I'm going to Bluegrass school...

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Hey All,

I'm hoping I can get some help here. A local BG instructor has put together a group to meet once a week to work on tunes (kind of like a Bluegrass kindergarten) and I've enrolled as the sole dobro picker. I'm really excited about it!

The thing is, I'm REALLY green and am starting to get "the fear" that I'll have to stand in the corner with a dunce cap on once they hear my first so-called "break." I've got just over a week to prepare myself and I'm trying to decide how to use my time most efficiently.

I'm thinking the best strategy would be to just try to learn the bare bones melody to a handful of the most common tunes so that I'll be able to play something that works. Does this sound like the best way to go about it? Any tips?

Any feedback would be much appreciated!




Ivan R's picture

hey QT, the most important thing is to relax and have fun. If you're at a jam and someone else makes a mistake, you don't care, right? same goes for everyone else--often everyone's so worried about their own break that they won't be worried about yours. and if for some reason someone's really uptight about others making mistakes, who cares what that person thinks, eh? Likewise, most folks don't have a lot of expectations about what a dobro should sound like--they're likely to just dig the sound it's making and enjoy having one around.

As for practice, you had a great idea. Just learn some basic melodies to start with. a few notes played well on the dobro will sound good, and if you're playing the melody, you might be the only one doing it! so find those melodies, and pay attention to your pitch and tone, and most importantly, have fun!



Man, I wish someone had said to me what Ivan just said when I was headed for my first jam with dobro in hand. I was really terrified, even after jamming with guitar and mando for a long time. But, when folks saw the dobro, and heard the simple lines I was playing everything was OK!

QT, you're gonna have a ball! How can you lose when you're playing the most interesting instrument in the place??


ST in VT

Mark Clifton's picture

Just learn the melody. I spent yrs. in the back circles of jams watching
and trying to keep up. Eventually just stick your neck out and play something
you're comfortable with. Others are nervous wrecks too. Next thing you know
you'll be onstage playing in public.


BillnRI's picture

yeah, they will say, wow, that was really in the edge , wow, or in my case, what the heck was that?

Hey 2 years ago I could hardly spell dobro, but First Night I hosted a jam and played in front of hundreds, even did the headstock hits the floor trick.


Two possibilities here. Both made me relax alot more.

Ask if there are tunes that are typically played there. You could probably find basic melody lines for a few at a place like JayBuckey.com

The seceond is, I think, even easier. Learn ONE closed pentatonic scale. Just five little notes to remember. Try it in a few different keys, but it's basically the same pattern everywhere. Whatever key the song is in, play those scale notes. No matter what chord change happens, the SAME five notes will work in them.

I've gone to jams clueless and come out fine with my five little notes instead of stuffing pages of numbers in my head and not remembering any of it.


ps The more I think about it, with one week left, ignore point number one. Go with the five notes....really. I could even type one out for ya right here, if you'd like.


Proud member of the Wolfe-pack!

ClayHill Billy:

ps The more I think about it, with one week left, ignore point number one. Go with the five notes....really. I could even type one out for ya right here, if you'd like.

Would you? I can't even spell what you said--lol. I'll be starting in a couple of weeks also, and am in the same boat. I' don't think "Grandfathers Clock" will be in great demand.

Thanks :oops:


Why does it sound better when someone else plays it ?

Sure, why not. It's basically the shape of the letter 'C', so let's do it in the key of 'C'.

3rd string, 5th fret
3rd string, 7th fret
2nd string, 5th fret
1st string, 5th fret
1st string, 7th fret.

Without a doubt someone will come along and make this more confusing and conditional than it needs to be. But know this. Pentatonics should be the beginner's waypoint. But if it was, not many books and videos would be sold, I suppose.

So there's the brush. Paint your own picture.

Thanks very much for your advice everyone. You've given me a shot of confidence that I needed. I'm looking forward to learning the instrument and participating in this group.

I'll post a follow up on my progress in the class.

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