Choosing between Steel, Brass, Single or Tricone Mule Resophonic Guitars
As far as options go, Mule Resophonic keep it quite simple with what you can choose for your guitar. There's good reason for that, because when the recipe works as it is, why add too many ingredients?
The main two options to choose are between Steel or Brass for it's body construction. You'd have thought that the majority of the tonality of a Resonator guitar comes from it's cone, & you'd be right, but the bodies material has a very surprising effect. A Brass body provides a slightly softer sound, perhaps a little rounder compared with Steel's sharper tone which has a more traditional delta blues tone perhaps. Due to the steel bodies resonance, you'll also notice overtones from the Steel which add to the overall tone wonderfully well too. Neither the right or wrong choice, this is a totally personal, what suits your ear best.
Here's two great videos displaying the differences quite well indeed. Both of these models are Single Cone variants, which we'll talk about next.
Brass Single Cone
Steel Single Cone
Single or Tri-cone
The next main option is the type of resonator cone you favour. Both have characteristics that make them great, but both do sound noticeably different. I'm going to share videos here of the same body style, to show consistency, but of each cone style so you can hear the differences.
I'd best describe the difference between the two, as the Tri-cone is a little sweeter sounding, this may be because the three cones are much smaller than a single, larger cone. So that has an effect on how they vibrate and push out the tone. The Mule Tricone also sounds slightly different to that of other brands Tri-cone's as Matt Eich designs his to be fitted under a single cone cover. Why is that? Well back in the earlier days of National, they experimented with a tri-cone under single cone cover design, but phased the idea out. Matt re-addressed the idea and out came this absolutely beautiful sound, that became the staple to his tri-cone design and has stuck with it ever since There definitely is something different to the tone it creates, and the balance is superb and works very well with the sweeter tri-cone tone produced.
So let's hear them side by side.
Steel Bodied Tri-cone
Steel Bodied Single Cone
You'll notice a quite clear difference between the two here, again it is truly no right or wrong choice which one you choose. Perhaps think about your style of playing, music you play, and then re-address the videos with that in mind. It may help you find which would capture your sound and playing best. It's a fun part of the journey!
There are a small selection of other options to fine tweak your Mule, these include slot or flat, Martin style head-stock. This comparison can be seen in the first two videos of this blog post.
You can add an additional McNelly P90 Pickup, which Matt Eich and Tim McNelly worked together on to slightly tweak the design of Tim's P90 Soapbar, to better suit the tonality of a Resonator. Amplifying a Mule is a unique experience! You can simply use it to amplify the resonator sound incredibly well, Charlie Parr does this and when I chatted with him earlier this month, it turns out he rarely ever mic's up his own Mule Tri-cone, as the McNelly Pickup does such a good job of amplifying the resonator tone. Retaining the characteristics of a resonator, Something not many other pickups do well at all. Or you can stick some overdrive through it and have absolutely soaring slide lead tones! Here is a video of a square neck Mule which displays it acoustically first, then amplified.
You can also choose a cutaway, which I think looks stunning. You won't noticibly hear a difference tonally, but it does make access to those higher frets much easier.
If you're interested in reserving or order a Mule through us, it truly is our pleasure to help and it's an honor to be a UK Mule Resophonic dealer.
Look forward to speaking with you!