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.
I was listening to the radio a while back and they had a scientist on to talk. She studied ants. First I was stunned that there was such a thing, second that she most likely was not the only ant researcher. She spent all her time watching ants and this is what she said.
Ants are incredibly dumb. That’s what she said. She said it appears that they are smart- they find that one M&M that fell under the counter. They build complex houses. For having the tiniest brains it really looks like they know what they are doing. But they really have no idea. She said the reason why ants are successful is because they are thousands of them randomly walking everywhere. Eventually one finds something and lays down the pheromone trail. Then the cavalry arrives and instead of one ant trying to bring home the M&M there’s 1,000.
I was talking to a friend last week about teaching myself to make these resonator guitars and I told him “I just kept stacking up piles of work until I could climb over the closest wall, then started at the next one.” When you don’t know what to do try everything….a lot. That’s been my experience in guitar making and I’m willing to say, now that I’m supported by ant science, that it’s the most effective plan of action we are never taught anything about. We spend 18-25 years of life trying to be ‘right’-find the right answer, use the right words. If you are wrong you get the red marker. If advanced math is to ‘teach you how to think logically’ and is not the end in itself, then the way we are educated as has side effects as well. If you are relentlessly stacking up work you can solve all the problems. If you are waiting for the right answer you’re still just waiting. When you graduate life is not about being right, it’s about winning. My definition of winning means solving problems. If you need money you need work that pays- it doesn’t matter if its the ‘right’ work. If your friend is mad you need to resolve it- it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is. You must accept that fact that not everything you think is an earned opinion. Many times its just something you think. The mistake is made when we latch onto the idea and follow it as truth without doing a massive amount of work to provide proof. We want to know now and guess what if I just sit a think a little bit….oh! There it is. I thought something. That’s the solution. That’s ridiculous. “They would never hire me.” “I should be getting paid more.” “I’m going back to school.” ….really? Why? If you havn’t tried things you thought were wrong you havn’t tried everything. And one of those ways might just lead you to the M&M under the counter. The only way you can prove something is a massive pile of work. Relentless Forward Progress. Ants don’t stop moving. They are constantly attempting, constantly redirecting, constantly hauling. A colony of ants can move 50 tons of soil a year. If you need to figure something out for yourself- there is no right way there are only the wrong ways and you must try them all. Like ants.
The MuleCaster Lives.
Neck through design because simple is awesome. Hipshot bender for pedal steel dreamy goodness. McNelly Pickups. It sounds alive, it looks so damn good.
I want to make one for you. One of the greatest joys, one there is no word for, is seeing someone pick up something I’ve made and seeing that moment where we as musicians are drawn somewhere else by sound. A sound we haven’t heard in a chord we have always played. What’s that feeling? I’ll spend my life trying to figure it out. It’s not about a pursuit of perfection for me. I want to constantly improve but I know that’s always on a spectrum. It’s not about me. It’s about you, and what you do with it when you get it. What’s songs will you play that I never would think of? Where will it go with you? Maybe like guys like Charley t becomes an integral part of your sound. WHY ME? It’s so big and wonderful and I feel completely undeserving. Let’s do this together. That’s the story.
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