Basic Reso Questions

A discussion of techniques, and equipment for guitar. Fretted, bottleneck or slide, acoustic or electric, this is the place.

Basic Reso Questions

Postby the_big_crunch » Wed Jun 14, 2006 8:50 pm

I want to buy a reso in a few months. I’ve been learning slide on a POS Yamahammer dread that doesn’t sound half-bad, but doesn’t sound half-good either. So, I want to move up and quite frankly, I just think the things look neat and have such a different sound than the D16 I use for bluegrass. I’ve learned little bits of stuff about resos from this list, but I feel like I’m missing out on the big picture, and the fundamentals. When I went shopping for a bluegrass axe last year, I picked up Larry Sandberg’s book, “The Acoustic Guitar Guide” and learned a lot…from the basics on to the more extraneous stuff. I’d like to do the same with resos (which Sandberg basically ignored). Are there any sites, books, or articles that anyone could send or recommend that help explain things like:

1. Metal vs. wood body, and what to look for in both? Are certain woods really better for resos?
2. Biscuit vs. spider cone? A guy who works at a local store told me to just stay away from spider cones entirely. He said they were weak in terms of volume, and do nothing in terms of sound quality. That sounded a bit harsh, but I don’t know.
3. Types of cones (spun or pressed) and why should I pick one over another.
4. Does the type of wood make much of a difference when you have all the those openings for cones and such?
5. Do resos actually improve with age like other well-built acoustic guitars?
6. Duolian? Triolian? What do they mean and why should I care?
7. If the thing is said to be brass, then why is it silver?

Or perhaps you’d like to help a newbie out and answer some of the questions yourself. I know they’re pretty basic, and I’m a wee bit embarrassed that I’m asking ‘em, but I gotta learn somehow.

Finally, can anyone recommend any guitar shops in the DC area that have a good selection of resos? I’ve found that they are a bit hard to find, which is troubling because I’ve learned that the best way to learn about guitars is to play a bunch of ‘em.

Thanks everyone.

Oh yeah, I just have a hard time believing that a Rogue could be any good. I had a buddy who just couldn’t resist and bought one of their $50 dreads. The thing really was a piece of junk. Maybe it was the exception, but it sounded cheap, felt cheap, and quite frankly, it looked cheap.
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Re: Basic Reso Questions

Postby ricochet » Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:14 pm

the_big_crunch wrote:1. Metal vs. wood body, and what to look for in both? Are certain woods really better for resos?
2. Biscuit vs. spider cone? A guy who works at a local store told me to just stay away from spider cones entirely. He said they were weak in terms of volume, and do nothing in terms of sound quality. That sounded a bit harsh, but I don’t know.
3. Types of cones (spun or pressed) and why should I pick one over another.
4. Does the type of wood make much of a difference when you have all the those openings for cones and such?
5. Do resos actually improve with age like other well-built acoustic guitars?
6. Duolian? Triolian? What do they mean and why should I care?
7. If the thing is said to be brass, then why is it silver?


1. Metal vs. wood body are just different sounds. And like the "tube amp vs. solid state" debates, it's really hard to generalize. Different metal bodied resos sound different from one another, and so do different wood bodied resos. I think it's less a matter of picking by material than by make and model. Most wood bodied resos from the beginning have been built out of rather thick plywood.

2. Biscuits and spider cones make rather different sounds. The guy at your local store knows nothing. They both can put out blasting volume and sound terrific. But they are different. Having said it's dangerous to generalize, I'm going to. Biscuits tend to make a very loud, brassy sound with short sustain. A barking sound that I've described as like a banjo in a stairwell. (Some may take issue with my description.) A well set up spider is loud, has tons of sustain, and has a curious "hollow" tone that I suspect comes from emphasizing some of the lower odd harmonics. You've heard 'em if you've listened to bluegrass or country music, but they work very well for blues as well. And there's a third type, the tricone, that's actually the first of the resonator types but sort of sounds like a cross between the biscuit and spider, with less volume than either, very good sustain, and a complex sound with lots of harmonics. You can get some of that nasty banging-on-a-trashcan sound of a biscuit out of a tricone.

3. I don't think anyone makes pressed cones today. They're spun on a lathe, which involves pressing a piece of sheet metal over a wooden form as it spins, pushing it down with a tool. It's an old fashioned way of making hollow forms of sheet metal. Spun cones can be great or terrible, depending on the material and how they're made. As for pressing, if a cone has spirals in it, they're always pressed in after the spinning. National cones are reputed to be the best for biscuits or tricones, Quarterman cones for spiders.

4. Wood types are generally thought to make less difference in resos than acoustics, and as I said, from the first Dobros they've generally been made of plywood.

5. That's debatable. Many think cones do "break in" and improve with playing.

6. Duolian and Triolian are different models of National guitars. Listen to them and see what you like. National Resophonic has sold sampler CDs with recordings of their different models.

7. Brass is a relatively cheap metal (countless tons are made for cartridge cases, and those get recycled) that's easy to shape and solder. The finished, polished bodies are plated with nickel for that silvery appearance. It's a traditional look going back to the old Nationals.

8. (I'm adding this one in, you didn't ask.) You'll have to learn to do all setup and repair work on a reso. You can't rely on any help from the bozo at the music store, and it's unlikely that you'll find an experienced reso tech in your area. Fortunately, it's not rocket science to work on them, and people on this board can give you lots of helpful advice if needed.
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Postby savage » Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:15 am

i would suggest tryin whatever resos you can so you can get an idea of what you like and dislike. Like Rico says, there are many different factors in resos that shouldnt be generalized. If you can't get ahold of an instrument you could always ask someone here on the forum for a soundclip of a particular guitar. And regarding cheap guitars... that is a very opinionated area. There are a ton of happy sliders who play instruments that cost them next to nothing. I purchased a johnson tricone for under $400 last year, and I still like the sound of it. I've been thinkin about opening her up and doin a bit of tweaking, but its still a great instrument for the price.
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Re: Basic Reso Questions

Postby zhyla » Thu Jun 15, 2006 4:34 am

the_big_crunch wrote:Oh yeah, I just have a hard time believing that a Rogue could be any good.


The brass bodied model is great. Metal is hard to screw up. The wood parts are where it gets sketchy... the biscuit that came in mine was drilled off-center for instance. But the outside is more or less perfect. Stays in tune and sounds great. So far I haven't even considered replacing it with something more expensive down the road.

Now buying a wood-bodied Rogue requires some faith but I have seen good reviews of them.
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Postby 1four5 » Thu Jun 15, 2006 10:17 am

There is a Rogue Triolian (Biscut) that has been in my circle of friends for over a year or so now. It is an outstanding guitar for the $129 it was new. I've owned it 3 times now, and it's currently owned by our base player (and brb member tim3finger). Inside, it is slopily put together...but VERY solid and functional. The biggest improvment made was to clean the factory glue blobs off the cone well shelf, and smooth it out. The saddle is alarmingly thin...but has held up just fine. The tuners are cheap junk...but again, work great. The most amazing thing is the external finish...it was basically flawless when new. It is a gloss finish...which we've scratched up pretty good now. Several month after I got it the first time...the tail piece exploded in the middle of a hard jam...broke clean off at the 90 degree bend...but a $15 replacment from Stu Mac fixed her right up. The only thing I didn't like about it is it's narrow fretboard and tight string spacing. I'm a finger picker, and like a lot of string spacing and a big fat aircraft carrier fretboard. I just could never get used to it. If it would have had a wide neck...I never would have traded it.
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Reso

Postby oleman » Thu Jun 15, 2006 6:27 pm

Im also the owner of the Rogue Brass body and the Triolian. Both with minor tweeking, sound and play great. For my money, some of the best deals Ive come across in 20+ years of playing.
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