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Explore a variety of dobro styles, from bluegrass and fiddle tunes to blues and contemporary sounds, and get insights on technique that will help you clean up your playing, while learning the techniques of Jerry Douglas, Josh Graves, and other dobro greats.
With his gorgeous tone, dead-on intonation, and musical ideas and solos that are jaw-droppingly creative and tasteful, Mike Witcher is one of the best resonator guitar players in the world. As an in-demand session player in LA and Nashville, Michael has worked with Dwight Yoakam, Peter Rowan, Laurie Lewis, Missy Raines and the New Hip, John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin bassist), Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), and many others. A gifted teacher, over the last 15 years Mike has developed an effective method of teaching the resonator guitar that allows the student to quickly grasp and apply complex concepts.
The Flatt and Scruggs instrumental “Shuckin’ the Corn” features a classic dobro solo by the legendary Josh Graves, the first bluegrass dobro player. With Tablature
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ALL ABOUT THE DOBRO Welcome to the wonderful world of the dobro, or resophonic guitar. Mike gives you an introduction to this popular lap-slide instrument, showing you how it’s tuned and how to get it set comfortably on your lap. He also talks about the strings, picks, and steel (slide) he uses, and gives advice on tuning the dobro.
PICKING-HAND TECHNIQUE Your first four video lessons get you started on the Dobro with an excellent guide to using your picking hand. You’ll get set up with a good picking-hand position, learn how to get the dobro situated on your lap, how to place your hand on the palm rest, and curve your fingers so your thumb and fingers hover about a quarter of an inch above the strings, ready to play. You’ll also learn some basic roll patterns, the essence of the bluegrass dobro style, and some exercises that will help you play cleanly and avoid getting a scratchy sound with your fingerpicks.
SLIDE TECHNIQUE The bar is really what makes the dobro unique. In these five lessons, you’ll get tips on holding the bar, with advice on how much pressure to put on the strings, and learn how to mute the strings behind the bar. You’ll also learn some essential techniques that will help clean up your playing, reduce buzzing, and get a pure tone and learn some arpeggio exercises, as well as the best way to play hammer-ons and pull-offs, an essential technique for dobro players.
EXERCISES FOR BOTH HANDS Learn exercises for both hands that will take your playing to the next level. Included are hammer-on and pull-off exercises as well as scale patterns using alternating picking and exercises that use different string combinations.
DOBRO TUNES Apply the techniques you’ve learned to some classic tunes, with step-by-step instruction, tablature, and play-along tracks so you can practice the tunes you’ve learned with rhythm accompaniment.
PLAYING BLUEGRASS SOLOS Learn to combine rolls and other dobro techniques with classic bluegrass song melodies and variations. You’ll also learn some classic solos and learn how to create your own solos.
BLUEGRASS RHYTHM In most bluegrass situations, the dobro fulfills the same rhythmic function as the mandolin, providing a percussive chop on the backbeat. In these lessons on playing rhythm on the dobro, you’ll learn a few different ways to play the chop, starting with your thumb on the downbeat on the bass strings and your fingers on the offbeat playing two treble strings. You’ll also learn a percussive rhythm that uses more of a roll pattern, a simple offbeat chop, and a “strum chop”in which youstrum with the thumbpick, much like a guitarist or mandolinist would.
TRIAD SHAPES AND SCALE PATTERNS If you want to start learning to improvise, it’s good to know the triad (chord) shapes and scale patterns on the dobro. In these lessons you’ll learn the three triad shapes in the key of G: the root shape, the first inversion shape, and the second inversion shape. Then you’ll learn the scale patterns that correspond to the triad shapes: three closed-position patterns that can be moved to any key.
JOSH GRAVES’ STYLE Josh Graves’ dobro playing with Flatt and Scruggs defined bluegrass dobro playing and still continues to inspire young dobro players. Learn a few of his solos, favorite songs, and tunes here, with play-along tracks to help you practice.
Flatt Lonesome The Josh Graves slow blues tune “Flatt Lonesome” is great for learning to play in the key of A without a capo and it includes a lot of cool blues licks. Mike plays the whole tune through, and then breaks it down, phrase by phrase, showing you how to fill in some of the long held notes with tremolo. He finishes by showing you how you can play the first section an octave up the neck, if you want.
When Papa Played the Dobro The Johnny Cash song “When Papa Played the Dobro” was recorded by Flatt and Scruggs (on their 1964 album The Fabulous Sound of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs)with Josh Graves playing some classic dobro licks that every dobro player should know (Shot Jackson played the dobro on Cash’s original 1960 recording). It’s also a good introduction to playing harmony scales out of straight bar position.
D TUNING AND ALTERNATING-BASS FINGERPICKING Learn to play in D tuning (D A D F# A D), which is great for playing guitar-style alternating-bass fingerpicking. Mike pulls out his Weissenborn-copy guitar for this lesson, and starts by showing you how to get into D tuning. Then you’ll learn the major scale in D tuning and get started on the basics of alternating bass fingerpicking. Once you’ve got the basic fingerpicking pattern down you can start adding licks and melodies, starting with some simple hammer-on and slide licks and then the classic blues song “Stagolee.”
USING A DOBRO STRAP AND STANDING UP While the dobro is most comfortable to play while sitting, at some point you will probably have to play the dobro while standing up: at a jam, open mic, etc. In this lesson, Mike talks about using a dobro strap and playing standing up. He starts by telling you where to find a dobro-specific strap and then shows you how to attach the dobro strap and gives you advice on positioning it and the dobro while standing.
HARMONIZED MAJOR SCALE TRANSITIONS Learn how to use the harmonized major scale to move from the I chord to the IV chord. Starting with the C chord straight-bar position at the fifth fret, you’ll learn how to walk up the scale to the F chord straight-bar position at the tenth fret on each of the top three strings. Then you’ll learn how to harmonize each note of that scale with a note two strings below or one string below, some of which entail using slants. You’ll also learn how to avoid using slants by moving between different string pairs and how to use the harmonized major scale positions to play melodies like “You Are My Sunshine.”
MINOR CHORDS Since the Dobro is tuned to a major chord, it can be a challenge to play minor chords. In this lesson, Mike shows you some different ways to imply minor chords using power chords and dyads (which use just two notes) and how to play some full minor chords (Gm, Cm, Bm, Em, and Dm) using open strings.
MORE DOBRO TUNES, SONGS, AND TECHNIQUES
Wheel Hoss Bill Monroe’s instrumental “Wheel Hoss” has been recorded by numerous bluegrass musicians, including dobroist Jerry Douglas, whose version can be heard on his Everything Is Gonna Work Out Fine collection. It is usually played at a fast tempo, and that can make it difficult to duplicate the fiddle melody. In this lesson, you’ll learn a version of the melody based on Douglas’s recording, which is a good way to play it when the tempo is blistering, as well as a version that follows the fiddle melody.
Steel Guitar Rag Written by Bob Wills’ steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe and first recorded in 1936, “Steel Guitar Rag” has become a dobro and steel guitar standard. You’ll learn the melody in the key of G, and since it’s sometimes played in the key of E by steel guitarists, Mike also shows you how to play it in closed position so you can transpose it to other keys.
Ashokan Farewell The beautiful waltz “Ashokan Farewell” was written by fiddler Jay Ungar and famously featured in Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War. Mike walks you through the melody phrase by phrase, showing you some dobroisms and chord tones you can use to fill out the melody.
“Ashokan Farewell” in Higher Octave You’ll learn the beautiful waltz “Ashokan Farewell” in the higher octave in this lesson. Since you’ll mostly be playing the melody on the top string, Mike reminds you of the D major scale on the top string, before walking you through the melody of “Ashokan Farewell,” phrase by phrase.
Little Rabbit The old-time fiddle tune “Little Rabbit” has five parts and is in the key of A, played with a capo at the second fret. The fourth part of “Little Rabbit” is probably the most distinctive, with a change to the IV chord after three parts with only one chord.
Variations on “Little Rabbit” Mike shows you some embellishments and variations on the fiddle tune “Little Rabbit” that fill in the melody and add to the rhythmic feel. He also shows you a variation on the chords and talks about using dynamics to perform the tune.
Clinch Mountain Backstep Ralph Stanley’s banjo tune “Clinch Mountain Backstep” is a popular bluegrass jam tune. It’s in the key of A and primarily uses the minor pentatonic scale, so Mike starts this lesson by showing you a minor pentatonic scale in open position. Then he walks you through both parts of “Clinch Mountain Backstep” phrase by phrase and shows you a few variations on his arrangement.
Billy in the Lowground The fiddle tune “Billy in the Lowground” is not a standard Dobro tune, but it’s popular at bluegrass and old-time jams. It’s in the key of C, and Mike plays it without a capo, so it’s a great exercise in playing scalar melodies in the key of C with alternate picking. You’ll learn two versions of “Billy in the Lowground,” one using alternate picking and one in which he works some roll patterns into the fiddle-tune melody.
Minor Pentatonic Scale Licks The minor pentatonic scale can be used to play in minor keys or give a bluesy sound to major keys. Mike starts by showing you the minor pentatonic scale in G at the bottom of the neck, and then he shows you some great minor pentatonic licks used by Josh Graves and others.