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What Are Resonator Guitars?

What are resonator guitars

The classic metal bodied Resonator Guitar as featured on the cover of a well known Dire Straits album.

What are resonator guitars?  If you have ever seen the cover of the classic Dire Straits album Brothers in Arms then you will know what a resonator guitar looks like.  But you may not know what it is that makes them such a distinctive looking and sounding guitar.

So what are resonator guitars?

A resonator or resophonic guitars is an acoustic guitar where the sound is generated by one or more spun metal cones known as resonators.  The resonators replace the wooden sound board, the guitars top face, which is the usual source of the sound in a traditional acoustic guitar.  The reason resonator guitars were invented was to increase the volume of an acoustic guitar which at the time was being swamped by the horn and percussion instruments in dance orchestras.  However, the distinctive sound of the guitar, which was a result of the use of the metal resonators, meant that the resonator guitar quickly gained a strong following from guitarists who played bluegrass and blues.

Resonator guitars are typically manufactured in two styles that is square necked and round necked.  The square necked versions are played by placing the guitar flat on the players lap and gave rise to the lap steel guitar style of playing.  The round necked versions are played in the conventional way.

what are resonator guitars

The classic Dobro style Spider resonator.

In terms of resonators there are three main designs used in resonator guitars and these were created by the two guitar companies most strongly associated with resonator guitars, National and Dobro.  The Tricone resonator was originally designed by National and as the name suggests has three spun metal cones.  National also designed the simpler single cone Biscuit resonator.  The final resonator design was created by Dobro and is a single inverted cone known as the spider bridge.

So who designed the first resonator guitar?

The first resonator guitar was developed and built by John Dopyera after receiving a request from steel guitar player George Beauchamp.  Beauchamp wanted an acoustic guitar which he could play that would have sufficient volume to be heard alongside brass, woodwind and percussion instruments.  The dance band orchestras popular in the 1920s were so loud that a traditional acoustic guitar was simply drowned out by the other instruments.  Beauchamp wanted to be heard but couldn’t achieve this with his standard steel acoustic guitar so he asked Dopyera for his help.  Dopyera experimented with different cone designs and layouts using up to four cones in early prototypes.  He also experimented with different materials of construction.

In 1927 Dopyera and Beauchamp formed the National String Instrument Corporation to manufacture resonator guitars under the National brand name.  The first resonator guitars built by National employed three aluminium resonator cones joined by a T-shaped aluminium bar that supported the bridge.  This early design was the Tricone design and the first models were manufactured with steel bodies.

Dopyera left National in 1928 to form his own company which he called Dobro.  The resonator guitar that Dopyera designed and released under the Dobro name had a single resonator cone which had the concave surface of the cone uppermost.  This design, often described as a bowl shaped cone, was cheaper to produce than the National Tricone resonator and more crucially it was louder so rapidly gained a loyal following.

Eventually Dopyera went onto acquire the National String Instrument Corporation and merged the two companies to create National Dobro Corporation in 1932.

From the early days of the resonator guitar the sound and visual appeal of the guitar has won it many fans such that there are numerous companies that now produce resonator guitars.

what are resonator guitars

The Regal RD-40 CH Resonator Guitar is a great looking and sounding guitar which comes highly recommended

If you are looking for a resonator guitar then a good affordable option is the Regal RD-40CH resonator guitar.  The guitar has a mahogany body with a spruce top and features the Regal Power Reflex chamber.  The mix of the wood and metal gives a warmer sound to this resonator giving a best of both worlds feel to this guitar.  Certainly this is not the cheapest resonator guitar on the market but it is not the most expensive either.  However, the sound and feel that you get from this guitar would certainly fool you into thinking that it is a top end resonator.  We highly recommend the Regal RD-40CH resonator guitar if you are looking for an introductory model.

To find out more about the Regal RD-40CH Resonator guitar click on the link below.

Regal RD-40CH Resonator Guitar.

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