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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
The resonator guitar cone. The myth, the legend. Built in mojo bag. Talisman and bringer of all that is good and loud in the world.
Ok, that’s overkill. But we love them don’t we? It’s such a unique part of guitar culture. Designed by a couple of brothers who wanted to make guitars loud enough to compete with brass instruments of the time. Then they got in a fight about which cone design was better and split up. Drama, intrigue.
They are also spun on a pretty rad machine. This is the first step in my cone spinning journey, but it may be the coolest. A Haag spinning lathe from a closed up spinning factory in Kentucky. Pretty fun. Here ya go:
If you make things for a living this is for you. If you make things but not for a living, add this to your thoughts if you find yourself daydreaming about telling your boss to shove it.
This is my friendly encouragement to myself and to you: remember you aren’t an amateur anymore. An amateur can take all the time in the world until the perfect “original” idea comes along. They can afford to hide all the things they dont want to show. A professional realizes that we all use the same chords, the same materials, the same methods. Nothing is ever completely original. Part of what you do is your own, but part of it is from everyone before you. Don’t hide from that, build on it, you honor other makers with what you do. You are in select company. Because of what you do, you know many others who also do it. Guess what, the majority of the world doesn’t care about you, your work and where it fits into the scheme of People Who Make Things. You should find that refreshing. I read that sentence twice to remind myself of that. You, however, are original. How you connect to people is how YOU connect to them. Be that.
An amateur’s art defines them. A professional keeps it at a healthy distance knowing there will be good weeks and bad weeks, and they are in in for the long haul. The highs are lower, the lows are higher. A amateur does the work when they are inspired, a professional does it always, incessantly, because that’s how you care for yourself, your family, and your future. A professional shows up, everyday. The balance for the professional is found between making their art and doing what it takes to make the living they want, both are equal in virtue. If you are are/are not using a certain tool, making a certain thing, designing a certain way and its harming your life’s balance you need to figure out why. If you’re being an idiot, stop.
You. Are. A. Professional. Keep going.
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