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Flatpicking the Dobro

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Dec 14, 2019 - 2:00:35 PM

Al

USA

22 posts since 12/9/2019

So, I'm a long-time pro (electric) guitar player with some experience playing in open tunings, lap steel etc. I recently bought a cheap square neck guitar as I've always wanted a Dobro.

The biggest problem I'm having by far is using finger picks and a thumb pick, which I am totally unaccustomed to. I enjoy playing fingerstyle acoustic but I've never used picks, just my fingers. With the resonator, I am able to play much more cleanly and with a lot better tone using a flatpick. With the fingerpicks I get a lot of extra noise and the hammer-ons and pull-offs are more difficult to play cleanly. I don't plan on playing a lot of bluegrass, although it is an attractive way to play the Dobro and I enjoy fooling around with that style... I'm wondering if it's going to be worth the effort to play with the picks.

Does anyone else flatpick their squareneck guitar? I know Tut Taylor did.

Any comments appreciated

Dec 14, 2019 - 3:06:01 PM

697 posts since 8/8/2008

Corey Lee McQuade is a flatpicking dobro player. He has lots of You Tube videos, including instruction and a FB group called ‘Flat Picking Dobro’. Rocky Richardson is another, also on You Tube. Corey has 3 of Tuts guitars and Tut left his large collections of recordings to Corey.

Dec 14, 2019 - 3:42:41 PM

1153 posts since 7/28/2008

There are a few folks that use a flatpick but the vast majority do not. I think most of your problems stem from your unfamiliarity with finger picks and technique on the dobro. It's a different instrument and it takes time to learn unfamiliar techniques. Practice using the finger picks and techniques unique to the dobro such as use of the bar including hammer on and pull offs, and muting techniques to reduce extraneous noise.

Dec 14, 2019 - 3:43:52 PM
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Al

USA

22 posts since 12/9/2019

Thanks much Jan for the info, I will check that out.

Dec 15, 2019 - 12:13:35 AM
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Dragonslayer

Mozambique

80 posts since 11/30/2019

I'd encourage you to learn to use the finger and thumb picks, even if you don't use them much, cuz it's a very useful skill to have. Also, if you ever pick up banjo you'll already be able to play

Dec 15, 2019 - 4:28:40 AM
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Jim9guitars

Canada

37 posts since 2/10/2018

I come from a similar background and also struggled with the fingerpicks. I took the time to do simple exercises and worked on easy arrangements to get used to them. It took a few months but was worth it, plus I do occasionally flat pick a single note jig for fun now and then but the limitations of flat picking in dobro tuning convinced me to get used to the finger picks.

Dec 15, 2019 - 7:46:36 AM

203 posts since 11/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Al

I enjoy playing fingerstyle acoustic but I've never used picks, just my fingers.
 


Are you familiar with the ProPik Finger-Tones?  These are open design picks that let you touch the strings with your fingers,, similar to finger style picking.  You can get enough contact with the metal ring to give it snap, but feels closer to bare finger style picking then the classic (closed) metal picks.

https://www.guptillmusic.com/propik-finger-tone-finger-picks

I think you would adapt well once you find the right fit.  This is the only design I use.

And learning to use finger picks is so worth it...Good luck!

Dec 15, 2019 - 8:30:56 AM

625 posts since 1/18/2012

This question comes up a lot here and on other forums. I like posting this Watermelon Slim vid because he flat picks, uses a bottleneck instead of a steel, plays the dobro backwards, left handed, with skinny strings on top. Pretty sure he never tabbed this out ;-)
youtu.be/WeMRIu43qjg

Dec 15, 2019 - 11:40:19 AM

Al

USA

22 posts since 12/9/2019

quote:
Originally posted by UncleJack
quote:
Originally posted by Al

I enjoy playing fingerstyle acoustic but I've never used picks, just my fingers.
 


Are you familiar with the ProPik Finger-Tones?

And learning to use finger picks is so worth it...Good luck!


I tried them in a shop and they felt weird to me, like neither one thing or the other.  So far I like the propiks combined with a National thumb pick the best. Thanks for the encouragement. 

It's pretty humbling to have been very proficient at one type of guitar playing and then being a beginner with another.

Dec 15, 2019 - 11:42:45 AM
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Al

USA

22 posts since 12/9/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Lounge Primate

This question comes up a lot here and on other forums. I like posting this Watermelon Slim vid because he flat picks, uses a bottleneck instead of a steel, plays the dobro backwards, left handed, with skinny strings on top. Pretty sure he never tabbed this out ;-)
youtu.be/WeMRIu43qjg


Thanks for that vid... I would normally play bottleneck style on a regular guitar for that type of music.

Dec 15, 2019 - 12:28:31 PM
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MC5C

Canada

208 posts since 4/22/2015

The thing about flat picking a squareneck dobro is you will find yourself playing much the same as you do on your regular guitar - similar licks, similar rhythms, driven by what your right hand is doing. Which is fine if you want to play that way. Machine-gun fast rolls, cross-picking strings, muting, all of which is a different style than you probably play now, is enabled by thumb and finger picks, so if that's what you want to hear, that's the most direct way forward. There are others - I'd like to hear someone ace a claw-hammer style on dobro, that would be cool as heck!

Dec 16, 2019 - 7:59:11 AM

128 posts since 8/6/2008

Anybody remember TUT TAYLOR- the flatpickin' guitar man- his whole career was flatpicking

Dec 16, 2019 - 9:21:12 AM
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69 posts since 7/27/2008

Hey Al- I'm sure you can get comfortable with picks if you really want to, but another approach you might consider is James Burton's dobro style. He played it as he did electric guitar, with a flat pick and one fingerpick on his middle finger. It's much like the "hybrid" pick technique with which I know you're adept. I love Burton's playing. Check out the Merle Haggard tribute to Jimmie Rodgers album, he's all over it. If you're not playing a bunch of bluegrass oriented stuff that requires the fingerpicking skills it might work well for you. Have a great holiday season...best...oj

Dec 16, 2019 - 11:28:45 AM
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287 posts since 9/9/2016

Answer #1 - If YOU like to play whichever style And it supports the music YOU play , there is no right or wrong , go forth , and enjoy !

Answer #2 - Most music ( excluding Taylor and McQuade ) traditionally associated with squareneck is built around the capabilities of fingerpicks , and at an intermediate level is difficult or impossible to do with flat pick .

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