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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Josh Graves’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
Josh Graves’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Flatt and Scruggs song “Crying My Heart Out Over You” has become a bluegrass standard, and the original recording includes a great intro turnaround and solo by Josh Graves. The solo uses a lot of the slants and harmonized major scale double stops you’ve learned.
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, some of which entail using slants. You’ll also learn how to avoid using slants by moving between different string pairs and how to use the harmonized major scale positions to play melodies like “You Are My Sunshine.”
Since the dobro is tuned to a major chord, it can be a challenge to play minor chords. In this lesson, Mike shows you some different ways to imply minor chords using power chords and dyads (which use just two notes) and how to play some full minor chords (Gm, Cm, Bm, Em, and Dm) using open strings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Learn Mike’s version of the beautiful old folk song “Shenandoah.” Mike plays the tune “rubato” or without a regular pulse, and with a lot of dobro flourishes. He starts by showing you the basic melody, and then he shows you how to spruce it up, including matching barred notes with open strings to get the notes to sustain and the Dobro to ring, and adding some different chord inversions. He also talks about the improvised section he often plays in the middle of a performance of the tune.
The beautiful waltz “Ashokan Farewell” was written by fiddler Jay Ungar and famously featured in Ken Burns’s documentary The Civil War. Mike walks you through the melody phrase by phrase, showing you some dobroisms and chord tones you can use to fill out the melody.
The old-time fiddle tune “Little Rabbit” has five parts and is in the key of A, played with a capo at the second fret. The fourth part of “Little Rabbit” is probably the most distinctive, with a change to the IV chord after three parts with only one chord.
Ralph Stanley’s banjo tune “Clinch Mountain Backstep” is a popular bluegrass jam tune. It’s in the key of A and primarily uses the minor pentatonic scale, so Mike starts this lesson by showing you a minor pentatonic scale in open position. Then he walks you through both parts of “Clinch Mountain Backstep” phrase by phrase and shows you a few variations on his arrangement.
The fiddle tune “Billy in the Lowground” is not a standard dobro tune, but it’s popular at bluegrass and old-time jams. It’s in the key of C, and Mike plays it without a capo, so it’s a great exercise in playing scalar melodies in the key of C with alternate picking. You’ll learn two versions of “Billy in the Lowground,” one using alternate picking and one in which he works some roll patterns into the fiddle-tune melody.