Fender FR50CE and strings/saddle

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Fender FR50CE and strings/saddle

Postby txslide » Wed Feb 07, 2007 9:43 pm

Howdy,

I have been soliciting some opinions on new strings and such for my Fender FR50CE(wood body spider). First of all I know it's the most despised resonator instrument ever made, apparently, but I believe they must have improved it as I love mine for the price. Also I have found that as my has settled in, the cone sounds better and better. The Tele pickup and piezo pickup combo also sound great.

Anyway, here are my questions..note all work will be done by a local repair shop.

1) It has a split micarta saddle. I was wanting the action raised about 1mm and was thinking of having a new bone saddle installed. How do you think that would sound on a wood body reso?

2) The guitar came with Fender .012-.052 PB's. Although I know conventional wisdom says that's too light, I play with my fingers a lot of the time and mute with RH fingers (left hand as well) ala Duane Allman, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks..of course nowhere near that good. I have found that I can get more volume from the lighter treble strings with my fingers than I can get on my dreadnought acoustic that has .013-.056. I am a bit conflicted though in that the guitar sounds really good in Open E and Open A, which seems to me that's telling me that the cone needs to be under more tension and that it would sound better in standard and even Open G if I went with heavier strings. I am correct on that? Note that I am still not sure I want to give up Open E to go with full blown medium gauge strings.

3) Still on strings..I hate the wound third and also don't like PB. I am thinking of just going with nickel electric strings like Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks do on their resonators and getting a plain third. I still like to play some fretted blues on the guitar and am concerned that a unwound third would be impossible to intonate on this guitar. Is that a valid concern? Also how do you think the nickel strings would sound on a wood body reso?

I that's a bunch to digest, but I have really become obsessed with this lately. Thanks!

Rob
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Postby ricochet » Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:33 pm

Make your saddles out of whatever you like, try 'em and see how you like 'em. All sorts of materials have been used. Micarta's good stuff, actually.

Nothing['s wrong with .012-.052" strings, either. After years of going to heavier and heavier strings on my Tricone, I've gone back to electric nickel strings of that gauge, and love 'em.

Cone tension on a spider is primarily regulated by the tension screw under the center of the bridge. Adjust it with a small screwdriver, keeping careful track of exactly how far you've turned it. Back it out till there's no tension on the screw. Turn it in till you feel it just start to have a bit of resistance. Not hard to turn, it's just starting to "do something" as it tightens up. It's easier to identify this point with the strings off, but it's unnecessary to remove them if you're paying attention. Tighten it 1/2 turn from that point as a starting point and play. Loosen and tighten it in 1/8 turn increments and see what effect it has. The recommended range from Stew-Mac is between 1/4 and 1 full turn tight. This drastically affects the playing feel as well as the sound of the guitar. Tightening it makes your action rise and feel much "snappier." I've tightened my old Johnson spider up to about 1 1/4 turns tight, but be careful. You could dent the cone, bend spider legs or strip the screw.
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Postby txslide » Thu Feb 08, 2007 12:37 am

Thanks a bunch! I had no idea Micarta was any good. I thought it was just cheap plastic.

Well, I guess I am not crazy for liking the lighter strings.

I have seen that screw but did not know what it did. I think I can handle carefully adjusting that.

I appreciate the input.
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Postby txslide » Thu Feb 08, 2007 12:42 am

on the saddle...

I found this:

"Micarta Saddle
An excellent synthetic bone substitute, specified by Martin for nuts and saddles since the 1960s. Cream in color and a bit softer than bone, it files and sands easily and gives a uniform tone. Another good choice for bridge transducer saddles."

If Martin uses it, it must be pretty good stuff as you say.
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Postby bignick » Thu Feb 08, 2007 5:10 pm

I had an FR50 and it sounded much better with a wood saddle IMO. I even tried a popsicle stick and it sounded better.

The stock saddles slide out and do not fit really well. you want them as tight as possible in the slot. They should stay in when you remove the strings.
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Postby txslide » Thu Feb 08, 2007 6:11 pm

Thanks for the first hand info. I noticed you said had..did you ever get it to a point where you were reasonably happy with the sound? If so, what strings were you using?
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Postby bignick » Thu Feb 08, 2007 7:59 pm

Honestly, when I first got the FR50, I LOVED IT. I had never heard a reso before. It sounded very vintagy, but too much like an old tin can.

I used to string it up with D'Addario Phospher Bronze 13s. The action was so bad I could barely play it. The stock saddles were glued to the cone and they were AWFUL.

I didn't know any better until I tried a higher end Regal at a local shop. When I went back to playing mine, I couldn't stand it after that.

Bought a Beard GoldTone shortly after.

Not a bad starter, but they are too expensive for what you get IMO.
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Postby txslide » Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:13 pm

Yeah that sounds like what I have read..

Mine is the FR50CE with the cutwaway and two pickups. I got it for the price of the standard FR50..so it was a good deal.

Granted I haven't taken it apart and also even though I have played for over 30 years this is my first resonator..but either I got lucky or they have improved the guitar recently. The finish is impeccable, it is absolutely intonated properly all the way up the neck, action is nice at 2.5mm treble and 3.1mm bass (although I would like it a bit higher) and the sound I here coming from it is much more of a true resonator sound the others have reported.. with a nice sustain.
I played a $1000 Gibson Hound Dog at the same time, and while it was better..it wasn't $700 better.

With a wife and two kids this is the first new guitar I have bought in 15 years..so I'll just save and scrimp and maybe in another 15 I can buy a National :)
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Postby bignick » Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:39 pm

I'd look into Beard, Regal, and Johnson before you take the plunge on a National. My GoldTone was $549 and I would do it again.

The Hounddog is extremely overpriced IMO. The only thing keeping it towards the top is the Gibson name.
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Postby txslide » Thu Feb 08, 2007 9:27 pm

The only think about the Regal and possibly the Johnson (haven't read about those as much) is the read about quality issues, recommend replacing cone..etc..etc. Since I am horribly hamfisted and would need a tech to do those things for me, I think if and when I ever do upgrade, I'd just go the whole hog.

If I had read online before I bought the Fender I might not have bought it. I really intended to get another Standard Strat and set it up exclusively for slide, but when I mentioned slide the salesman showed me the resos..the Fenders, the Gibson, and some other low-end guitar (not Regal or Johnson)..the other low-end guitar was really bad.. I played the thing with slide and hooked up to an amp and played it and then bought it.

Oh well, I like it anyways, and I know with better strings and possibly a new saddle (not sure about that yet as I read Micarta is a good choice for resonators with a pickup..) I'll like it even better.
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Postby ricochet » Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:20 am

Can't speak from experience with Regals, but the Johnsons certainly have gotten better since I got mine 5 years ago. They don't need cone swaps anymore, and one I bought for a friend (from Coast to Coast Music) nearly 3 years ago is perfect IMO. Wouldn't change a thing about it.
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Postby txslide » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:21 pm

Too bad there are very few opportunities to play one in person. If they have become that good, they would likely capture a lot of the Fender reso sales that Guitar Center makes if Johnson's were sold there. From your description of the new ones I am sure I would have bought one if I could have played it.
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Postby ricochet » Sat Feb 10, 2007 2:21 am

I agree, it's a shame few have the opportunity to try one before buying.
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Postby bluejay » Mon Feb 19, 2007 9:28 pm

If you want to hear just how fine a Fender electric reso can sound, do a search for the group Estonian blues band Bullfrog Brown. The guitarist posts as Bukka over on Blindman's Blues Forum. Find their website if possible, or better yet, go to YouTube and check out their videos. In the video for "Build Me a Statue," you'll see Andres (Bukka) playing his and hear the wonderful tone he gets from it. Has he modded it? Don't know. But I have both CDs by the band and the reso slide playing hasn't got any tinniness or scratchiness, and it can't all be the amp.
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Postby ricochet » Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:31 pm

He's been on here in the past, too.
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