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Post new topic Dobro Tone Bar Recommendations
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Author Topic:  Dobro Tone Bar Recommendations
Cameron Kerby


From:
Rutledge, TN
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 9:41 am     Reply with quote

Oddly enough, starting playing pedal steel before dobro has me using a rounded front tone bar instead of a stevens style bar. I have been recently using a powder coated 7/8" bar on my dobro but am looking for better alternatives.

What kind of tone bars is everyone else using on dobros? Material? diameter? length?
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John Limbach


From:
Billings, Montana, USA
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 9:55 am     Reply with quote

Dunlop #927 Long Dawg
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 10:24 am     Reply with quote

My three favorite are the scheerhorn, the beard 2010 and the lap dawg. Lap Dawg is my current fav.
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Brooks Montgomery


From:
Idaho, USA
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 10:33 am     Reply with quote

+1 on the Scheerhorn (can get one at robickes.com) and you might find you like your bullet on '6th' tunings and even on open e or d.
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Brandon Minnix


From:
North Carolina, USA
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 1:00 pm     Reply with quote

Forgive my ignorance on this subject, but does a tone bar and a round bullet bar give different sounds? Or is the difference mainly for larger string patterns?

I bought a Stevens 345 tone bar for the 6 string LS I built, but the more I read, it seems more people use the bullet bars or the Lap Dawg. Is this just a length of the bar difference, or am I missing something more fundamental?

Not sure if I should have started another thread for this or not, I hope it isn't considered hijacking?
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 1:11 pm     Reply with quote

Dobro players don't normally use a round bullet bar. Never called them a tone bar personally, but a dobro bar is fundamentally different than a typical lap or pedal steel bar.

It has a grove at the top where your index fingers rest and two grooves on either side where you hold it between your thumb and middle fingers. It also has a sharp edge at the end for doing pull offs.

Here are examples of dobro bars http://www.resophonicoutfitters.com/category/024.html
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Brandon Minnix


From:
North Carolina, USA
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 1:22 pm     Reply with quote

Is there any reason to not use a Dobro bar (Stevens 345) on an electric 6 string lap steel? Or would I be better off to invest in a bullet bar?

I could definitely see a difference in shape and how it's held, but as far as the sliding part, they're both a rounded smooth piece of steel so wasn't sure if they sound different, or just a different style/technique is used.

Thanks for the reply Bill. Again, Cameron, let me know if this helps you also, or if you want me to start my own thread :p
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 1:35 pm     Reply with quote

Brandon the rounded tip makes it easier to move the bar away from you across the strings. If your style of lap steel playing does not include a lot of open strings, rolls, hammer on and pull offs, then most would use a bullet bar .

A dobro bar requires that you tilt the bar up a little bit when you are moving across the strings away from you. Not a problem if you are moving the strings towards you, in fact a common dobro technique is to do pull offs by moving the bar towards you. That would be impossible with a bullet bar.

When moving the other way, dobro players have to develop a little dolphin like technique of raising and lowering the tip of bar, something folks with round bars don't have to worry about.
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 1:35 pm     Reply with quote

I use a regular round bar when I play dobro, just a smaller size.
Chase used to make a tapered bar, that is my favorite for dobro or lap steel. Very Happy
Erv
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Brandon Minnix


From:
North Carolina, USA
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 1:37 pm     Reply with quote

Excellent info guys. Thank you.

I'm sure it's obvious I'm a noob at this, and if it weren't for that pesky thing called work, I'd be watching videos and trying to learn how to play and use these techniques right now!

Only a couple more hours and I'll be doing just that Very Happy
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David M Brown


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 1:45 pm     Reply with quote

I use the same round bullet bar - usually vintage Nick Manoloff - on everything.

Lap steels, consoles, and acoustics.

That includes a dobro. I just can't use a Stevens bar.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 1:49 pm     Reply with quote

And I couldn't use a bullet bar. Everything depends on the style of playing. I use a lap dawg or sheerhorm or Beard bar on everything, dobro or lap. I think lap steel player who also play dobro use a bullet bar. Dobro players who also play lap steel use a dobro bar.
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Andy Volk


From:
Boston, MA
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 2:42 pm     Reply with quote

I have a GS would/metal steel and a nice signature bar Cindy Cashdollar gave me but I always feel hampered when I use them. In my opinion, with the exception of crisp hammer/pull-off runs a la early Jerry Douglas, every technique of lap-style guitar goes better with a bullet bar. In particular, chords that use strings barred with the nose of the bar while other strings ring open are very tricky to pull off with even a hybrid rounded rail bar. I recognize and respect that there are contrary opinions and certainly, Auldridge, Douglas etc. can play anything and everything with rail-family bars
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Last edited by Andy Volk on 3 Jan 2018 7:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 3:21 pm     Reply with quote

Well, certainly not just early Jerry Douglas. Any Jerry Douglas, any Mike Auldridge (even when playing 8 string dobro), any Rob Ickes, any Andy Hall...basically any full time dobro player.

But you are right: the kind of hawaiian techniques that required those slants were 2 notes need to be straight barred and one slanted require a round tip. I spend most of my practice time working on things like g runs, rolls, things that come out of more of a bluegrass tradition. On the Steel Guitar forum, the majority are going to play bullet bars. Go the Resohangout and the opposite is true. As always it comes down to: what kind of music do you want to play and does your lap style playing tend to be more on the electric or the acoustic side.

If you are interested in playing acoustic dobro style, go with the dobro bar. If you are interested in electric probably (unless you are David Lindley) there is a bullet bar in your future.
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 3:32 pm     Reply with quote

Not naming any names, but I hear in some players whose main axe is pedal steel switch over to dobro with their usual heavy bullet bar, and there is something about the tone that lacking for better words, sounds slightly "subdued" or "muffled" to me.

Maybe it's not even about the bar but more about technique? Hard to say - but I know it when I hear it. Much more accomplished ears and musical brains than I subscribe to this theory as well - for example I have heard and read Jerry Douglas make similar comments a few times over the years.

Or it could even be accumulated hours on the instrument. I don't hear the subdued/muffled thing for example from Pete Grant who is a bullet bar guy on dobro, but along with his many thousands of hours on pedal steel, he has many thousands of hours on dobro.

My main dobro bar is a Scheerhorn stainless steel. And it's not just because a "grooved" bar is generally easier to handle for hammer ons and pull offs otherwise why use one? I feel like I can get better dynamics and expression (soul?) with a Scheerhorn bar or something similar. I also like the overall tone more than when I'm using a bullet bar on dobro.
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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 4:16 pm     Reply with quote

well said Mark. There is just something about being able to grip the bar and the control you get where it really becomes an extension of your body. If I had to guess, I'd say most dobro players spend the majority of their time with the bar only touching one or two strings. I just feel freer with a dobro bar than when using a bullet bar which just doesn't have the control I'm used to. there is so much more wrist movement, there is more of a dance across the strings.

Now I'm willing to admit I feel that way because I spend nearly all my time using a dobro bar, but even watching people play: they have that bullet bar firmly on all the strings, moving back and forth across the strings, where when I play it is more like a paint brush. Not only are my fingers in movement, my wrist, my arm, my entire body. When I do a vibrato, my whole body sways. It is more emotional.

Not the least of which: there is no electronics, no volume pedal, no rods and pedals and knee thing a majigs between you and the music. It is just you, the dobro bar connected to the finger bone, the finger bone connected the wrist bone, the wrist bone connected to the arm bone, now hear the word of the lord.
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Guy Cundell


From:
More idle ramblings from South Australia
Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 4:23 pm     Reply with quote

Cameron,
my life changed when I saw the Jerry Byrd/Marty Robbins videos on Youtube with Jerry on dobro. (Thanks, Basil!) I ditched the Stevens/Lap Dawg for a round nose and have never been happier. I tried going back to a Stevens the other day and I couldn't use it. My system for blocking single notes relies on the bar being angled and moving both ways across the neck. The Stevens bar pulls towards you OK but catches going the other way.

I once lent a round nosed polymer bar to a bluegrass chum who admired the smooth and quiet qualities but immediately reversed it so he could do that speed thing those guys do by popping the string off the edge of the bar. So if you are into that style, a round nose is not the thing.

I use a 3" X 3/4" X 4.5oz bar for 8 string or six string. Either stainless steel or polymer but I prefer the polymer.

If you are looking for polymer, Todd Clinesmith is your man. Not cheap but laced with Oregon magic.

Here's the song.

https://soundcloud.com/guy-cundell/when-you-wish-upon-a-bar-1


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Bill McCloskey


Post Posted 2 Jan 2018 6:33 pm     Reply with quote

"I once lent a round nosed polymer bar to a bluegrass chum who admired the smooth and quiet qualities but immediately reversed it so he could do that speed thing those guys do by popping the string off the edge of the bar"

LOL! yeah, that sounds about right and certainly sums of the difference between players. I've done the same thing.
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Cameron Kerby


From:
Rutledge, TN
Post Posted 3 Jan 2018 6:11 am     Reply with quote

Amazing responses guys!! I find all the benefits from both styles of bars as discussed. When I first started playing both dobro and pedal steel I would use a round bar for pedal steel and the Stevens for dobro. I was pleased with the tone, but the biggest problem is with the constant switching back and forth, it's so hard to really feel comfortable with the bar your holding. So switching to the round bar to fit my style on dobro really improved my playing, or at least made me feel more comfortable. I've tried using smaller, lighter bars to increase my ability to hammer on/ pull off and have had decent luck.

The powder coated bar, which is great on steel for speed picking, doesn't fair as well on larger wounded strings like on a dobro. The Stevens tone is much better. I usually use a front-end loaded Glen Porter 440 tone bar for steel(Fantastic Bar!) and really wondered how well a smaller one of his would work on dobro. But the polymer bar idea has at least intrigued me. Thanks again guys!
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Bob Watson


From:
Champaign, Illinois, U.S.
Post Posted 4 Jan 2018 2:20 am     Reply with quote

For Dobro, I started with a Stevens Bar. After some research I decided to try a Scheerhorn Bar, which I liked better than the Stevens Bar. I then tried a Lap Dawg 926 and I like it the best. Its a lot like the Scheerhorn Bar, but lighter, which is what I like about it. Lap Dawg's are also fairly inexpensive compared to some of the other bars out there. I've known some great players who used round nose bars on Dobro and sound great with them. I like a 7/8 bullet bar for pedal steel and the Jerry Byrd bullet bar for lap steel but I like the edge of the Lap Dawg for pull offs on the Dobro. Best of luck finding what works best for you.
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Howard Parker


From:
Clarksburg,MD USA
Post Posted 4 Jan 2018 3:26 pm     Reply with quote

Your decision is probably dependent on style and genre.

I always envision the dobro "tree" as a trunk with 2 branches.

There's the branch that starts with Josh Graves and begat Mike Auldridge, Jerry Douglas, Rob Ickes, bluegrass, neargrass, jamgrass, jazz, Americana, etc...That style of playing, often referred to as "contemporary" would benefit by any bar with a sharp edge in order to facilitate all the single noting, hammer-ons/pull-offs. It allows for aggressive styles of play.

Then there's the Country/Hawaiian chordal styles on the other branch Jackson, Oz, Byrd. Those styles might well benefit use of a smaller bullet bar as the technique is more directly steel like.

For better or for worse the "mainstream" of dobro playing these days is derived from the Graves branch of the tree although there certainly are exceptions. I'm talking in generalities of course.

I'm primarily a "contemporary" dobro player and use the popular bars of those styles. I also play pedal steel and use the bar appropriate to that instrument.

I have zero difficulty switching bars, even during the same set. Like everything else in this world it takes practice and time in the saddle to get comfortable. Plenty of folks do it.

You can also.

That's all I got.

h
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Jim Sliff


From:
Lawndale California, USA
Post Posted 4 Jan 2018 6:01 pm     Reply with quote

The critical difference in bluegrass and bar choice is in playing pulloffs - which are actually "push-down and "snap" the string" motion.

You essentially pick the string with the sharp edge of the bar by pushing the string down *very* slightly and pulling the bar towards you. It's simpler than it sounds and can be done *very* fast. A few high-speed pulloffs are played by quickly "bouncing" the bar very lightly off a series of strings, but are not used as much as the "push" type.

The point is - they can't be played effectively with a bullet bar, even with the back end - it's a different shape that true "resonator" bars.

The Scheerhorn and a few others have the "sharpest" end; Beard makes a couple that have two different angles for varying the "feel".
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Will Brown


From:
Oklahoma, USA
Post Posted 4 Jan 2018 6:13 pm     dobro bar Reply with quote

Get a Tipton bar and you will be more then happy with it. I have tried them all and Rons are as good as you can get I sent you his contact info
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Brett Day


From:
Pickens, SC
Post Posted 18 Jan 2018 9:57 pm     Reply with quote

I just started playing dobro, so I use the same bar I use for pedal steel, my Sacred Steel bar with grooves on it, mainly because of my cerebral palsy in my left hand and it works for me. My dobro is a Gretsch Boxcar. I do have a Stevens bar, but found out, it was a little hard for my left hand to handle, so I use the same bar I use for steel.

Brett-Emmons GS-10, Jackson Blackjack Custom, Gretsch Boxcar dobro
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Steve Lipsey


From:
Portland, Oregon, USA
Post Posted 6 Mar 2018 9:20 am     Reply with quote

I'm a pedal steel player who just switched over to dobro completely (got tired of humping 100 lbs of stuff and staying up till 2am), I now play in a gypsy jazz band on tricone dobros and Weissenborn.

For pedal steel, the BJS bullet bar (⅞ for me) was pretty clearly the way to go...

For dobro, I loved the Scheerhorn bar - the right weight and shape for bluegrass-style stuff.

Now that I play in a gypsy & swing jazz band and need lots of forward, reverse and split slants...the ¾" bullet is the way to do that.

Pull-offs and hammer-ons? When playing regular 6-string guitar, you do hammer-ons and pull-offs with you left hand, and not even by snapping the string on pull-offs, just by cleanly lifting your finger...I can do the same with the bullet bar. Not as a steady diet, but for some added chops whenever needed...

The only problem is when I really get going with reverse slants and pull-offs it is really easy to lose the bar...and dang, unlike the Stevens-type bar, these bullet bars can roll away and hide from you!
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