Affordable round-neck resonator guitars combine designs from multiple sources for great playability and gritty blues tone.
by Teja Gerken
November 11, 2014
Fender Musical Instruments has a vast pool of resources and no shortage of ideas. Cross-pollination between its various brands and manufacturing facilities clearly happens all the time, as evidenced by the company’s new Brown Derby and Top Hat resonator guitars. Imagine a Fender designer going to the Telecaster neck shelf, proceeding to the Dobro-style guitar-body bin, and finishing up with a National-style biscuit resonator setup. Of course it’s not quite that simple, but the instruments do include elements from each of these iconic guitars, resulting in a cool pair of affordable round-neck resonators.
With the exception of their colors, the Brown Derby and Top Hat are essentially the same. As with most resonator guitars, the bodies are made from laminated woods—maple for the top and mahogany for the back and sides. And while the neck has a Telecaster headstock, it’s made from mahogany, rather than the more typical maple. The neck, which has a relatively shallow C-shaped profile and 20 frets, has a standard acoustic guitar heel and is glued to the body. The guitars have Dobro-style, screen-covered soundholes in the top’s upper bout, but their biscuit-bridge resonators give them more of a National-style tonal vibe.
As you might expect from this combination of designs, the Brown Derby and Top Hat might ruffle a few purists’ feathers. But for other players, the guitars offer an approachable entry to resonator guitar sounds. Our sample guitars were set up with relatively low action and light-gauge strings, which made them play like standard guitars, though they still sounded great when I played them with a slide in open-G tuning. There was plenty of volume and single-cone grit, making them fun to play in both traditional blues styles and other genres.
SPECS: Round-neck resonator guitar. Laminated maple top. Laminated mahogany back and sides. Mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard. 25-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. Handspun Eastern European Continental cone with biscuit bridge. $349 list. fender.com
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Thanks for your comment. That tune is a little bit of Stefan Grossman's "Bermuda Triangle Exit." Glad you enjoyed it!
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