History of the Resonator

Resonator guitars were originally designed to be louder than regular acoustic guitars, which were overwhelmed by horns and percussion instruments in dance orchestras. They became prized for their distinctive sound, however, and found life with several musical styles (most notably bluegrass and the blues) well after electric amplification solved the issue of inadequate guitar sound levels.

The best known resonator, which has become a generic name, is the Dobro. The resonator guitar was developed by John Dopyera in response to a request from steel guitar player George Beauchamp. Dopyera experimented with configurations of up to four resonator cones, and cones composed of several different metals. In 1927, Dopyera and Beauchamp formed the National String Instrument Corporation to manufacture resonator guitars under the brand name National. National produces acoustic guitars and resonators to this day.  In 1928, Dopyera left National to form the Dobro Manufacturing Company with his brothers. Dobro released a competing resonator guitar with a single resonator with its concave surface uppermost, often described as bowl-shaped, under a distinctive circular perforated metal cover plate with the bridge at its centre resting on an eight-legged aluminum spider. With eight contact rods housed inside the body, string vibration is distributed to numerous points around the cone, with the typical speaker design of the single-cone having its concavity reversed, projecting the sound directly outwards from the body, rather than into the body.

Resonator technology has not progressed much since those days, with few innovations in body, spider or cone design. Options have been restricted to quality of those products. However Pete Turner has re-engineered the traditional design,  with the acoustics in a Marrakech being produced from the top of the guitar too, and not from a soundwell as in a standard resonator. It is the combination of the exotic woods body and ring and tail piece design that I found produced the unique sound of my resonator, giving that hybrid tonal quality.