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A Whole New World

Posted by FretlessinTexas on Saturday, February 27, 2010


It was a few months back  when a posting here on Banjo Hangout caught my eye: Here was a fellow, a clawhammer banjo player, who wanted to trade his nearly new National Triolian guitar for an open back banjo.

For some reason that is still unclear to me, I was the first one out of the gate and responded to him that I had some instruments to trade that he might find of interest. Having a stable of  open-back banjos, some of which I seldom played, I offered him two banjos for his National Triolian.

Much to the ire of my wife, I relied on the honor system and shipped the banjos off and waited. But I was confident that this gentleman, who I talked to on the phone, would either agree to the trade or ship my banjos back to me. 

When the resonator guitar arrived via UPS, I was like a kid on Christmas morn. For the first week, I just looked at it as the instrument had a beauty of its own. (See photo in my photo section.) But keep in mind that I had no idea how to play the darn thing. I mean, no idea. I didn't even know if it should be played on my lap or upright. I soon determined through some internet research that I owned a round-neck resonator and that it should be played upright or "Spanish style."

My first mistake was tuning it like a standard guitar, but I soon realized the error of my ways and tuned it into open G. When I did that, a whole new world opened up for me.

And when I tuned it into open G, I was suddenly familiar with the left hand fretting. Holy cow, this is just like a banjo. Of course, it wasn't just like a banjo, but it was close enough that I could immediately start picking out melodies.

But fingerpicks were totally foreign to me. As a clawhammer banjo player, I never needed them, never used them, never wanted to use them. When I went to the music store and bought metal finger picks, it took me a few days to realize that I was wearing them backwards. I had a tendency to want to frail or clawhammer the resonator guitar with fingerpicks worn backwards. Let me tell you that was not such a good sound.

Finally, it dawned on me that I was wearing the fingerpicks wrong. But I still wasn't used to using a three-finger style of playing. I was a babe in the woods.

But slowly, I started to use a thumb lead in picking out the melody and using other two fingers. And I was having a ball. I mean, this resonator guitar was addicting. At one point, my wife asked, "So are you not going to play the banjo anymore?"

Now rest assured, friends, that I will always be a clawhammer banjo playe and true to old-time music. I just love those old fiddle tunes. Indeed, I travel in old-time music circles and the banjo is the instrument that I play. And I am uncertain if the resonator guitar, with its volume, would ever work in old-time circles. It might or might not. I will have to experiment on that with willing and tolerant friends. LOL.

But I am playing principally old-time fiddle tunes on my newly acquired resonator guitar, and like I said, having a ball. I have yet to get the hang of using slides, but I'm happy with the progress made to date.

So there you have it. I will always be a banjo player, but a whole new world opened up to me with another instrument. Now who would have thunk that? All I got to do is stay away from that fiddle that is sitting in the closet.

PS. If anyone wants me to send them some mp3s of me playing resonator guitar in an old-time style, well, I'll be glad to.

Click for Large Version


4 comments on “A Whole New World”

Paula_DHJ Says:
Saturday, February 27, 2010 @11:00:38 AM

Wow, that is a real beauty Dean. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

strumn1 Says:
Sunday, February 28, 2010 @5:20:22 AM

Yeah Dean, please send me some sound clips. Maybe it will spur some interest in my round neck Dobro that just sits in it's case in my closet. I put a raised nut on it and tried to play it on my lap with little success.

ironworker Says:
Friday, March 5, 2010 @2:27:02 PM

awesome story,dean- hope to meet up for tunes, or at least more stories

michael ford

Tom Berghan Says:
Saturday, March 6, 2010 @2:21:15 AM

I play a National guitar too! Please send me your MP3s Dean.
I look forward to hearing them! Best Wishes, Tom

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