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Nov 26, 2021 - 5:45:31 AM
390 posts since 11/28/2012

Hi all,
I’ve posted before that I’m playing almost exclusively in Open D tuning.

To this point, I’ve been operating under the assumption that if a spider reso sounds great in G tuning (GBDGBD), then it probably sounds great in Open D tuning.

This theory has more or less held true with resonators I’ve either owned or played. The one exception is my OMI Dobro, which really demands a G tuning to pull out the vintage twang and honk I usually associate with old timey tone. I lose some of that when tuning it down to D.

Otherwise, the so-called “modern sound” translates well in Open D on axes like my National Scheerhorn, and the Beards I’ve played. Of course, there is more bass presence with a low D. The only drawback is I need to tame the low D when playing through a Fishman Nashville pickup and JD aura amplified configuration. This is achieved with para eq and minor compression.

So this begs the question…

If I’m in the market for a hand built spider square neck from any of the well-regarded luthiers or makers out there…would anything be done differently with an Open D dedicated instrument? Or what spec attributes / options should I pay attention to?

Off the cuff, while I generally use a 56 on my low D (#6 string), I’d want the slot cut to accommodate at least a 59, which I imagine should not be an issue as there are standard reso string sets that go this high.

To manage boominess, I think 4” body depth is probably the max I’d want.

What about any other considerations for Open D, either in design, build, or setup?

Important note…for flexibility or resale, I’d still want the guitar to do well in a standard G tuning. In other words, don’t lock me in to an exclusive Open D situation. I can’t imagine this would be an issue, but just throwing it out there.

Thanks for any thoughts.

Nov 26, 2021 - 6:28:23 AM

1313 posts since 8/4/2008

You should contact the luthiers who you’re considering and ask them for their opinion directly.

Nov 26, 2021 - 7:35:51 AM

390 posts since 11/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Brad Bechtel

You should contact the luthiers who you’re considering and ask them for their opinion directly.


Yes, thanks, I plan to do that once I start honing in on potential builders.  I wanted to tap any collective thoughts here as well, as I see no shortage of knowledge in this sub-forum on building, setup, and repair.  

Nov 26, 2021 - 7:40:03 AM

wlgiii

USA

1270 posts since 9/28/2010

I've played two Appalachians that sounded good in open D (one of them being mine). Alas, Tom is building them in Heaven now but used ones should be out there.

Nov 26, 2021 - 11:07:06 AM

badger

USA

584 posts since 8/10/2008

What gauges are you using with D tuning, besides the aforementioned .059 6th string? I'd start with trying a properly-sized string set to recreate the tension of a standard-ish G set across all six strings. With a G set tuned to open D, you're detuning four of the six strings, which will have quite an effect on the tone. A well-built instrument shouldn't care how it's tuned, as long as you're maintaining proper string tension.

Nov 26, 2021 - 11:56:25 AM

390 posts since 11/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by wlgiii

I've played two Appalachians that sounded good in open D (one of them being mine). Alas, Tom is building them in Heaven now but used ones should be out there.


Thanks for the nugget on the Appys in Open D.  They look like fine guitars, and I understand them to be a tremendous instrument for the $ spend.  RIP Tom.

Nov 26, 2021 - 12:15:42 PM

390 posts since 11/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by badger

What gauges are you using with D tuning, besides the aforementioned .059 6th string? I'd start with trying a properly-sized string set to recreate the tension of a standard-ish G set across all six strings. With a G set tuned to open D, you're detuning four of the six strings, which will have quite an effect on the tone. A well-built instrument shouldn't care how it's tuned, as long as you're maintaining proper string tension.


Thanks.  I have been using GHS Tim Scheerhorn set, which is 17-19-28-36-46-56.  The only string that bugs me on my Natl Scheerhorn is the 2nd (your B = my A), which is plunky.  Occasionally I switch it out, but usually I stick to stock set and manage it.  

So yeah, I feel a bit more "give" than a G tuned player, and I've actually adapted my bar pressure so as to not drive notes sharp.

I really don't have a big issue with the bottom 56 as a D.  I know it seems odd, but I know of others than do the same.  I use my #6 string much differently in Open D than I do in GBDGBD.

The physics of what you are saying makes sense...an instrument tensioned the same way would have similar tone, regardless of tuning.

Nov 26, 2021 - 12:32:04 PM

671 posts since 1/18/2012

This won’t answer your question, but might give you some different perspective:

I have a Phil Leadbetter Gibson Dobro (all maple) that Beard tuned-up for me a number of years ago with a new Quarterman cone, a Nashville bridge and spider, and other tune up adjustments.

In G tuning it always seems just too bright and “ice-picky” for my ears—however in D it is quite nice and the maple gives it the boost that the lower growl of D tuning can sometimes use (in my opinion).

Nov 26, 2021 - 3:50:28 PM

390 posts since 11/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Lounge Primate

This won’t answer your question, but might give you some different perspective:

I have a Phil Leadbetter Gibson Dobro (all maple) that Beard tuned-up for me a number of years ago with a new Quarterman cone, a Nashville bridge and spider, and other tune up adjustments.

In G tuning it always seems just too bright and “ice-picky” for my ears—however in D it is quite nice and the maple gives it the boost that the lower growl of D tuning can sometimes use (in my opinion).


 Interesting how guitars can sometimes speak to you better, tone wise, in a different tuning.

I also like maple in an Open D resonator.  Exactly for the reason you mention with yours.

Nov 27, 2021 - 6:37:37 AM

lap dog

USA

8 posts since 9/25/2020

I’m playing a Short Mountain Patriot maple body square neck tuned in D. Deeper body than my Tut Taylor which is tuned to G. The projection and tone in D is wonderful and Short Mountain makes a high quality guitar with high end hardware. I need to purchase a slightly heavier string gauge as the 6th string D is easily pulled sharp if I’m moving too fast.

Edited by - lap dog on 11/27/2021 06:38:51

Nov 27, 2021 - 10:27:20 AM

390 posts since 11/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by lap dog

I’m playing a Short Mountain Patriot maple body square neck tuned in D. Deeper body than my Tut Taylor which is tuned to G. The projection and tone in D is wonderful and Short Mountain makes a high quality guitar with high end hardware. I need to purchase a slightly heavier string gauge as the 6th string D is easily pulled sharp if I’m moving too fast.


Cool deal, those look like sweet resos!

Nov 27, 2021 - 10:25:36 PM

671 posts since 1/18/2012

Hey Badger, I tried to respond to your PM about the Leadbetter dobro and it bounced back.

Try me on email
brooks at hartmontgomery dot com

Nov 28, 2021 - 5:14:16 AM

390 posts since 11/28/2012

Hey folks, before I start talking to luthiers, anyone else have any good reviews on square necks that shine in Open D? I’m eyeing some higher end builds, including, but not limited to…

Beard MA-6
Schoonover
Clinesmith
Meredith
Fishhook
Harlow
RedLine

Yeah, I know, no substitute for test running these on my own, but you know how that goes.

Also, any further inputs on design or setup attributes for a open D?

I’ll move forward with engaging luthiers pending further comments.

Thanks!

Nov 28, 2021 - 3:58:28 PM

3785 posts since 7/27/2008

As far as contacting luthiers to get their opinion, the first guy I would ask is Paul Beard. 

Probably a safe bet to say that along with all the squarenecks,  he and his team have produced more roundneck spider bridge guitars (along with designing the Gold Tone/Beard roundnecks) than any of the high quality  boutique level luthiers.  

For anyone and everyone who knows better in the modern era, these roundneck spider bridge Beards have likely never spent a day in their lives tuned to GBDGBD. We just know better than to do that to guitars where the entry level price is around $1800 and it goes up from there. 

So if these guitars when not in standard are tuned to Open D, E, low bass G, etc. do you think Paul has done anything to alter the  "innards" since these they should not be tuned to high bass G with the typical 16/17-56 dobro string set?

My guess is no, but I would like to hear it from the horse's mouth.

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 11/28/2021 15:59:51

Nov 28, 2021 - 6:04:56 PM

390 posts since 11/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by MarkinSonoma

As far as contacting luthiers to get their opinion, the first guy I would ask is Paul Beard. 

Probably a safe bet to say that along with all the squarenecks,  he and his team have produced more roundneck spider bridge guitars (along with designing the Gold Tone/Beard roundnecks) than any of the high quality  boutique level luthiers.  

For anyone and everyone who knows better in the modern era, these roundneck spider bridge Beards have likely never spent a day in their lives tuned to GBDGBD. We just know better than to do that to guitars where the entry level price is around $1800 and it goes up from there. 

So if these guitars when not in standard are tuned to Open D, E, low bass G, etc. do you think Paul has done anything to alter the  "innards" since these they should not be tuned to high bass G with the typical 16/17-56 dobro string set?

My guess is no, but I would like to hear it from the horse's mouth.


This is a very good observation, Mark.  Beard gets my first call.

Actually I did some playing with a borrowed Beard Vintage R last month (not far from you, in Sac), and it did just fine in Open D.  Very nice  guitar.  I'm hoping the rest of their lineup translates well in Open D also.  I have my eyes on the MA-6 as a possible dream axe.

I appreciate the response.  I'll pass along whatever info I hear from Beard.

Edited by - JC Dobro on 11/28/2021 18:05:48

Nov 29, 2021 - 10:12:34 AM
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390 posts since 11/28/2012

I had a great conversation with Denny at Beard Guitars. Glad we chatted. Not surprisingly, the Beard folks are well-versed in Open D tuning, having installed many Hipshots and dealing with players in various tunings.

We reviewed my preferences and playing characteristics…Open D, favoring “modern” (non-vintage) tone, and amplifying for gigs via the JD Aura/Nashville pup configuration. Also filled him in on my occasional struggles with taming a booming low D (#6) when amplified on my maple National Scheerhorn.

For my playing needs, Denny is keen on the Finnish birch veneer models, specifically citing the balance and smoothness across strings. In the Beard lineup, the MA-6, Josh Swift Standard, and Lotus models would be great candidates.

As far as specific design attributes or limitations for Open D…there aren’t any per se. Only that Mahogany might not be good for someone who needs zero help with warmth or low end. Makes sense.

Denny is a great guy and was generous with his time and knowledge.

Ball is in my court.

Cheers.

Edited by - JC Dobro on 11/29/2021 10:13:55

Nov 29, 2021 - 12:47:25 PM
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3785 posts since 7/27/2008

Well, I guessed correctly on the "innards" business.

When I'm home later today maybe I will try a small experiment that I've thought about doing in the past but then it slips my mind and I forget about it. I'll put a headstock tuner on my Clinesmith and instead of tuning it to  the typical Open D of 151351, I'd like to hear how it sounds tuned to Open D but with the same intervals as dobro G - 135135 or DF#ADF#A. 

The appeal of DADF#AD is when you strum, you hear that  rich chord: "Oh man, that sounds phat and lush!" You're going to get that vibe, the tone and timbre, on most any decent resophonic guitar. The low D 2 strings apart on #6 and #4. Same sort of thing happens on a standard flattop. It's why Hawaiian slack key players and Celtic DADGAD players have such a rich sound.

I can see Denny's point about some of the Beards made with Finland birch veneer like the MAS. It sounds like a grand piano across your lap in Open G, and maybe it will sound like a grand piano at Carnegie Hall in Open D. 

Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 11/29/2021 12:50:57

Nov 29, 2021 - 5:54:22 PM

390 posts since 11/28/2012

quote:
Originally posted by MarkinSonoma

Well, I guessed correctly on the "innards" business.

When I'm home later today maybe I will try a small experiment that I've thought about doing in the past but then it slips my mind and I forget about it. I'll put a headstock tuner on my Clinesmith and instead of tuning it to  the typical Open D of 151351, I'd like to hear how it sounds tuned to Open D but with the same intervals as dobro G - 135135 or DF#ADF#A. 

The appeal of DADF#AD is when you strum, you hear that  rich chord: "Oh man, that sounds phat and lush!" You're going to get that vibe, the tone and timbre, on most any decent resophonic guitar. The low D 2 strings apart on #6 and #4. Same sort of thing happens on a standard flattop. It's why Hawaiian slack key players and Celtic DADGAD players have such a rich sound.

I can see Denny's point about some of the Beards made with Finland birch veneer like the MAS. It sounds like a grand piano across your lap in Open G, and maybe it will sound like a grand piano at Carnegie Hall in Open D. 

 


Yeah, you nailed it Mark.  

Playing a grand piano, lap style, sounds like a dream.  My only hesitation would be whether those rich overtones in an MA-6 pose any challenge during fast numbers with lots of quick hammer ons / pull offs.  

I could envision a need to improve all my muting fundamentals...lol.

In any event, thanks for the helpful posts.  Let us know how your tuning experiment works out.

Dec 5, 2021 - 4:19:51 PM

344 posts since 9/9/2016

Mark in Sonoma ,what would be a starting point in string gages for that DF#ADF#A tuning ?

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