Instruments & Gear: New Gear

National Reso-Phonic El Trovador Cutaway

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Mike Dowling demonstrates the latest version of the wood-body National he helped resurrect.

by Teja Gerken
January 30, 2017

The National El Trovador is a wood-body resonator guitar that was built by the original National company for a short period between 1932 and 1933. The current National Reso-Phonic Guitar company reintroduced the El Trovador several years ago on the suggestion of guitarist Mike Dowling, who provided a vintage specimen as a sample. With its four-inch deep, all-mahogany body and single-cone biscuit-style resonator, the guitar has a deep, complex sound, which has helped it become one of National’s most popular models.

At this year’s NAMM show, National showed a new version of the guitar, the El Trovador Cutaway. Like standard El Trovadors, the new model has a long 25²¹/₃₂-inch scale and a wooden soundwell that holds the resonator. To accommodate the cutaway, the instrument has a single, slightly oversized f-hole in the bass side of the upper bout, rather than the two f-holes used on the standard model.

Once again, Mike Dowling was instrumental in the design of the new model, and in this video, he demonstrates one of the first production models, which is now one of his touring instruments. Mike’s guitar is outfitted with the National Hot-Plate pickup system, which he designed and which includes a single-coil Lollar pickup, volume and tone controls, and an output jack mounted to a modified coverplate. In this video, Mike talks about the background of the new model and his preference for .012-gauge nickel-wound Elixir strings, and plays his instrumental “Tracks.” Players interested in obtaining an El Trovador set up like Mike’s can contact him via his website at

SPECS: Resophonic cutaway guitar. Mahogany top, back, sides, and neck. Ebony fingerboard. Single 9.5-inch resonator with biscuit bridge. 25²¹/₃₂-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width.

For a demo of Mike’s standard National El Trovador and ResoRocket N guitars, see Peghead Nation’s demo here. To learn the Mississippi John Hurt classic “Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me” taught by Mike, enroll in Peghead Nation's Advanced Fingerstyle Workshop.

Category: Instruments & Gear

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