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Dobro Lessons: Embellishments

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Now we're gonna talk about some
embellishments that we can use.
The Dobro is a really versatile
instrument, and
there's a lot you can do to sort of
accentuate your sound or make it unique.
And some of these things I've been doing
throughout these lessons but I
thought it was high-time we sort of talked
about it and broke some of those down.
Probably the most commonly used
embellishment would be a vibrato.
Now, there's a lot of different ways you
could do this,
and a lot of different sort of techniques
you can use to get a vibrato going.
But mainly the vibrato is just this.
Moving the bar back and forth to create a
sort of wobble at the end of a note.
Pretty much how a singer would do as
they're singing.
A lot of singers sing with vibrato.
It's really nice.
If you just do a note with no vibrato.
It's pretty plain sounding.
And the Dobro has a lot of sustain.
So it lends itself really well to vibrato.
Also, since you have no frets, you can,
it's easy to do here with the slide.
So, what I do is, if I'm just doing one
note I'm angling the bar and
I sort of use these two fingers as
So they sort of stay put while the other
fingers that are holding the bar move.
Now you don't wanna go to fast
It starts to sound like a sci-fi movie or
you want it to be a nice even vibrato.
And generally, I'm using more vibrato on
slower songs.
If I'm playing really fast, there's not
really time for much vibrato.
So, this is a way to do slower or medium
tempo melodies and
really just give them a lot more life.
So, you can just practice that on various
You can also do chord vibrato.
Really adds a nice effect to a three-note
chord like that.
And so, like I say, I'm not, I'm just sort
of moving.
It's a combination.
It almost, some of it is, is along the
wrist but some of it it's the fingers.
It's sort of a combination.
It's just the bar going back and forth.
Now, there's another type of vibrato that
I've heard about but I don't really use
much, which is where you rock the bar with
your index finger like this.
And I think that's more of a pedal steel
type of vibrato.
I don't tend to use that one myself, I
tend to use the, this type of motion so.
But you can experiment.
I mean, you can do a whole six-string
chord and vi, do the vibrato.
And so when I'm doing the vibrato, a lot
of times I won't use it on every note.
I'll use it on specific notes,
particularly notes that sustain a long
time, like at the end of a phrase.
So if I were gonna play just a basic
It's only gonna be on that end note that's
ringing out.
The other notes go by too fast really to
do much vibrato on.
And also, what you can do is, what, well,
well what you don't wanna do I should say,
is use the vibrato to cover up intonation
And that can be a common thing when you're
first getting started.
Intonation can be a little bit tricky.
So even after you're first getting
started, I mean,
intonation's always tricky on the Dobro.
So you don't wanna use a vibrato to cover
up an intonation issue.
So what you might wanna do is, slide up to
a note with no vibrato.
Make sure you're in tune, and then begin
the vibrato.
That's a good way to make sure you're
right in the right spot, in tune,
and you get to use the vibrato then.
You don't wanna just slide up to a note
[SOUND] in the vibrato right away,
you know?
A lot of times I give it just a second to
make sure I'm in tune, begin the vibrato.
[SOUND] Just like that.
So, you know, you, you don't wanna cover
up mistakes with the vibrato,
you just wanna use it to add to what
you've already got.
So you can just experiment with that.
It's not rocket science.
Just use your discretion, you know,
less is more usually with these types of
Now we'll move on to another technique,
and it's what I call a rake.
Now the rake is a really nice technique to
add a little bit of pop to a single note.
So, particularly if I'm playing single
notes on the highest string,
I can rake these lower strings to give it
just this sort of punch.
So without the rake it's just
But with the rake it's this
So it really gives it a lot of, a lot of
sort of action, a lot of momentum.
And how you do the rake is [SOUND].
I just use my thumb pick for the whole
So, if you're have the bar tilted so
you're only fretting the highest string,
and then these fingers are just muting the
lower strings.
[SOUND] You're set up for a rake.
You, these strings are all muted, and
you just go across the whole thing really
Just like that.
So you're using your left hand to mute all
the strings but the top string.
And the right hand just dragging your
thumb across the whole thing.
The only note that's gonna sound is that
high one.
So, it just adds a lot of cool effect.
Like I say, mainly I use it when I'm
playing notes on the highest string.
If you start doing it in middle strings
you can
It sort of gets a little bit lost in
Works really good on the high strings.
So you can practice the rake.
Now there's one other way you could try
which is with a thumb
raking and
say the middle finger actually plucking
the, the note.
It's sort of like a pinch.
These two fingers almost cross.
But I tend to just use the thumb method.
You can experiment with either one.
But that's all it is.
So it might take a little while to get
that accurate, but
as I say, all it is is muting all the
strings but
the high one by tilting the bar
and just dragging your thumb right across.
So that's a rake.
And actually you'll notice I use that
quite a bit.
I covered it sort of quickly here, but
you'll notice I use it a lot,
so there's not much to learn about it, but
I do recommend practicing it and
getting it as part of your bag of tricks,
A few other things you can do to add
interest to your playing,
is allowing string noise.
Now, I've made a lot of noise about trying
to be clean and
not have extraneous noise, but if, if
you're doing it on purpose, and
you want to use it, it can be sort of a
cool effect.
So you can hear there's a little bit of a
rattle in there and
also what I do if I wanna add string
noise, just to make a nice ambient,
interesting chord, I lift these two
fingers off the string so
that the notes behind the bar are also
They're not being muted there.
Now, this is just, I don't use that
technique all that often.
But sometimes on a slow tune at the very
end of the song for
the last chord, it can create this really
lush, kind of interesting sound.
Or if sometimes if you're doing sorta a
chopping strum,
[SOUND] you can leave some of that noise
in there.
And you leave the noise also by lightening
the pressure of the bar of the left hand.
So you get a little rattle.
So, it sounds a little trash cany, but if
you're going for that,
if it's a dirty song or you know, you
really want to give it,
it's almost like distortion for the Dobro,
a natural distortion.
So, just something to keep in mind that
you can use.
The thing I would like to emphasize is
there are so many different things you can
do to create interesting sounds, and you
wanna be able to use all of them.
Now, one last thing that I’m gonna show
you that's sort of an interesting
little trick here, and this is what I
would consider a trick.
This is not something that you're gonna be
using all the time, but check this out.
So what I'm doing here is I'm actually
strumming on
the opposite side of the strings.
And I slide my bar from up high in the
neck, and I wanna end down the 12th fret.
And the reason that, this note sort of
emerges out of nowhere once you hit
the 12th fret, because that's where the
harmonics lie.
You can hear that note just kind of
And so, this is just something that you
would use as a sound effect.
At the start of a song, in an ambient
section in a song, whatever,
just something cool to sort of check out.
And there's probably a lot more things
like that I'm even aware of, so
if you are, are done practicing scales and
you wanna get a little more creative,
you can try all the different interesting
sound effects and
embellishments that you get with a Dobro.