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The Lashley Chronicles - Letter 1

Updated: Dec 15, 2023


This letter is one of many letters written detailing the development of the pedal guitar, and the birth of the Emmons Guitar. It also includes standardization of the tuning and copedent, as well as historical commentary. 

The letters were written from Ron Lashely Sr. to Mr. Paul J. Graupp, the editor for "Pushin Pedals", the pedal guitar section of Fretts magazine, which was published by Fender Sales.


 

Scroll down for the complete transcription of this letter. The spelling and grammar shown below is exaclty how it was written by Ron Lashley Sr.

 




 

TRANSCRIPTION

 

Hanford Road

Graham, North Carolina

December 21, 1962



Paul J. Graupp

Box 225, 2137 Comm. Sq.

A.P.O. 123, New York, N.Y.


Hello Mr. Graupp;


First let me explain who I am writing.  Reason number one; because I am interested in becoming acquainted with all steel musicians, number two, I help Leonard Stadler build the Marlen steel guitar, number three, sound is one of my favorite hobbies especially the mathematical and physical analysis of it and consequently I was very much interested in your article “AN APPROACH TO HARMONY”.


Before I remark about your article, let me somewhat introduce myself to you.  My age is 23years and I have been out of college with a B.S. in both Physics and Mathematics for only one year.  I went through college with the preparation for working for someone like Gibson or Fender but I found that I would be unable to use many of my original ideas since to a certain point they are only interested in getting by as cheap as possible yet stay in competition with others.

Don’t mistake me, I’m not belittling them because heavens knows thats  only goo business.  I did choose to work with Leonard who as far as I could tell was building a fine instrument.

While in college I made detail studies of various steels on the market of top names and also did extensive research with the construction of pick-ups.  I also did alot of study on mechanics of the steel guitar and also with resonances.  I guess this is enough by way of introduction. Oh!  I do play and love the pedal steel guitar which was the basic motivation for my career.


No to the article which I found most intriguing to my exact senses as well as my imagination.  I’m sure that you must have enjoyed its compiling.  At the present there are about a thousand remarks that I would like to make concerning various lines of thought brought out in the article.  Brother!  you have chosen a deep subject in which volumes of book are needed to do justice to it and here again don’t misinterpret my thinking as being [sic] critical but as being imaginative as motivated by your article.  Your purpose was made clear in the article and I think that you achieved it beautifully.


I would like to make a few remarks concerning my idea of the formation of a scale.  I like to think back before any music theory was agreed upon such as the beginning of our [sic] historic or even before.  As a starting point we can agree that there were quite a many varied sounds occurring but not in any orderly fashion such as music.  Let’s pick one of these sources of sound at random, maybe the string from a bow and arrow.

Of course, all sound are the same physical properties although the sources may behave differently.  Now that we have settled on our source as a string from a bow let’s substitute a guitar string instead since they behave similarly.  To make it more meaningful, let it be a C note such as the one that you used in your discussion.  Do we really find the basis for our scale occurring naturally when we listen to any string like this on picked?  With the knowledge that the dominant tone and sub-dominant tone can be heard as this string is picked as harmonics or over-tones which is the basis for our major chord a question arises that I’ve never been able to find or assume an answer for.  Why did these naturally occurring harmonics form the only major chord that is pleasing to the human ear?  (another way of asking this question is by jumping ahead and assuming the scale is developed and saying why aren’t scales other than those with 12 steps per octave pleasant to the ear.).  Without no rigid proof other than the fact that the first octave is the 12th step discovered because it is number 12 in the only combination which is pleasing to the ear and is found in this string by halving the length of the string, I [sic} believe through a rigid mathematical analysis from what has already been mentioned one can arrive at our present diatonic scale.


                                      analysis on separate sheet of paper.


Now we have our ratio for stepping off our diatonic scale simply by dividing our ration 17.835 into the total length of the string giving us the distance from the end to the first step or fret now if we take the remaining distance and divide it by our ration we get the distance from our first step to our second step.  This process can be carried on until we reach a limit which is the limit of the string.  This ratio is also useful in that we can can make any fret board of any given length.  Now from some other physical properties we can know our various frequencies in terms of our length and by defining the frequency of any one note we can know the frequency of any of the others.  Of course I’ve generalized quite a bit to arrive at this scale but understand that these are just ideas and not really proofs.  

I do [sic] believe that the mathematical approach to the [sic} origin of the diatonic scale is as rigid as any that I’ve considered. 

Notice that i was only concerned with the origin of the scale and not with the chord. haha! Does any of this make sense to you?  I might have made it too general to be meaningful.


Well, I haven’t said much about the steel guitar but I suppose that Leonard has you well informed.  I wonder if I could ask a favor in return from you?  I am compiling a list consisting of the names and addresses of all of the steel players that I can possibly find out about.  I’d be very grateful if you could add some to  my list.


If you have time I would veery honored with a reply concerning the mathematical approach to the scale.

It is late here so I think I’ll sign out here in favor of a little sleep.  Nice meeting you.




        Musically yours,


                                                                                                                  Ronald Thomas Lashley


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