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    This is just some fingerpicking on that old National Style-O. The guitar is tuned to open g.

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    What can be nicer than one of those wonderful old National resophonic guitars like the Style-0? The answer is, of course, two of these! My friend Thomas brought his 1932 Style-O along for a photo session. And what a wonderful guitar this is – shiny and sparkling like one of the new reissues but real vintage, almost 80 years old. The pictures from the photo session show the guitar from all sides, and some in contrast to my battered-looking 1936 Style-O.

    1932 National Style-0

    1932 (above) - 1936 (below)

    Differences

    The National Style-0 from the early 30ies have a different, longer body shape. The body joins the neck at the 12th fret, while from the mid-30ies on the joint was near the 14th fret. For this reason the body was slightly larger, and thus has more volume. In fact Thomas’ National sounds deeper and has more low end than the 1936, however, you never know in how far the sound difference is caused by other aspects. One is that on his 1932 the resonator rests on a ring of thin rubber foil. This was done by a luthier some time ago to remedy buzz from the resonator.

    Both guitars differ a lot in detail, e.g. different resonator covers, different logos, different headstocks, etc. The pictures might tell more than many words here.

    Different body shape: 1936 (left), 1932 (right)

    The 1932 has a flat fingerboard while the 1936 is curved. Both have the original frets, but in case of the 1932 these are heavily worn, especially in the middle of the frets so that the frets appear almost concave which makes it unpleasant to fret certain chords. The 1936 has an extremely fat neck, the Shubb capo can be used only up to to the 5th fret and does not fit anymore beyond this point.

    Headstock shape: closed (1936, left) and slotted (1932, right)

     

    Both have the Hawaiian scene with a volcano, a canoe and the palm trees on the back, but both are different. National used many different variations over the years.

     

    Hawaiian scene: 1936 left, 1932 right

    Resonator (1932)

    Resonator (1936)

    Video

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    This week was again a rather busy one, so not much time for the next article. All I have is a video of me playing Romeo and Juliet on that National Style-O (read style-“Oh”, the letter not the number, see this article for some detail pictures of this guitar), but there are no instructions or explanation. If you want you can check it out nevertheless, see below.

    This guitar is really nice. I had a steel-body Dobro before I got this one, it was the closest thing you could get in the late 80ies but it was nothing compared to the real thing. It is everything but easy to play, the neck is really huge, and you need a lot of left-hand pressure. It has many dings and dents, and the finish has been totally worn on some places. It is in much worse condition compared to Knopfler’s, and for this reason is not as valuable as his, actually it was comparingly cheap, less than one of those new Nationals.

    With exception of the plastic tuner pegs it is all original. Unfortunately the resonator had some cracks and tiny rips. I prefered to fix these with clear super-glue or tiny pieces of adhesive tape, instead of replacing the resonator. The sound on the video is recorded by the camera so it is not the best quality, and without a/b comparision it is probably difficult to judge, but everyone who played it liked it.

    Here is the video in youtube high-quality, if your internet connection is not fast enough, click here to watch it directly on youtube in standard quality. Unfortunately my high-quality videos have some sound artefacts (which the file I uploaded doesn’t have), no idea why (any help or suggestions are appreciated), it seems youtube uses some denoising algorithm that causes this.

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    One of Mark Knopfler’s most famous guitars is surely his National Style-O (read “style – oh”). This is the guitar on the cover of Brothers in Arms.

    AFAIK he bought this guitar from his buddy Steve Phillips long before Dire Straits, it was his second National (the first was a Tricone from the late 20ies which he bought from an old man in Wales).

    What makes a National unique is not only the metal body but the resonator – something like a mechanical loudspeaker so to say. The first National appeared in the 1920ies, at a time long before electric amplifiers were used for guitars. The resonator increases the volume of the guitar so that it was ideal for street musicians or everyone who had to compete with other instruments in a band. More general info on resonator guitars be found in the Wikipedia article.

    In this post I want to present some detail photos of a National, a 1936 model that is very similar to Mark Knopfler’s – which seems to be probably from about 1937 to me.

    This guitar sounds fantastic. I had a metal Dobro guitar which I bought in the late 80ies, thinking that all metal resonator guitars should sound pretty much identical (and there was only Dobro who produced them at that time). When I first heard this guitar however, I immediately decided to sell the Dobro because it sounded miles away from this one.

    The body is brass (some other Nationals like the Duolians were steel), and the neck might be mahogany (not sure). The neck is extremely fat. It has a V-shape with such a depth that many capos (e.g. my favourite the Shubb capo) do not open wide enough to be used here.

    The fingerboard is slightly curved what I prefer over the flat ones that were common a few years before.

    But now enjoy the slide show with a lot of pictures. I will report about some other details of this guitar (including pictures of the interior) in a future article.

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