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Jun 18, 2024 - 1:20:37 PM

l2t

USA

10 posts since 6/18/2024

I thought I'd drop in to ask about reso guitars for bluegrass. I play mandolin, also know how to play guitar but haven't played much in years so no chops on guitar. I'm not an ace on mandolin but I can get by at a beginner or intermediate bluegrass jams, play rhythm, take breaks on songs I know, play a few fiddle tunes, etc.

I took a rest from jams during covid and played tin whistle at home to have something new to do. Fun but not a great jam instrument. I started going to BG jams again playing mando but I'm not young man any more and I'm prone to repetitive stress injuries. I was practicing every day and go to jams every couple weeks but then ended up not being able to play for months, mainly pain in my picking hand. I'm considering trying fiddle, always wanted to, but gosh, it's probably a year just to get good enough to play in the same room with someone else. I used to play bluegrass with a guy that started on banjo but switched to reso because of his arthritis. So, that got me thinking. Maybe reso would be a good low stress instrument. One thing I like about reso with bluegrass is sometimes you hear someone barely play and it can add a huge amount to the sound of a jam. Then if my flatting picking hand calmed down, switch off with mando now and then so I wouldn't overplay on the mando.

The problem with reso I don't know how I could just try it. I can borrow or a rent a fiddle easily for a few months. But I don't think I can rent a square neck reso anywhere. I don't even know where I could go to a store and try one. Seems like so much of the low to mid instrument dealers are online now. There's an exceptional store in Lexington MA not far from me they don't carry much in the way of low/mid instruments anymore. The cheapest reso they have is around $3K.

So if I did want to try square-neck reso for bluegrass, is there can anyone give me recommendation for how to get an instrument? Will I just have to buy something? Can I try one anywhere in a store (eastern MA). How much would I need to spend to get something that I would not be disappointed in? I believe in the "buy cheap; buy twice and it costs you more in the end" adage. But also I don't want to sink several grand into an instrument I don't know how to play, don't know how much I will like, and don't know if I'll get a repetitive stress from that also.

Any thoughts?

-l2t

PS, yeah that was long for a intro post but one other goal in addition to wanting something to play at bluegrass jams. I ski in winter, travel, and stay over at a club lodge. I'd love an instrument that can be left in a car in New England winters without falling apart. I was thinking if I learned slide reso guitar, it might be fun to have a low-end electric lap steel tuned GBDGBD I could travel with when skiing to have something to play in the evening; it'd be in my car during the last ski day as I don't go back to the lodge so it has to survive temps from indoors to single digits F.

Jun 18, 2024 - 2:51:47 PM

797 posts since 1/18/2012

Ken, go for it. I don’t know anyone who started to play dobro, who said later, “nah, it’s not for me”. It’s fun, it’s addictive. And it has that wonderful sound that everybody likes.

Beard guitars is the best bet for
getting an instrument that you won’t outgrow. Pretty sure they have used ones too. Call them.

Jun 18, 2024 - 3:02:31 PM
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wlgiii

USA

1486 posts since 9/28/2010

At the very beginning, I started with a nut riser on a cheap acoustic. The sound was marginal, but it gave me the chance to get to know lap style playing at a minimal cost. When I decided I enjoyed it, I purchased an import dobro, and later upped the quality.

Jun 18, 2024 - 5:00:20 PM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

Though there's nothing nothing wrong with Wayne's  suggestion of putting a nut riser on a cheap acoustic to see if you like the idea of playing lap style guitar, I wouldn't advise it - particularly since Ken wrote that he's not a young man anymore. It makes for an extra step on the journey.

Ken lives in the greater Boston area, and though the cheap acoustic with nut riser approach gets you in the ballpark, it's not  gong to get you in the batter's box at Fenway. Playing a respectable quality Resophonic guitar makes all the difference. 

Ken, how much are you willing to spend? There are multiple options for imported instruments that will work, new or used, from around $500 up to a thousand. 

I was googling stores in your area earlier instead of what I should be doing  - never ending yard work on my property (too hot), and kept coming up empty. You might check with the Guitar Center stores around Boston, they often have some squareneck resos for sale, but I have a hard time with their website in trying to find items at a specific location. 

Boston has had a strong bluegrass scene for decades, maybe there is help available from the Boston Bluegrass Union?

https://bbu.org/

Or you can go the route of what a lot of new players around the country do: buy one online. The fact of the matter is as a novice dobroist you're not going notice a whole lot of difference between some of the brands provided the guitars are well set up. 

IMO the best bang for the buck squarenecks these days when buying new are from Recording King.

https://www.recordingking.com/woodbodyresonators

Jun 18, 2024 - 5:15:19 PM

l2t

USA

10 posts since 6/18/2024

Thanks for the advice so far.

I'm sure Beard Guitars are awesome. The shop in Lex MA carries those and Nationals for $3K-$5K. I was hoping not to go that high for a jump in to try it.

I was hoping to stay under $1K if something that would actually last a few years if my interest grows can be had. Now if sound advice said a few hundred would get something you'd never outgrow (unless to get something super pretty) I could consider more if there was a good point.

I used to go to a lot of BBU jams but that was a while back. They seem to haven't had any that fit my plans later and I'm a skier so i don't get the the big fest in winter.

-l2t

Jun 18, 2024 - 8:03:11 PM

214 posts since 3/8/2014

I got my first one at a pawnshop for $133 just to see if I liked it. I've spend a lot more on them since then and am on my fourth and probably last one now.

Keep your eye on the classified section here, and browse Reverb.com, too. There are some pretty cheap new ones these days, too, like from Gretsch, Recording King, Dobro (i.e. Gibson), and Regal.

Don't know what your budget is, but you can certainly find something good for well under a grand.

Just take the plunge. It's an instrument that's gentle on both hands, simple chords are easy enough, and if it's not for you, you can always sell it. Not a big risk, right?

Edited by - Charlie Bernstein on 06/18/2024 20:04:17

Jun 19, 2024 - 5:44:03 AM

l2t

USA

10 posts since 6/18/2024

There are some Guitar Centers around but I don't see anything in stock. I guess if I decided to buy an entry level instrument, I could at least get it shipped to the store.

What I could do now....

I've haven't tried playing with finger picks in like 50 years. I could get some finger picks to try with one of my guitars to see if I like it and can do it without stress.

I wouldn't hack around with my D-18 but I have a beater electric I could put a nut extender on. Maybe get a couple lighter bass strings to retune E->G and A->B.

That would give me something to noodle with for a few weeks. (When I wanted to get into mandolin, I actually took that same beater electric and tuned the top four to GDAE and put a capo on 12 to learn a few chords and fiddle tunes, enough to be able to test out some mandos before I bought one.)

I'd have to select picks and a bar.  I have the day off today so I think I'll drop by a music store to try some picks.  No idea how to pick out a bar.

-l2t

Edited by - l2t on 06/19/2024 05:48:05

Jun 19, 2024 - 9:57:48 AM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

Many of us here use bars from boutique builders which cost $80 and above - but you don't have to do that. The Dunlop Lap Dawg is a  good bar for around 40 bucks, and it is very popular. It depends on the store - but a high percentage of them jsut don't stock dobro bars.

https://www.jimdunlop.com/lap-dawg-tonebar/

As far using thumb and finger picks, I started out at age 9 or 10 with lap steel lessons as a kid in the 1960s, they feel as natural to me while playing steel guitar and dobro as using a fork while eating dinner. One of my guitar heroes is Jorma Kaukonen, especially for his acoustic playing and he has used thumb and finger picks for decades. But when I try it on my flattop acoustic guitars, and this is likely due to the tighter string spacing as compared to dobro - it can feel awkward. It's not a direct "translation" between the two instruments.  

Jun 19, 2024 - 11:25:36 AM
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l2t

USA

10 posts since 6/18/2024

Wetn to GC to get ad one picks and they had a new $300 Rogue on clearance for $189. It is playable and sounds okay. So that can give me a taste. If I like it I can keep it as a beater for camping. If not I got it cheap enough that it's no hig loss if I have to sellit.

Edited by - l2t on 06/19/2024 11:27:14

Jun 19, 2024 - 11:42:17 AM

4768 posts since 7/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by l2t

Wetn to GC to get ad one picks and they had a new $300 Rogue on clearance for $189. It is playable and sounds okay. So that can give me a taste. If I like it I can keep it as a beater for camping. If not I got it cheap enough that it's no hig loss if I have to sellit.


That'll work. yes

Jun 20, 2024 - 10:02:12 AM

10 posts since 1/23/2024

I have a Chinese Gold Tone less than a year old Beard Signature will ship for $800.00 ……just say the word, case bar and pics included ……bought a new Appy love it. Gold Tone is a great guitar for the price let me know.

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