What Is An Acoustic Resonator Guitar?

A Guitar You Play on Your Lap

Resonator Guitars are some of the most fascinating and incredible instruments you’re likely to ever see. Bluegrass and blues live off its unique sound, and they aren’t nearly as difficult to start playing as you might think. In this article, we’ll go over what a resonator is, why they’re so cool, and a few different options to get you started.

What is a Resonator?

A Resonator Guitar is just that – a guitar with a resonator, or metal cone, inside the main body. This resonator is attached to the strings via a strip of metal and screw, attaching them together and making the resonator vibrate (or “resonate”, which is where the name comes from) along with the strings. This gives the guitar a distinct and unique sound – one instantly recognizable to its fans.

Resonators come in three designs, tri-cone, single cone, and inverted single cone. While the tri-cone is the traditional and original resonator design, all three will give you the distinct resonator sound that you’re looking for in your music.

Square Neck vs. Round Neck

Square neck resonators are played face up, on your lap, as the nut and bridge are placed too high to press the strings down to the frets. In fact, the frets are purely cosmetic, as you’ll never be using them. Most often, square necks are played with a slide or bottleneck, moved up and down the strings to create the correct note or chord, with the guitarist’s fingers behind the slide or bottleneck to act like the frets on a standard guitar.

Round neck guitars are much more familiar to traditional guitarists. They are played just like a normal guitar, but with the added benefit of a signature sound and volume only achievable with the resonator itself. But if you want, round neck’s have the added benefit of also being very useful with a slide, or, more commonly, a bottleneck. Used almost like a bar chord that you can change instantly, round neck resonator guitars with bottlenecks are the signature instrument for particular genres of music.

The tuning styles of each Resonator are going to be different depending on what instrument you’re playing, so make sure you’ve researched where your tuning needs to be! A standard tuning on a square neck will often not work on a round neck, because square neck tunings are significantly tighter, requiring a stronger neck. Likewise, the pick style of playing a square neck may not be conducive to round neck standard tunings. In any case, if you find yourself changing your tuning a lot for any reason, consider buying a quick release D’Addario Eclipse Tuner to make it easier and to help you get back to playing and making music quicker.

Which One is For Me?

Choosing a Resonator, like any instrument, will primarily come down to 2 things: your experience playing similar instruments, and your willingness to learn something new. If you have no experience with a slide or bottleneck, a round neck resonator guitar is a fantastic way to learn a new style of music and of playing. If you do have experience, then it might be time to upgrade to the stronger, more official square neck resonator, and start your journey of becoming the next great bluegrass, blues, or country musician. If you need help deciding, come on into one of our stores or check us out online at boothemusic.com, we’ll be happy to help!

As always, thanks for reading.

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