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

 
Watch the video above to get a taste of what you’ll learn in Mike Witcher’s Dobro Workshop.

Sample Dobro Lesson

Shuckin’ the Corn

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

Dobro Workshop Lessons

A subscription to Dobro Workshop includes:

  • More than 40 extensive dobro video lessons
  • New lessons added every month
  • In-depth dobro instruction in slide and picking-hand technique
  • More than 30 complete songs and tunes to play
  • Tablature for all lessons
  • Play-along tracks for most lessons so you can practice what you’re learning
  • High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action

Get started now! Use promo code “MikeLand” at checkout and get your first month free or $20 off an annual subscription. Subscribe to Dobro Workshop today today and get access to all these dobro lessons:

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.

  • Red-Haired Boy The bluegrass jam-session favorite “Red-Haired Boy” is a great tune for working on hammer-ons and pull-offs. It’s in the key of A, so you’ll learn it with a capo at the second fret using G-position shapes and scales.
  • Dobro Country Learn the great Tut Taylor tune “Dobro Country,” a blues shuffle in the key of E, which you’ll play with the capo at the second fret.
  • Angeline the Baker Mike’s arrangement of the old-time fiddle tune “Angeline the Baker,” a jam-session favorite, uses rolls, hammer-ons, and drone notes to fill out the simple melody in different ways. You’ll also learn a version of the melody in a lower octave and how to continue the roll pattern in the lower octave.
  • Big Mon Bill Monroe’s classic “Big Mon” is usually played at a fast tempo, so using hammer-ons and pull-offs is essential. You’ll learn a few variations and ways to enhance the melody with some additional drone notes and roll patterns, and Mike also talks about when to pick a note or use a slide or pull-off. 

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.

  • Nine Pound Hammer This solo to “Nine Pound Hammer” combines the melody with simple rolls. Then you’ll learn some cool variations on each melodic phrase, including a classic Jerry Douglas lick from the Tony Rice recording of “Nine Pound Hammer.” 
  • 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. Learn to play forward and backward slants and use them to play “Great Speckled Bird,” a classic Dobro tune played by Brother Oswald and Josh Graves.
  • I Wonder Where You Are Tonight Learn the bluegrass standard “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight” in the key of E all in closed position. This means playing without any open strings, so you can move the shapes and patterns to any key. 
  • 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.
  • Bluegrass Intros in G Learn a variety of intro licks in the key of G, starting with a basic intro lick where the melody starts on the root, like “Nine Pound Hammer” or “Fireball Mail” and some 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 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, including one of the most common dobro turnarounds, the “yodel lick,” and 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.
  • 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. You’ll also learn how to use the harmonized major scale positions to play melodies like “You Are My Sunshine.”

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.

  • Shuckin’ the Corn 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, including two classic variations on the B part. The one starts by walking up the minor pentatonic scale, so Mike starts by showing you the G minor pentatonic scale.
  • Foggy Mountain Special The Earl Scruggs tune “Foggy Mountain Special” is a 12-bar blues with a bouncy swing feel. You’ll learn the basic melody, which includes some cool slides and drone notes, as well as some variations and ideas for improvising. 
  • Foggy Mountain Rock The bluesy dobro instrumental “Foggy Mountain Rock” is another tune by Josh Graves. 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 as well. 
  • John Henry Josh Graves’ solo on “John Henry” (in the key of D) 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. 
  • 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.
  • Some Old Day The classic Flatt and Scruggs song “Some Old Day” starts with a great Josh Graves dobro solo. You’ll learn a solo in the key of G played in closed position so you can transpose it easily to other keys. You’ll also learn where to add tremolo to some of the double stops to get the classic dobro sound, and even how to add a “string pull” to one of the melody lines. 
  • Little Darlin’, Pal of Mine The Carter Family song “Little Darlin’, Pal of Mine,” recorded by Earl Scruggs on his instrumental album Foggy Mountain Banjo, includes a great Josh Graves solo that you’ll learn in this lesson. It’s in the key of G and includes some great ways to get from a G chord to a C chord and back, as well as some classic syncopated bluesy licks that every bluegrass dobro player should know. 
  • 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.

MORE DOBRO TUNES AND SONGS

  • 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.
  • 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. The tune is in an A modal tonality (with major thirds and minor thirds as well as flatted sevenths) and has some cool bluesy slides as well as numerous hammer-ons and pull-offs. 
  • Bill Cheatham The classic bluegrass fiddle tune “Bill Cheatham” is in the key of A, and you’ll learn 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. 
  • Tennessee Waltz This beautiful country classic sounds great on the dobro. You’ll learn 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. Finding ways to play a melody in different places on the fretboard gives you more freedom to voice and phrase melodies the way you want to.  
  • Gold Rush The classic Bill Monroe instrumental “Gold Rush” is in the key of A, played with a capo at the second fret. “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, and includes a couple of cool variations.
  • Midnight on the Water 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. The B part is played using the open-position D major scale. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. You’ll learn all three parts in the lower register and a variation on the A part in an upper octave.
  • 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 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. 
  • 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). It’s made up of a few different sections, all with the same I–V (G–D) chord progression.
  • Road to Columbus The bluegrass fiddle tune “Road to Columbus” was written by Bill Monroe and 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. You’ll also learn a cool intro that imitates the way the fiddle starts the tune. 
  • Hot Corn, Cold Corn The bluegrass classic “Hot Corn, Cold Corn” is a fun song to play and a good song to use to illustrate a couple of different roll patterns you can add to bluegrass song melodies. Mike starts by showing you the song’s basic melody and then how to add a four-note roll pattern (a forward/backward roll). You’ll also learn a more syncopated version using a three-note forward roll pattern and how to give the rolls a swing feel or “bounce.”
  • 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.


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