Forming a plan: Resonator Tele

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Itchyfeet1000, Apr 15, 2019.

  1. Itchyfeet1000

    Itchyfeet1000 Tele-Meister

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    I've been pondering on my next build using one of my spare spalted beech bodies. Always loved the look of resonators but I have no experience of them. I've found some Tele style resonators on YouTube and they sound pretty cool.

    Does anybody here have any experience or advice about what would be needed?
     
  2. philosofriend

    philosofriend Tele-Holic

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    From what I saw on an internet search, you have a basic decision: Do you want to have a guitar with the maximum sound when played unplugged, or do you want to play loudly through an amp without feedback? For unplugged sound you want a large airspace behind the cone (or cones if you chose tri-cone style). That airspace is vented through a port (or ports) in the front of the body with the vent tuned like a speaker port to give the best sounding bass.

    For a feedback resistant guitar you want a small airspace behind the cone and no vent. This style would probably give more sustain to the tone also, less energy is being sucked out into the air.

    Stewmac sells parts for both styles of single cone resonators. There are probably other sources....
     
  3. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    I build and play resonator guitars and I build a few tele's. I have not combined them but there are some things to consider.

    First, very importantly, how will you string and play it? Assuming that it is not to be a lap style guitar, you still have the choice of playing primarily fretted or primarily with a slide. Most of us will do a combination but you need to consider which will be the primary mode of playing. You'll also need to decide the string gauges and tensions you will be using.

    If you will be playing primarily slide you probably will want a little more string tension than usual, and you may prefer a flatter neck.

    There are three styles of bridges and cones used for resonators - spider bridge, biscuit bridge and tricone. They have different construction and sounds. You will need to decide on one and I seriously recommend buying all of the hardware while you are in the design stage. Which ever one you chose, the bridge and saddle location become defined by the construction of the guitar - ie the cone well sets the location of the saddle and you work back from there to the scale length, body joint and nut. That has a ramification - you cannot move the saddle to correct intonation. If you are playing with a slide you don't need (or really want) compensation built in - most resonators have the saddle break point at the scale length and there is no added compensation. If you plan to play primarily fretted you will want some compensation - both angling the saddle and moving break points of the individual strings. Whatever you do is going to be a compromise, just be sure to consider it in your design because you can't correct it later.

    That also goes for the neck angle and string action. You have very little vertical adjustment at the saddle - you can lower the saddle height a tiny bit (the saddle is notched) but the way most resonators have action adjusted is with the neck angle (acoustic resonators often have a neck stick somewhat like a banjo that allows the angle to be adjusted. With a screw on tele neck you can probably do that with shims in the neck pocket.

    You will be limited to the amount of radius you can put into the saddle - which comes back to the style of play question. Most acoustic resonators have fretboards ranging from 16 inch to flat - my preference is 20. Simply put you will have a hard time making a radius tighter than 16 inches.

    Depending on your cone choice you will probably find that a standard tele neck standing proud of the body will not give you the height at the saddle that you want. Lay that out carefully - I can assist if you tell me the cone you will be using.

    I'm assuming that since this is a reso-tele that it will not be an acoustic instrument. The leads to the dilemma of how to amplify it. Most electric resonators have some sort of magnetic pickup between the cone and end of the neck - lipsticks are common, I also see some P90's. You aren't going to get a lot of "resonator" sound - it will sound like a metallic electric guitar. If you want true cone sound you need something at the saddle or in the cone well there are various options but again, they need to be sorted out before you start building. If you want to use a pickup in the saddle or biscuit consider how you are going to get the wires out of the cone area to the jack.

    Give a little thought to string break over the cone and the type of tail piece you will use. Again, this will be related to the strings, tuning and tension that you want. With too much break angle it is possible to damage a biscuit style cone, not enough and you'll be chasing rattles.

    Lots of things to consider but still a reasonable project. I haven't actually done it but I do own each of the three cone designs and can offer some incite into building (and playing) them. I've got lots of pictures and some measurements from various guitar - let me know what you need.

    Here are my three - on the left is a biscuit bridge single cone, right is a spider bridge single, and center is a tricone

    IMG_2509.JPG

    IMG_2510.JPG
     
  4. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    Here is a discussion at another forum. It is somewhat more focused in that first, the guy is building a kit so lots of the decisions have been made, and second, it is a spider bridge model so even more decisions have been made

    http://www.mimf.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=5845

    Spider bridges tend to have that long sweet sustaining sound that we think of bluegrass dobro, biscuits have short attack and sustain that are really nice for blues. Both can be played fretted or slide or both. The cones, bridge and saddles, cone well and lots of other things are different - you will want to pick one or the other. Spider cones tend to be 10-1/2 inches in diameter, biscuits are 9-1/2 - that might make a difference in the size body you can fit it in (there are other sizes but those are the most common).

    If I was build an electric resonator I would probably lean towards a biscuit.

    btw - I have some autocadd drawings of tricones that you could possibly use while you are doing your layout work. There are also plans available of both spider and biscuit bridge acoustic instruments that could be modified to fit an electric body.
     
  5. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    You will loose sustain with a cone.
    The distance on a Tele from the bridge to the back of the guitar requires a real short tailpiece.
    Getting enough break angle over the cone so there is downforce on the cone to drive it and eliminate buzzing can be a problem.
     
  6. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I thought the MIMF was dead...
     
  7. 10orgtr

    10orgtr Tele-Meister

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    I think Jack Wells built one and posted a build thread on here years ago.
    Cheers,
    Woody
     
  8. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    So I was out in my shop and happened to be thinking about this thread. I got to wondering if there was enough real estate in a tele to put a cone in, so I took my little tele template, marked the location of the saddle without any compensation and measured 4-3/4 inch around it (for a 9-1/2 inch cone well). The outside of the blue tape is roughly that diameter

    IMG_5207.JPG

    There are three points in the circle where there is one inch to the outside of the template - just below the waist on both side and at the tail. Since you want about 1/2 inch for the cover plate to screw to the top, that tells me there is enough room for a biscuit cone. A 10-1/2 inch spider cone would put the edge of the cover plate right at the edge of the guitar - I think that is pretty marginal. I believe that smaller spider cones (9-1/2 ?) are available but 10-1/2 is the standard.


    For a bit more information, here is what the cone well on a biscuit bridge reso looks like, the rim is one inch deep. Notice the wood piece under the cone, that is the neck stick which sets the neck angle (and action)

    IMG_1005.JPG

    Here it is with cone in place, this is a standard resonator tail piece which should work fine on a tele


    IMG_1009.JPG

    For comparison, this is the cone well and neck for the spider, the neck stick is shorter and just extends into the cone well.

    IMG_2406.JPG

    and here is the cone and bridge. The saddle sits in the slot in the spider and the tail piece screws on the butt of the guitar just like the biscuit.
    IMG_4987.JPG

    Notice that the cone well on the spider is quite a bit different from the biscuit - if you decide to build that style I can give you a bit more information.

    On both instruments the top is flat (no dome) and the neck is level with the top of the upper bout. That fretboard is on top of the top like most acoustics but it does not stand proud like a tele (overstand). That will be important because a normal tele neck will be much too tall (as well as the radius issues we talked about before). In addition, the depth of the cone might be be a problem with the 1-3/4 depth of a tele body - there are several ways around that but be aware as you do the design.

    Anyway, not an unreasonable project but do your homework first.
     
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  9. philosofriend

    philosofriend Tele-Holic

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    If I was making one I might try to build in a micro-adjustment screw for a bolt on neck. This would make adjusting the action much easier. I would surely use a bolt on neck as shimming the neck beats removing the protective cover and filing the saddle (or making a new saddle to raise the action).
     
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  10. Itchyfeet1000

    Itchyfeet1000 Tele-Meister

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    Thank you all so much for your input. I had no idea these were so complex!

    Freeman, as usual your advice and information is golden.

    My biggest concern is that there would be insufficient depth in the body for any real benefit from using a cone. I know Fender made a run of resonator Teles a few years back but they appear to have substantially deeper bodies. As I'll be using a that is already less than 2" deep it may not be practical to use this approach. I may have to consider building a separate body with sufficient depth to allow resonance.
     
  11. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    Your concerns are valid - the only way to find out is either get a hold of one of the few electric resonators or build this and see. National did sell something like this

    https://reverb.com/item/2439593-national-reso-electric-maple-top

    and I had the opportunity to play one. Frankly I was underwelmed but can see the appeal for certain players with certain kinds of music. I grew up listening to the great Delta blues players like Son House and Bukka White and Bonnie Raitte and thats the sound I associate with resonator guitars.

    I am also used to acoustic resonators - on the rare occassion when I play mine out I amplify it with a plain old SM-57 pointed at the f-holes. I want to do everything I can to capture that cone sound - sticking a lipstick p/u on the top just doesn't cut it. But again, if that is the sound you are after then go for it.

    Remember that one of the big concerns by the guy in that MIMF thread I linked is that lack of air volume behind the cone and the fact the his little sound holes are really dummies - they aren't connected to the chamber. You are going to have even less. If you believe that pumping air in and out of an acoustic guitar helps it make its sound then you are going the wrong way. If, however, you believe that a sealed chamber behind the cone will help give it something (the argument for a closed speaker box vs. a ported one) then this might be good. I don't know, my experience is strictly with big open acoustic boxes.

    I would encourage you to try to find clips of electric resonators, see what you like and then I can give my humble thoughts about how to get there. If you find clips you like, list them here or PM them to me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
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  12. Chordophonic

    Chordophonic Tele-Meister

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  13. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    That sollophonic link answers quite a few questions. He is using pretty standard biscuit cones and cover plates - it looks like they just fit. Several of his guitars have standard resonator tailpieces - they are quite a bit closer to the biscuit than on an acoustic sized body, but again, it looks like he makes it work fine. On one of the guitars he says the action is 2mm on the treble and 2.5 on the bass - that is reasonable compromise for slide and fretted, he says it is strung 12 - 53 but doesn't say what tuning or f/b radius. One interesting feature is the port in the back of the guitar - kind of answers my question about venting the sound well.

    There are a couple of clips under the About tab - open G with a glass slide. Reasonable resonator sound, fairly mellow compared to a metal bodied biscuit but it does have the cone sound.

    So, in my opinion its doable and you'd better do it.
     
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  14. straightlbues

    straightlbues TDPRI Member

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    I am working on a Danelectro resonator. I am using a biscuit bridge. I have the hole cut and am just about ready to put it all back together. I will let you know what sort of issues I run into as I progress. It is going to be a couple of weeks from now.
     
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  15. Old duck

    Old duck TDPRI Member

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    IMG_0220.jpeg
     
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  16. Itchyfeet1000

    Itchyfeet1000 Tele-Meister

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    I'm thinking my best bet might be to collect all the hardware first then design a body to suit.
     
  17. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Tele-Afflicted

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    Absolutely, but then I recommend doing that for any guitar.
     
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