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Thread: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

  1. #1
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    Last year a friend gave me an old 1930's Regal single cone spider bridge resonator mandolin. It needed a little work but once I set her up the tone is wow! Loud, clear and bell-like. As a bluegrass player I'm familiar with square neck lap resonator guitars, but I've yet to hear a round neck reso guitar with a sweet bell-like tone. Any suggestions out there? Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    For Dobro Style instruments. Assuming you are using a tuning that is safe with the roundneck, you should be able to get nearly the same tone. A lot of a Reso-guitar's tone is from the hardware. I have heard some good sounding modest Resonators that had the cone and spider swapped (often requires routing).
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I have a round neck Dobro in the shop right now. I don't know the year but it has the 3 holes south of the fingerboard. I'd suspect 30's or so. I'm sure I could find out. I'm doing a major fingerboard levelling and refret. It's single cone. And my oh my, it's got a sweet sound.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    Ah, the sweet sound of spider cones! I used to be big into 1930's roundneck Dobros. Mostly played Blues and a few derivative styles with bottleneck slide (which helps get around the bowed necks on most of the old ones). I always liked being a little different from everyone else, and back then it seemed every reso player was using a National biscuit cone guitar. Also known as the "Dire Straits effect" after Knopfler put one on the album cover. I preferred the long, sweet sustain of spider cones.

    The ones I liked the best were the metal bodied ones referred to as "fiddle edge," for the way the front and back were joined to the sides with a special machine at the Regal factory, where these were made in the mid to late '30's. They were available in nickel-plated brass, painted steel, and aluminum (the "Aluma-Lite" models). The consensus in the Dobro community (back when I was more involved with it) was to avoid the aluminum bodies. The nicked-plated ones are pretty, etched with various designs. The steel ones are kinda ugly, either sprayed with gold paint or a hilariously bad attempt at mimic'ing an acoustic guitar sunburst, but the consensus again was that the steel bodies sounded the best. Of course there's also a big deal about whether the cones are original or not, and some people claim the "lost" aluminum formula of the old cones sound the best. I don't know about that.

    I eventually ended up with 2 of the nickel-plated brass ones, one steel body, and one wood body, all roundnecks from the mid to late '30's. Didn't bond with the wood body at all, but then all of the hardware had been replaced including the cone and spider, that might have been a factor. Of them all, the steel body sounded the best to my ears as a slide machine. It might have had the original cone and spider but I never took the cover plate off to check. The #1 rule with these old Dobros is don't remove the cover and mess with anything if it sounds good and nothing's buzzing! Those vintage screws are easy to strip out of the metal face, and if the cone is seated in the well, then leave it alone. I've seen a lot of botched repairs trying to fix buzzing in these things.

    There were some roundneck metal body Dobros made in the 70's and maybe through the 90's, I think, as the company passed through various owners? Not the fiddle-edge type, but you can probably find used ones around. The old ones have great mojo though. Here's a photo of my collection from a few years back, minus the other nickel-plated one that was kinda beat up. The one I have left is the funky painted steel body in the middle:

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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    Now is quite the group!

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    Registered User Rick Jones's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    After 50+ years of playing guitar, I never had the desire for a resophonic guitar (and I will probably never play slide, either). Two years ago I ran across a PACRIM-built Gretsch Boxcar roundneck with a spider bridge, and I fell in love with it. Big. fat, round, pure tone, tons of sustain, and just a blast to play either flatpicked or fingerpicked. It cost a whopping $300. Basically flawless. I did lower the action at the night a tiny amount, but basically this thing is a gem. This is the cheapest instrument in my little stable, by a large margin - yet it continually amazes me. No financial interest, just a very impressed owner.
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I bought a modern Regal round neck a few years ago, purely because of its sweet sound. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the colour of it’s sunburst but I bought it because of the sound and not something to look at! It’s also the cheapest instrument in the stable.

  10. #8

    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I have a 70’s round neck Dobro. It is a honey. Woody and sweet.
    They are not too expensive either.
    +1 for Dobro
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    A bit off topic but my former career was doing environmental site assessments and related work. Around 1993 Gibson was purchasing Dobro. I did the Phase I assessment related to the purchase and got a very in depth look of their factory in Huntington Beach, CA. It was the coolest Phase I I ever did. I remember being struck with just how much hand work was being done. It was much more a workshop than a factory.

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    Registered User Dave Fultz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    If you can handle new and cheap and Chinese, check out the Gretsch Boxcar.

    I have one. Not harsh or tinny. Sounds rich and sweet. $359

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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I have a Regal whose cone I replaced with a Quarterman, Spider replaced and tuned to fit...... Sounds very "Sweet" to me.

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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    Having a round or square neck doesn't really affect the tone, especially if the action is fairly high for slide playing.

    My metal Dobro has a round neck with a radiused fretboard. I use an flat extension nut, which negates the radius. I did notice when playing a square neck that the straight frets looked curved the other way, since I was used to mine being curved.

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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I looked at the Nationals at Gryphon and they are indeed sweet. The used El Trovador might be particularly tempting. NFI, etc.

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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I have always thought the wood bodied instruments much sweeter sounding than their steel bodied counterparts.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I have always thought the wood bodied instruments much sweeter sounding than their steel bodied counterparts.
    Have you ever heard a 1930's "fiddle edge" metal body Dobro? They're very different from the metal bodies made in the 70's and later, although with vintage instruments it can be hard to separate the sound of the body from what may be vintage-era spiders and cones.

    I've owned 4 vintage 1930's roundneck Dobros, and I'd rate them as the wood body sounding the worst (at least from a Blues slide perspective), the two nickel-plated brass bodies next, and the steel body having the best tone for slide.

    Those 1930's wood body Dobros were at the bottom of the catalog for selling price, and made with very cheap plywood bodies and necks. There are modern builders of wooden Dobro guitars that are taking the concept much further (Beard, etc.), and those are great wood-bodied machines. But the old ones suck, in my limited experience having owned one from the 1930's.

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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I bought a Goldtone Paul Beard squareneck I'm very happy with. I believe they make a roundneck too. It is Goldtone's top of the line with a Beard resonator. All solid wood import then the resonator installed here. Very nice ax. If you don't want to spring for National pricing it's a good way to go. I got mine used for $750.
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I have only played a few Dobro guitars, but quite a few Nationals. I have played a very early National that was steel, but extremely thin. Don made one for a friend several years ago and both were much warmer than other metal bodied instruments. I have liked the wood bodied Nationals, but I fingerpick and don't usually use a slide.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I have only played a few Dobro guitars, but quite a few Nationals. I have played a very early National that was steel, but extremely thin. Don made one for a friend several years ago and both were much warmer than other metal bodied instruments. I have liked the wood bodied Nationals, but I fingerpick and don't usually use a slide.
    Yes, Nationals are great for non-slide fingerpicking (and slide too). The key difference there is degree of sustain. The National biscuit cone design usually has a quicker note decay than the Dobro cone. That makes it easier to hear individual notes when fingerpicking a melody line and the guitar is the featured instrument.

    I think that's why Blues players generally favor Nationals over Dobros, because the guitar is front-and-center and you can hear the melody. Meanwhile, squareneck Bluegrass players like that long "singing" sustain with a spider cone. It's a continuous tone, almost like an acoustic pedal steel, that can be heard under the banjo, mandolin, and guitar.

    The quality of sustain is independent of "sweetness" in the tone, which is more a function of the specific cone used, with a secondary contribution from the body material, volume, and porting. There are "sweet" sounding Nationals out there, like the wooden National "Radiotone Bendaway" I had for a few years, before getting more into the tone of the old fiddle-edge metal Dobros from the 30's.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    There is a happy ending to this old thread. Picked up a Gold Tone Paul Beard signature round neck resonator guitar a couple weeks ago. I just noticed the reflection of other instruments in the gloss finish.

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    Shown with my 1934 Regal. I of course replaced the chrome tuner buttons with ebony, and added an ebony strap button from Maury's. And a Lakota Leathers strap.

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    The steel bodied National duolians from the early 1930s are always my favorites; the more rust the better! They have an edge and rawness that is different from the brass bodied ones. The "Knopfler effect" was huge back around 1985. I Bought a style 3 1930 National tri cone from for $75 before that album came out; six months later I sold it for what seemed like a huge amount-$1600!
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    The tricone Nationals have a totally different vibe from the single cone biscuit bridge Nationals. If it weren't for a nickel allergy, I'd still have my '28 square neck Style 1 tricone. Sweet and loud lap slide guitar, with a shimmering, singing tone quite different from the spider bridge square neck Dobros. The hollow neck on the old ones added overtones. Unfortunately, playing in 90 degree weather with humidity at 90% in shorts on a daily basis resulted in me looking like I'd rolled in poison ivy!

    I also like the round-neck tricones for fingerpicking and bottleneck. They have a wooden bodied tricone model now that is really sweet.

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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    I tried one of the Johnson Chinese-made brass-bodied tricones. Had it for a year, and swapped it. I wouldn't go there, though it was a decently made guitar.

    One of the most interesting resonator guitars I've owned (still own) is a National Havana wood-body from the '30's. Big, crudely made body -- supposedly the wood bodies were bought from Kay -- but a loud, sweet sound. Havanas are like hen's teeth, very rare; I lucked into mine at Stutzman's in Rochester.

    I do have a '30's-'40's Dobro tenor guitar that has a real sweet tone; I tune it to open C, use a glass slide. Specialized instrument, but a neat one.
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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    Well, to hijack this thread regarding resonators. There is a fund raiser raffle going on right now....for homeless teens in Duluth, Minn. Charlie Parr and Mule are raffling off his wood body Mule resonator......
    https://www.muleresophonic.com/artic...-guitar-raffle

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    Default Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post

    One of the most interesting resonator guitars I've owned (still own) is a National Havana wood-body from the '30's. Big, crudely made body -- supposedly the wood bodies were bought from Kay.....
    I had heard that Rickenbacker supplied those wood bodies and some other parts.

    Beauchamp helped develop the Dobro resonator guitar, and co-founded the National String Instrument Corporation with the Dopyera brothers. Rickenbacker owned company that manufactured the aluminum resonators and brass bodies for the nationals. Beauchamp also designed the lap steel guitars with a solid aluminum body and neck, produced by Rickenbacker from 1932 to 1939; patented in 1937.

    That was the inspiration to step up and start building more guitars under the Rickenbacker name.

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    Question Re: Looking for a Sweet Sounding Roundneck Resonator Guitar

    National guitars is making them now .. https://www.nationalguitars.com/
    https://www.nationalguitars.com/scheerhorn-maple Square/round & lefty are listed neck options..


    their RM1 Mandolin already has fans.. https://www.nationalguitars.com/rm1
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