My First Slant

As mentioned in a previous post, I am playing my dobro/resonator in the GBDGBD tuning, which is pretty standard G.

If I want to play a C chord, I go the the fifth fret where I get CEGCEG. That’s great but a bit limiting to have to be at a specific fret to be able to play a desired chord.

In order to open up what is available on the dobro, players slant the bar, giving them the ability to vary the interval. This typically happens when playing two strings, as finding slants that work over more than two are less common (there are very useful ones out there) and also it’s harder to make them sound in tune.

If I am playing strings 2 and 4 of my C chord at the fifth fret (numbering from high to low), I get a G on string 4 and an E on string 2.

If I then drop back by three frets and slant the top of the bar back a further fret, so the bar is over fret 1 at string 2 and fret 3 at string 4, I get an E on string 4 and a C on string 2.


At fret 5 the interval is a maj 6th, at the slant a min 6th.

This technique is incredibly useful for playing chord voicings around the neck and for playing harmonised scales.

More to come..

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First Dobro Outing

My mate Alex is (among other things) a banjo player. He’s having a party in a couple of weeks and getting some musician mates to bring instruments for an evening of folk.

He sent me a few tunes to learn and then he came round with his friend Jacqui, who is an accordion and ukulele player, for a rehearsal.

We ran through some tunes* then headed off, instruments in hand, to the folk session at The Grosvenor in Stockwell.

They were exceedingly welcoming and encouraged us to play all night, and the bar is licensed ’til 5am!

* – tunes

1. Alas I Cannot Swim
2. Cuckoo
3. I’ll Fly Away
4. John Hardy
5. Jolene
6. Noongallas Nights
7. Norwegian Wood
8. Omie Wise
9. Raggle Taggle Gypsy
10. Rain and Snow
11. Saskatchewan
12. The Long Way Home
13. The Parting Glass
14. The Water
15. Whiskey In the Jar

Posted in Dobro

Beginning the Dobro

I got myself a Dobro (well a Wechter Sheerhorn squareneck resonator) last year.
I thought it might be a nice lightweight alternative to the pedal steel for doing more acoustic gigs, or gigs where the stage isn’t that big.

I was going try and tune it to B6 so it would crossover nicely with my Uni pedal steel, but in the end I just went with the normal (I think!) GBDGBD Dobro tuning.

I also decided I was going to start with a bullet bar rather than one of the Stevens style ones, partly cos I had one and it meant I didn’t need to buy a new one, and partly cos I was keen to get into bar slants and I’d heard they were better with bullet bars.

Still haven’t taken it for a gig yet but it’s coming together slowly. I’ve been learning a few ways to get minor chords and different inversions using slants and now feel fairly musically versatile on it..

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Intonation: Vibrato

Vibrato is inextricably linked to intonation as you do both with your bar, and it can be used to smooth over any inevitable slight intonation inaccuracies.

For this reason you should avoid vibrato when developing intonation as it will only blur what you are doing.

However, like everything else with the pedal steel, you need to be able to do it all at once, so applying

Vibrato when trying to pitch notes accurately is something else to practise.

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Intonation: Bar Control

One simple thing to ensure you do is keep the bar straight (unless you are compensating or slanting), this is easily overlooked and needs to be second nature.

Developing strength and detexterity in your left hand will also help as it will allow you to make micro-adjustments to the pitch, these adjustments work in parallel with what

you are doing with your left arm.

It will also enable you to hold your bar in a variety of different ways which will improve your stamina, and allow you adjust the way you hold the bar as your arm moves up and

down the neck causing the position of your hand to vary.

On recommendation again from Joe Wright, I have begun wearing weights on my left(bar) arm when I’m practising to accelerate development of vibrato and fret accuracy!

Intonation by eye and ear are skills to practise independently.

In your playing these two approaches have their own roles, typically you will move the bar by eye to the approximate place and then adjust by ear, the two skills will complement each other.

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