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Resonator guitars

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(@terminator)
Reputable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 276
Topic starter  

How do they work?
I've been tryin to figure it out for a while now. Maybe someone can explain it to me? Post some pics?
Thanks!!! :D

"No pain No gain!"- The Scorpions


   
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(@ricochet)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

There are three kinds. The first is the tricone. I linked to some pictures of the innards of one down in the slide guitar forum. It's got three aluminum cones resting over holes in a soundwell, acting like speakers projecting sound down into the hollow guitar body that bounces it around and lets it out the vents in the upper bouts. The cones are driven by a T-shaped bridge the corners of which rest on the centers of the cones. The next type is the biscuit bridge, or National-style single cone. It's got one big cone with a round wooden "biscuit" in the middle with the saddles for the strings on it. The third is the spider bridge. It's got an upside down dish cone with a small central raised cone, and an 8 legged "spider" with the saddle in the middle rests on a ridge near the edge of the cone. A central tension adjustment screw sets the preload of the spider on the cone. That's the Dobro style. All three were invented by John Dopyera. He'd discarded the experimental biscuit bridge because he thought it didn't sound like a guitar. His partner at National, George Beauchamp, patented it as his own invention. Dopyera left National mad and started the Dobro company (DOpyera BROthers) with his brothers. He had his brother Rudy patent the spider bridge as his invention, to help fend off suits from Beauchamp.

They all have their own characteristic sounds, but they're influenced by the qualities of the cones and the guitar bodies.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@97reb)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1196
 

Great info, I have had my eye on getting one of these myself. I love the blues. Even though I have many other music influences.

It is a small world for metal fanatics. I welcome you fellow musicians, especially the metalheads!


   
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(@ricochet)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

Yeah, they're great fun!

The one I've got now is a tricone, a Johnson copy of an old National.

I used to have a Johnson spider, a JR-200 "Chicago Blues" model. I traded it off several years ago and got an Epiphone Blues Master parlor guitar. (Sweet little axe, that.) I liked the spider, and found it a very versatile instrument. For some reason they've come to be disfavored by many blues players, but you can get some mighty good sounds out of them.

IMO, the biscuits are the least versatile, but they just can't be equalled for a certain style of rough, loud blues as exemplified by Son House. They have a very brash, loud metallic bark with little sustain.

The Tricones are not nearly as loud, have some of that trash-can-lid clang of the biscuits, have LOTS more sustain (very useful if you like to play slow blues), and sound good playing a lot of different styles.

The spiders are the most "civilized" sounding resos, with just a hint of that trashcan sound when you snap the strings hard, and a curious "hollow" tone that's familiar if you've listened to any bluegrass or country dobro playing. (That's done on Hawaiian style "squareneck" spider resos played horizontally with a steel, because "Bashful Brother Oswald" of Roy Acuff's band used to play one on The Grand Ole Opry and kept it in the public eye when resonators in general dropped out of the picture after electric guitars caught on.) They've got lots of volume and sustain in spades. Personally I've always suspected that John Dopyera didn't just regard the spider Dobro as a successful budget priced resonator, but as his crowning reso design, since it's the only style he was involved in reproducing in the "folk revival" of the '60s and '70s.

But I do like the sound of the Tricones, and you can't beat one for flash!
8)

:lol:

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@ricochet)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

BTW, I just thought of something: Back in the mid-'70s when Fleetwood Mac brought out their "Rumors" album, I'd hear this interesting instrument that didn't sound like a normal guitar. Sounded a bit like a mandolin to me a the time. Wondered what it was. You can clearly hear it on their song "The Chain." Now I recognize that as the typical sound of a metal bodied National biscuit. I didn't know about them back then. They'd pretty well dropped under the radar.
:D

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@ricochet)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

Another observation: A few years ago Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer put on a benefit concert at the Paramount Theater here in Bristol, Tennessee for the local high school band. They were playing classical music, Béla playing things like piano concerti on his banjo while Edgar played amazing things on his bass. While they were playing "Perpetual Motion" (which does sort of go on perpetually), my mind started to drift and I pondered the weirdness yet coolness of classical music played on a banjo. I thought "Wouldn't it be cool if someone played classical guitar on a National Tricone?" Had a nice grin at that thought. Well, they broke for an intermission after they finished the tune. When they resumed, Béla walked out on stage carrying a National Style 1 Tricone! He sat down, pretended to fix his hair by the reflection in the back of the guitar, and started playing classical guitar music on it while Edgar accompanied him sometimes on bass and sometimes on grand piano. Sounded great, too! The National reflected brilliant patterns all around the theater from the spotlights. It was quite a show.
8)

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@primeta)
Prominent Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 836
 

The squarenecked tricone National metalbodies have to be one of the most beautiful guitars ever made. I listened to Richard Bennett (a top Nashville sessions man and Knopfler's rythym guitarist) play one last month. I could not take my eyes off of it before the show and what a incredible sound when he began to play. They may not be as versatile as a spanish neck, but they've got a look like no other. Flash? In spades. :)

"Things may get a whole lot worse/ Before suddenly falling apart"
Steely Dan
"Look at me coyote, don't let a little road dust put you off" Knopfler


   
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