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No Name Resonator Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by tekhedd, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. tekhedd

    tekhedd

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    For some time I've been looking for a broken "acoustic bass guitar" to convert into a resonator, and then these turned up on eBay. (for $239 shipped) The description says "spruce top" and "basswood sides and back" but it sure looks a lot like laminate. And anyway, who cares, it's a resonator. So I ordered one, thinking "how bad can it be?"

    Well, it's not bad. It's not great either, and needs some work to be a player. The neck is a reasonably decent but not perfect piece of wood, and came with way too much relief (which was somewhat scary to adjust, but nothing snapped). It plays OK. The 24th fret is set too low and buzzes. Really badly. The bridge is a standard 6-string guitar bridge without slots for the strings. Yes really. So it's going to take some work. But the workmanship isn't bad--the binding and finish are clean.

    Intonation is workable but... it's set to intonate properly when set up low, like an electric bass. Of course, it's actually quite a high action, so all of the strings go way sharp. Not just a little. Shim the neck length? Well, the description says "adjustable set neck" but it sure looks glued in. I'll see when I disassemble it, I guess. It's not bad, but it's not great either. :) If I put a low bridge on it and pickups and played it as an electric it would probably be fine, but what's the fun of that?

    The body is pretty small, and IMO that's a good thing. A larger body would give it a boxy tone. The acoustic sound of this thing is all from the resonator. I may try several different cones and/or resonators, as this is the whole point of having a resonator platform. The stock cone is a pretty generic spider cone that...doesn't suck.

    I think I could get better tone out of it. It's time to expand the world of resonator beyond its "hub cap" origins and try some different materials and suspension, specifically tuned for bass. Anyway, it's 2013, hub caps are out of style--but I don't think a 17" aluminum wheel is going to have much tone either. I'll think of something. Perhaps something stripped from a 12" speaker?

    I also think a combination of magnetic pickup and microphone could work here.

    Anyway, it's weird. Thought somebody might be interested. Does this belong in the "electric bass" forums? I'm planning on adding a magnetic pickup and a microphone... so it's a future electric I think. (Where can I find an onboard preamp that blends magnetic and microphone? That could be a trick.)

    Attached Files:

  2. T-Bird

    T-Bird

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    Hi.

    Looks cool, thanks for sharing.

    I'd prefer a bit larger body, and perhaps a larger cone though.

    Adjustable just means an adjustable TR. Usually anyway.

    The Mods have the final say, as always, but since the often suggested ABG subforum doesn't exist and on the dark side of the TB there would probably be even less interest for it, I'd say You chose the correct forum.

    Regards
    Sam
  3. The513Sojourner

    The513Sojourner

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    Thanks for posting! I was torn between making a cigar box resonator bass and just buying a manufactured resonator bass (this exact one off eBay in fact).

    Could you tell me what the scale length is please? On a 1-10 scale, what woukd you rank it out of the box and what would you rank it as far as potential?

    Thanks ;)
  4. tekhedd

    tekhedd

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    A larger cone would definitely be better, but I do like the 24 fret neck...or would if it was remotely in tune. :) I'd assume that any body size will work depending on the specific resonator cone. I think of it as a ported speaker instead of a "guitar"... it has as much to do with the interaction of the cone with the body as it does the shape of the body. We're well beyond any hope of generating the fundamental with any "guitar" body style anyway... This body sounds good to me with the supplied cone, but again it's a resonator, what's "good"? (Supplied cone seems OK...curious what other cones would do...)

    This is the case. Aside from needing to replace the 12th fret (or completely redo all of the others), the neck is decent.


    Hmm. Measures at... 33 11/16".

    Summary of following section: it needs work to be playable: at least a new saddle, setup, and probably some fret work (YMMV). And then it's suitable for lowish, amplified setups, with only minor intonation issues. If you want to play loud you'll need to figure out how to increase string length to compensate. I think it's a keeper and priced about right.


    I will have difficulty rating on a scale as I'm not sure what I would call a 10. :)

    Right out of the box it's something like a 3, as the saddle is literally a throwaway. (And the truss rod was not set, and the spider cone screw was cranked down TIGHT... etc). Playable, but just barely, and the intonation goes out radically. Sounds neat and clearly has potential, but you wouldn't take it to a gig.

    On disassembly, I see that the rim where the spider sits is totally uneven and mostly covered with lacquer. The complete opposite of the "perfectly smooth" finish recommended by stew-mac, but honestly I think they're being a bit silly. It's a guitar with a hubcap in it. Relax. :) I still may sand it smooth anyway because now it bugs me.

    After a few hours hacking some slots into the "saddle", adjusting the cone tension and running the string under (instead of over) the tailpiece to create some downward force, it's playable. We reach something between a 5 and a 7. With the action about as low as it will go without incessant buzzing or bottoming out, the intonation is almost, but not quite, correct. In fact I'd like the action a touch higher so I can play a little louder unamplified, but the intonation is just barely tolerable now.

    So, the two main problems are the intonation and the low 12th fret. This is your "project" challenge.

    Well, the fret can be fixed. Yuck. I'm just assuming that they don't *all* come with the 12th fret jacked up. We can hope. Still, I either need to learn how to fix this or call a luthier, because it's *bad*.

    The intonation... well, some of my electric basses are set up almost this badly just because I've switched strings and never got around to adjusting them, so I'd call it barely acceptable. I can probably squeeze a couple of mm more string length with a wedge-shaped saddle, but to raise the action up *good* and high, you're going to have serious issues without shimming the neck...or moving the bridge...somehow. I'm sure I'm not the first to have this problem, but I haven't done any searching yet so I don't know how much trouble this will be. Surely a piece of aluminum can be modified easier than a neck reset...

    Um, so I'm really not sure how it ranks as a project guitar. I'm happy so far...
  5. tekhedd

    tekhedd

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    Hmm, so the length to the 12th fret is 16 15/16, so even uncompensated, it looks like the bridge is about 3/16 too far north. Hmm.

    So, I think a Beard offset bridge is probably the answer, if it'll fit. Of course, there's another $50. Such is the nature of the project guitar.
  6. WoodyG3

    WoodyG3 Supporting Member

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    Seems like they put it together with various parts on hand and patched it together. Maybe a regular guitar body, a neck from another bass, etc. anyway, if you get it set up where you want it, it might be a fun little bass. Enjoy.
  7. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum) Gold Supporting Member

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  8. tekhedd

    tekhedd

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    Well, that would explain the 24 fret neck. If it's a stock resonator guitar body, that would explain why they didn't simpy cut the hole 3/8" farther away.

    Interchangeable necks on a mass produced body is the reason they make offset spider cones...but I doubt they were thinking bass. :)

    If I find that this becomes an essential part of my act I'll go back to my original plan of converting a "real" guitar bass.
  9. moonshinegtrs

    moonshinegtrs Supporting Member

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    Disclosures:
    Owner: Moonshine Custom Guitars

    Yes, yes I do make resonator basses. :D

    [​IMG]

    I just saw this, subbed...

    I am busy in the shop, but I would be glad to talk to you about reso. bass stuff. There is a lot that you can do to these import resos that will greatly improve their sound.

    Laminated bodies will sound just as good, if not better than solid wood ones due to a resonator body needing to be a "stiff' as possible... More like a speaker box than an acoustic instrument.

    There are some really good options when it comes to cone/ spider (aluminum bridge section) selections, although they can get expensive.

    Someone mentioned getting a bigger cone... Although other sizes (ukes, mandos, etc...) can be found, What you have is probably the biggest cone available (I could be wrong). The two standards are: Dobro or "Spider" style (10 1/4" cone) & National or "Biskit" style (9 1/4" cone). Both use different construction techniques and both sound very different from each other.

    Yours appears to use a Spider style cone.

    I have done a lot of work in matching piezos & Magnetic pickups in these. Honestly, a magnetic pickup is really the way to go, especially if you are on a budget.

    Set up properly, they can get pretty loud acoustically.

    For something different, look for a youtube video of Les Claypool playing a Micheal Kelly Bayou (I think) Reso. bass. I don't think they make them anymore, but they were also less expensive imported models.

    As you can tell, I am a big fan of Reso. Basses.

    Moonshine :bassist:
  10. tekhedd

    tekhedd

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    OK, this dude isn't even wearing safety goggles. And... loafers with camo overalls? Actually I have no problem with that part.

    And then you just have to cast a spider, machine it into shape...
  11. T-Bird

    T-Bird

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    Hi.

    In fact, it would be easier to weld it together from extrusions for a one-off, but a simple steel tube spider would be even easier to make.
    Not to mention lighter.

    Not that casting it from aluminium would be too hard either ;).
    Too much work for a one-off IMO though.

    Regards
    Sam
  12. moonshinegtrs

    moonshinegtrs Supporting Member

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    You win! You proved me wrong; not that difficult to do actually... :rollno:

    I was referring to what is available on the market; I'm sure that there is someone out there that can make a cone as big as a freakin' house, though I am not sure just what one would would do with it (I'm sure a post with a picture of a bass that would use such a cone will be showing up shortly).

    Tekhedd; As with any other bass, it can get to the point of being money draining, but there is a lot you can do without dropping a huge chunk of change. There are some pretty expensive cones out there, but most are designed for the square neck (Dobro) market; they will handle bass strings with no problem (I am working on a 6 string squareneck bass project now). One thing to keep in mind is the more expensive, the lighter & easier to damage it is. On a whole, resonator instruments are somewhat fragile; even in a case, the cone can be crushed (caved in) if the instrument is dropped or falls on it's back (I expect there will be a post with a youtube video showing a resonator dropped off a cliff & surviving appearing shortly!).

    On my reso's that are going to be toured with or used primarily as an electric, I will install a heavier (thicker) cone.; you will sacrifice some of the volume, but it will be far more durable. Possibly even more important than the quality of the cone & spider is the set up; The spider needs to be leveled & sanded to make even contact on the cone with all of its legs. also the tension adjustment (the screw that is between the two bridge saddles) is very critical; it is very easy to over-tighten, which can crush the cone. Another factor is the surface that the cone sits on (the soundwell or ring); it needs to be flat and level as possible (I use a dremel mounted in a router base to do this). You also need as much of a breaking angle of the strings over the bridge as you can get; this has more to do with the angle of the neck set than anything else. Ideally, you want to get the strings as close as possible to the underside of the palmrest portion of the coverplate (the part that goes over the strings; If the palmrest on your coverplate has a slight downturn on the front (towards the neck), you can very carefully bend it up to keep the strings from hitting it when they vibrate. There is also a downward bend on the back (tailpiece) side of the palmrest that will not be an issue; make sure if you remove the coverplate that you re-install it correctly (an easy mistake; one side of the palmrest should have a bigger downward bend. that side goes toward the tailpiece.

    Please note that I never said piezos were a bad thing; I said that I have done a lot of work in matching piezos & magnetic pickups. The biggest thing is to make sure the impedance between the two types are close. This is usually done by some kind of buffer/preamp. You can use both types and use passive controls (I use either Vol./Vol./Tone or Vol./Blend/Tone), but to take full advantage of both types, Active is the best route (again just my opinion). A magnetic pickup will still replicate the sound of the resonator which is why I mentioned it if you are on a budget. You could also just use a piezo by itself; not my cup of tea, but that is my personal preference. It comes down to what your ears like. Tone is subjective; we all hear things different, what appeals to me may sound like crap to you and vice versa. Also, if you are going to go with active electronics, go ahead and install a battery box; having to take the strings off and remove the spider/cone assembly just to replace a battery sucks!

    There is a lot of piezos to choose from. Fishman makes a really good piezo for resonators it is pretty powerful (passive, it can be used with a preamp as well), though others may sound more natural; my beef with it is that it attaches to the spider/cone adjustment screw; you cannot make any adjustment to the cone without having to take the cone out and loosen the piezo first. McIntyre has one called the acoustic feather; it is more natural sounding, but it uses adhesive to attach to the cone itself; personally I don't want something to be attached to the vibrating potion of the cone (again, others will swear that it's the best... they may be right). I have had good results using L.R.Baggs products that are not actually intended for a resonator; I am a big fan of the I-Beam and Radius pickups. I attach them to the underside of the spider. I have also used Schatten's reso. pickup; I like it a lot.

    As for preamps; L.R. Baggs Control X works pretty good. I have also used Fishman and Bartolini products, I am currently using a preamp made by Schatten and it is my favorite (at the moment).

    Whew! That's about it for now... wait. One last thing... When it comes to body size, Bigger is not always better. The bass that I attached a pic of in my earlier post was a R&D instrument to try & get more volume and bottom end out of the instrument acoustically. It is 5 1/4" deep as opposed to the standard 3 1/4" depth of most Dobro-style resonator instruments. It actually did the exact opposite; acoustically, the open E string is slightly quieter than the others. Plugged in, I used a Bartolini magnetic pickup & buffer/preamp along with both a Fishman & an L.R. Baggs piezo (along with a switch to assign either or both) and it sounds incredible (to my ears). I use it instead of one my uprights when there are feedback prone situations (I play often at an old auditorium/theater that has wooden floors and it is a major pain to be able to make an upright loud enough to be heard & not howl like crazy).

    T-Bird; It's your turn; I'm sure that I've provide plenty of material for you to correct me on. :D

    Moonshine :bassist:
  13. moonshinegtrs

    moonshinegtrs Supporting Member

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    I know at least some of the better spiders that I have used are sand casted; I've thought about casting some for myself sometime...

    I also have a spider that was cnc'd from aircraft aluminum... Looks really cool, sounds like crap.

    Moonshine :bassist:
  14. bluebird28

    bluebird28

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  15. T-Bird

    T-Bird

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    Hi.

    First, an apology to the OP for the derail.
    Just a word and we'll take the discussion elsewhere.

    My intention definitely wasn't to win anything, the example I posted was just one that jumped up when browsing around Youtube videos about home-spun resonator cones.

    I thought it was hilarious.
    Apparently not :atoz:

    It was just to show that the size isn't really a concern on spun sheet metal.

    The limits of the sheet material available is really the only limit, spining (guiding) by hand doesn't require much power.
    That's why most of the old manual lathes spend their retirement years as metal spining lathes.

    What's available on the market is probably based on supply and demand.
    There possibly just isn't any demand for cones larger than the ~10" so no-one makes them commercially.

    That's no reason for a DIYer not to question as why is it so though ;).

    One possibility may be the labour intensiviness of spinning metal by hand, other the availability of the right alloy in reasonable sheets so the waste doesn't eat up the profit too much.

    In any case, I'd assume a 15" to cost at least three times the price of a 10", the 18" 5 times the cost of a 10".
    For small runs anyway.

    So not cheap by any means.



    I'm in no way qualified or even willing to correct You on anything, I just wanted to point out the somewhat hard to understand (for a BEng Mech. anyway) lack of larger cones in resonator instruments.

    And the (relative ;)) ease of making one.

    Any idea as why?

    I don't expect You to reveal all your secrets, but I for one wouldn't think that various dimensionally correct spiders made out of different materials or with different methods would have a drastic effect on the sound.

    Regards
    Sam
  16. tekhedd

    tekhedd

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    Well, it's playable and I've been experimenting a bit with pickups. Just a cheap magnetic really sounds good, but it would be nice to blend in just a bit more of the resonator tone. I am very much put off by Fishman's intrusive design. I think I may experiment next with some contact mics on the spider bridge as you suggested. Although I'm getting impatient--I have a gig that this instrument would fit perfectly with. :)

    I think this outlines my next stop. I'm considering going to a passive pickup/outboard preamp strategy, mainly for the modular nature.

    Thanks much for all of the advice, everyone.
  17. egd3hr

    egd3hr Supporting Member

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    Anybody had any experience with the Gold Tone resonator bass?

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