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Pete Atkin >> Newsletter >> Help - National Steel
(Message started by: Colin_Wilkinson on Today at 17:18)

Title: Help - National Steel
Post by Colin_Wilkinson on Today at 17:18
I’m taking advantage of the advice in the monthly update from Pete – which is always great – “….send a message to Pete we suggest you post to the 'Newsletter' section of the 'Midnight Voices' Web Forum”…

I’m hoping for some help playing my favourite song ‘National Steel’.

I’m a long standing PA devotee and saw you at the long lost ‘Liverpool Stadium’ which was principally a boxing venue, the interweb tells me this was 10th Ausgust 1974, and I paid 44p for Greasy Bear/Pete/JSD Band. I only came for Pete. In my memory you played NS on your NS.

Anyway fast forward 40+ years and I have a guitar, bottleneck and a desire to play the tune. However I really only picked it up a couple of years ago and am still at the enthusiastic beginner stage.
I’ve seen the chords : https://www.peteatkin.com/e4c.htm

I’ve also seen this which was written on this Forum in 2008 : “In fact, Clive's and my song is played with conventional tuning and conventional chords, with the bottleneck on my fourth finger playing either single-note phrases, or picked in sixths on the first and third or second and fourth strings, and sometimes major triads on the 2nd-3rd-and-4th strings or minor ones on the top three strings.”

So I’m fine with the tuning and conventional chords bit, even follow the siting of the bottleneck on the pinkie. However lost after that. I can pick some notes on the first string at frets 12, 5 and 3 which may be part of the puzzle but I’m stuck.  Is there a tab available or could I have some help? Even just the intro?



Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by Pete Atkin on 05.05.20 at 11:35
Hello, Colin.  Thanks so much for that - not least for wanting to give it a go!

OK, so it may be best to take it a bit at a time --

First off, you're going to have to play it by picking;  it won't work by strumming.

Put the slide across the top three strings, and slide it up to the fourth fret.  Play the third (G) string with your first finger, and the top string (E) with your third finger.   And add in the open bass E string with your thumb.   That gives you a chord of E major.   Now slide the bottleneck down two frets (to the second fret) and pick those same three strings as before.  That gives you a chord of D major over an E in the bass.

Now slide the bottleneck up to the second fret on the second (B) and fourth (D) strings, and play those two strings while playing the open fifth (A) string with your thumb.  That gives you a chord of A major.

That's probably enough for now - enough to play around with and to get used to.  You'll probably be able to figure out quite a bit for yourself from there.   Let me know how you get on, and I'll pitch in with something else.    It's all there for the taking!

Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by Colin_Wilkinson on 08.05.20 at 12:50
Cheers Pete

The sound I hear is those dead men trying to get out of my guitar!

Having fun with this. I can fumble  picking E, D/E and A as you describe, although that's the limit of my "figuring out" apart from my guess that the rhythm is 1and 2and 3and 4and?

Always open to offers of further help.

Best wishes


Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by kidherogrowsup on 26.08.20 at 22:26
I am listening to this song for the first time now.  Super! Very pleasing to the ears. (I guess a "National Steel" is a type of steel string guitar?)  For playing blues and slide guitar ... I recall when I was a kid and going hard learning guitar, I picked up an old raggedy book on blues guitar from a store and by going thru its basic exercises and custom songs, it helped with learning and hearing what was going on in existing songs.  So sometimes to get at what you want, it helps to go around for a while and then come back to the main objective with more weaponry.

Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by Colin_Wilkinson on 27.08.20 at 11:02

A National Steel is indeed a steel stringed instrument, however it's much more individualistic than that. National Guitars are a Californian brand, their speciality is manufacturing 'resonator' type guitars, ie ones that have metal parts in the body under the bridge designed to acoustically amplify the sound. This innovation began in the 1920s and was intended to  pump up the volume in the days before electric guitars. There's more about the history of resonator guitars here : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resonator_guitar

Whilst all resonators have metal as integral to their body most still have significant amounts of wood in the design. The exceptions include those where the whole body is made of metal - hence the name National Steel. Other makes are available, but National has certain romantic connotations. Resonators with their wonderful metal-acoustics are particularly good for playing with a slide/bottleneck this clip demonstrates some of the differences between the materials : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K5BTI_gSQU

There's a short clip of Pete on Youtube with a metal instrument, which may be his NS? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5o5m952CQjI

I have a few books and am still very much 'learning on the job' but National Steel has a number of challenges for the enthusiastic beginner. Most tunes which have slide playing integral to them require the guitar to be tuned to an open chord (often D or G) whereas NS unusually is in standard tuning which makes it much harder to follow. Plus there don't seem to be any existing video clips of Pete playing the song, or I would be able to see where he puts his fingers! I'm stuck and my excellent guitar teacher can't help with this one.

Best wishes


Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by S J Birkill on 27.08.20 at 18:46
Hello Colin

Thank you for your detailed response to the kid's comments re the National. Yes, the still shot in that YouTube clip is indeed of Pete with his own National Steel -- the very one in the song. Further to what he's said in this thread, did you read his note on the 'First Folio' (https://www.peteatkin.com/download/e4ff.pdf) page for the song? I haven't seen guitar tablature for 'National Steel' -- might be a bit much to ask Pete to generate it... I'll have a browse through what video clips I have, see if there's one of that song.

Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by S J Birkill on 27.08.20 at 22:06
Here we go:

https://www.peteatkin.com/images/NatSteelThumb2.jpg (https://youtu.be/L6d1daA3OsA)

From Pete's second set at the Monyash Festival in 1997. Not too clear on the fingering -- the shadows of the mic stands don't help. But a great performance I think, complete with some background on the instrument. Hope it helps you figure it out!


Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by Colin_Wilkinson on 27.08.20 at 23:15

and again Wow!

Thank you so much Steve. I hadn't seen that 'folio' link before, no idea where you retrieved that from, but it's exceedingly helpful.I have been sharpening my pencil and cleaning my eraser to have a bash at some tabulation. My cloth ears had already identified the E on the 1st string, 12th fret as a prime suspect, which I think that notation confirms.

The grainy video is wonderful too, it will be a big help. I had spent hours fruitlessly looking for something like this.

I am setting the bar very low for myself. My initial goal is simply to pick and slide the intro, after that I can strum the verses and repeat the intro as a break.

The mind can play tricks of course, but I believe that Pete played his set in Liverpool in 1974 on that wonderful looking guitar. Since he says he got it 'about 1972' so my memory could be accurate!

I have a second hand Vintage resonator - that is Vintage the brand not vintage as in wonderful and valuable - it's made of wood as well as steel. And as an exception to the rule is actually quite quiet. Ever since I picked up a guitar as a kid I had an ambition to own one of these things. I blame Clive, Pete, and this wonderful song.....

Best wishes


Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by S J Birkill on 28.08.20 at 01:55
Ah well, yes -- you have the instrument; you absolutely must learn to play the song!

I think the timing would be about right: I'm only seeing one Liverpool gig in '74, that would be "Liverpool Stadium" (https://www.peteatkin.com/pagiglst.htm) (meaning Anfield, I guess), solo, supporting the JSD Band on August 10th? He'd recorded "National Steel" on June 19th (https://www.peteatkin.com/sessione.htm) of that year, and would tour the Secret Drinker album with a three-piece band in October and November. So it's logical he would have been lugging the National to all his gigs around those times.

All the music pages from A First Folio are on the website, scanned from my own copy -- look for the pink clef buttons opposite the TROS and SD entries in the Discography (https://www.peteatkin.com/disworks.htm#road).

Back to the Vintage!



Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by Colin_Wilkinson on 28.08.20 at 10:31
How very dare you - I am an Evertonian!

Liverpool Stadium had no associations with That Place it was primarily a boxing venue which mounted music shows.They turned the ring into a stage for the bands As a kid I saw lots of shows in this crumbling edifice - perhaps the best being ( with apologies to Pete's appearance on a Saturday afternoon supporting JSD ) a 35 minute set from Chuck Berry - sadly this venue is no more :http://www.catalystmedia.org.uk/archive/issues/misc/articles/liverpool_stadium.php

Thanks again for the musical info.

Back to the Vintage...

Title: Re: Help - National Steel
Post by S J Birkill on 29.08.20 at 02:36
Thanks for that background Colin -- I thought it was a little early in his career (and in the '70s!) for Pete to have been playing a real stadium, but a quick Google search didn't fetch me that fascinating page. A shame to see these rock venues go, but then even if it had survived it wouldn't have the same atmosphere today, would it. The music too has changed.

If I could find this kind of background on more of those places I might add the links to that '70s gigs' page...

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