Mule Resonator Guitars
Custom handmade resonator guitars
My name is Matt Eich and I, along with my brother Phil and Adam Smith, build handmade steel and brass bodied single cone and tricone resonator guitars. After witnessing Kelly Joe Phelps play his resonator at a show here in Michigan I left wondering if I could use my guitar making skills I learned at Huss and Dalton Guitars to make metal bodied resonators. They are just so much guitar: volume, range of tone, look- and potential. I wanted to do them differently. I wanted them to sound more guitar like, meaning more warmth and low end. I also wanted them to look the materials they were made from- the raw steel and brass, with a patina I've developed over the years. I'm so excited to be able to offer them to players. Options like a P90 pickup, a tricone in a single cone body like the very first National guitars... I'm having the time of my life building these instruments and hearing what players like Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Kelly Joe, Charlie Parr, Jeffrey Foucault, Jason Dennie, Jay Lapp and so many more players I've had the pleasure to get to know during the building process. When you send an e-mail, you get me. My brother Phil will send build pictures as your guitar goes through the work. That's part of the experience and story. I'm happy you're here and if you have any questions please e-mail me at email@example.com
The guitar made it here alright, no problems at all. In fact it was pretty close to being in tune as well. And, shoo-boy, what a stunner!! Such a beautiful thing, Matt! Just wonderful, between the wood choices and the way you’ve finished them, and the great metal-work work. Eeeh yow, I love it, I love it. The shape and size of the neck is awesome, too. Now I kinda wish I had a steel-string guitar with that same neck on it. So comfortable in my hands. Yeah; a steel string with the Mule’s neck and a 12 fret joint. That’d be a good feeling guitar. Such a great sounding guitar, I love it. A musician friend of mine, Cahalen Morrison, was over here a few days ago and he played it and loved it, too. Both the sound and the look in equal measure, both awesome. He also (as do I) loved the fact that it was quite literally “The Mule.” We both figured you nailed that one right on the head.
Peace and Blessings,
So in 1927 National made a proto-type guitar that was a tri-cone fit into a single-cone body, it was some kind of test I think and they never made a production model out of it. My Mule is just that, a tri-cone set into a single-cone stainless steel body and the sound is somewhere right in between the two designs. I'd never part with my National, but this guitar doesn't really sound anything like it, and I've found that I'm using the Mule a lot these days. Matt did a fantastic job all around on this guitar, the neck feels like I've played it for years, and it's got a custom made P-90 that really sounds nice and not overly electric. I love the sound, and it's versatile, changing from sharp to growl to mellow depending on where your right hand is.
I've been playing two or three hours every day. Open D and C a half step down feel best to me, but G rings nicely there too. It's Incredible to me - having scarcely played a steel guitar except in shops - how nuanced and sensitive to attack the cones are, how each seems to pick up different combinations of volume and frequency to generate distinct overtones. I can play quiet or hard or between to the two and it's like I have three or four different guitars. Running through my rig - essentially tape echo, trem, verb, and OD - the colors multiply. Particularly dialing up the wow and flutter on the tape echo creates some note decay with the slide that feels like a whole new tool.
the craftsmanship is just beautiful. I'm really happy to have it. When I get a chance to shoot some useful video - something you can use on your site - I certainly will.
Five. Years. Five years of Mule actually started 13 years ago when I started trying to put pieces of wood together to make guitars that weren’t being made. That took me to a guitar making school run by ex hippies in Phoenix, to sleeping next to my bandsaw in a garage during a Minnesota winter, to 10 years of factory jobs rolling strips of tape, assembling electrical motors, running rubber presses and extrusion machines, two glorious years in Virginia at Huss and Dalton Guitars, then busking and industrial supply in Chicago and getting fired during a recession for counting wrong 26 out of 111,000 times, then back to my home state of Michigan wondering, “now what?” It took two years of wondering and then I saw Kelly Joe Phelps play his National. 10 years earlier he was this metalhead’s first experience with acoustic guitars and it changed my career. This time I left his show wondering if I could make a resonator that looked like the material and sounded richer than most resonators. I know the answer to that now- I can. It took me a year to make four. I ran out of money and had to take another temp job swinging engine blocks. I stood in a puddle of coolant hooking and swinging engine blocks onto a conveyor for two weeks and then had 12 orders. I quit. Then 30, then 40, then 80. It took a closet shop, a basement shop, and this current shop. I made Kelly Joe a guitar. Full circle. Then Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Jeffrey Foucault, Charlie Parr, one was on stage with Adele. It’s true, I was there. Billy Gibbons bought us groceries.Then 360 guitars and 107 on the list. Phil, Smithers and I have sent them all over the world. I play each of them and it feels new every time. THE SOUND. I just shake my head. These aren’t just guitars, they are a new sound and I can see the light bulb go over when a player hears them for the first time.
It was hard. It is hard. It’s awesome. My customers buy their guitars and then send us coffee, whiskey, albums, food, and souvenirs. We have a whole shelf full of gifts that people send us after they pay a bunch of money for their guitars. We get wedding pictures with our guitars in them, pictures of them next to newborns. They’ve been played at funerals and given as surprises. Its bigger than guitars. It’s a mechanism for people to connect with each other in a way that’s lacking these days. Thank you to all of you who are part of this story. “It’s just a piece of wood you’ll win in the end.” -Matt
Sometimes when it comes to “stuff” it’s about the stuff. Materials, dimensions. This thing we do here at Mule, and want you to be a part of, is more about people and playing.
This is me, Matt:
I own Mule. I make these along with Phil and Smithers. My life has brought me through temp jobs and factory work and two glorious years at Huss and Dalton to be building bear magical beasts of a guitar.
I want nothing more than to talk to you about guitars. Really. I swept floors for this, worked at rubber presses for just that opportunity. – Matt
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