If you like the clean sound of the steel stringed acoustic guitar then chances are you’ll quickly fall in love with the classic Dobro Guitar. For those who haven’t heard of this particularly unique instrument, the dobro guitar (also called the ‘resonator guitar’) was invented back in the 1930’s by the Dopyera brothers who attempted to design an acoustic guitar that had a louder sound to it.
On a regular acoustic the level and quality of sound is determined by its body shape and the size of the hollow but on a dobro this has been replaced by a specially designed steel plate which amplifies the steel strings.
The bright metallic sound that a dobro produces is commonly used by blues, country, folk and bluegrass musicians. There are 2 main types of dobro guitar the ‘Roundnecks’, which are favored by blues players and can be held like a normal guitar; then there’s the ‘Squarenecks’ preferred by bluegrass musicians who play them using fingerpicks and a slider while it’s on its back.
Because the strings on a dobro guitar are set high above the fret board musicians can use a slider to create a soulful and warm sound that works well in both blues and country songs.
Learning To Play The Dobro
If you’re interested in learning this amazing instrument, then you’ve made a great choice. Whether you’ve chosen the roundneck or squareneck dobro, both involve a good deal of technical finger picking with the square neck requiring you to play in a completely different position then you’re used to.
Overall, it is possible to learn the dobro guitar basics on your own or using online guitar lessons but because it is such a specialized instrument you’ll gain faster insight through online guitar lessons or one to one practice with an expert.
To give you a better idea of the uniqueness of the dobro guitar, here are several guitar facts about the dobro that may help you make up your mind about learning.
Dobro Guitar Tuning – Tuning a dobro is slightly different from tuning a guitar; the strings on the dobro are usually tuned differently depending on the type of music that you want to play. For example to create that bluegrass twang the strings are tuned to an open key of ‘G’ going G,D,B,G,B,D from the bottom string up. To get a more bluesy feel you could try tuning the strings to E7, which would look like B,D,E,G#,B,E; though its recommended that you stick with the popular open G key before trying any others.
Finger Picking And Sliding – Most musicians choose to play the dobro for its cool folk sound; you’ll find that most of the music made with this instrument involves using thumb/finger picks for faster plucking and a slide bar to bend the notes. Using these together requires patience and practice to master; also as the guitar has steel parts to amplify the sound the player needs to take care to dampen the excess sound by lightly touching the strings so that each note or chord gives off a clean or muffled sound.
Playing On Your Lap – If you’re used to playing a traditional guitar then you’ll probably start by playing the dobro slung over your shoulder. Though if you’re completely new to guitars then it’s probably best to learn this instrument with it on your lap as it allows you more freedom for your finger picking and sliding. Because the strings are raised so high off the neck playing a dobro on your lap allows you more control of the pressure that you use to push downwards on the strings.
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