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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 muleresonators@gmail.com

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For sound samples of our resonator guitar options, click here.

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21 May 2016

What to Expect Buying A Handmade Resonator Guitar

What’s it like buying a handmade resonator guitar anyways? If I can’t pull it off the wall and play it first, why should I buy it?

I totally admit it’s a completely different experience buying a resonator guitar that isn’t yet in the world.  You e-mail or call me, and we talk about what you’re looking for, what kind of playing you do. You send a deposit and then several months later we confirm details, you get pictures as the guitar is being built and voila you’re playing it and hopefully loving it in your own home.

Point #1:  Keep an open mind.

Part of the reason I love guitars is each one is different.  Resonator guitars are certainly no exception.  If you let them be their own creation, listening hard to them will teach you things about tone, and this making of sound is what inspires us musicians.  Playing the same chord on four different guitars can take you four different directions.

Something I’ve tried to do is really cut back on the verbage you hear from a lot of guitar makers/companies.  Hidden amongst all the flowery adjectives is usually some amount of miscommunication. It also attempts to put into your head what a guitar sounds like.  It’s advantageous to makers that you believe that this guitar will fulfill your every desire for tone- “booming low end that belies it’s parlor size”- but it’s inherently faulty. One person’s “shimmering highs” might be another person’s “Round and full treble”. Building a guitar regarding sound is more like building a boat than landing a helicopter.  We use adjectives of course, but fairly general ones. If you are looking for ‘warm’ or ‘punch’ or ‘balance’ we can get you there.  If you keep an open mind and let the guitar be what it is, it will take you somewhere musically you didn’t expect. That’s inspiration.

Point #2: It’s about the people

One of the biggest surprises about doing this was how attached people became to me and my work. I send guitars off and I get beer, bottle openers, homemade maple syrup, tshirts, invites etc in return. It’s awesome and my greatest pleasure. I get comments on my character and people get philosophical. Over resonator guitars? Well it’s not the guitar, it’s the people.   You worked hard for the money you are giving to me. You spent part of life doing the work that you do so you can give it to me so I can do the work I do. It’s an exchange.  It’s so much bigger than perfect miters and fancy finish formulas.  It’s also something that can only happen in the context of buying a guitar directly from the person that made it.  There’s certainly advantages to buying a guitar in a shop and I’m not here to convince people this is The Ultimate Buying Experience.  It’s just different.  It’s a connection between people and I love being a part of that.



21 May 2016

Building a Resonator Guitar: Learning How to Build


The e-mail sometimes goes like this: “Hey Matt, I love resonators and have always wanted to make one.  How?”

I totally get the feeling.  I worked at Huss and Dalton guitars for a while and went to a guitar making school, so I had experience with making guitars.  When it came time to make metal body resonators, that was kind of a new story.  I knew the important basics but had never soldered/welded/machined/cut a piece of metal ever.  That’s where the digging began.

I had to learn all that stuff by googling, and by just trying things and throwing it away when it didn’t work, then figuring out how to make it better.  It was really hard.  It took me about a year to make the first four guitars.  That was full time, I didn’t have another job at the time.  I was starting from scratch and I had to gather information from different realms of woodworking and metalworking to understand what I could, but most of it was learned by trying things and failing and just keeping my feet moving.

I don’t think you have to build a wood guitar before you build a metal guitar. They are different enough that a lot of the time you would spend on a wood bodied guitar wouldn’t transfer.  What I would say is to buy yourself an import guitar to get dimensions from.  Buy it used and sell it later.  Don’t think you can do it just by going off an $8 set of plans.

When it comes to the neck it’s the same thing. You’re just going to have to do it, and understand if you want something that is decent you are going to have to a do a few of them before you get a decent one.  Maple is cheap, start there.

If you are working on making your own resonator guitar and you get into a jam I can certainly do my best to help you. But to get there you’re going to have to do a lot of footwork on your own.

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