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Paul Yandell
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Muriel Anderson
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Pete Huttlinger


Craig Dobbins
Today's Instructor:
Craig Dobbins

Craig Dobbins writes and publishes the instructional quarterly Acoustic Guitar Workshop. He is the author of many books and recordings on fingerstyle guitar, including two volumes on Jerry Reed, and one on Chet Atkins. He also contributes to Acoustic Guitar magazine, Fingerstyle Guitar magazine, and the CAAS "Mister Guitar" journal.

Craig's compositions have also been recorded by other guitarists, including Winfield Fingerpicking champs Richard Smith (That's My Boy) and Pat Kirtley (Through the Tears).

Craig's latest book/CD set is "5-String Banjo Styles for 6-String Guitar" (Mel Bay).

Contact Craig via email here: cdobbins@cybrtyme.com

Scroll down to ask your question

Terry Tolle, AZ
Craig, have you ever put on a guitar clinic for beginning guitarists, and if so, what approach did you use. I have been asked to do this, and I don't have a clue as to what I should do. Thanks for any suggestions you might have!

Hello Terry. My advice would be to teach a simple song that incorporates a couple of techniques that you can discuss and demonstrate. It's always good to have handout sheets, including the tab to the song you're teaching. Don't make the mistake of trying to include too much information, and be sure to allow for questions. Hope this helps.

Rip Wilson, TN
Two questions--Do you still sell a tape for your J.Reed book?What tuning for Tupelo Ms. Flash ? Thanks -RIP

Hello Rip. Sorry, the Guitar Style of Jerry Reed tapes/CDs are gone. If my memory serves me, the Tupelo tuning is D-G-C-G-Bb-E (6th-1st strings). Jerry slid the capo up between each verse.

Dick Ezelle, VA
Hi Craig, Can you educate me a little bit on the use of compression and how it impacts your sound? Do you always use it when you record? Do you use it when you just play for your own pleasure? Did Chet use it on all his recordings and on the road? Is it in use on Stage 1 at CAAS? Are there particular compression units (foot pedals) that you like? Sorry for so many questions, but I'm really interested in this subject. Thanks so much! Dick Ezelle

Hello Dick, good to hear from you. How many questions was that anyway? First of all, compression makes the soft sounds louder, and the loud sounds softer, so it evens out or compresses your sound, according to how much of the effect you use. (Limiting, which is related to compression, makes the loud sounds softer. It's useful for keeping your volume level below a certain point when recording.) I rarely use compression when I record. Sometimes I will use a little with a Tele, to get a punchy sound. (Check out Jerry Reed's recordings from the mid 1970's to hear what I mean.) Compression is also helpful when recording a boomy acoustic, like a Martin D-28 or an old Gibson. I don't know how often Chet used compression on his recordings, but if you have the Me and My Guitars book, you can see an LA-2A compressor and an 1176 limiter in Chet's recording rack. It's common to use both effects at the mixing and mastering stages of recording. (You can hear it in the puchy sound of Paul Yandell's recent CDs.) I don't think Chet used compression much on the road. I don't know if compression is used on Stage I at CAAS, but most professional sound systems use limiting to keep the sound level from distorting on loud sounds. I like the MXR Dynacomp compressors from the 1970's, and Boss compressors are OK. For the best sound, use a rackmount unit, like a dbx 160. Now I need to rest!

Duane Monroe, IA
Hi Craig: I really do appreciate your transcriptions. Is there any chance that you would do a transcription of "Shine" from Paul Yandell's new CD "Dream Train"? Of course, every tune on the CD is great and I wish there was a book trnscribing all the tunes. Sure would love to see in one of your AGW's a transcrption of "Shine" Thanks, Dwayne

Hello Dwayne, good to hear from you, and thanks for the kind words. Don't tell anyone, but I'm working on a book of Paul Yandell tunes as we speak. Don't know the release date, but I'll let AGW subscribers know first.

Gerry Johnston, MA
Hi Craig, Love your playing! I've been a Chet Atkins fan for over forty years. What role did on-the-spot improvisation have in Chet's playing? Once I have come up with an arrangement it seems VERY difficult improvise freely around it, so I pretty much just change the rhythm a little and add a few embellishments to the melody. Any suggestions? Thanks. Gerry Johnston

Hi Gerry, thanks for the question. Improvising had a great role in Chet's playing. Paul Yandell has told me that Chet would keep changing things around, "to make it interesting."

Steve Mumma, PA
hi Craig, The picture that I always see you in,you appear to be holding a Studio CEC.Do you ever perform with it live and what amp works best with it for you?

Hello Steve, thanks for the question. That's a Kirk Sand electric classical that I've played since about 1996. It has a Gibson CE pickup and a Ray Butts preamp. It's the guitar you hear in most of my recordings and book/CD sets. When I play live, I usually go through a Demeter Tube Direct Box and into the board, or into both the board and an amp. For the last few years I've used various amps including a Peavey Nashville 400.

Simon Way, WA
Thanks for your "Anytime'"in Fingerstyle guitar mag- fantastic! I play a Gibson CEC, which I Iove -but your sound on the Kirk Sand makes me want one of those too! What is the best midi transcription software (hope it's Mac compatible) for fingerstyle transcribing and can it work with a nylon string guitar? I have some gospel, Beatles + Jobim versions of my own I wnt to get critiqued and maybe published. Any pointers? Are you coming to the Northwest? - Thanks - Simon Way

Hi Simon, glad you enjoyed "Anytime." Kirk builds great guitars! I use Finale 2004 for transcribing, but I do it the old fashioned way, one note at a time. Finale supports midi, but you need a nylon string with a hex pickup, like an RMC. (Kirk uses them in his guitars, and I think Godin does, as well.) As far as publishing, most publishers are interested in a book with a theme, or a unique approach. I once made it as far as the Kentucky/Missouri border, but I don't think that's Northwest enough . . .

Andy Hogan, MA
Hi Craig, I once read an interview someone had with Chet Atkins and in the interview Chet said he tunned his G string 'A little flat'. He also said the reason he did that was to complicated to go into. I've always wondered why he would do that and just how much is 'a little'. Do you know of any reason why someone might tune their G string a little flat? Andy

Hello Andy. Chet talked about tuning his G string a little flat in an old "Guitar Pointers" column from the magazine Country and Western Jamboree. He said, "I personally tune my 3rd string (G) just a little flat which makes it in tune in practically all keys. If perfectly tuned to the procedure here (tuning the 3rd string, 4th fret to the open 2nd string), it would be in tune only when playing in the key of G." Chet was "tempering" or equalizing his tuning, which really is too complicated to go into here. Suffice to say, when you tune, begin with the above procedure, or maybe use an electronic tuner. Then, check octaves ( such as the open 3rd string against the 1st string, 3rd fret, and the 2nd string, 8th fret) and harmonics (such as the harmonic at the 3rd string, 12th fret against the 1st string, 3rd fret). Next, play a G chord, followed by an E chord. If the 3rd string seems a little sharp in the E chord, lower it just a little bit. (A little means very, very, little!) The goal is to make the string equally in tune anywhere on the neck. Hope this helps, and thanks for your question.

Larry Barnes, TX
Hi Craig, One of my all-time favorite tunes by Jerry Reed is "Winter Walking" and I know you are a Reedology officiando. Question: Is there tab for this tune? I have worked most of the song out but I know there a few spots that aren't note-for-note. Thanks, and keep on pickin and keep on teachin!

Hi Larry, good to hear from you. I don't know of an "official" tab, but maybe I'll include that one in AGW sometime.

Tomislav, Croatia
Hi! Can you please tell me where can I find the right tab of "Windy and warm"? I am very interested in finger picking style, maybe you could also tell where to find some songs that are played in this technique, and that are not so hard to play, because I am practicly a beginner. Thank you very, very much

Hello Tomislav! The most accurate transcription I know is in the John Knowles book "Chet Atkins Contemporary Fingerstyle" from Hal Leonard Publications. You can order it from funkyjunk.com. (The tab is also in the Acoustic Guitar magazine Chet Atkins tribute issue. Try searching acousticguitar.com.) If you'll send me an email, I'll try to help you find some material. Hope to hear from you.

Eric Kushins, NY
Hi Craig, I like to play some of the "other" Chet tunes (we all play Windy And Warm,etc.)like The Old Double Shuffle,and stuff like that. Have you considered doing a book based on the feedback you might obtain by asking all of "Us" what we'd like to play? You may get a lot of same type requests that surprises you! Thanks.

Hi Eric. That might be a good idea. Why don't you email me your "Top 10" list.

Herb Hunter, NC
I always enjoy your playing and workshops at the Chet Atkins Convention. You arrive at your workshops better prepared and with more handouts than any workshop teacher. I try not to miss your performances at the convention because they are so enjoyable especially when you play with S. Bennett and T. Emanuel. I missed your Beatle performances last year due to an unscheduled nap than ran long. I hope your workshop this year will include a Beatle tune. What microphones and Mic. positions do you prefer when recording unamplified acoustic guitar?

Thanks Herb. I'll try not to interfere with your naps in the future! I can usually get a good sound about a foot or so away from the guitar, aimed at about the 14th fret. Over the soundhole is usually too boomy. Lately I've been using a Shure SM81 condenser mic through a tube preamp.

Roger Chevrier, Ontario
Hi Craig, Love your work. I have a lot of your stuff, not everything but I'm working on that. My question is on arranging. Sometimes when I'm working from sheet music and I run into a problem where I can't get the B section to sound right or the chords don't seem right, what should I do? Usually I leave it for awhile, but when I return to it I still have the same problem How can I approach it differently? I know this is a big question, but a couple of hints would be greatly appreciated. Yours truly Roger

Hello Roger, good to hear from you. I'm a big believer in using your ears. Even when working from sheet music, I would refer to a recording of the tune if at all possible. Sometimes, especially in collections of standards, the chord charts leave a lot to be desired. I would work on getting the melody right, then add the bass line, and then flesh out the harmony. If the chords in the sheet music arrangement don't seem "right", use some substitutions of your own. Hope this helps, and thanks for your kind words.

Charles Newman, Muth Lane
I've heard 2 songs by Jerry Reed that sound very similar, one called "Pushin'" and the other called "Sassy." Are they the same song?

Hello Charles. "Pushin'", from the Live at the Bottom Line video with Chet Atkins, is an early version of "Sassy", from Jerry's "Pickin'" CD. It's a great tune by either name!

Keith Capps, LA
I got a lot out of your Down Home Picking Book/CD, it's really great! Have you any plans to do any work in Guitar Pro or Tabledit software programs? Thanks, Keith

Hi Keith. I'm glad you enjoyed "Down Home Picking." At this time I haven't worked in either program.

David Wolfram, FL
Craig, any basic rules for learning to execute fast smooth note runs? like chet in "Somebody's Knockin", Standard Brands. Chet would say start slow, if you can't play it slow you can't play it fast or, never pick a string twice in a row with the same finger . But I always wonder which finger to start with first or should i force a certain pattern(i m a) (a m i) or whatever, no matter what. Thx

Hi David, good to hear from you. Of course, specific patterns vary from song to song, but Chet used various combinations of thumb (p), index (i), and middle (m) in most scale licks. For starters, try experimenting with a p-m-i pattern (or i-p-m-i, 'cause you don't always begin with your thumb). Hope this helps.

anonymous, VA
Hi Craig. I'm a big fan of your playing. Actually, that's not really true - at 5'10, I'm more of a average-sized fan of your playing. My question is this: I was wondering why a big guy such as yourself doesn't play one of those big guitars like that Bennett guy (the one you did the cool Beatles set with) plays? What's it called - a harp guitar? At about 5'20", you're a big enough guy to handle one of those fine instruments. Seriously, Craig - I love playing music with you and hope we can make that a regular thing. You're one of those players that when I listen, I think that there's not one extraneous note in what you play. No fat, just every note that is required to make your point, no more, no less. sb p.s. you could continue the Beatles medley online here by not responding - and I'll think that you're doing the song No Reply...

Stephen! Actually, I've been experimenting with the harpoon guitar, but that's another story. If you scroll down, you'll find at least one feller who'll buy our Beatles duet CD (if we ever make it). Thanks so much for your kind words about my playing- I love playing with you, too! Stay in touch!

Gert-Jan Terlouw
Hi Craig, Considering all your work related to Jerry Reed's music, I was wondering whether you know whether there is a transcription available of "Jerry's Breakdown" as played on his 2000 album "Finger Dancing". If not, have you ever considered doing one, perhaps for publication in your own quarterly (AGW)? Also, could you say anything about how Jerry manages to get his nylon string to sound the way it does on this specific version of the song? Thanks and all the best from Amsterdam Gert-Jan Terlouw

Hi GJ, good to hear from you! I don't know of a transcription of the "new Jerry's Breakdown", but I have considered it for AGW, if only I could figure it out! Maybe it'll be in a future issue. On the "Finger Dancing" CD, Jerry played a Plummer Jerry Reed signature model nylon string. It has the neck and scale length specs of Jerry's old Baldwin electric classical. The electronics include an RMC pickup system. P.S. Say hello to Alexis for me.

Chuck Row, CA
Im looking for some of chet's arrangements, they seem heard to get. some of his older hits - even atkins old chrismas arrangments I would love to get... Thanks Chuck

Chuck, you're in luck! The new Mel Bay book "Chet Atkins in Three Dimensions" by John McClellan and Deyan Bratic has some great older Chet tunes like "Caravan","Heartaches", and "Walk Don't Run." John Knowles' book "Vintage Fingerstyle" (from Hal Leonard) contains "Arkansas Traveler", "Blue Echo", and "Oh! By Jingo!" And, my own book "The Chet Atkins Collection" (Mel Bay) has "Whispering" and the 1955 version of "Jingle Bells." Hope this helps.

Larry Barnes, TX
Hi Craig, I wanted you and Stephen Bennet to know how much I enjoyed your reinditions of Beatle tunes at the 2002 CAAS convention! I have enjoyed playing some of the tunes you "taught" me how to play during your workshop. Have you ever recorded a cd with just a collection of Beatles tunes before? If so, where can it be obtained? Thanks for the show!

Hi Larry. I'm glad you enjoyed our Beatles set. It was almost totally unrehearsed, but we had a lot of fun doing it. As yet, I haven't recorded a Beatles collection, but it would be great to record one with Stephen. Maybe we can do that sometime!

Waymon Vickery, TN
Of course, you are one of my greatest heroes. I've been playing guitar(mostly wrong)for a long time. When I first started learning to do the classic pull-offs in 2nd/3rd frets, beginning with the high E string, thence to the 2nd string and all the way to the low E string, I think that I erroneously used left hand fingers 1&2, and now I think I should have learned it using left hand fingers 2&3. What do you think? I know it's elementary, but what I have had to do most of my life is go back and visit the basics and correct as I can. Please give me your thoughts.

Once again, I appreciate you more than I am able to tell.

Hi Waymon, thanks for your very kind words. For those Chet-style pulloffs in the first position (such as in "Oh! By Jingo!"), it would be better to use your 1st finger on the 1st fret, 2nd finger on the 2nd fret, 3rd finger on the 3rd fret, and so on. There are always exceptions, however, so it's good to be able to execute pull offs with all your fingers. For an exercise, try pulling off 4th finger, 3rd finger, 2nd finger, 1st finger and open. It won't sound too musical, but it will help you gain control of all four fingers. Thanks for the question, and all the best to you.

Bill Monk, AL
Hey Craig -

Doug Grant was asking about accuracy. To my ear, your transcriptions always seem spot-on and very, very close if not perfect. And I'm not just saying that because you're seven feet tall....

In your book "The Chet Atkins Collection" (the one that has the Chet & Tommy version of "Waltzing Matila") there is one thing that bothers me, though.

At the end of Tommy's part, there's an unusual form of a Bb13 chord. It's hard to play and doesn't sound quite right, and the more I listened to it the more it seemed like it must be wrong. This is page 47, measure 134, beat 3.

After getting the book, I watched Tommy play this really closely, and he plays a "Merle Travis Chord" here, with thumb barring 5th & 6th strings at the 1st fret; 4th string open; first finger barring strings 3 & 2, and little finger on 1st string 3rd fret.

Chet's part and the rest of the Tommy part seem so close to the record. Could you explain why that one chord is so wrong? :->

Take care my friend..

Hi Bill. That bothers me too, and I'm glad to have a chance to set things straight. Actually, I was inclined to go with the Travis chord myself, but my so-called Tommy Emmanuel expert (what was his name . . . Bill something or other) insisted otherwise. Seriously, thanks for your help on that project, and good to hear from you. (P.S. Bill is a fine guitarist who has shared the stage with both Tommy Emmanuel and myself, simultaneously and also at the same time.)

Marcia Chan, Vancouver
Dear Craig, I've been a huge fan of yours for many, many years. Where can I find a list of your recordings? Are there any new CDs of your pickin' available?

Hi Marcia, good to hear from you and thanks for the kind words. Email me at cdobbins@cybrtyme.com for a list of my recordings and books. Right now I'm recording some tunes for a new CD, but don't know when it will be released. My newest project is the book/CD set "5-String Banjo Styles for 6-String Guitar", just released from Mel Bay.

Scott Franklin, KY
Hey "Dr. Dobbins" as you know I absolutely love your work but it's time for a CD from you. I'd like to know when you are going to transcribe "Kentucky". It is such a beautiful Chet Classic. Any plans?

Hi Scott- I'm recording as we speak, but don't tell anyone! In the meantime, I do have two CDs available, "Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs" and "Christmas Time." You can email me for info. I love "Kentucky" too. That would be a good one to transcribe. I'll put it on the list. Thanks, Craig

Julian Smith, Bowdon, GA
Craig: I truly appreciate your many talents, especially your guitar pickin'. What advice would you give in respect to song writing, copy writing, and recording? Respectfully, JS

Hi Julian. I enjoy your pickin' too. As far as advice, consider the source, but here goes. I think a good place to start is to try to write songs in the style of players you admire. (I took this approach for the tribute tunes in my "Down Home Picking" book/CD set from Mel Bay.) After that, try your own ideas. A song is copyright protected once you record it or write it down, but it's still a good idea to register the copyright with the Library of Congress. They will send you the forms you need. When I record, I like to keep trying until I get a complete take that I'm happy with (or at least one I can live with). Sometimes it happens right away, but many times it means there's one great take at the very end of a reel of tape. I'm not above fixing mistakes if I need to- but the basic take needs to feel good to start with. I usually record my Sand and Taylor guitars direct, through a Demeter Stereo Tube Direct, and a Lexicon PCM 60 reverb. Hope this helps!

Lee Starnes, Ooltewah, TN
Could you put together companion recordings for your Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins Collections? I'm having a hard time locating recordings some of these tunes. Sorry to hear about your back; I hope your doing better. Thanks and keep up the good work

Hello Lee. Thanks for the encouragement, I appreciate it. Although I was not able to offer companion recordings for these two books, all but a couple of the tunes are currently available on CD. Two great sources are www.funkyjunk.com and www.guitarrecords.com. I recommend them both highly. Also, check these sites often for news of new Atkins and Reed CD reissues. Thanks for the questions.

Joel Meek, Mansfield, TX
Any way to get an autographed photo?

Hello Joel, thanks for your interest. Write to me c/o Acoustic Guitar Workshop, PO Box 8075, Gadsden AL 35902, or email me at cdobbins@cybrtyme.com. I'll dig around in the old photo box and see what I can find.

John Stephenson, England
Although i am a "rock" guitarist, I would dearly love to play Chet's style. Bearing in mind im in England, what are the best books/videos to start me off?

Hi John. Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop distributes two highly recommended instructional videos, featuring Chet himself. "Get Started on Guitar" is for beginning fingerpickers, and "The Guitar of Chet Atkins" features Chet playing and explaining some of his classic arrangements. As far as books, once you are on your way, check out John Knowles' great series of Chet Atkins books: "Chet Atkins Note for Note" (distributed by Music Sales), "Contemporary Styles", "Guitar for All Seasons", "Almost Alone", and the forthcoming "Vintage Fingerstyle" (distributed by Hal Leonard). All these videos and books should be available in the U.K. If you have trouble locating them, email me for further info. (Also, don't forget my new book "The Chet Atkins Collection", which contains some easier tunes, as well as some real knucklebusters.)

Bill Spann, Abilene, TX
Craig, you are so good at what you do. When did you begin doing TAB? Do you use any type computer program or is it all done by your great ear for music. Also, do you know the origin of TAB? Keep up the good work and above all keep pickin. See you in July.

Hi Bill. Thanks for the compliment! I began teaching guitar when I was a teenager, and TAB seemed like a good way to write it all down. Today, I like to use a combination of notation, TAB, chord diagrams, explanatory notes, and of course a recording of the tune, in AGW. It may seem like overkill, but I think every little bit helps! I use Finale (a computer program) to write out the music, but I transcribe strictly by ear. I'm not sure of the origin, but I do know that lute music was written in a kind of TAB hundreds of years ago. One system used letters, and another used numbers, as in our modern TAB. Take care, and see you at CAAS.

Ed Powers, Craigsville, WV
Craig, Will you be transcribing any more of Ray Cummins' arrangements in AGW? Ray has a new tune called EASY PICKIN' that I think you would like.Also are you workng on any more Reed tunes?

Hello Ed, good to hear from you. Ray and I have discussed the possiblity of including one of his original tunes in a future issue of Acoustic Guitar Workshop. His "Summer Daze" which appeared in Fingerstyle Guitar a couple of issues ago is a great tune. Yes, there will be more Reed music in AGW in the future. ("Are You From Dixie" is scheduled for the next issue.) Thanks for the questions!

Phil Dalton, Modesto, CA:
Craig, Could you tell me the differences between amplifying a nylon( ie. Godin) as opposed to a steel string acoustic? I play a Taylor 514ce and it took several years to get the sound I liked. Am I going to be faced with the same types of problems with the nylon string guitar? I play through an SWR acoustic amp plus a house PA. Will this require alot of tweeking for the Godin? Thanks so much

Hello Phil. As you obviously already know, each guitar presents its own amplification problems, so it's really a matter of experimentation. Currently, I use a Peavey Nashville 400 amp (210 watts with a 15 inch speaker). It's really a steel guitar amp, but most instruments I've tried sound good through it (including the Kirk Sand electric classical, Taylor 514C, Tele, and Gibson Country Gent). The Fishman Acoustic Performer amp is also very good for acoustic instruments, both steel and nylon string. Also, I've heard Paul Yandell get a great sound through a Fender Acoustasonic amp. Of course the fact that he's Paul Yandell may have something to do with it . . .

Ron Reynolds, Georgia:
Which "Bell's of Saint Mary" are you doing in your book? Is it the one on the Superpickers album?

Hi Ron. It's the original 1953 version, one of my favorite Chet Atkins recordings. (I did transcribe the intro for the Superpickers version in a recent issue of Mister Guitar.)

Doug Grant, Virginia Beach, VA:
Craig how long does it take to write a book of Chet's tunes and how accurate are you with your tabs?

Hello Doug, thanks for the question. I've spent most of the last year or so on The Chet Atkins Collection, but it varies. I've always subscribed to the approach that "it takes as long as it takes." Some of these tunes I've played for years, but when it's time to write it all out, I go back to square one.

I do strive for accuracy. In this book, some of my "proofreaders" included Paul Yandell (The Bells of St. Mary's) and Guy Van Duser (Whispering). My friend and mentor Clyde Kendrick has helped me proofread every book project I've done. Also, I keep a running tab of any mistakes or typos, to correct in the next printing.



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