If you are learning to play the Dobro and are having trouble finding quality instruction, you need look no farther than Rob’s Reso Room. Rob’s Reso Room is an internet-based teaching platform developed by fifteen-time IBMA “Dobro Player of the Year” Rob Ickes and his business partner Craig Spinney. Launched two years ago, Rob’s Reso Room provides the Dobro student much more than a bunch of instructional videos and tabs to teach you how to play arrangements of tunes.
In the “Video Lesson” section of the website, Rob does indeed provide detailed video instruction of how he might approach playing a wide variety of songs. To date there are nearly 80 of these videos, each available with downloadable tablature of the arrangement. In each video, Rob not only demonstrates how to play the tune, but talks through the “deep dive” details of the arrangement phrase-by-phrase.
In addition to the song section of the website, members of the Rob’s Reso Room will find 35 videos under the “Technique” section where Rob once again dives deep on a wide variety of topics from beginning level topics like Warming Up, Using a Capo, and Wearing Your Dobro, to more advance information on Right Hand Technique, Using Rolls, Slants, Harmonics, Phrasing, Left Hand Tilt Technique, Pick Blocking Rhythm, and much more. There is also a section of video lessons titled “Fretboard,” where Rob introduces various scale patterns for the Dobro.
Another interesting group of videos can be found under the “Conversations” section. Here Rob discusses a variety of gear-related topics such as the capos, changing strings, a run-down of the gear he uses (Rob’s Rig Rundown) and he even talks about what is in his Dobro case. In this section of the website, you will also find videos of Rob having conversations with Bobby Wright, Paul Beard, Trey Hensley, Josh Swift, Andy Leftwich, and Tim Scheerhorn. Other topics such as the Nashville Number System, Rob’s Required Listening List, Mistakes Are Not A Bad Thing, and more are included.
In addition to all of the video instructional material that has been listed thus far, there is also a section of the website that presents Dobro Courses. These are complete courses that cover a specific topics. To date, these courses include the Josh Graves Classic Solos Course (Volume 1), Intro to Lap Steel, Rob’s Blue Highway Course, Rob’s Blues Mastery Course, The Basics—Getting Started on the Dobro, and the “Monrobro” Fiddle Tunes and Uptempo Songs Course. In the future Rob plans to add more Josh Graves courses, plus courses focusing on the playing of Brother Oswald, Mike Auldridge, and Jerry Douglas.
While video lessons form the bulk of the instructional material in Rob’s Reso Room, other informative and helpful components of the site include “Ask Rob,” “Rob’s Review,” the “Member Forum,” and “Suggestion Box.” In the “Ask Rob” section members can view other member’s questions to Rob and Rob’s answers to those questions. Under the “Rob’s Review” section, students can submit videos of themselves playing their Dobro and Rob provides feedback with a “Rob’s Response” video. All of Rob’s Reso Room members can view the student video and Rob’s response video and members can also make comments.
The “Rob’s Tips” section of the website is basically a Reso Blog where Rob posts tips about playing the Dobro. He said, “Preparing lessons for the website has made me really think about what I do when I’m playing. In the Rob’s Tips section of the site, I like to post tips that I think will help the student save time and point them in the right direction.” Tip topics on the blog include things like “Slow It Down!,” “Play It Perfectly, Three Times In A Row,” “How To Make More Time,” and “Try Going ‘Deep’ Instead Of ‘Wide’.”
In the “Suggestion Box,” Rob’s Reso Room members are encouraged to send in questions or suggestions about new songs or website features. Rob takes great advantage of using member suggestions when he is designing new video lessons or blog posts. On the videos he will often mention that he is covering a particular song or covering a technical topic because of a suggestion that came in from a member. When he is designing the content for his courses, he also sends out a survey to the members to ask what they would like to see included. Rob loves to provide content based on member questions. He said, “Most of the new stuff that I post is based on questions and suggestions.”
Rob’s general approach to teaching lessons in the Reso Room is that he doesn’t want to provide “just the notes.” He feels that the real value added in these lessons is that they go deeper. He said, “I like to go beyond the notes and talk about things that I think are cool about a certain lick and talk about its energy and if it is, let’s say, a Josh Graves lick I will talk about the way it blew my mind, or still blows my mind, or the way it mixes with Earl’s backup or Earl’s roll. That is the kind of stuff that this website is great for…it is not just the notes. I like to talk about why this stuff works and why it works with other instruments. We talk about things like backing up a singer, we do stuff in B and Bb, which is challenging on the Dobro. It feels like more real-world stuff than just, ‘here are the notes.’”
To find out more about the Reso Room, go to bigmusictent.com. At this site you will not only be able to access Rob’s Reso Room, but also access “Trey’s Guitar Garage,” an instructional website for guitar players by Rob’s musical partner Trey Hensley.
Another way that Rob has been bringing Dobro players together to learn how to play is his ResoSummit. The ResoSummit is a four-day long resonator guitar camp that Rob has been hosting in Nashville every fall since 2007 (although the camp was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic). On the ResoSummit website (resosummit.com) the sub-title of the camp is “Total Dobro Overload by Design!”.
At the ResoSummit, which Rob founded with Betty Wheeler, the student not only gets the opportunity to study with Rob, but also with a faculty of other top Dobro professionals. ResoSummit participants not only get a variety of Dobro classes during the day, but are also entertained each evening with special concerts at the Station Inn. Rob said, “We teach during the day and then have fun at night. We want to provide education and inspiration.”
The ResoSummit has been immensely popular in the world of Dobro players. Each year when Rob announces—via email—that registration for the ResoSummit is open, the event sells out within a half-hour. I can personally attest to this. I was planning on registering for the ResoSummit several years ago and when I went to the registration page about an hour after Rob sent out his email, the event was already sold out.
The ResoSummit has included over 100 participants each year at five proficiency levels ranging from beginner to very advanced. Over the years five faculty members have taught every year. These include Rob Ickes, Mike Witcher, Randy Kohrs, Paul Beard, and Tim Scheerhorn. Additionally, Jimmy Heffernan, Orville Johnson, Sally Van Meter, Greg Booth, Billy Cardine, Andy Hall, and Phil Leadbetter have all been on staff for more than five years. Twenty other Dobro teachers have been faculty members for five years or less. The next Reso Summit is scheduled for September 2022.
For decades Rob Ickes has been known as one of the best Dobro players in bluegrass music based on his work on the stage and in the studio. Now, with Rob’s Reso Room and ResoSummit, he is sharing his extensive knowledge with aspiring resonator guitar players and he is diving far deeper than just showing arrangements of songs. If you are a student of the Dobro, whether you are just beginning or an experienced professional, Rob’s Reso Room has much to offer. Highly recommended!