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.
Guitar festivals. I want to go. When I was a wee lad of 18 or so I found the Healdsburg Guitar Festival website and would use that as my research. I found links to websites for Jeff Traugott, Judy Threet, Linda Manzer, Ervin Somogyi etc…..etc…..etc…. I would be embarrassed to figure out how many hours I spent just looking at what I could find.
I got on the waitlist for the Woodstock Guitar Festival, and want to dab my toe in the water some more. Kind of a scary thing- so different, so intimidating. Room to grow.
Healdsburg Guitar Festival
Dallas Guitar Festival
Have any other ideas for me? firstname.lastname@example.org. Kick me off the diving board a bit would ya?
A bit of a philosophical tangent now. What is handmade? I think this a conversation I’ve always heard phrased in more questions than answers. I think that’s a great thing and I think it proves it’s own point- that ‘handmade’ is a continuum and not a definition.
On one end of the handmade guitar continuum you have guys who use only hand tools, some not even sandpaper. I believe I heard a rumor Michael Greenfield doesn’t even use any jigs. On the other end you have places like Washburn that are almost entirely cut out and finished by machines, assembled by hardworking men and women, with a “handmade” label inside.
If someone owns a CNC machine and uses it to rough in mandolin tops which are then finished to thickness and tuned by an experience eye and ear are they still handmade? If a neck is roughed in on a shaper bit and then carved by spokeshave and a rasp is it hand carved? Maybe it’s not a case by case scenario maybe its “you know it when you see it”.
We solder and flange and fit and sand and patina the bodies using our abilities. The tops are cut on a laser machine. The Fholes always have been, I used to cut the contour out on a Pexto circle shear.
Progress or regress? Does there have to be a balance between running a business (market speak for ‘providing for yourself, your family and your employees) and handcraft in its purest form? Who defines that balance.
I know this is a bit of a different question but it’s my blog and I can do what I want- I submit that what we are actually looking for is the story. Is this made by someone I know? I think the tops getting cut out by a giant laser is pretty cool. The shaper bit I had made is awesome. I put the neck on a jig, push it into this blade of death and it hogs out all the excess material so I can get right to carving a great feeling neck. Me, Matt, I do that. You know me, you’ve seen pictures of me. If you e-mail Mule I am the one who responds to you. These guitars are not commodities, they are an experience and a connection between me the person who made it and you the person who also loves the instruments. In that context is whether or not I use a top bearing router bit meaningful AT ALL. No, I should say it’s not. It’s almost silly. I think that shows it’s a bigger question. If you buy a Martin or Taylor or whatever, you have no connection to people who brought that guitar to your door step. There is the history behind it of course, and it is a GREAT guitar. But there was no connection to the people who made it. That’s what makes these resonator guitars different, and that’s non-debatable. There is no continuum.
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