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Huntington, New York
I was teaching a guitar-making class at a local college, and in every class I got to keep a guitar that I built. And my son was on the way, so I thought, “what could I do that would be a niche market and there’s not a lot of options for?” I just saw an opportunity to create what I thought would be a really superior electric resonator instrument that would be a fusion for regular electric players who want to get that reso vibe, and have it still feel like a normal electric guitar in their hands.
How long did the conception of that design take?
Not too long. There’s not a lot to it, really. It’s just a matter of finding the right flow and look. And when you make guitars, you see guitars in everything anyway. [laughs]
For readers who might not be familiar, tell us a little more about where the Resonator Electric might fit into a player’s guitar collection.
The whole thing about the electric resonator is that it really completes your arsenal of electric guitars, because it can do things that a normal electric guitar can’t. It has a twanginess and a full, deep, textured bottom end that sounds unlike any electric guitar. You can make it sound like a whole bunch of things, but with that resonator growl. So you might only use it for two or three songs out of ten or so, but it’s going to add a dimension to your instruments that you won’t have if you don’t have it. It’s a really distinctive sound that you cannot get with any other type of electric guitar.
What kind of body wood are you using for the Resonator Electric?
I’m using poplar right now—it vibrates very nicely, and it’s light, so it has a jangly quality, but it’s also very stable.
You offer a variety of neck profiles and nut widths on this guitar, but what about fretboard woods? It appears that ebony is standard on the Resonator Electric, but do you also offer maple?
I really like the tone and stiffness of the ebony. For those who like the slickness of a finished maple fingerboard, I hard buff the ebony to a super shiny gloss. The tone and sustain of the ebony is crucial for this guitar. In the 13 years I’ve offered this model, not one has ever been back for a truss rod adjustment because of the quarter-sawn grain and choice of ebony.
I use a lot of different pickups, depending on what people want. If somebody wants a Tele pickup on the electric resonator, I only use Lindy’s because he can do custom winding for me that I’m very happy with.
What do you particularly like about Lindy’s stuff?
Lindy is the man; he’s never let me down. If I want something underwound slightly for twang, or overwound for a little more meat, he’s got it. He will custom wind pickups any way I want them, to voice the pickups to the right tone and spirit for the player.
You’re known for working very closely with your clients, can you tell us what the process is like?
Well, for people out of the country or out of state who can’t come here locally, I get to know them as well as I can. If they have recordings, I ask them to send me their records or their CDs. I even get people to send me actual-size Xeroxes of their hands and photographs of them holding guitars, because balance, the size of their hands, how they hold the guitar are all important. It’s everything from the nut width, the scale length, the string spacing to which leg do they play it on. Let’s say they put the waist on their left leg—the jack might bump into their right leg if it’s in the wrong place. It’s just a lot of ergonomic issues.
Who are your instruments designed for?
They’re built for anyone whose music really matters to them. I’ve had a couple celebrities here and they order guitars, and I have people who are working in grocery stores and on postal routes—you know, truck drivers and teachers. And I’ve said no to a great number of people, because I just wasn’t connecting with the energy. If I’m going to hand-make a guitar for somebody, I want somebody who’s really going to appreciate the guitar, care about it and use it and play it and write songs on it—somebody who will grow with it. I don’t want to make guitars for people who are going to hang them in a showcase.
The Electric Resonator is a truly original design. Have musicians responded well to it?
Well, I made one for Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead lyricist, and Lucinda Williams has one, which she played on Saturday Night Live once, which was kind of cool. I’ve made maybe 80 of these things in the last 12 years, and I know that they get handed around and borrowed and loaned out, and I’ve heard all kinds of names of people that I know I didn’t make them for but are playing these things. Somebody saw one on Oprah, and I was like, “I don’t know who the hell it was, but they’re getting out there!”
Hit page 6 for the fifth of our Resonator Builders, Terraplane Resonator Guitar Co...