Jeffrey Foucault playing Rainier Ptacek on his Mule resonator guitar, and then I died.
I’m not a huge fan of guitar voodoo- you won’t find me filing away the nut in between the string slots, or clamping things to head stocks. All these things can change the tone of a guitar in theory. Does they contribute to an audible difference? Meh. But the more important question is: does it make the guitar sound better?
And that of course is the unanswerable question. What is better? So many things about guitars are chocolate and vanilla. I had a Gibson Lg-1 that I loved and it was the quietest, sustain-less, thunkiness guitar I ever owned.
Part of the fun of building resonator guitars is that because they are so loud, small changes make a more audible difference. I’ve always believed that the more you can do around the bridge/saddle/biscuit on a guitar the better. That’s where most of the vibration is happening so it makes sense that you can affect the most change there.
Something I’ve started doing is slightly hollowing out the bottom of the biscuits, leaving a border around the outside edge where it rests on top of the cone, and where the cone screw goes into the biscuit. It’s not for weight savings – the amount is so little- but it’s for vibration. Think of the top of the biscuit as a mini sound board. Just like when you thin the top of a guitar you are able to get more vibration going and that’s always a good thing.
It’s added some openness to these guitars. It’s slight, not as drastic as using a rosewood saddle compared to a maple saddle, but it’s there and it’s fun to do so I’ll keep doing it until convinced otherwise.
Charley Hicks is the man. You want a new blues voice that isn’t Chicago blues? How about this guy. He recorded videos for every one of Charley Patton’s songs. He just rips. Follow him on instagram too.
He’s bought three Mules so far, so there’s a ton of resonator guitar all over the place.
A bit of a tangent but it still applies.
We tend to think of alternatives in aggregate. “If I didn’t work this job I could start that business, go back to school and still have more free time.” We take the best parts of all our options and lump them into one big fat unrealistic alternative. We don’t see that we don’t know how to run a business, going back to school would just be starting over, and there’s no real reason why we would actually have more free time.
It’s an important realization to have. “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up,” the ever-wise Shia LeBouf said. If you’re doing something, you’re further along on it than anything else you might try. Instead of changing course, double down.
It’s the same thing with guitars, even the resonator variety. Maybe the single cone holds everything I think I’m missing, maybe it’s the pickup. Or the OM, or the dreadnaught. Round and round we go. Instead of chasing, double down.