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Dobro Lessons: The Blues

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Here we're gonna talk about the blues.
And the blues is gonna be a pretty
in-depth part of this curriculum for
a lot of reasons, really, but one of which
is just how well it is suited
to being played on the Dobro, with all the
emotive elements of the Dobro.
The sustain, the sort of vocal quality.
But also, how blues relates to bluegrass.
A lot of bluegrass vocabulary is really
based on, the blues.
I mean even the name obviously, bluegrass.
You know when Bill Monroe was playing to
there was an old bluesmen that he would
visit and learn from.
And that's where he got a lot of his feel.
And a lot of the way he played.
A lot of the, this sort of, the licks you
played and
whatever were based off of blues some of
the pen and tonic scales we've been doing
are related to blues essentially blues
scales so
blues and bluegrass really go hand in hand
even, even as
far as lyrical content you know a lot of
traditional bluegrass, pretty sad stuff.
So, it probably came from the time that
this music was created.
It was a time of depression.
And, you know, blues and an emotive type
of playing, was, was really popular,
and it remains today, because it really
strikes something in all of us.
So, one thing about the blues is, it's
just it is very emotional.
And, that's what you wanna try and
keep in mind as we go through all the
different examples related to blues,
you want to keep in mind that's it's, it's
really it's a feeling.
This, this part of the curriculum.
I've got exercises, I've got backing
tracks and stuff, but it's,
it's a little more of a feeling type of
thing, so you know when you're,
when you're playing the blues, you, you
want to sort of open up,
you wanna let the listener feel what
you're feeling.
And it's a sad feeling, frankly.
You know, it's, it's, it's, it's lonesome.
And so blues and bluegrass have, have a
lot of common in that regard.
So as we go, we're going to talk about how
to create some of that emotion.
And, you know, you can't really fake it,
you have to kinda,
it's almost like acting, you kinda have to
get into the, the feel of it.
There's also sort of a specific rhythmic
form that goes with blues music.
And it's what's called the 12-bar blues.
12-bar blues is, as the name implies, it's
12 bars long, and
it's just a common one, four, five chord
progression done in a certain sequence
and that's what has become known as common
blues progression.
You can do blues really in any key but
I'd say the most common key you hear blues
played in is the key of E.
And I, that's probably because of the
guitar the regular guitar.
Flat top guitar, electric guitar has a
low, it's lowest string is an E and
so you hear a lot of blues played in the
key of E.
Fortunately for us the Dobro sounds great
in open E.
And a lot of times when I'm playing blues
in the C position.
I leave the highest string open, that D
And what that does, is it creates what's
called a seventh chord.
Real common bluesy chord, so.
So a lot of times when we're playing in E
like that on the ninth fret,
we're gonna be leaving that highest string
only open.
For now what I'd like to do, is go over
the 12 bar blues chord progression.
And a lot of the times, the way this will
be felt is in a shuffle.
A shuffle is.
That's what's called the shuffle.
And so we're going to try a blues shuffle
I've got a little bit of music with
tablature so you can see, when and
where the chords change, and you can feel
how a 12 bar blues is going to feel.
We've got a backing track with our friend
Brian Sutton playing some blues,
so let's keep rhythm along
with him and play along.
One more time.
So, that's a 12-bar blues shuffle.
Now there was one other thing that we
hadn't talked about yet
which is the turnaround.
The turnaround is one of the coolest parts
of the 12-bar blues so
we wanna make sure and cover that.
It's the shown here the very end of the
That we have notated in tablature, but
I'll go ahead and show it to you.
So, it's called a turnaround I guess that
means because it's at the end of the whole
12 bars and it turns around and starts
But what it is, the way I played it here,
So, that's how the blues turnaround works.
So, it's on the ninth fret.
I'll play just one low note.
And do this sort of yodel lick.
Using the fourth and second strings.
So, fourth, second, fourth on the ninth
Fourth, second, fourth on the eighth fret.
Same on the seventh.
And then, fifth string.
To the third string back up, in the E
And then ends with a.
A return to the five chord in E, which is
a B, right here on the fourth.
And then starts over.
So, that turnaround is something that you
can use in,
in a variety of different ways, but once
And then at the end.
It just ends on that E3 chord, so
try out that 12-bar blues shuffle with the
All right, a little bit more about the
blues here.
And we're gonna stick to the rhythmic
element of learning the blues
just to get that really ingrained.
So I'm gonna give you one more option for
playing some blues backup which you might
play rhythmically for some blues backup.
And what it is, is again the shuffle feel
it's just a little bit of a different
Instead of just playing the chords, you're
actually going to do a little,
a little bit of a lick here, and what is
is it sounds like this.
the pattern.
Stays the same the whole time.
Same right hand fingering.
So it's the same chor, exact chord
it's just we're doing this little lick
where you're doing each note twice.
So you got a little octave there.
You go down a whole step and
play the seventh note.
And end with two notes.
On the fourth string, ninth fret.
This is still in E.
And then you just go down and when you do
this same lick on the A chord
on the second fret, you're gonna be using
an open string.
And then back up.
Same on the B chord.
And then the turnaround,
same turnaround, just a little yodel lick.
So we're gonna try this, and you can refer
to your music if you like.
We're gonna go ahead and try it with the
blues backing track.
Let's do it again.
So there's one other thing I wanna talk
about too, related to these phrases in the
blues vocabulary, and
that's something we touched on at the
beginning of the blues sections,
which is expression.
Something that I really wanna emphasize is
the way that these phrases are played,
whether they're played slow, how you slide
into them.
And this is another part of really getting
the emotion, the emotion involved.
So if we look at that lick on the second
bar of our blues vocabulary music.
That's gonna be a good one to use as an
there is a lot of ways that this can be
And the way we use our sliding motion is
what's really gonna set us apart from
other instruments.
The slide and how quickly or slowly we
slide including vibrato,
other little sounds.
That's really gonna make for
the most expressive interesting sounds so
I would take just one lick and try and
play it a lot of different ways using your
express, expressiveness, emotion.
You know?
Maybe you just
do a little something
on the very last note.
Or maybe you do
You can do almost these like dive bomb
type of effects.
And so all these little things, are things
that you could use to make your playing,
not only sound cool but also very unique
to you.
That's one thing with, the expressiveness
of sliding on the Dobro is that there's so
many ways it can be done that it can be a
way for
you to really start to capture your own
voice on the instrument.
There's guys who, guitar players say,
when I hear them bend a note, just the way
they bend it, how slowly or
quickly or with vibrato, or not, can tell
you even who's playing it.
If you hear B.B. King play one note, you,
you know, you know who it is.
Just, he might just play one high note,
just like this
And you know, just the way he plays it,
signals, hey that's B.B.
King, one note, you know, that's amazing.
So, by trying to use the different ways
you can slide,
maybe slide out of a note like I just did,
that can be something.
Any number of ways, but I encourage you to
experiment with that, and
this can be a pathway to finding your own
voice on the Dobro.
What I'm gonna to do now is we're going
to talk a little bit about the blues
When I think of music, it's a lot like a
language really and
blues sort of has its own kind of
A lot of that is based off of these minor
scales that we've been talking about.
But there's also just phrases and, and
different things that are common to the
blues, which I wanna share with you.
You can say, I'm gonna be showing you some
licks, basically, which is fun.
I've always, I always enjoy learning new
licks and whatever.
Of course, you wanna make up your own and
some teachers shy away from showing too
many licks.
But for me, I think it's, it's part of
just the language.
And it'll just help get you started,
getting creative.
Give you an idea what this language of the
blues is sorta all about.
So I've got a lot of these written down
here in some notation.
And they're in order in time, but I'm
gonna do them just sort of one at a time.
You don't have to play these in time.
This isn't a song, these are just little
one or two bar examples.
Pretty much just one bar examples.
So you can look at each measure as just
sort of it's own little example.
So I'm gonna go ahead and, and play these
for you and you can follow along.
So, here's one where it uses.
[SOUND] That very first one.
It's using like a double stop.
[SOUND] Where you're leaving that high D
string open and then playing the,
the third, the flat third of E.
[SOUND] That's the eighth fret.
[SOUND] So that creates a pretty cool
[SOUND] And then the second bar, you've
got probably the most common or
classic blues phrase, which is this.
[SOUND] That's really one of the most
common blues phrases.
[SOUND] And what it is, it's a slide down
from ninth fret to seventh [SOUND] and
then a slide back up [SOUND] to the ninth
almost or to the eighth.
So the thing about these thirds the major
minor third in the blues is they get a
little ambiguous and that's good.
That's okay.
It doesn't have to be just minor [SOUND]
or major.
[SOUND] It can be something in between or
it can be minor [SOUND] and slide up in to
the major.
So this is where sort of the rules and
the, the technical element sort of
music breaks down a little bit and we're
just going for feel here.
So this is that second measure once again.
[SOUND] And the neat thing about these
phrases is they can
be played fast [SOUND] or they can be
played really slow.
The same with all of these phrases.
So we've move on to the third bar, sounds
like this.
[SOUND] It's actually the same notes an
octave lower.
[SOUND] But this is played in, in open
[SOUND] And then you look at the fourth
bar, here's another example.
So you see that little zero to two with
a little connecting swoop.
That's sort of a quick little hammer on.
[SOUND] So that's what that sounds like.
You pluck the open string [SOUND] and just
hammer the bar on so.
Kind of a neat little phrase.
And then go down to the next line, here's
the next one.
That's almost a little more country blues.
So you can hear they're sort of, there's
different flavors of blues.
There's like, real hard core almost like
delta blues.
And then there, something maybe a little
bit more country blues, which is this one.
And then the bar after that, you've got
the eight, nine and the nine on the top
[SOUND] So that's playing the minor third
then the major third right in a row
[SOUND] and you can sort of repeat that.
So that's real common in blues.
Is to go from the minor [SOUND] to the
So in the key of E, that's eighth fret,
[SOUND] second string.
Ninth fret, [SOUND] second string.
And then as we continue on with some of
these examples, I'll just go ahead and
play another one.
So this is cool.
This is also using the minor to the major
down here in an open position.
The next [SOUND]
that's kind of a cool one.
That sorta combines a couple of the
different licks.
And then moving on to the second
bar of that third line.
That lick is actually,
pretty much the same as the second bar,
the second bar like.
Except we're fretting all the notes
as opposed to sliding through them.
So you could slide them [SOUND] or you
could fret them [SOUND] and pick them all.
So, it's kind of another variation.
Here's one more.
That one starts all the way up on
the 14th fret, which is the high E note.
Here's one more.
That's more of a traditional
E minor sound [SOUND] using the open
And then the last line, we've got a couple
That's a pretty simple one.
And then the last one sounds like this.
That's almost what you'd call,
like a G run.
But it's an E, so
I guess it'd be an E run.
So there's just a few examples of common
Now that is, like I said that's just a few
There are never ending options as far as
these licks.
So what I encourage you to do is use the
scales that you're gonna learn to use
throughout this whole curriculum and
create your own little phrases and
licks and practice them.
You can use the 12 bar blues backing track
and just have fun experiment.
You know, I'm teaching you specific things
in this curriculum, but
what I also want to encourage you to is,
is be curious and experiment.
You know, make up your own and just use
your ear.
The other thing that'll help you in
getting these blues,
this blues vocabulary together is to
actually listen to some of it.
A lot of people listen to the blues or get
into it, some people haven't.
I happen to love it.
I think it's a fantastic music style and
they've got all varieties from
traditional old school blues all the way
back to Robert Johnson.
You know, playing in the scratchy records
All the way up to modern day, like Stevie
Ray Vaughan.
And everything in between from Muddy
Waters to Buddy Guy, you know?
Of course, Eric Clapton so many greats and
I encourage you to do a little listening
and a little research.
A great place to do that is on YouTube if
you wanna see some of the best blues
players that have ever lived, you can get
online and see them in an instant.
So, I encourage you to do that and to try
write some of your own little blues
vocabulary riffs.
Let's talk a little
bit about seventh chords.
Now when we talk about seventh chords,
what we're referring to is a chord that
has the flat seven note in it.
So [SOUND] once again, let's be in the key
of E here.
[SOUND] Ninth fret.
And so the note we're looking for is a D
[SOUND] It's one whole step below the E.
[SOUND] That's the flat seventh or when
you're talking about a chord,
it would just be called a seventh chord.
[SOUND] So one way we have it is with this
open D string.
[SOUND] Not a problem.
That's really easy.
Nice seventh chord there.
[SOUND] But there's a few other ways you
can get a seventh chord.
[SOUND] One way is by doing this.
[SOUND] If you're on the ninth fret, you
can go all the way up to the twelfth
fret [SOUND] and play the [SOUND] fourth
and second strings.
As well as that open D string.
And right there,
you've got a really nice seventh chord.
It looks, if you look at it, it looks just
like a G chord and you are playing notes
that are right there in the G.
you got a D here [SOUND] on the fourth
string twelve fret.
[SOUND] A D in the open.
And then [SOUND] and then you've got the
fifth right here, which would be a B note.
So that's something you could use almost
like a turnaround too, but as a really
nice seventh chord.
[SOUND] And you can go chromatically down
to the ninth fret.
that creates a really nice seventh chord.
Now if we were to go now to an A chord,
[SOUND] which we do in the 12 bar blues
There's a really nice A seventh chord we
can use, that's very easy.
And all we have to do is slide our bar
back and
just uncover [SOUND] the third string.
[SOUND] So we've got this sound.
So we're just fretting the lowest three
strings [SOUND] and
playing the sixth string, the fourth
string [SOUND] and
the third string open for a G note.
[SOUND] So we've got [SOUND] the flat
seven in A is a G, [SOUND] so
we got this nice A seventh chord.
And we can sort of open and
close that third string.
And then back-up to nine [SOUND] for
our nine, seven chords.
Now when we're on A doing this one.
We can do the same thing we did on
the ninth fret with the E [SOUND] by going
up three frets [SOUND] and
playing this A seventh chord.
So this is a movable seventh chord.
You just take the chord you want.
[SOUND] A second fret and go up three
frets [SOUND] and play the fourth string,
the second string [SOUND] and the high
string open.
Right there,
you've got a really nice seventh chord
[SOUND] with a G note here.
[SOUND] So we go this one, A seventh.
[SOUND] And we got this one, A seventh.
[SOUND] And then back to [SOUND] the E.
[SOUND] So the final chord in this is
gonna be the B.
[SOUND] And once again, we can use that
same principle of sort of
chord substitution to [SOUND] go three
frets above the B [SOUND] and
play that fourth, second and first string,
[SOUND] We got a nice B seventh right
So we play the B and then up three frets.
And then the A.
And then back to the E.
Another way the seventh chord can be
played up three frets is just on the
highest two strings.
[SOUND] So for an E [SOUND] ninth fret,
we play the top two strings [SOUND] and
slide them up three frets.
That's a really nice seventh chord
right there.
So for E,
it's up three frets to the 12th fret.
Once again, this is movable.
It's in a closed position, so we can do it
with any chord.
So you go to an A chord, second fret.
[SOUND] Move that to the top two strings,
up three frets.
You can do a little back and forth.
[SOUND] And then back to the E.
And once again, on the final chord, the B,
we can, we can do this again.
[SOUND] Up three frets from the B.
So you can use all these nice seventh
chords to sort of enhance the blues sound.