The Resonator Guitars


The Dobro
During the 1920s, George Beauchamp, a Los Angeles guitarist, took his vision of a mechanically amplified guitar that could stand up to the loudness of the banjo to John and Rudy Dopyer, two Slovakian immigrants who had already patented several improvements for banjos. In 1927, John Dopyera perfected a design utilizing three aluminum cones, and his brother Rudy suggested a metal body to enhance amplification, and the National tri-cone resonator guitar was born. Following that, John Dopyera began developing a more affordable woodbody guitar with a single cone, and in 1928 he introduced his new invention under the name DOBRO® -- a combination of DOpyera and the BROthers. Their resonator guitars were initially well-received, and many were produced throughout the next several decades, until after the 2nd World War when their mass production gave way to the emergence of the electric guitar. However, the Dobro and its unique acoustic character remained prevalent in much of country, acoustic blues and bluegrass music over the next 50 years and the instruments were made and sold by the Dopyera family members under the name of the Original Musical Instrument Co. Finally, in 1993, Gibson acquired O.M.I. and brought together all the best qualities of the original wood body and metal body resonator instruments. Whether the music is blues, Hawaiian, country, or bluegrass, DOBRO® guitars have the "twang" sound that sets them apart from all other acoustic instruments in folk music. Often tuned to an open major chord, such as G major, the 6-string Dobro is laid horizontally on the lap, the fingers of the right hand pluck the different strings while the left hand slides up and down the neck using a solid bar to create the unique sliding sound. The resonator feature of the Dobro produces a natural brilliant amplification that stands comfortably above the rest of the band.

The Weissenborn Guitar

The Weissenborn resonator guitar, otherwise called a Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and also known by the name "kona" guitar to the avid guitar collector, is the grandfather of the modern Dobro. With its raised string action for slide playing , and its hollow neck contiguous with the instruments body, these guitars captivated many a folk musician during the early part of the 20th Century. This style guitar was conceived and built in the early 20th Century by a German piano and violin maker, Hermann C. Weissenborn, who immigrated to America in 1902 and who lived in Los Angeles. Inspired by the boom in Hawaiian music in America created by the Hawaiian music exposition at the 1918 San Francisco World's Fair, Weissenborn began to hand make these captivating guitars. Unlike typical Spanish-neck guitars used for lap playing with a steel slide, the Weissenborn guitars, with their hollow-neck and unibody koa wood construction, offered much more volume and sustain. Due to their sweet timbre, expressive tone, eye catching design and the haunting sound of the koa wood, these guitars were an instant hit among folk musicians and stayed in demand only until the advent of the Dobro and the death of their creator in 1937. Thus, Weissenborn-style guitars had not been made for 60 years, but thanks to recent national masters of the Dobro, such as Jerry Douglas, these guitars are seeing a resurgence of interest among musicians. They can be used for virtually any musical style from folk, country, rock, gospel, Hawaiian, and blues. Prices for the rare originals have skyrocketed, but fortunately several of today's guitar makers (for example, Bear Creek Guitars in Maui and David Dart Guitars in Los Angeles) are manufacturing quality reproductions. The website of captured these comments about the Weissenborn:

"You are drawn to this instrument in a strange but beautiful way when you first experience its haunting and beautiful sound. There is no other style guitar that sounds like it, and it mysteriously allows your inner thoughts to be so satisfyingly expressed so warmly in music. Once you begin playing this instrument, you will find an escape into your own world of musical dreams and creativity and you will find it very difficult to return, as you continually hear its remarkable sound."

"These instruments have magical qualities of sound, both bass and treble, with amazing sustain."

"The Weissenborn has the gift of human vocal quality; a richness that captures both sweetness and edge. Under capable hands, it will give your music a life that speaks of emotions and colors, experiences and journeys - this is what happens to me every time I play a Weissenborn."

"It is the greatest sounding acoustic instrument ever made. It is very expressive and it says something new to me everyday. Every time I pick it up it sings something new."

"The Weissenborn is the sound that is in me. Nothing else can channel the spirit of my music."