Finally got me a National steel..

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by drolling, Aug 22, 2006.

  1. drolling

    drolling Member

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    I've had the reso bug for a long time and my first was a 50's reso-phonic 3/4 scale solidbody that's a beeotch to tune & has been slowly falling apart for the last few decades.

    When Saga began reissuing the Regals I picked up a wooden spidercone roundneck that I still play to this day - but I had to do a lot of tweaking (new bridge saddles, Quarterman cone, etc..) to get it sounding right.

    Couple years later, I tracked down a beautiful brass bodied Dobro, but I never really bonded with the guitar - it's got a National-style bisquit bridge, but the cone's a larger (10 1/2") Dobro size, and there's some other design quirks that have kept me from really loving it.

    Recently I've had the chance to play tons of new resos - everybody's making them now, and while most have been a dissappointment, one or two were really outstandingly good instruments.. but I've been holding off in hopes of finding something special.

    I was visiting an old bandmate in Tdot this weekend past, and I just happned to stumble upon THE ONE.

    The shop had a roomfull of different brands & styles, but I kept going back to a no-frills steel bodied Delphi. This's the model that used to be called Duolian or Triolian (depending on the year) untill Gibson bought the rights to the names.

    I'm just blown away by the raw sound of this guitar. I A/B'd it against some very fine tricones and a few fancy bell-brass guitars, but the Delphi's got the tone I've been chasing all these years. THAT BIG, HOLLOW GARBAGE-CAN CLANG! fast attack & an even faster decay - no sustain, but lot's of built-in reverb..

    Interesting looking, too. National's started making black walnut bodied mandolins w/antique bronze coverplates, and they've decided to do a few steel bodied guitars in this same finish.. It's not a "relic'd" model like their Replicon (style O w/lots of dings, scratches & brass showing thru' the nickle plate) but it is streaked, oxidized & discolored - no etching or engraving on the body, and a plain fretboard w/small round fretmarkers.

    AND WHAT A SOUND.. I'm just about to put on a set of Newtone 'National' strings w/a 16 on top so I can bring it down to open D tuning & break out the bottleneck, but I wanted to check in here for a minute to let my fingertips stop bleeding:D
     
  2. Resonator_Duke

    Resonator_Duke Member

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    Hey, congrats on your Delphi. I own several old Nationals, as well as some new ones. And the Delphi pretty much captures and represents what both the Triolian and Duolian did back in the late 20's/early 30's. I give National a lot of credit for putting out some great quality instruments, and bringing back that NATIONAL resophonic sound that was ignored for so long. Have fun playing it, man. I'm sure once you get those new strings on it, you'll have a hard time putting it down...even if your fingers ARE bleeding. Nationals just make it all worth it.
     
  3. drolling

    drolling Member

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    Welcome to TGP Duke! and thanks for posting..

    I was just over at Gibson's site and noticed that they've discontinued all but a couple of their Dobro brand resos. They made a lot of mistakes with their metal bodied guitars- chrome plating (even the Regal's are nickle) non-slotted headstocks on very skinny "shredder" profile necks. It's too bad, really.. Fender's revitalized Gretsch since they took over the line, but Gibson appears to have killed the venerable Dobro name.

    And I agree w/your assessment of National Resophonic. They're making great guitars these days. The Delphi's factory set for slide, but the tech deepened some of the string slots at the bridge for fingerstyle. The fact that the bridge cap's now screwed to the coverplate (instead of being welded on) made the job a whole lot faster & easier - it's the attention to those little details that makes all the difference.

    The Replicon has a small, discrete hole behind the nut for truss rod adjustment. The fact that they chose not to add a plastic cover's a nice authentic touch. When I first saw it hanging on the wall, I was convinced I was looking at a genuine 1930 style O. I would have loved to bring that one home too!
     
  4. Sub-D

    Sub-D Guest

    Congrats !
    I have been looking and listening for "the one" as well and
    though I have found a few that qualify, they were way to pricey.
    Nothing Like knowing your patience paid off and you ended up with
    the right instrument...cheers on that.......
    any pictures?
     
  5. Resonator_Duke

    Resonator_Duke Member

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    Hey Drolling, thanks for the welcome. I've been coming around this site for a good while, as I work on guitars and amps, as well as work for a pedal company. But, I'm a guitar freak, and have a particular fondness for resophonic guitars. You're right about Dobro...ever since Gibson has taken over, I've seen the quality in their instruments slowly decay and suffer. And in this day and age, why would someone want to pay way too much for a somewhat flawed Dobro, when they can by a fairly cheap, but well built Chinese or Korean made Dobro, and invest and extra hundred bucks for a better cone, and possibly tuners. Be it originals Dobros from the 30's, or all of the Dobros made by OMI...I can honestly say I'd shop for one of those, or buy a cheap one before I'd shell out big money for a newer, Gibson-made Dobro. My '90 OMI-made Dobro 60D is still the best sounding Dobro I've ever played. That's why I can't ever let go of it.
    As for National...I was really hoping they'd have reason enough to be at the NAMM show in Austin last month. I looked at a lot of resophonics there, and a lot of them on the cheaper side. Some good, and some not so good. But, National has definitely found their groove, and I can say that they consistently put out great guitars. As I don't like taking out my old ones, my main stage guitar is a '96 Style O that I bought new, just right at 10 years ago. And I can honestly say that guitar has had a ton of stage time, a little abuse from hard-playing, and just a ton of playing time in general. And though it does show some wear, when cleaned up, no one would guess I've played it near as much as I have. I work on all my own resophonics, and I still have yet to do anything to it. I mean, ten years of playing with super-heavy strings, and the thing still has yet to even NEED a fret dressing. I have my action set low enough, as I fret quite a bit, as well as slide, and I still have yet to adjust anything. I have a Style 1 Tricone that's a few years old, that doesn't get near the playing time, but I have yet to find anything to complain about on it as well.
    Yeah...I'll still probably invest in a cheaper reso, just to have that I can take with me some places...something I wouldn't cry over if something happened to it. But, even with a new cone, frets, tuners, whatever...hard to compare anything out there to the sound and quality of a genuine National. And as I'm sure you've found out, it's definitely well worth the wait to by what you want, and something of quality, then to maybe have to settle for something less, that you might be somewhat disappointed in.
    So, I'm happy for ya, man. Just make that Delphi sing. The worst thing you could do is let it sit there and not get played. Guitars just HATE that! Adios, man.
     
  6. drolling

    drolling Member

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    I'm such a low-tech guy I don't have a digital camera or even a cel phone that takes pictures - but I'd love to post a shot of this guitar.. There's nothing like it on their website as I don't think they've made too many in antique bronze yet..

    It's the sound that really gets me, tho'.. And I still track to 1/2" tape.. can't figure out how to do clips. Someday I'll get digital gear in here so's I can show this thing off...
     
  7. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Sounds like a wonderful instrument. I'm lusting after a squareneck, baritone Tricone which I'll probably have to custom-order.

    Bryan
     
  8. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    my body.
    love mine (nickel plated brass body tricone).
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Sub-D

    Sub-D Guest

    That is one nice looking national.......
    The reflection of the doorway off the back is trippy.......
     
  10. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    Matte,

    You mentioned in a PM that you've been recording a lot with your National. Any music you can share?

    Thanks,
    Bryan
     
  11. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    national just dropped the cutaway tricone brass joint recently. the sustain and sympathetic vibration(s) are ung#dly.

    right now i'm working on getting my fretted/slide thing down. re-learning lots of bengali folk songs, bhajans, etc. my intonation sucks.:) i'll post some clips that won't embarrass the family soon.
     
  12. matte

    matte Senior Member

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    national is totally on top of their game these days. you simply can't go wrong there. i had a non cut brass/nickel tricone here before i snagged my cutaway joint. it was killing too.
     
  13. drolling

    drolling Member

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    mmmm... taupe.. That's the colour I wanted till I spotted the bronze glowing in the corner - splashes of verdigris & daubs of naples yellow.. smells good, too..

    I just slapped on the complimentary strings and it's a completely different bivalve. They leave the factory w/13s, but the guy that tweaked my setup suggested a 16 on top - about the same gauge as the G string on one of my teles!!

    Splatt, are you mic'ing your reso or using piezo/mag pickups?

    I gummed a $1.49 RadioShack door buzzer to the cone of my cheap regal, but I'd be willing to crack the piggybank for this Delphi.. Don't know about FX, tho' - the guitar already sounds *treated*
     
  14. gassyndrome

    gassyndrome Member

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    What a great photo, and I cant wait to hear it. :AOK

    That guitar looks incredible, but how is it theres not a single reflection of the photographer? Very impressive :)
     
  15. Sub-D

    Sub-D Guest

    I want to thank y'all for increasing the national G.A.S. for moi.......
    I can feel the voodoo.............
    speaking of beautiful resonators and haunting artists ...........
    [​IMG]
     
  16. retro

    retro Member

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    That's a shame you can't take photo's..but I bet it's a stunner for a reso!

    Regarding pups...

    This was Alvin Youngblood Harts recommendation awhile ago on TGP...

    "Apparently people have been calling up National for a few years wanting to know what pickup I was using. I can't take credit for it though,Bonnie Raitt hipped me to this.You get one of them little 60s Harmony solidbody guitars and take one of the DeArmonds off, put it on the res."

    I have an 8 year old Vintage Steel Tri-cone with a Highlander installed that I absolutely love...The new Nats I have played lately have been great...

    Congrats on a great guitar!
     
  17. drolling

    drolling Member

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    according to the 'instructions' in the case, most Nationals are now sold within weeks of leaving the factory - apparently the neck's still 'curing' on mine, as it has an '06/06 birth certificate glued inside
    OOOH! I have one of those too, but the cord's broken somewhere (design flaw?) so I need a designated jiggler to wiggle the wire when it cuts out every few seconds
    Well OK then! I'm thinkin mr. moog's foogers might be as good a jumping off point as anywhere. Thanks for your encouragement!!
     
  18. cbpickin

    cbpickin Tweed Supporting Member Silver Supporting Member

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    Congrats drolling! I bought my Style "O" brand new back in '94 and it has seen a lot of stage/playing time and is still going strong. It has taken a pretty good beating over the years and is broken in just right. I love that fact that all the "relicing" that makes it look like it's from the '30's came from MY fingerpicks and either a brass slide or an 11/16" Craftsman socket. There is nothing being made that compares to a National in the resonator world IMO.
    Play that thing!
     
  19. drolling

    drolling Member

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    Hey thanks cb!! My old resos are 14 fretters, so I've already "personalized" the guitar a couple of times today w/my favorite slide (about a half pound of brass!) - Still getting used to the neck joint at the 12th fret - Thing really inspires an exuberant (sloppy) playing style that would probably have shattered the old tequila bottleneck I've carried around for years..

    Fingerpicks, you say? hmm.. I'm sure I've got some kicking around somewheres...

    But I've gotta ask you about your choice of amplification. Mics? Pickups??

    No hurry.. It's late here and I'm damping as much as I can right now. This guitar's even LOUDER than my gypsy jazz cannon!!
     
  20. 62Tele

    62Tele Supporting Member

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    Congrats on the Delphi - I've had a Delphi and Polychrome Tricone with the Highlander tricone pickup (both great instruments), but these days it's a Vintage Steel Reso Rocket cutaway and it's by far my favorite. I just love the fret access and someting about the combo of the tricone style vents and the single cone that just roars. I don't think I've ver played a bad sounding newer National - great company and really nice people to boot - but I have to say I like the steel and wood bodies best for my tastes.

    I also got ahold of one of the new National/Lace pickups (avaiable only through National, not the other lace version). This is a *GREAT* pickup and if you like the old Barcus Berry and DeArmond pickups you'll flip over this one. While it has a magnetic character, it really maintains the tone of the reso. Very feedback resistant and an easy install to boot. The highlander tricone pickup is pretty incredible as well, but the biscuit mounted piezos haven't done it for me to date.

    One tone suggestion - play the snot out of the thing. The guitars sound thin when you play them lightly and can sound whiny. I run medium D'Addario flatops, use heavy pyrex slides and play hard with bare fingers and selectively with a heavy thumbpick- for my ears, this gets the best tone. Thick, round and loud (funny, that's how my wife describes me). Very different than the way I approach my Collings OM. If you think about it, these instruments were designed when everybody used heavier strings and played hard to keep up with the louder instruments - makes sense to me that going back to this appproach will optimize the tone of the instrument. Just my $.02.

    Enjoy!
     

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