Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fender FR-48 Resonator

Haven't you always, maybe secretly, wanted an old 1931 National Duolian that you can sit out on the porch and play old time blues on? What if you can't afford the three grand for an old (or new for that matter) National but you still want to at least try to play some old swampy music? What I did was find myself a nice, used Fender chrome resonator for about $250. It took me awhile, but I finally came across one in my price range and scooped it up. It didn't have a case, but the guitar was in excellent condition.

These things weigh a ton...I don't recommend taking them on a long mountain hike just so you can strum Rocky Mountain High in drop D tuning. Being Fender, they couldn't help using the script "F" logo for the F-holes, which makes them very obviously what they are. The first time I saw this, being a graphic designer who does a lot of marketing, I thought, "What a great idea!" The more I have seen them though, I have to admit I am less excited about the idea. The neck felt very good and the guitar was very playable.

But what about sound? I had played some of the wood body Fender resonators over in one of those odd cedar rooms at Guitar Center they call the acoustic room. You know the one...there's always two high school kids sitting around the center post actually playing songs together...usually an acoustic version of Staind or something.

There is another older guy sitting in the "high end" room playing the opening riff of the Beatles'
Blackbird over and over.

They have some Ovations and Ibanez acoustics in the main area and one token Applause mandolin, two acoustic basses, a messed up banjo and...a Fender resonator. Go to Guitar Center today and check it out and see if I'm right. Anyway, I've played the wood bodies and they sound pretty bad. Thin and weak and no volume. But the metal bodies sound pretty decent for the money. They are what they are...better than a Dean, but not as good as a National.

Like I said, this one came without a case, so I took a cheap chipboard case and decided to try to make my own case with a little mojo. I went to a fabric store and bought some purple fur and a glue gun. I carefully cut out the fur to fit and started hot-gluing it in. Getting the lid to close was a little tricky and I had to go back and do a little surgery on the fur, but all in all it came out good and funky...just like I wanted. I gathered up all the stickers I could find and put them all over the outside of the case and it looked just like something that had been sitting around for a good long time.

I wanted to use this guitar at gigs...I have a handful of bluesy/country songs in alternate tunings that this guitar sounded great on. However, I just didn't want to get into miking the guitar and I didn't want to spend the money and do the surgery required to put a pick-up in a resonator. So, as usually happens with me, I lost a little interest and wasn't playing it all that much. I thought it would be a good one to just hang onto and pull out for little jam sessions, but eventually I always start looking for ways to come up with a few hundred bucks for something else. So, like most (but certainly not all) of my guitars, it went up for sale online. I actually sold it for $350, which not only covered the price I paid for it, the crappy case, the purple fur and the priceless mojo I injected into also made me just a little extra profit.

Now and then, when I head over to Buffalo Brothers, I mozy on over to the resonator section and pick up an old National or a Beard and I think about the affordable Fender I used to have. Man, I wish I had that one back.


Anonymous said...

I bought mine 3 years ago, loved it for a year, then tried despirately to unload it for my next guitar-buying fix. Couldn't move it, so I figured, it was meant to be mine. Put a Lace sensor pickup at the neck, and it is MAJIC! I will be buried with it.

Anonymous said...

Ditto. All things happen for a reason. The Lace sensor does add a new dimension.

Anonymous said...

I love mine,it had me going nutd for awhile till I took it to a pro whos big thing is resno's,I picked it up and holy cow. I have had times when I was gonna sell it then it sang and I just could not do it. This Lace pick up is gotten my attention. Any work ups,tips,which one ?

McFly said...

A friend brought me one from Europe 3 years ago (i'm in Brazil and we don't have anything like it here). I wanted to go electric, so I searched a lot for good pickup options. Found that many guys prefer the magnetic ones (like the Lace) for their tone, but I wanted just a true acoustic feeling and sound. I ended ordering a Schatten transducer pickup last christmas and got exactly what I wanted -- just the clear sound of my reso louder. Still in love with it. Just posted a video of me playing it:

Anonymous said...

I bought one today after it was hanging in a local guitar shop here in Madison. Tuned it up and played the Hot Tuna "Water Song". It was like spotting a cute puppy in a dog pound and it obviously needed a good home. Done!

I was tinkering with Rogues and a Blair with mixed results. Thi

- William C. Francis said...

I found my FR48 more than 10 years ago in a music shop in Downtown Disney. There was a wooden model next to it. I tried them both. The wood may have had the muddiest sound I have ever heard from any acoustic. But the Steel Body sang to me with a true resonator sound, "just like ringing a bell". Have not regretted this purchase, ever. Right now I have started an experiment by tuning down to B to B tuning. I generally use bronze medium strings, and although a little sensitive to tuning two and a half tones lower, it works better than I expected. I wonder if anyone else have made this experiment, perhaps with heavier strings, possibly even those marketed as baritone sets.