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A modern Gibson Dobro
A modern Gibson Dobro

Dobro is a trade name now owned by Gibson Guitar Corporation and used for a particular design of resonator guitar.

The name has a long and involved history, intimately interwoven with that of the resonator guitar. Originally coined by the Dopyera brothers when they formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company, for a time it came in common language to mean any resonator guitar, or specifically one with a particular design of resonator. The Dobro brand also appeared, quite legitimately, on other instruments, notably electric lap steel guitars and solid body electric guitars, and on other resonator instruments such as Safari mandolins.

When Gibson acquired the name in 1993, they announced that they would defend their right to its exclusive use.


The name originated in 1928 when the the Dopyera brothers formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company to manufacture a new resonator guitar design they called the Dobro. Dobro is both a contraction of Dopyera brothers and a word meaning good in their native Slovak language. An early company motto was Dobro means good in any language.

The Dobro was the third resonator guitar design by John Dopyera, the inventor of the resonator guitar, but the second to enter production. Unlike his earlier tricone design, the Dobro had a single resonator cone, and it was inverted, with its concave surface up. The Dobro company described this as a bowl shaped resonator.

The Dobro was louder than Dopyera's original design, the tricone, and cheaper to produce. Cost of manufacture had in Dopyera's opinion priced the resonator guitar beyond the reach of many players, and his failure to convince his fellow directors at the National String Instrument Corporation to produce a single cone version was part of his motivation for leaving.

Since National had applied for a patent on the single cone (US patent #1,896,484), Dopyera had to develop an alternative design, which he did by inverting the cone so that rather than having the strings rest on the apex of the cone as per the National method, they rested on a cast aluminum "spider" which had 8 legs sitting on the perimeter of the upside down cone (US patent #1,808,756).

In the following years both Dobro and National built a wide variety of metal-and wood-bodied single-cone guitars, while National also continued with the tricone for a time. Both companies sourced many components from National director Adolph Rickenbacher, and John Dopyera continued to be a major shareholder in National. By 1934 the Dopyera brothers had gained control of both National and Dobro, and they merged the companies to form the National Dobro Corporation.

From the outset, wooden bodies had been sourced from existing guitar manufacturers, particularly the plywood student guitar bodies made by the Regal Musical Instrument Company. Dobro had granted Regal a licence to manufacture resonator instruments, and by 1937 they were the only manufacturer, and the licence was officially made exclusive. Regal-manufactured resonator instruments continued to be sold under many names, including Regal, Dobro, Old Kraftsman, and Ward. However all production of resonator guitars ceased following the US entry into the Second World War in 1941.

Emile Dopyera (also known as Ed Dopera) manufactured Dobros from 1959, before selling the company and name to Semie Moseley, who merged it with his Mosrite guitar company and manufactured Dobros for a time. Meantime, in 1967, Rudy and Emile Dopyera formed the Original Musical Instrument Company (OMI) to manufacture resonator guitars, which were at first branded Hound Dog. However in 1970 they again acquired the Dobro name, Mosrite having gone into temporary liquidation.

OMI together with the Dobro name was acquired by the Gibson Guitar Corporation in 1993. They renamed the company Original Acoustic Instruments, and moved production to Nashville. Gibson now uses the name Dobro only for models with the inverted-cone design used originally by the Dobro Manufacturing Company. Gibson also manufactures biscuit style single resonator guitars, but sells them under names such as Hound Dog and Epiphone.

Wider usage of the name

Although Gibson now restrict the use of the name Dobro to their own product range, care should be taken in interpreting documents written before 1993, or sourced outside the USA. The terms dobro and dobroist may not necessarily refer to a Dobro as currently available.

Modern instruments

As of 2006, many different makers including Gibson were manufacturing resonator guitars to the inverted-cone design originally produced by the Dobro Manufacturing company. Gibson also manufactures biscuit-style resonator guitars, but reserve the Dobro name for their inverted-cone models.


  • Often used in a cliched manner, a dobro will be heard as soon as the scene in a movie or television show switches to a Southern American landscape, whether wilderness or a run-down town (usually in the summer). When this happens, it's playing a note that lazily slides upward a perfect fourth, generally followed by a few plucked chords descending to the original note.
  • When Gibson informed other makers of their intention to reserve exclusive rights to the Dobro name, some players began to refer to their instruments as TIFKAD guitars, meaning The Instrument Formerly Known As Dobro.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Document License
It uses material from the Wikipedia article - Dobro