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Finger picks or bare fingers on a weissenborn?


Should you use finger picks or bare fingers on a weissenborn?

If you were to ask me this question for the dobro, i would not hesitate much and would probably suggest to start off with finger picks, the main reason being you need a strong percussive attack on the strings (especially for the bluegrass stuff) which is harder to get with bare fingers.

For a weissenborn, my answer would be: “it depends” 😉

Let’s first try to consider a few reasons you would prefer one over the other.

Some reasons you would consider playing with finger picks:
If you’re already used to playing with finger picks and have a good technique, you can keep using them on your weissenborn.
If you want to play at jams or in a band, you’d probably be better off getting used to finger picks first otherwise it will be much harder to get your instrument to cut through other instruments.

Some reasons you would consider playing with bare fingers:
If you’re already used to playing the acoustic guitar with bare fingers and get a good sound with them, you can probably start playing the weissenborn with bare fingers as well.
If you want to play soft melodic or intimate solo pieces of music, playing with bare fingers can definitely make it easier to achieve this type of atmosphere.

Another thing that can help you decide is to to make a list of pros and cons of each technique.

Here are a few pros and cons of using finger picks:

– Crisper sound,
– More articulate (better note separation),
– More volume,
– More attack.

– Feels awkward at first, harder to get used to,
– More string noise (“clicky” sound when strings and picks get in contact).

Here are a few pros and cons of using bare fingers:

– Warmer sound,
– Softer, more intimate or quiet effect,
– Feels natural.

– Less consistent sound (harder to get a good note separation),
– Harder to cut through in a band or jam situation.

There is also one alternative to picks and bare fingers: nails.

For some people, this is the best of both worlds since you get a similar sound to picks without needing to learn how to play with picks (although you won’t probably get the same volume).

But you need strong fingernails so If your nails are weak and break easily, your best option is to try fake acrylic nails.

The cool thing about fake nails is that they feel natural and won’t break as much as your real fingernails.
The downside  is they need regular care so be prepared to spend a little cash at the nail salon every few weeks 😉

Another alternative you might want to try is the alaska picks. Those are picks you place under your fingernails and they’re supposed to feel like natural nails.

So as you can see, there are several options and hopefully those tips will help you decide over what you should use.

If you still can’t decide over what you should use (picks, bare fingers, fake nails..) then i would suggest starting off with finger picks.

Because i think it’s generally easier to start off with finger picks and THEN trying out with bare fingers rather than the opposite.

When i first tried out finger picks, they felt really awkward.
But guess what? after a while, they started to feel more and more natural and now i could not even imagine playing without anymore!
So if you decide to try out finger picks then stay determined and stick at it for at least a few weeks. That’s when you’ll start to reap the benefits of perseverance 🙂

In the end, whatever technique you choose, it will be like everything else, it just needs time and dedication!

Good luck!

Related video lesson: How to wear a thumbpick and fingerpicks?


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Home » weissenborn practice

HOW to practice dobro? (or any instrument)


Knowing WHAT to practice is the first step that we have discussed in this article.

But this alone is not enough. You absolutely need to learn HOW to practice.

If you followed the guidelines I have talked about here, you have set up your main goal and short-term goals.

Now you need some kind of organization to make it happen. You can’t tackle everything at once. It just won’t work.


A practice routine is basically a list of things you will work on repeatedly for the next while.

But the first thing you have to consider before even writing down your practice routine is how much time you can devote to practice each day.

In my opinion, you should practice each day for at least 5 days a week.
30 minutes to 1 hour a day is a fantastic amount of time that will lead to great progress if you stick to it. But even 10 minutes each day will lead to better results than say, 1 hour twice a week.

Why is this so? because the key is to be consistent. Be consistent.
We need repetition to put things in our heads (and muscles) and make things happen. That’s just the way it works.
All the great famous guitar or dobro players were just like you and me when they started out: they could not play anything but they spent hours and hours practicing again and again in their room alone until they reached the level they have now.

So let’s get back to our practice routine.

Ideally, a practice routine should include several subjects of study: theory, technique, transcribing / repertoire, creativity (improvisation, writing licks, having some fun!!).

Of course, there will be times when you need to focus on a specific subject (transcribing for example) but you should at least try to incorporate in your practice routine 2 or 3 of the areas of study mentionned above.

Let’s take again the example of learning blues rhythm on the dobro and let’s say that you can devote 1 hour each day to your practice. Your first practice routine could look like:

  • Understand the 12-bar blues structure and write down the chords chart in 3 different keys (10 min)
  • Play the 12-bar blues in the 3 chosen keys (5 min each, 15 min total)
  • Practice rhythm patterns A & B (5 min each, 10 min total)
  • Pick one of your favorite blues tunes and find out the key then jam along the track by applying the previous concepts learnt to that tune (25 min)

Now, a practice routine is not set in stone. It will (and must) change and evolve as you progress.
That’s why you should also put a date on your goals because it gives you a greater motivation and a sense of accomplishment when you finish them. But remember, this is a schedule not a deadline so you could either finish them sooner or later than planned, it doesn’t matter as long as you know where you’re going!

I should also add that an immediate benefit of a scheduled practice routine is that you will know WHAT to practice in advance, which will prevent you from mindless noodling 😉

When you feel like you’ve accomplished the tasks of your practice routine then it’s time to change it and add new challenging stuff to it. This new practice routine should reflect your evolution thus include harder stuff than the previous things you have worked on so far!

I hope this article helped you learn HOW to practice dobro or weissenborn or any instrument.

Once your routine is set up and you’re good to go, you might want to read this article where i share a few tips to help you get the most out of your practice time.

Wishing you the best of luck!


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