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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: banjo vs. dobro

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T.J. - Posted - 07/19/2009:  21:46:54

first let me start by saying i've been reading and learning alot on this great web i have a few questions i hope y'all can help me with.i don't currently play any instrument but i have always loved the sound of the banjo & dobro.which do y'all think would be easier to learn (i know no instrument is easy but,of the two is one easier than the other)?
as far as what style of banjo i'm interested in clawhammer or scruggs i like both styles.
and last.a question on a starter banjo.what do y'all think about the Recording King RK-R20?i've read some past posts on starter banjo's but all the different brands makes it hard to choose and i'm open to suggestions.
any help would be appreciated.

Edited by - T.J. on 07/19/2009 21:47:59

brundecarli - Posted - 07/19/2009:  23:24:52

Hi, hard questions here!
I think that dobro is more easy than banjo, but for me banjo is over the top for satisfaction.
I play Scruggs but I love clawhammer,I thik that Scruggs is not easy but fantastic with a song with the right tempo and fine picking,There are more songs (ad more tutorial book) with banjo that with dobro.I can take a banjo in clawhammer style and sing a song with immediately.With dobro not. You must ear songs with banjo and dobro and than take a decision.
For me RK20 is a good banjo.Deering Goodtime II or Goldtone BF are OK.

howseth - Posted - 07/20/2009:  00:28:44

By the way ... though I recommend getting a banjo...

Have you ever seen the banjo/dobro hybrid: called a Dojo, or a Dobjo. Plays like a banjo - sounds like a Dobro (sort of)

"Dobjos" can be bought used (no longer made), Goldtone currently markets the "Dojo."


Bill Rogers - Posted - 07/20/2009:  02:24:00

Since I learned to play the banjo, but never got anywhere with the Dobro, I think banjo's easier. It would be easier to play the Dobro a bit, than play the banjo a bit, I think, but way harder to play it well.


goldtopia - Posted - 07/20/2009:  02:48:00

I play banjo and dobro, though I am a lot better on the banjo. The dobro cannot form chords in the same way as a banjo does and there are a few problems like damping and intonation.


jdog - Posted - 07/20/2009:  03:13:00

Hi TJ,
Welcome to the Hangout!
I know the banjo came easier than guitar to me after I settled on clawhammer. It may be harder to get to be a good 3 finger picker though. We are probably biased here but I say go for the banjo. I also like the dobro sound and am considering a dojo in the future.

jwstahl - Posted - 07/20/2009:  03:24:44

I play both, and I've found it much harder to play the dobro well. Some right hand skills transfer from one to the other, but use of the steel (with string dampening) can be very challenging for the beginner -- it takes quite a while to get a pleasant tone out of the dobro. Being an unfretted instrument, the dobro presents intonation challenges that the banjo doesn't. There's a different mind set when playing - the banjo often provides a steady stream of eighth notes, whereas the dobro plays fills between vocal or instrumental phrases.

Playing any instrument well is challenging. Choose the one you'll enjoy, not the "easiest." Then come back and learn the other if you want.

Good luck,

Retropicker - Posted - 07/20/2009:  03:56:11

Do you play guitar? Try a round neck resonator guitar which has lower strings to be chorded like a regular guitar. You can tune it to dobro open G or any guitar variation.
If you want to use a steel you can put on a nut extender to raise the strings and be in dobro land.
I have a resonator guitar in transit that I will be doing this exact thing with.
I've tried dobro with a steel before and it never really took but I can play limited bottleneck slide which is a blast.

But back to your original question... Pick the banjer. Like brundecarli above said, it's very satisfying.

Good luck and have fun!

____Keep the hay in Bluegrass__________________________

rexhunt - Posted - 07/20/2009:  05:47:55

I play both and have been playing both for about the same amount of time. When I started, I wanted to play everything Flatt & Scruggs. Dobro can be very much like the banjo sometimes and not at all like it other times. Playing open, it's kind of like playing banjo with one finger on your left hand and of course, no 5th string. Playing closed positions is a whole other thing. I'm more of an Uncle Josh style player rather than a Jerry Douglas style picker and when I was playing full time back in the 70's I rarely used a capo. That means that you might jump as much as 7 frets just to move up a whole tone. There are also the various slants with the bar. Some of that closed style picking can be done with just two fingers. I love both instruments equally and find both equally hard to master. Dobro might be a little easier to learn a little bit and sound good. I find that intonation is not too much of a problem if you have any kind of ear at all. Certainly easier than the fiddle.


Charley wild - Posted - 07/20/2009:  06:12:18

Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Since I learned to play the banjo, but never got anywhere with the Dobro, I think banjo's easier. It would be easier to play the Dobro a bit, than play the banjo a bit, I think, but way harder to play it well.


I play and have played both for a while and Bill is right on the money!

"Marriage is sometimes a temporary thing but a good divorce can last forever"
Oscar Wilde

WVChuck - Posted - 07/20/2009:  07:45:41

T.J. I play both. I started on the dobro due to a left hand injury. I taught myself on the dobro and from that decided they must be similar so I moved on to the banjo and learn to play it even with my left hand handicap.

WOW! I was wrong. Just because you wear the same picks doesn't mean they roll and play the same. You usually can tell a banjo player on the dobro, they "roll it brother".

I have a 2000 Gibson Dobro F-60, that is mellow and sounds great. It is not a tinny sounding dobro but a great mellow complimenting instrument.

I think the Dobro was easier to learn. Also, take my advice only learn one instrument at a time.

One time I went to a jam carrying dobro, banjo and upright bass, an old gentleman picker came up to me and said, "If you'd leave half of the crap at home and concentrate on one thing at a time you wouldn't be a half bad picker" He was right.

I have a bluegrass band and play both instruments during our sets. Mostly banjo but we use the drobo on certain songs. It works out ok.

1four5 - Posted - 07/20/2009:  07:59:23

I had fun with mine, but it was not nearly as versitile as a banjo, and as mentioned, harder to play well and sound good in a jam or band environment. I sold mine to concentrate all my efforts on banjo. No regrets and don't miss it... but do really appreciate a good dobro player when I hear one.


formertd - Posted - 07/20/2009:  16:23:50

They are both very cool, but different in their own way.
banjo is schlitts malt liquour bull, and a dobro is a fine wine.

T.J. - Posted - 07/20/2009:  19:08:20

wow,thanks for all the help & is greatly appreciated.
so now unless i win a contest and get a free banjo what kind of starter model would y'all recomend for someone not sure if they are going with the clawhammer style or scruggs style?is the recording king RK-R20 good to start with?
also,as a side note a couple of weeks ago i talked to a guy who told me he would be glad to help me on the banjo.i'm not sure if he is a member here but,i know he knows about this site because i mentioned it while we were whatever his style is probably what i'll start with.
i didn't know y'all banjo pickers where this friendly & willing to help.
y'all made my decision alot easier.
thanks again,

John Allison - Posted - 07/21/2009:  06:05:11

Gold Tone makes the DoJo which is essential a 5 string dobro. I have mine set up so that I can play it with a slide or play it as a banjo. Very nice sound for some of the slower gospel music and/or holiday music.

"Courage is Fear that has said its prayers.

Bradskey - Posted - 07/21/2009:  10:44:18

Why not play both? Not right away necessarily, but consider it. I think the dobro is easier to get up to speed on simple tunes and jump in the mix, but overall harder to get a true grasp of and become versatile on. There are people for whom the dobro really takes over, coming from guitar or banjo, but for me, although I like the dobro and often find myself the only (to use the term lightly) "dobro player" in a group, the instrument just never grabs me the way my banjo does. This has caused me to really slack off practicing it and I am a much poorer dobro player than I should be, given how long I've been messing with it now.

Kenneth Logsdon - Posted - 07/21/2009:  20:55:12

Well I say dobro is much easier... (and my dobro playing son always returns with." Oh yeah, try playing banjo with only one finger on the left hand)... Examples of dobro on my homepage..


T.J. - Posted - 07/21/2009:  22:02:34

i eventually want to play both and hope i'm able to do would probably be better to start with the banjo since someone is willing to help me out getting started with it (if i go with the dobro it would be going it on my own).plus judging by all the help i've got so far from all of y'all there will be alot of help as i go along.
thanks again for all the help.

gshall - Posted - 07/22/2009:  09:48:04

Go with the banjo. After a couple of years with the banjo, ANY stringed instrument will be quick and easy to pick up.

I could be some 50 year old dude sitting around in stained shorts resting my pizza on my beer belly, except I''m too old.


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