Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Resonator Guitar Lovers Online

 All Forums
 Reso-Related Topics
 Product Reviews and Shopping Advice
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: First resonator for bluegrass and hawaii?

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

kylnegzmieer - Posted - 11/11/2020:  09:07:32


First post! I'm a 33 year old guy from Sweden and my name is Yngwie. Yes, like Yngwie Malmsteen - my dad likes hard rock and named me after him, but I had to be rebellious and start listening to country. xD

I'm in a bluegrass band where I play the mandolin and an old acoustic converted to lap style slide guitar. We gig and amplification is a concern. I want to get me a squareneck resonator guitar that I can use primarily for gigging but should be decent enough for some recording. Live I would use an IR-loader pedal so I'm not too concerned with the raw sound from the pickup, so it seems a piezo pickup is the way to go for ease of use and less feedback.

There's a used Michael Kelly Bayou Deluxe for sale in Sweden (without pickup) for 600€ with a case, but I am also considering buying a new Gretsch G9230 Bobtail Squareneck which has the built in fishman-bridge (800€ with case). I can install a k&k or schatten piezo if need be, but are those as good with feedback as the fishman bridge?

And here comes my biggest problem. Bluegrass isn't my biggest calling, I much prefer western swing and hawaiian sounds. I do have a very nice weissenborn already, along with a fine 8 string lapsteel and decent pedal steel, so this guitar wouldn't be my one and only outlet for slide.
I'm also trying to put together a repertoire with a friend for an acoustic duo bar cover kind of gig, and having the dobro twang isn't really necessary. And for my own sake I'd feel more inspired with something that sounds more hawaii or west coast country. I've found one swedish importer of republic guitars and according to their website they have the tricone metal body squareneck model for around 900€. Would this suit my taste more and still be adequate for live gigging with an IR-loader?

What dobro style guitar should I buy for my bluegrass band even though I would rather have an hawaiian guitar that is available in Europe?

I'm looking for:
under 1000€
pickup option (can install piezo myself if good enough and within budget)
not aggravating the bluegrass police (they're not very harsh in Sweden anyway), however
should inspire me to play western swing and hawaii style music

Please help me sort all my thoughts!

MarkinSonoma - Posted - 11/11/2020:  13:53:40

Welcome Yngwie!

The Gretsch Bobtail is a decent starter guitar though I can't say that I'm much of a fan. It would be like a flattop acoustic from a big company like Yamaha that is a level or two above the bottom of their line and made in China. Gets the job done, but if you become serious about the dobro at some point down the line you will suffer from a "GAS attack" (Gear or Guitar Acquisition Syndrome)  and you will want to upgrade. 

The best thing about the Gretsch is that it is a bargain with the Fishman Nashville pickup already installed. I'm not going to convert to Euros, but in U.S. dollars the current price of the Boxcar (same guitar - no pickup) is $429. The Bobtail with pickup is going for $599.  So an additional $170 for the pickup, and it is already installed. I wrote that in italics  to emphasize it because not many are comfortable with installing these pickups and ideally they should go into a Beard adjustable spider or Schoonover Modular spider, which is what I have in my Clinesmith. But Gretsch seems to have them working fine in their own spider bridge.

I've yet to play a Michael Kelly resonator so I can't help you there. But as you will see below, to add a Fishman Nashville pickup will get pretty expensive. 

The cost from most places here for the pickup on it own, and no special spider bridge included is around $210. You add all this up, and it makes the Bobtail a good value for a plugged in resonator. I don't know what your idea of an IR loader is to make a plugged in dobro sound like the real thing. Most of us use 1. Fishman Jerry Douglas Aura pedal. 2. Fishman Spectrum with many "images" including some for dobro but not the same quality as Jerry's pedal or 3. ToneDexter by  Audio Sprockets which is a company here in California. 

There are other systems out there but these seem to be the top 3. The Nashville pickup on its own plugged ino an amp can sound pretty "quackish."

K & K makes excellent pickups for flattops but I haven't been impressed with the reso pickup, and I'm not a fan of the Schatten either, though I have only listened to demos online. 

As far as Hawaiian and western swing, one way to get that sound out of a GBDGBD tuned dobro is to tune up the 4th string to E. But you have to be careful with a standard dobro set which often has a .035w as the 4th string, it can break when tuning up to E.  You need either a .034w or even a .032w string. 

I've never really liked the sound of C6th on a wood body resonator with fairly light strings, but listen to the late Barney Isaacs playing some Hawaiian in that tuning below. Excellent CD, I have owned it for some time. Of course you have to bear in mind that this is a studio recording with all the engineering enhancements.  Plus he is Barney freaking Isaacs - one of the greatest Hawaiian steel players of all time.

And I'm glad you put your real name under your screen name - because no one here is going to remember how to spell the screen name if they don't speak Swedish! 

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 11/11/2020 14:01:09

kylnegzmieer - Posted - 11/11/2020:  14:31:22

Wow! What a welcoming and kind post! Big thanks for the effort you put into that reply, Mark!
First, that was beautiful music for sure! But it did get me thinking, maybe I should just stick to weissenborn and lap steel for hawaiian and western swing sounds xD I don't have enough time or talent to make it harder on myself, and the compromises, especially with regards to tuning and string gauges, are too much for me.

So wooden body spider coned guitar tuned gbdgbd it is!

You are correct, the fishman nasville bridge is like €230 so quite steep. The k&k pure resonator for spider is only €80 and if it's not feeding back or have an unbalance between the strings I think the IR-technology should compensate for a quacky and unnatural sound from the raw output. The pedal I'm using is a Hotone Omni AC, it's like the tonedexter in that you can load custom IRs but it doesn't have the ability to match and create your own IRs, but I can do that in my DAW.

It sounds very discouraging about the quality level of the Gretsch. I've read some really nice things while I was lurking this forum about the Michael Kelly, and I prefer going for a used guitar when I can. So I guess it depends on if there's a piezo pickup that will suffice. Might even try doing the piezo buzzer diy mod I've read people do. That's like 5€ in parts (both piezo and magnetic pickups must be the most ridiculously overpriced gear in the guitar world, at least in terms of material costs!!)

And regarding my username, swedes can't pronounce it either. They assume it's dutch in fact. =D
When I started using it on the internet I was listening to a lot of klezmer music, so I just merged my name with the word klezmer, picking every other letter from both words. But it was one letter too long for whatever site I was on, so I removed the w because KylnegzWmieer was just that little bit too hard on the eyes. xD

wlgiii - Posted - 11/11/2020:  14:40:20

I have tried different styles of lap guitars for different styles of music, and to my ears-

The Gold Tone 8 string dobro tuned to C6 sounds good overall, even with light strings, but doesn't quite have THE Western swing sound- I prefer an electric 8 string; part of that may be the sustain. As for that bluegrass, you certainly don't have to play wood body spider in high bass G, but it is THE sound.

Meanwhile, I have a K & K pickup in a dobro and a tricone (biscuit pickup stuck to T-bar with tape). The dobro pickup sound is disappointing, but the tricone sound pretty good.

docslyd - Posted - 11/11/2020:  14:47:29

Just my opinion here...I am familiar with (own) the recording that Mark shows above and, although, it is very nice, nothing says Hawaiian like a square neck tricone. Look at some of the you tube videos available and you see what I mean. When it comes to western/western swing, the tuning makes a difference but can be accomplished on a wood-body spider bridge resonator, console steel or lap steel. That's my taste....being said, I know a bay area player that plays primarily western swing on a C6-tuned tricone and he sounds terrific.

kylnegzmieer - Posted - 11/11/2020:  15:14:24

Thanks for the responses guys! I appreciate that both of you really read my dilemma between having a "proper dobro" and a pretty sounding guitar (hah! xD )

Wayne, don't start talking about an 8 string, THAT would be awesome in A6 just like my lap steel, but I don't think my bandmates are going to approve xD

Eric, would you mind sending over some youtube links to people playing some hawaiian music on tricone squarenecks? I get stuck in a muddy delta blues swamp whenever I'm looking for resonator videos on youtube!

Maybe I should try and find the republic tricone then after all. The sound through the IR loader is adjustable to a degree anyway and I doubt even the swedish bluegrass purists would notice any difference (99% of swedes don't know what bluegrass is, and before joining the band the only bluegrass tune I knew was Sweet Georgia Brown so maybe I shouldn't say too much hehe)

Has anyone tried the k&k or schatten piezo donut that goes on the backside of the cone through a fishman aura or similar IR-loading pedal?

docslyd - Posted - 11/11/2020:  16:05:41

Yngwie...see if these work for you...some of my favorites:

....can't go wrong with any of that talent and really speaks of what the tricone has to say. Of course, I would classify this style as "niche". The same guitar would not suit country or bluegrass in my opinion...

MarkinSonoma - Posted - 11/11/2020:  16:34:17

I have plenty of experience with the old Fishman "donut" pickup that mounts on the screw underneath the cone. 

Combined with Jerry's Aura pedal it improves the plugged in sound somewhat, but not enough to where  anyone would actually be happy with it. And there are the never ending feedback battles.  As I have commented here  in the past - I'm amazed  that Fishman still offers  the donut p'up for sale - it's terrible. 

GONE - Posted - 11/11/2020:  18:23:09

I tried many types of piezo pickups mounted on/under the spider and none really delivered enough gain before feedback.

The Fishman Nashville series definitely made the leap but it's not cheap and you need to fit it yourself or pay someone to do so.

I dunno enough about Hawaiian or Western setups to comment.

kylnegzmieer - Posted - 11/12/2020:  00:34:04

Those three performances were aaawesome (in that word's truest sense)!!!
That's the best sound I've ever heard from a resonator, sorry bluegrassers xD

Okay, so it seems it's either the fishman bridge or micing for the spider resonator.
But to me it seems adding piezo elements to a tricone t-bar bridge would be the easiest out of all resonator designs. Either putting small circular ones on the t-bar, like the k&k pure mini/western or the schatten tricone specific pickup (or diy for that matter), or mod the wooden bridge with an under saddle transducer. Any experiences?

resotom - Posted - 11/12/2020:  08:21:16

I have a K@K pick-up on one of my resos which I use a Fishman JD Aurora device going through a Roland SE-70 effects half rack then into three amps.
The Aurora helps somewhat when dialed to the mic settings I wish to use but the natural tone of the reso is always achieved by the settings on the amps and the effects box.

wlgiii - Posted - 11/13/2020:  09:39:21

"Wayne, don't start talking about an 8 string, THAT would be awesome in A6 just like my lap steel, but I don't think my bandmates are going to approve xD"

I'm afraid you're right- all the fans will totally ignore them and just hang out with you.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Privacy Consent
Copyright 2024 Reso Hangout. All Rights Reserved.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories