Question for the Resonator Players

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Hoodster, Oct 12, 2014.

  1. Hoodster

    Hoodster Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2007
    So I'm in the market for a resonator in the budget category – under $500 used. I really would like one with a pickup.

    I have played the Gretsch Bobtail and love it. However, with the neck joining the body at the 12th fret, I am concerned about fretboard access for slide.

    I'm wondering if those of you who play slide on resonators (or on parlor guitars that join the neck with body at 12), how high can you reasonably reach?

    I'm thinking the 15th fret first and second string should be no problem, but I really like having access to the 17th Fret first two strings as well. Is it doable on a 12 fret instrument?

    I played a 14 fret Regal today that was good enough for my purposes, but I don't think any of them come with pickups…
  2. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    La Quinta, CA
    For access to upper frets I knew I wanted a cutaway model. After doing a bit of playing around, I ended up with a Dean metal bodied, single cutaway. I got it new, a bit more than your budget... But, I still love this guitar, two years later.

    I don't play too much above 15 or 16, even with the cutaway though. I do when I played slide on my SG.
  3. Del Pickup

    Del Pickup Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 24, 2008
    New Zealand
    You'll struggle to get to the 15th fret with a neck joint at the 12th. It's a bit of stretch to get that far.

    And please don't misunderstand this comment but, in that price range, you get what you pay for and it may not be all that you want it to be.

    I had a cheap Johnson resonator for several years (which I eventually traded to finance another guitar as I fell out of love with the resonator as I was having constant battles with trying to get the right break angle at the bridge and the strings would move around on top of the saddle and the tone really wasn't all that great).

    After a few years without a resonator (I've tried various Gretsch and EPiphones in the local stores over the period) last weekend I bought a secondhand Dobro and the difference in build quality and tone is just incredible.

    The Johnson cost around NZ $500 when I bought it and the ones I've tried have been in the $1000 range and not been a huge difference in tone, etc. The additional cost for the DObro really was money well spent. Hence my comment that you get what you pay for.

    Just a thought.........
  4. zombywoof

    zombywoof Friend of Leo's

    This may turn out to be the best advice given. Many of these budget resonators are notorious for at the least having cheap cones as well as sometimes needing some other work like the frets dressed properly and the nut replaced. Once you have taken care of this you might have just as well gone and sprung for a Hot Rod Steel, a Goldtone or one of the better instrument in the first place.
  5. gmann

    gmann Friend of Leo's

    May 7, 2008
    Okinawa, Japan
  6. Hoodster

    Hoodster Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2007
    I appreciate the responses, but again my main question is about upper fret access for slide.

    Those of you who play on a 12 or even 14 fret resonator, how limiting do you find this?

    All of those suggested guitars look great, but I'm really not all that interested in instrument recommendations unless someone knows of a wood bodied 14 fret resonator that comes with a pickup in my price range.
  7. Flaneur

    Flaneur Friend of Leo's

    May 24, 2010
    It can be a bit of a struggle if using a capo- but generally, for the kind of music that routinely takes me to the bitter end of the fretboard, I'm using an electric guitar. I love the deeper registers of a resonator and often take my soloing down near the nut- especially when playing unaccompanied.
  8. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    La Quinta, CA
    A resonator's pleasure zone is not really in those upper frets, tonally.

    Physically, the thinner body, and cutaway, of my Dean gives me a little better access. But, you still end up leaning down and twisting your arm around and under the guitar to get to anything above 15 with the slide. It's like you have to hug the guitar tightly. But, that's the same with every guitar I own, except my SG.

    A thicker body will make it tougher to make this yoga move... As will no cutaway or a lower fret neck joint.
  9. Shango66

    Shango66 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 15, 2012
    Good Resonators don't come cheap.
    I've tried em and they just don't cut it.
    Go out and play a few Nationals then play the cheapo imports and you'll see what I mean.

    Save you bucks for a used single cone Delphi (the powder coated steel models are entry level) and it will be a keeper.
    They are note Canons!

    I'm talking Acoustics here.
  10. Hoodster

    Hoodster Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2007
    It's kind of interesting that everyone is dissing on the entry-level options, whereas everywhere else I have read (including on this forum) people are raving about the Gretsch Bobtail (and even the cheaper Boxcar)......
  11. Henfield Tele

    Henfield Tele Tele-Holic

    Oct 30, 2012
    West Sussex Uk
    Are Ozark available in the U.S, I had a 3616 which I think is the next best thing to a National. Some of the range come with a pickup in your budget.
    Heard good things on the Gretsch as well, and sadly awful things on the Fender in fact I sent mine back same day!
    Upper fret access all possible, but as others have said that's not really where it's at with reso's.
  12. Mr_Mer

    Mr_Mer Tele-Holic

    Mar 16, 2010
    I have a Chinese made (surprisingly well, too) Regal RC-6 Duolian. Body joins the neck at the 12 fret, and it gives me no access problem as I am Open G tuned, so rarely go higher than 12 fret. Then again, I do have long fingers.
  13. AirBagTester

    AirBagTester Friend of Leo's

    Nov 7, 2010
    My bell brass Johnson reso joins around the 14 or 15 fret with no cutaway. I usually only ever find myself going up to 12 though for that octave above an open tuning, like in the beginning of "Feel Like Going Home" by Muddy Waters:

    That's the open tuning sweet spot for me! 12 - 5 - 0 - 3 - 0 etc. 15 maybe for a note.

    What kinds of tunings and songs do you want to play on the reso?
  14. Hoodster

    Hoodster Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2007
    The vid below shows the type of slide playing I like.

    Notice at :50 he dances up to the 1st string 17th fret for one quick note.

    That's the kind of thing i would hate to miss if I purchase a 12-fretter.

  15. AirBagTester

    AirBagTester Friend of Leo's

    Nov 7, 2010
    Oh! Yeah, that one does seem like it would be a stretch.

    Can you capo one of the guitars you already have to simulate it, and see how bad it would be? (Maybe somebody already suggested that...)
  16. backalleyblues

    backalleyblues Friend of Leo's

    I have a real National (Tricone Style 1) and it really IS the business. 12th fret is all it has, so I do have to stretch to get higher-15 is usually no problem, but any higher I have to go overhand to get there (take my thumb off the backside of the neck and GO!!!) Watch a couple Bob Brozman videos and you'll see what I'm talking about. On a reso, the high notes just kinda go flat anyways, so it's really not good for diddley playing anyways...

    A buddy of mine has a Republic Parlor cutaway resonator, and he let me try it out this past weekend-good sound and feel, but dang it was buzzy!! Might have something to do with the strings-I usually string the National with .013-.056, these felt like .011-.050... might put one on my list...

    I've played a couple Gretches in the store, very good tone and LOUD like they should be-just don't care for the necks that much, gotten spoiled by the 1 7/8" National monster neck... :D

    Franc Robert
  17. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    La Quinta, CA

    Not me, but this is what my Dean looks and sounds like...

    I also see a lotta folks putting down the intro level Resos. I'm sorry to dissapointed, but EVERY time I play this out I get incredible amounts of interest in it. Not just audience members, but guitar players as well.

    I've messed with a Gretsch Bobtail... I loved the NFL, but upper fret access was tough and it was heavy as all get out. I've got a bud who has a wood bodied Fender... It's okay, but feels kinda entry level. It sounds nice enough though. He just recently took his over to Beard's workshop and had a new cone and a setup done. I haven't gotten a chance to p,at it since...
  18. Hoodster

    Hoodster Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2007
    "I've messed with a Gretsch Bobtail... I loved the NFL, but upper fret access was tough and it was heavy as all get out."

    Are you sure it was that model? Because I've played three and they were all featherlight, and if you look on Sweetwater they usually have three or four in stock and every time I have checked every single one of them has been in the 5 pound range.
  19. drmcclainphd

    drmcclainphd Tele-Afflicted

    I play a Johnson copy of a Dobro Hound Dog, a round neck that joins at 14. I can reach to 17. But I rarely play above 12. If I do, it's for brief, very high emphasis notes on high strings with a slide. Or else, if I'm playing it lap style, for slide or slap, or both, I can reach up to 20 easily.

    Playing a rez that high is a problem. It doesn't get much volume. The sound comes from the cone(s) and they, more than a plain sound board, require more mass to get them moving. That's what rez strings tend towards .052 or .056 on the low E. Less than half a high E or a B just isn't enough to do the job well -- in comparion to open or low fretted strings. Yes, they're playable and audible, but in relative to the lower notes, they get somewhat lost.

    Now, a pickup? Sure, if it's magnetic, it'll erase most of this. A piezo won't. A piezo also tends to pick up the knocking sounds whe you bang the neck with the slide (happens to the best of us sometimes). I've used both on mine, but took them back off. A volume pedal can also be used to compensate, and can also be used on a mike, should you choose to go that way rather than a pickup. I use a Shure SM57/58 pair when I play rez for just this reason.

    With regards to the heavier strings, if you plan to fret it other than just play slide, it's a lot harder to play. I've since dropped back to .012 phosphor bronze strings and don't do much with those high notes. I large part I play traditional blues on it and it sounds great, if slightly lower volume (which the mikes take care of). If you're only going to play slide, and are looking for a pickup too, you might want to consider a lap steel instead.

    All that said, if you're in the market, I too would urge the Dean metal body with electronics. But I suggest getting it from the maufacturer rather than Dean. You can get it for half the price if you get it from them: Aiersi. If you make the arrangement with them directly, you can even get one without the goofy Hawaiian motif engraving, the one thing I don't like about the Deans. You can get a single cone for around $300, a tricone for around $500, new and free shipping. These folks supply Dean, Luna, Ibanez, Washburn and a couple others with most of their mid level (and virtually all lower level) instruments of all kinds. You can get a wood body rez for about the same price, but why, when you can get a copper or chrome clad bell brass body? The down side of ordering from them is shipping time. Expect 4 weeks. A positive is that if you contact them, you'll be talking with Devon Zhu, the general manager, not some order taking droid who knows nothing more than what's in the catalog.
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