The steel guitar was born playing Hawaiian music, and although many of us don’t play that style, we can still use some of the ideas on our pedal steels that we borrow from lap steelers and slack key guitar.
The key to the Hawaiian sound on pedal steel is the major 6th chord, and the easiest place to find it is 5 frets above the open chord on strings 8 through 4 with the E to Eb knee lever engaged. This creates a Major 6th chord in a nice central position with the relative chords around it via our pedals and knee levers.
This is not a style that lends itself to fast playing. It’s more of a tone-sensitive technique with slides and vibrato between the notes and chords. Your volume pedal will help a lot here. Also, if your guitar has a tone control, roll off the treble a bit, or adjust your amp for a warmer sound.
Steel guitar and Slack Key guitar are a match made in Paradise. I attended a slack key workshop give by Owana Salazar in 2003 0n the island of Kauai and learned this classic slack key turnaround, which I have adapted to E9 pedal steel.
Approaching from above and below adds movement without requiring a chord change. I’ve added an octave slide at the end. It might take a little practice to get this move in tune, but it’s worth it to get that Island vibe.