If you listen to blues and bluegrass music then you are probably familiar with the unique sound of Resophonic or Resonator guitars – Bukka White, Son House, Blind Boy Fuller, and Johnny Winter, to name but a few, have all used resonators for both slide and picking guitar styles. The unique sound of these guitars is produced by a spun metal cone or resonator rather than the usual wooden soundboard of a normal acoustic guitar. Resonators produce a sound so distinctive that they have become a unique and essential voice in the evolving fabric of blues music.
National & Dobro Resonators
Resonators come with either a square neck or a round neck and were originally designed to produce more volume than acoustic guitars for use in dance bands and orchestras prior to the advent of guitar amplification or in venues without electricity. More usually resonators adopt three configurations: tricone, single “biscuit” topped cone or the single inverted cone design of the Dobro brand.
Here is film of Bukka White, who was B.B. King’s second cousin, playing “Aberdeen Mississippi Blues” illustrating an aggressive, devastating, percussive, right hand, slap guitar style. Booker typically played a crossnote open E minor tuning featuring fourth finger slide on National Steel Guitars. He is reknowned for writing “Parchman Farm Blues” whilst serving time for assault at Parchman Farm the Mississippi State Penitentiary.
National String Instrument Corporation
In 1927 John Dopyera together with steel guitar player George Beauchamp formed the National String Instrument Corporation and began producing metal bodied guitars with three conical resonators and only twelve legendary Triolian wooden bodied resonators. In 1928 Dopyera left National to form the Dobro company specialising in a louder single cone guitar with an inverted cone. In 1932 Dopyera acquired National and formed the National Dobro Corporation – the rest is history.