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If you know how to play a Dobro guitar you have at your command a whole range of notes that you cannot get to without a slide. You can slide into notes which, with that unusual Dobro wail, makes your audience’s hair stand on end. When we talk about knowing how to play a Dobro guitar, we are talking about a resonator guitar. The attraction to so-called “Dobro” guitars is the unique tone of the single cone resonator guitar with a wooden body. There are resonator guitars with metal bodies, but they have a totally different sound. The actual name Dobro is the property of the Gibson company which bought out the National Guitar company which owned the patent to the original resonator which had three cones.

Most really good Dobro guitar players have the guitar sitting in their lap. You can play with the guitar in the conventional position but that does not allow you nearly as much freedom to express yourself and explore the possibilities of the instrument. To play a resonator guitar you will need to get yourself a slide that is made to be used on a bottleneck guitar or make use of a bottle or some other cool-looking object that many slide guitar players use.

If you associate the slide guitar sound with a Dobro you might want to reconsider buying a resonator, because you can get the slide guitar sound using any acoustic guitar. You just need to be careful if you are using non-standard tunings that involve tuning the strings up rather than down because you do not want to bend the neck.

One of the main techniques you will need to learn to develop your own Dobro style is string damping. You do not want extra noise from the strings, so if you have the slide on your pinky finger, you drag one of the other singers just after the slide using only enough weight on the strings to get rid of extraneous noise.

You will also be using your right hand to damp the strings that you do not want to sound if you pluck several strings but only want one or two to sound. This technique is called palm muting but it is really done by applying the side of your right hand to the strings as you play.

You may already know that when you play a conventional guitar you place your left hand fingers slightly behind the frets. With a Dobro you have the slide right above the fret when you play a note or chord. You will need practice to get that sound of sliding from one note to another, and you will need to work on producing vibrato by moving the slide back and forth rapidly.

Guitarists who know how to play a Dobro guitar will have a collection of alternate tunings at their fingertips. Remember, every time you change the guitar from conventional tuning you will need to learn all over again where the notes are on the fretboard. This is not as big and boring a job as it sounds. If you take care to learn alternate and open tunings one at a time, remembering where the notes are just comes by itself with practice.

Most slide and Dobro guitar players recommend Open G as a first tuning. You can quickly change to this tuning by changing both E strings down to D, then your fifth string down from A to G. Another useful tuning is Open D where you change your strings down to D A D F# A D.


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