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Thread: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

  1. #26
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Al Trujillo View Post
    I've been intrigued by Rich DelGrosso's fine Blues playing and thinking back on my time here on the Cafe can't recall many conversations about Resonator Mandolins. The sound I'm hearing here screams "Blues"....are there really few of us who play the genre?

    Just wonderin'.....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqOA2P1OHZg
    He's my mando muse.

    If you listen to Get Your Nose Outta My Bizness, keep in mind that while the CD photos are of a new National reso, the recordings are with a regular old Gibson. He just gets that funky sound because he's a funky guy. He could get that sound out of a harpsichord.

    Are there only a few of us who play blues mando? Dunno. I sure do. Don't get around enough to know how big the club is. But I can say with confidence that in the guitar world most people who think they're blues players are rockers. No crime in that, but they should be honest about it. They're giving the blues a good name.

    Thanks for the post!
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  2. #27
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Something else I've been wondering: How loud are Dobro mandos from the OMI era or earlier? How does the volume compare to Nationals?
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Something else I've been wondering: How loud are Dobro mandos from the OMI era or earlier? How does the volume compare to Nationals?
    I've never owned a Dobro mandolin so take this with a grain of salt, but I suspect the volume is similar. However the timbre and attack will be a larger and more noticeable difference, based on my experience owning modern National-brand resonator guitars and vintage Dobro guitars.

    Biscuit cone resonators (Nationals) have a distinctive hard attack and somewhat lower sustain than spider cones. This makes them a favorite of Blues players, especially if you're playing fingerstyle. It helps keeps the notes distinct and not running into each other. Spider cone resonators (Dobro) generally have more sustain and a softer attack, which is how they migrated into BG and Country music for that distinctive sustaining sound.

    Personally, I preferred Dobros for bottleneck slide playing during my Blues period. The longer sustain fit the way I tend to play slide guitar. So I sold my National guitar and collected several roundneck metal-body "fiddle edge" Dobros from the 1930's. I still have one of them but sold off the rest since I'm no longer playing Blues.

    Anyway, I don't know how any of this translates to reso mandolins but I suspect the biscuit cone will be preferable for the kind of music mandolins are typically used for. I've toyed for years with the idea of getting a National RM-1 for Irish/Scottish sessions, mainly for the volume. In that application the notes are flying by so fast that I'd want sharp attack and lower sustain. I've never followed through because I like the tone of a wooden archtop mandolin too much to get into that halfway-towards-a-banjo sound.

  4. #29
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    I've never owned a Dobro mandolin so take this with a grain of salt, but I suspect the volume is similar. However the timbre and attack will be a larger and more noticeable difference, based on my experience owning modern National-brand resonator guitars and vintage Dobro guitars.
    I've just tested this with my RM1 and my 70s dobro mandolin - I played each of them as as loud I could and measured the volume with the decibel meter on my iPad...

    ...and it turns out that you are (on the basis of this totally unscientific experiment) correct!! In fact, the dobro edged it by 1 db...

  5. #30
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    i have an Eastman 604 (oval hole A-model) and have a reso mando, built by Dutch luthier Arie van Spronssen - it's a modern copy of a 1930s Dobro/Regal.
    The reso mando is way louder than the Eastman. I use it in a band that plays early blues (1920-1940) and it works quite well there. It's very direct, 'in your face' and that fits with the music, for instance with stringband songs.
    In my two other bands, one a bluesy rootsy electric acoustic band, the other an acoustic Americana band, I prefer the Eastman with its mellower tone. I'm really happy with both mandolins.

  6. #31
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Well, I have two, both from the 1930's: a National Triolian steel-bodied with a "biscuit" bridge set-up, and a Dobro with "spider" bridge construction. Totally different construction and sound, but both neat mandolins, IMHO. . . .
    Great! Then you can tell us the difference.

    I sometimes think about getting an old Dobro mando — OMI-era or early. But I've never heard one. I have a friend with a National, and it sounds great, of course. (It helps that he plays it well.)

    But used Dobros cost a lot less — almost within shooting distance. So I'm wondering how they compare — volume, sustain, tone, feel. What's your experience?

    Thanks!
    Gibson A-Junior snakehead (Keep on pluckin'!)

  7. #32
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    I sometimes think about getting an old Dobro mando — OMI-era or early.
    If you go in that direction, just make sure the neck is in good shape and playable with easy action. OMI models may have truss rods, but vintage Dobro mandos may lack truss rods and could need a neck reset. That would wipe out your cost savings in buying used.

    FWIW, none of the mid 1930's roundneck Dobro guitars I owned had a truss rod, and all had necks that had bent enough over the years to be unplayable past the first few frets. Great for slide guitar but would have needed luthier work for fretted playing.

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  9. #33
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    I’ve had a few vintage Nationals. One was a beautiful style 2 silver with engraving. Scale was long IIRC close to 15 inches. I never liked it when tuned to standard mandolin tuning. I put heavier strings and tuned it down to E with octaves like Yank Rachell. I ended up selling it aster I got my newer RM-1 which is a more versatile instrument.
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  11. #34
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    If you go in that direction, just make sure the neck is in good shape and playable with easy action. OMI models may have truss rods, but vintage Dobro mandos may lack truss rods and could need a neck reset. That would wipe out your cost savings in buying used.

    FWIW, none of the mid 1930's roundneck Dobro guitars I owned had a truss rod, and all had necks that had bent enough over the years to be unplayable past the first few frets. Great for slide guitar but would have needed luthier work for fretted playing.
    Good to know. Thanks!

    Are Dobro mandos very loud?
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Great! Then you can tell us the difference.

    I sometimes think about getting an old Dobro mando — OMI-era or early. But I've never heard one. I have a friend with a National, and it sounds great, of course. (It helps that he plays it well.)

    But used Dobros cost a lot less — almost within shooting distance. So I'm wondering how they compare — volume, sustain, tone, feel. What's your experience?

    Thanks!
    I've got a National RM1 - its loud and can be brash, but it has a unique voice and you can pull some great tone out of it with a bit of practice. Its great and probably the only mandolin I will never sell...

    I've also just bought a 70s dobro thing from Jake Wildwood. Its a different beast to the RM1: the G and D strings are a bit muddier; there is a fantastic ethereal ringy-ness to the A and E strings, especially if you go up the neck; there is a bit more sustain; its loud but has less cut; and its less refined than the RM1 and pretty chunky. Its still early days for me, but I like what I hear...

    I think the both instruments are great for the blues.

    If you use facebook, I would recommend joining the 'Exploring Blues Mandolin' group. There are lots of videos submitted by members of the group. There are at least five videos with dobros and countless videos with nationals if you want to compare.

    Hope that helps!!

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  14. #36
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Boyett View Post
    I've also just bought a 70s dobro thing from Jake Wildwood. Its a different beast to the RM1 ...!
    I was up there recently and tried that out, as well as an RM1 that he had. Both were very cool and caused a troubling flareup of MAS
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

  15. #37
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Have a Recording King. Recently got it from a band mate. Immedately put on extra light strings to try and make the action tolerable. For me, it works if we're playing in a larger hall with multiple fiddles and accordions. In a situation where only volume matters and not tone, then it's an option for me.

    Most of the time, end up playing the Brentrup instead. That's usually loud enough to cut through. (EDIT) And here, we're talking Finnish-American folk music. It can work in Nordic music folk settings with the right group of folks.

    All that said, an RM1 is still on my long term wish list.

  16. #38
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Boyett View Post
    I've got a National RM1 - its loud and can be brash, but it has a unique voice and you can pull some great tone out of it with a bit of practice. Its great and probably the only mandolin I will never sell...

    I've also just bought a 70s dobro thing from Jake Wildwood. Its a different beast to the RM1: the G and D strings are a bit muddier; there is a fantastic ethereal ringy-ness to the A and E strings, especially if you go up the neck; there is a bit more sustain; its loud but has less cut; and its less refined than the RM1 and pretty chunky. Its still early days for me, but I like what I hear...

    I think the both instruments are great for the blues.

    If you use facebook, I would recommend joining the 'Exploring Blues Mandolin' group. There are lots of videos submitted by members of the group. There are at least five videos with dobros and countless videos with nationals if you want to compare.

    Hope that helps!!
    It does, indeed. Thanks!
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  17. #39
    Registered User Murphy Slaw's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    A very cool instrument, me thinks.
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  19. #40
    🎶 Play Pretty 🎶 Greg Connor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    I start to drool every time I see a National Reso Mandolin. I’m a guitar player who has wandered into mandolin and now can’t get enough of it. I own 3 National guitars and 4 Dobros. I love that Reso sound!

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  21. #41
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Where I use the rez to greatest advantage is playing for dances, where traditional tone quality and nuance are not the most important thing. I am up on stage in our pick up band, usually up front because nobody wants to stand in front of the rez, and it carries to the back of the dance floor.

    And at home, on the porch, with my glass of Fever Tree strong ginger beer, scaring the bluebirds and the neighbors.
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  22. #42
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Connor View Post
    I start to drool every time I see a National Reso Mandolin. I’m a guitar player who has wandered into mandolin and now can’t get enough of it. I own 3 National guitars and 4 Dobros. I love that Reso sound!
    I hear that Scott is designing a Mandolin Cafe MAS Drool Bucket soon to be available for the holiday season.
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  23. #43
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I hear that Scott is designing a Mandolin Cafe MAS Drool Bucket soon to be available for the holiday season.
    Having noodled a bit on an RM1 a few weeks back, I might be interested in one of those Buckets, except that I don't think it's ladylike to drool in an obvious manner
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    I am quite confident that I would really enjoy a RM1, and may yet someday, but I have never met an oval-hole Gibson that wasn't a GREAT mandolin for playing blues music! A lot of common (lower-end models) Gibson A models from the teens, whose tone may be deemed too unrefined for hi-brow musics, excel as a blues mandolin.
    too many strings

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  26. #45
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by musicofanatic View Post
    I am quite confident that I would really enjoy a RM1, and may yet someday, but I have never met an oval-hole Gibson that wasn't a GREAT mandolin for playing blues music! A lot of common (lower-end models) Gibson A models from the teens, whose tone may be deemed too unrefined for hi-brow music, excel as a blues mandolin.
    Mine sure does. Unrefined like me. Primitive, in fact. Love it. Wouldn't mind a reso, though!
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  27. #46
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    I’ve owned several different reso mandolins (vintage dobros, nationals, and Del vecchios). I recently bought an RM1 - and sold it a month later! To me, the more modern reso lacked the “vintage vibe” I was seeking, and have found, in the older resos, and I found it’s voice less distinct. My current favorite is a 30’s dobro modified to a cutaway, purchased a couple of months ago in the classifieds, which has a depth and timbre (not to mention high-fret access) that make it versatile for swing, jugband, and blues. I’ve read all the accolades for the RM-1, but to me it’s “neither here nor there”. If I want reso, I’ll go vintage, if I want woody, there are plenty of great options from the old Gibsons to modern makers. All that said, the metal-bodied biscuit-cone nationals when properly set up (and perhaps down-tuned, as previously mentioned) has a wonderful brassiness that works in certain settings, the dobros have a bell-like ring unlike any other, and the Del vecchio a woody warmth, imo. All worth exploring.

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  29. #47
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why So Few Resonator Mandolins?

    I love the sound of the old National guitars but I had a beautiful vintage National style 2 mandolin and I disliked the tone. I tried putting heavier strings on it and octaves tuned down to E like Yank Rachell and it was better. If I were a blues player maybe I would still have it. I do however have a lovely single cone National Styoe 1 tenor and that sounds great to my ears in CGDA tuning. For general playing I do like the RM-1. But it is a matter of taste.
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