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.
Being a maker/small business owner is one of the ultimate goat rodeos. Making things at a high level, learning new skills, and also running business is a lot of goats to rope. Fixing problems once and for all is essential. Putting some twine on the fence just moves headaches to a different day. Here’s some problems I’ve solved along the way.
On a list of things I believe at the top is this, “Don’t assume, prove”. Do this test: vocalize an idea. Count the number of counter ideas, corrections, and tangents you get from those within earshot in the next five minutes. Is it about a guitar business? Someone who doesn’t even play guitar knows why it wont work. Etc. And you do the same thing to yourself. Want to quit your job and start a maker business? It will work because you assume it will. Looking for a shop space? “What are you looking to spend?” Fill in a blank and magically that’s the rent for the space you’ll find. Because you assumed. Don’t assume, prove. I wanted a 1000 sq ft shop for free. I went looking to prove that wasn’t possible. I found a deal (and wonderful landlords) on 1,500 sq feet that would shock you.
If you are encountering a problem in starting or running your business, step back and look for the things that you believe about the situation without any proof, then come up with the ways to prove what’s actual happening. This will include numbers, this will include past experiences. This will include asking people who have been in the game longer than you have. You want to win the game, not just have the right idea. Don’t assume, prove.
The most memorable voices are the most unique. There’s a timbre to Dylan’s voice that should make it bad. But it’s not. Maybe it is, but it doesn’t matter. It’s his and he owns it. That’s the sound he wants and goes and gets it.
It’s his voice because of the things wrong with it – it’s nasally, sounds more like he’s talking, not much range- not because of the things right with it. When “wrong” becomes right you know you are doing important work. Work becomes meaningful because you’re contributing something new.
Part of what makes us makers are the things wrong with us. What’s wrong varies from person to person, and just like Dylan’s voice, varies so widely that’s what makes us “us”. Do you own it? Part of that story is where we come from. Here’s my job history:
8th grade – Summer job at grocery store
freshman year – Burger King
Soph-Senior – Landscaping
Guitar making school
Lived in garage with tools.
3M – rolled tape onto rolls 6 months
MCS- assembled electrical motors 4 months. Called in and said I wasn’t coming in anymore.
Barry Controls- Temp. Assembled pieces onto molds for rubber presses.
Shepherd Extrusion – worked midnight shift running a plastic extrusion machine with one other person. He drank 4 liters of mountain dew an evening. I was there when four other people were injured. two weeks.
Huss and Dalton Guitars – the shining star of my work career
McMaster Carr- Packing and order filling. Got fired after I made 29 errors after 111,000 lines filled.
Wandered and played music – two years
Engine block plant- two weeks, quit after I had 12 guitars on the list
Mule- four years and counting
Those past experiences mean things. If you own it.
Above picture is Pantera. Before they became, you know, “Pantera”.
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