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19 Apr 2016
resonator guitar coverplate

How to Choose Strings for Your Resonator Guitar

There are a thousand different strings you could use for your resonator. Everything from cryogenically treated strings to strings shot into space to strings blessed by a shaman in a rainforest in South America.

Unfortunately this variety of options leads to a lot of confusion, a lot of misinterpreted information and a lot of misplaced convictions.

My strings containing asteroid flecks really do increase the sustain.

The flamingo feathers give me more bottom end.

The hemp makes the treble sparkle.

People, just stop. Let’s talk about the things that matter.

I don’t know all the science words but what I do know is that sound is a byproduct of  things (mass) moving. Vibration. The more mass that is vibrating the more sound you get. More sound=more better.  All those highs/lows/midrangey tones well you just get more of them and that is always a good thing when it comes to acoustic guitars and in particular resonator guitars.  I kept that mind when it came to designing how a Mule works which is pretty against the grain when read about traditional thought concerning resonator guitar construction.  Something that will help you with your Mule or with any guitar is using big ol thick strings.

My favorite sounds come from a 56 gauge set with a 18 and 16 on top, tuned down half a step in standard, and tuned to a normal open D. If you do to tune down a half step put a 15 and 17 on top. If you do a lot of bending use a 14/15. You’ll have to buy these in single string sets but this is the most bang for the buck you can put in your guitar.

I don’t play these guitars in a band, most likely neither do you. Don’t show up and tell fiddle player you’re playing in Eb. He will be angry with you. But when playing solo tuning down a half step allows me to use heavier gauge strings, which equals more mass which equals more tone.

Remember, and this is important, that your strings are the primary tone producers of your resonator guitar. Why? Because like we said before sound is a byproduct of vibrating mass. What does the most vibrating in your guitar? The strings.  The more mass you get can get moving there, the better.

Phosphor bronze strings are what I put on the Mules stock.  80/20 strings are too bright. And if you are looking for some real thick sound use DR Rares. I love them on normal acoustic guitars too. They sound more worn in out of the bag.

 

Sure, there are tons of options out there. Spend $100 bucks and try all the craziest sets of strings you can. Do it in a a single month so you can more compare them better.  Decide, buy a bulk set of them and be done with it.  The tone is in your pick/finger attack, your tuning, and your string gauge.  The other minutiae matter minutely. You have better things to do.

 

18 Apr 2016
resonator guitar slide

Picking a Slide for Resonator Guitar

I know a lot has been written, lied about, explored and forgotten about guitar slides.  It’s one of those things that are relatively cheap and you can fit five of them in your guitar case so, why not?  My perspective on a lot of things in life, guitar related included, is limiting choice.  Cognitive load as some fancy people call it.   Cumulatively the decisions we make, the choices we consider, the options we explore have more of an affect on our actions than we realize.  And in something as  seemingly touchy as being ready to receive musical inspiration while playing any obstacles we can remove is helpful. It’s addicting to talk about gear- these strings vs those strings, those tubes vs these NOS tubes found in a desk drawer.  The knowledge part of guitar playing is addicting.  If that’s part of the fun for you, that’s great.  But realize the possibility exists that comes at a cost.

This thought isn’t without real world anecdotes. It’s true there are really great players who geek out over gear just as much as anyone on a guitar message board.  They get all the press.  I have had the experience of building guitars for a few very good, big name players.  The thing that struck me was how almost stand offish they were about making decisions with their guitars.  “What about neck profile? Steel resonator guitars versus brass resonator guitars, ebony capped saddles or not” They didn’t care. They just wanted a great guitar and wanted me to handle the decisions.  They got their guitars, loved them, and started making  a living on them.  I think perhaps because with a limited amount of time and effort focused so precisely, all that debate would just get in the way.

How does this apply to guitar slides?  I’ve bought my slew of slides and get a slew of free ones sent to me in the mail.  I did the research and now I’m decided and committed.

http://www.therockslide.com/shop/

I always buy the large glass slides.  The insides of these slides are tapered so they fit perfectly, and one slide is flat so it fits nicely against your ring finger. You forget its on your finger. Removing obstacles in your playing.  The walls are super thick, which gives resonator guitars in particular a vocal quality that people think they get from a thin wall piece of steel pipe they found laying around. Don’t believe them.

Part of slide guitar playing is playing cleanly, another reason why I use glass slides.   They are lighter, so you can be more accurate with fretting behind the slide and not knocking into the frets when things get crazy.  Brass slides look great, especially the ones Danny does with The Rock Slides, but for me I’m so self conscious of knocking around too much because of the weight I feel more guarded.   The Rock Slides sound thick and good, fit better than any slide I’ve played and I completely forget what slide I’m using when I’m playing.  Lets not forget this exactly the point of gear.

 

06 Apr 2016

Challenging Assumptions

I never wanted to be a business person.  It still makes me feel awkward just to write it.  I just wanted to make things and support myself doing it.  I had attached (have attached) a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a businessman to that word, even though I am that word.  It still affects how I act even though I disprove those deep seated assumptions daily.  Interesting right?

Its based on assumptions I made about something I hadn’t earned an opinion on. (More on that later.)  “I would never” “They are like..” “It must be so…”  Where did all that come from?

The most important lesson I’ve learned in this resonator guitar thing is being more sensitive to when I’m acting -or not acting-based on something that just popped into my brain without basis. Without merit- you know merit, the thing you earn.   This happens all the time, right? We lie to ourselves constantly.

When we think something, immediately justify it as being validated by our own experience and then spout off as it being the way things are, that’s assuming. “It doesn’t matter what you think, it matters what you do.” What have you DONE to prove your assumption?  If you think something would save/destroy your playing, your family, your nation what actions have you done to prove what your saying to be true?  If your actions have not been on the scale being discussed has it been earned?

“They won’t hire me because I don’t have enough experience.”

“The amount on your bill is correct because we calculated it that way. Have a nice day. ”

And the worst offender of all, that hamstringer of dreams and funeral pyre of ambition:

“That won’t work because…”  “You know you should…”

Vocalize an ambitious idea within earshot of people and see how quickly you get every possible notion of how it might, possibly, probably, fail.

I started off with that original piece of steel with nothing but desperation and assumptions.  The first forced me to become aware of the second.  Why was this so hard? Why is it not working? Why is it working now?

Use this as a starting point to more personal thought: What assumptions do you make about instruments and how they are – “should be” made? What about your own playing? Note: Find the things you believe in first, the things you always do. Some, all if you’re bold, are assumptions.

01 Apr 2016