal steel, with its smooth glissandi, bending chords and complex riffs, is one of the most recognizable and characteristic instruments of American country music.
While there are some fairly standard pedal assignments, many advanced players devise their own setups, called copedents. The range of copedents that can be set up varies considerably from model to model. Aftermarket modifications to make additional copedents possible are common.
The pedal steel was developed from the console steel guitar and lap steel guitar. Like the console steel, a pedal steel may have multiple necks, but the pedals make even a single-neck pedal steel a far more versatile instrument than any multiple-neck console steel.
Many musicians specialize in performing on both pedal steel and some form of lap steel. A particularly popular second instrument for pedal steel players is the resonator guitar (also known as a "Dobro") played in steel guitar fashion (i.e., played face up on the player's lap).
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