DOBRO WORKSHOP with Mike Witcher

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About This Course

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.

MIKE WITCHER

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.

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The youngest of five siblings (including a twin brother) in a musical and artistic family in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Mike Witcher began playing the resonator guitar at the age of 14. Influenced by the many styles of music he heard at home, he was soon playing with his father, Dennis, and brother Gabe (who currently plays in Punch Brothers) in the legendary Southern California-based bluegrass band the Witcher Brothers. 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 and caring 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. He has written two instruction books (Resonator Guitar—Tunes, Techniques, and Practice Skills and Resonator Guitar—20 Bluegrass Jam Favorites), and teaches at the top acoustic music camps around the world, including Reso Summit. mikewitcher.com

 

Dobro Workshop Overview

Latest Dobro Lesson

Road to Columbus

The bluegrass fiddle tune “Road to Columbus” was written by Bill Monroe and was famously played by Monroe’s fiddler Kenny Baker on his Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe album. It’s in the key of A, played with the capo at the second fret. The first part is played mostly in open position and the second part moves up the scale on the top string. With Tablature and Play-Along Track

Feedback and Discussion

Let Mike know what you think of the course and interact with fellow Peghead Nation dobro students.

Peghead Play-Along Tracks

Peghead Nation is creating a library of accompaniment videos (and downloadable MP3s) for songs and tunes that are taught on the site, classics that you'll find at many jams and picking parties. As a subscriber, you have access to this library and can use the tracks to practice playing tunes and songs at a slow or medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. New songs will be added regularly. 

Dobro Workshop Lessons

Subscribe to Dobro Workshop today for access to all of these dobro lessons and new material every month! All dobro lessons include tablature.
  • All About the Dobro Welcome to the wonderful world of the dobro, or resophonic guitar. In this video, 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
  • Picking-Hand Technique, Part 1: Basic Position and a Roll Pattern Mike gets you set up with a good picking-hand position, showing you 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.
  • Picking-Hand Technique, Part 2: More Roll Patterns Learn more roll patterns, including the handy 3–3–2 pattern often used by bluegrass dobro players to play rolls in 4/4 time. 
  • Picking-Hand Technique, Part 3: Arpeggios and Anchoring - Sample Lesson Now that you’ve got a few roll patterns under your fingers, learn a great arpeggio exercise that will help you learn to play with the center of your fingerpicks.
  • Picking-Hand Technique, Part 4: Alternating Picking Another handy technique you can use when playing scales is alternating picking, in which you alternate strikes between your thumb and index finger. 
SLIDE TECHNIQUE
  • Slide Technique, Part 1: Getting Started Mike gets you started with the bar, with tips on holding the bar, how much pressure to put on the strings, and muting the strings behind the bar.
  • Slide Technique, Part 2: Battle of the Buzz A metal bar on metal strings makes a lot of crazy metallic sounds. In this lesson, Mike shows you techniques that help you clean up your playing, reduce buzzing, and get a pure tone. 
  • Slide Technique, Part 3: Arpeggios and Muting Mike shows you how to play arpeggios across the strings when you want the notes to sound individually, not as a ringing chord. 
  • Slide Technique, Part 4: Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs Learn the best way to play hammer-ons and pull-offs. 
  • Exercises for Both Hands, Part 1: Scale Patterns 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. 
  • Exercises for Both Hands, Part 2: Roll Patterns Expand on the basic roll patterns you learned in the lesson on picking-hand technique with some exercises that use different string combinations. 
DOBRO TUNES
 
    Red-Haired Boy
  • Red-Haired Boy The bluegrass jam-session favorite “Red-Haired Boy” is a great tune for working on hammer-ons and pull-offs. “Red-Haired Boy” is in the key of A, so you’ll learn it with a capo at the second fret.
  • Red-Haired Boy: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Red-Haired Boy” with guitar accompaniment.
    Dobro Country
  • Dobro Country Learn the great Tut Taylor tune “Dobro Country,” a blues shuffle in the key of E, which Mike plays with the capo at the second fret.
  • Dobro Country: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Dobro Country” with guitar accompaniment.
    Angeline the Baker
  • Angeline the Baker, Part 1 Mike’s arrangement of the classic old-time fiddle tune “Angeline the Baker” uses rolls, hammer-ons, and drone notes to fill out the simple melody in different ways. 
  • Angeline the Baker, Part 2: Lower-Octave Melody You can also play “Angeline the Baker” in the lower octave. Learn how to continue the roll patterns in the lower octave by using the sixth string and muting it or using the top D string as a drone note.
  • Angeline the Baker, Part 3: Using Drones Learn to use drones to work on your intonation, with some ideas about how to play melodies on the top strings while droning the lower strings.
  • Angeline the Baker, Part 4: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Angeline the Baker” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
    Big Mon
  • Big Mon, Part 1 Bill Monroe’s classic “Big Mon” is usually played at a fast tempo, so using hammer-ons and pull-offs is essential. Mike talks about when to pick the note or use a slide or pull-off. 
  • Big Mon, Part 2: Variations Learn a few different ways to enhance the melody to “Big Mon,” with some additional drone notes and roll patterns.
  • Big Mon, Part 3: Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Big Mon” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
    Nine Pound Hammer
  • “Nine Pound Hammer” Variations, Part 1 This solo to “Nine Pound Hammer” combines the melody with simple rolls. Then learn some cool variations on each melodic phrase. 
  • “Nine Pound Hammer” Variations, Part 2 Mike continues with some more variations on “Nine Pound Hammer,” including a Jerry Douglas lick from the Tony Rice recording of “Nine Pound Hammer.” 
  • “Nine Pound Hammer” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Nine Pound Hammer” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
    Great Speckled Bird
  • Slants: “Great Speckled Bird” Slants are a great tool for harmonizing and playing double stops in smooth ways that you normally can’t do with a straight bar. There are forward and backward slants, and Mike shows you how to play both of them, using “Great Speckled Bird,” a classic Dobro tune played by Brother Oswald and Josh Graves.
  • “Great Speckled Bird” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Great Speckled Bird” at a slow tempo with guitar accompaniment.
    Whiskey Before Breakfast
  • Whiskey Before Breakfast The fiddle tune standard “Whiskey Before Breakfast” is a must-know bluegrass jam tune, and is also a good tune to use for practicing playing in the key of D. Mike walks you through “Whiskey Before Breakfast” phrase by phrase, with lots of opportunities to play along at a slow tempo.
  • “Whiskey Before Breakfast” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Whiskey Before Breakfast” at a slow tempo with guitar accompaniment. 
    Flannery's Dream
  • Flannery’s Dream Rob Ickes recorded a great dobro version of the old-time fiddle tune “Flannery’s Dream” on the first Blue Highway album, and John Hartford’s fiddle version is also worth checking out. Mike shows you the tune, which is in an A modal tonality (with major thirds and minor thirds as well as flatted sevenths), phrase by phrase, pointing out all the bluesy slides and where to use hammer-ons and pull-offs. 
    Bill Cheatham
  • Bill Cheatham The classic bluegrass fiddle tune “Bill Cheatham” is in the key of A, and Mike plays it with a capo at the second fret. It’s a great workout for both hands, with lots of hammer-ons and pull-offs and some mixed roll patterns. 
  • Bill Cheatham” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Bill Cheatham” at medium and slow tempos with guitar accompaniment. 

PLAYING RHYTHM 

  • Bluegrass Rhythm: The Chop In most bluegrass situations, the dobro fulfills the same rhythmic function as the mandolin, providing a percussive chop on the back beat. Mike shows you a couple of 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, and a simple offbeat chop. 
  • Bluegrass Rhythm, Part 2: The Strum Chop and More Another way to play rhythm on the dobro is to strum the strings with the thumbpick. Instead of alternating thumb and fingers, you’ll learn to strum with the thumbpick, much like a guitarist or mandolinist would. Mike shows you how to get a nice percussive chop this way and shows you some rhythmic variations, including boom-chuck-a and boom-a-chuck-a rhythms using backstrokes with the fingers of your picking hand. 
TRIAD SHAPES AND SCALE PATTERNS
  • Triad Shapes If you want to start learning to improvise, it’s good to know the triad (chord) shapes and scale patterns on the dobro. Learn the three triad shapes in the key of G: the root shape, the first inversion shape, and the second inversion shape. 
  • Scale Patterns Learn the scale patterns that correspond to the triad shapes. You’ll learn three closed-position patterns that can be moved to any key. Mike also shows you a couple of single-string scale patterns that will help you visualize how to move from one position to another.

CLOSED-POSITION MELODIES

  • Closed-Position Melodies: “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” Learn the bluegrass standard “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” in the key of E. You’ll play it all in closed position, without any open strings, so you can move the shapes and patterns to any other key. 

MORE DOBRO TUNES

    Tennessee Waltz
  • Tennessee Waltz, Part 1 “Tennessee Waltz” is a beautiful country classic that sounds great on the dobro. Mike shows you how to use the different chord inversion shapes you learned in the Triad Shapes lesson to find the melody in different places on the neck.
  • Tennessee Waltz, Part 2 Learn to play the melody to “Tennessee Waltz” out of different triad shapes. Finding ways to play the melody in different places on the fretboard gives you more freedom to voice and phrase the melody the way you want to.  
  • “Tennessee Waltz” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Tennessee Waltz” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
    Shuckin' the Corn
  • Shuckin’ the Corn, Part 1 The Flatt and Scruggs instrumental “Shuckin’ the Corn” features a classic dobro solo by Josh Graves. You’ll learn a break to “Shuckin’ the Corn” inspired by Josh’s solo in this lesson. Mike plays the whole solo through slowly and then takes it apart, measure by measure. You’ll learn the first part of “Shuckin’ the Corn,” which includes some typical Josh Graves roll patterns and one variation, in this video.
  • Shuckin’ the Corn, Part 2 Josh Graves plays two classic variations on the B part of “Shuckin’ the Corn.” The first one starts by walking up the minor pentatonic scale, so Mike starts this video by showing you the G minor pentatonic scale. Then he walks you through both versions of the B part and ends by playing “Shuckin’ the Corn” all the way through.
  • “Shuckin’ the Corn” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Shuckin’ the Corn” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment.
    Midnight on the Water
  • Midnight on the Water, Part 1 The beautiful waltz “Midnight on the Water” comes from Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson. It’s in the key of D and you can play most of the A part melody on the first string, making it a great exercise in bar control and intonation. 
  • Midnight on the Water, Part 2 You’ll learn the second part of “Midnight on the Water” in this lesson. This part is played using the open-position D major scale. 
  • Midnight on the Water” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Midnight on the Water” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment.
    Gold Rush
  • Gold Rush, Part 1 The classic Bill Monroe instrumental “Gold Rush” is in the key of A, and Mike plays it with a capo at the second fret. He reviews the A major scale and then takes the tune apart, phrase by phrase. “Gold Rush” uses a lot of hammer-ons and pull-offs and some tricky picking hand moves, and Mike shows you how to make it all flow smoothly. In this video, you’ll learn the A part to “Gold Rush,” including a cool variation you can use to start the repeat of the A section.
  • Gold Rush, Part 2 You’ll learn the B part of “Gold Rush” in this video. Mike plays it through and then takes it apart phrase by phrase, explaining the picking-hand fingerings and roll patterns you can use. 
  • “Gold Rush” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Gold Rush” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment. 
    Foggy Mountain Special
  • Foggy Mountain Special The Earl Scruggs tune “Foggy Mountain Special” is a 12-bar blues with a bouncy swing feel. Mike walks you through the basic melody, which includes some cool slides and drone notes, and then shows you some variations and ideas for improvising. 
  • “Foggy Mountain Special” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Foggy Mountain Special”  at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment. 

    Pickaway

  • Pickaway The banjo tune “Pickaway,” written by Vic Jordan, was popularized as a dobro tune by Mike Auldridge on his classic 1972 album Dobro. It’s a great tune for working on different kinds of rolls, and the second part includes some different rolls played on a circle-of-fifths progression: B–E–A–D. 

    Foggy Mountain Rock

  • Foggy Mountain Rock The bluesy dobro instrumental “Foggy Mountain Rock” is another tune by Josh Graves, which he wrote while playing with Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. Thus, the title. It’s a 12-bar blues in G with a bridge, which was usually played by the banjo, but you’ll learn a dobro part for that section in this lesson as well. 

    Methodist Preacher

  • Methodist Preacher This Bill Monroe fiddle tune makes a great dobro tune and has a lot of typical fiddle-style licks that you’ll find in other tunes in G. It has three parts, plus a short transitional section, and the second part is repeated after the third part. Mike plays it through and then takes it apart, phrase by phrase, showing you a few variations to each phrase as he goes. You’ll learn all three parts in the lower register and a variation on the A part in an upper octave.
  • “Methodist Preacher” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Methodist Preacher” at slow and medium tempos with guitar accompaniment. 

    Salt Creek

  • Salt Creek The classic bluegrass  picking tune “Salt Creek” is in the key of A with a distinctive flatted seventh chord (G) in both parts. Mike plays it through and then shows you the chord progression, before breaking down each part, phrase by phrase. He gives you advice on playing some of the quick pull-offs he uses in the tune, as well as some of the picking-hand fingering he uses, and also shows you a way to simplify the B part if the tempo gets too fast for you.
  • “Salt Creek” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing  “Salt Creek” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. 

   Hound Dog Ramble

  • Hound Dog Ramble This fun dobro tune comes from LeRoy McNees and Josh Graves. You may have seen Leroy on the Andy Griffith Show playing dobro with the Country Boys (who later changed their name to the Kentucky Colonels). Mike learned “Hound Dog Ramble” from Leroy when he was first getting started. It’s made up of a few different sections, all with the same I–V (G–D) chord progression. Mike plays it through and then takes it apart, phrase by phrase.

   John Henry

  • John Henry Josh Graves’ solo on “John Henry” on the Flatt and Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Banjo album is a must-learn solo for bluegrass dobroists. Not only is it a great tune to play, but it includes some classic licks that most of the great modern dobro players have stolen and adapted for their own uses. It’s in the key of D, so Mike starts by reminding you of the D major scale, starting at the seventh fret of the low G string, and also shows you a few chord shapes you’ll use, including a D double-stop slant shape at the 12th and 11th frets. 

    Road to Columbus

  • Road to Columbus The bluegrass fiddle tune “Road to Columbus” was written by Bill Monroe and was famously played by Monroe’s fiddler Kenny Baker on his Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe album.  It’s in the key of A, played with the capo at the second fret. The first part is played mostly in open position and the second part moves up the scale on the top string. Mike plays it through and then walks you through his arrangement, phrase by phrase, giving you ideas for fill-in licks and minor variations. You’ll also learn a cool intro that imitates the way the fiddle starts the tune. With Tablature
  • “Road to Columbus” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing  “Road to Columbus” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. 

BLUEGRASS SONGS AND SOLOS

    Can’t You Hear Me Calling

  • Can’t You Hear Me Calling Bill Monroe’s song “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” is a bluegrass classic. In this lesson you’ll learn a solo to “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” that includes some great pentatonic blues licks. Mike starts by laying out the chord progression and the basic melody, and then shows you how he fills out the melody with roll patterns and runs using the minor pentatonic scale. 
  • “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” Play-Along Track Use this video to practice playing “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” at a medium tempo with guitar accompaniment. 

    Bluegrass Intros in G

  • Bluegrass Intros in G In this lesson, you’ll learn a variety of intro licks in the key of G. Mike starts with a basic intro lick where the melody starts on the root, like “Nine Pound Hammer” or “Fireball Mail” and then shows you a number of variations on this lick. Then you’ll learn some intro licks for songs where the melody starts on the third note of the scale, like “My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains” and the fifth note of the scale, D. 

    Ten Turnarounds in D

  • Ten Turnarounds in D Turnarounds come at the end of a verse or chorus of song, usually on a I–V–I or V–I progression.You’ll learn a number of great turnarounds in the key of D in this lesson. Mike starts by showing you one of the most common dobro turnarounds, the “yodel lick,” and then shows you a classic dobro turnaround lick for the Hank Williams song “Cold, Cold Heart.” You’ll also learn a number of variations on the V–I turnaround played on different strings and in different positions.

    Dig a Hole in the Meadow

  • Dig a Hole in the Meadow The Flatt and Scruggs recording of the song “Dig a Hole in the Meadow,” also known as “Darling Corey,” includes another classic solo by Josh Graves, this time in the key of C. Josh’s solo works the minor pentatonic scale up the neck, bringing a strong blues flavor to Flatt and Scruggs’ brand of bluegrass. Mike starts by reminding you of the minor pentatonic blues scale in C and then walks you through Josh’s solo, phrase by phrase.

    Some Old Day

  • Some Old Day The classic Flatt and Scruggs song “Some Old Day” starts with a great Josh Graves dobro solo. In this lesson you’ll learn a solo in the key of G played in closed position so you can transpose it easily to other keys. Mike plays the solo through and then walks you through it phrase by phrase. He also shows you where you can add tremolo to some of the double stops to get the classic dobro sound, and even shows you how to add a “string pull” to one of the melody lines. 

D TUNING

    D Tuning and Alternating-Bass Fingerpicking

  • D Tuning and Alternating-Bass Fingerpicking, Part 1 In this lesson, you’ll 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 Mike shows you the major scale in D tuning and gets you started on the basics of alternating bass fingerpicking, with simple exercises to get you used to playing a steady bass pattern with your thumb.
  • D Tuning and Alternating-Bass Fingerpicking, Part 2 Once you’ve got the basic fingerpicking pattern down you can start adding licks and melodies. Mike starts with some simple hammer-on and slide licks and then shows you how to play the classic blues song “Stagolee.” 

USING A DOBRO STRAP AND STANDING UP

  • Using a Dobro Strap and Standing Up While the dobro is most comfortable to play while sitting, at some point you will probably, if you haven’t already, be faced with having 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.


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