Hi! I've finally got around to buying three brand new Continental cones for my '92 Continental Tricone. As good as I think this guitar sounds, I've always suspected it lacked a little sparkle at the top end and have always wondered if the folk at AMI had nailed the black art of cone spinning in the earliest days. In a conversation we had about his newly acquired early Conti' Tricone, Fred C came to the same conclusion, changed his for new ones and was happy with the result. Looking forward to getting mine fitted and hoping for a similar result! And(finally) to my point.....
Paul Beard certainly tap tones' all the cones he spins in order to hive of the best ones for his best guitars. I also seem to remember a story of when the National company were building the famous 'Harry' Tricone, they 'selected' the cones that went into it. As it happens, I have 4 different cones to choose from. Two of them tap at about the same pitch, one taps lower and the other taps higher.
Has anyone out there any experience experimenting with cones in this matter. IE. Which would be better, three cones tap pitched the same or all three tapping at different pitches. I'm thinking it may be the latter which gives a good Tricone that 'choral' sound but I'm more than interested if anyone has any other opinions on the subject.
Other than getting a steel drum tuner to "tune" the cones to specific intervals It's mix and match till you get a "voice" you like. I think this would be legitimate rationale for at least a quadrupling of cone budgets I have a beard guitar and it does have a distinctive voice.
One thing to consider is the acoustic loading of a cone mounted in a guitar. It may have its resonant frequencys dampened... Or sustained by the air it has to push. From what I understand Part of Paul Beards approach in some of his guitars are tunable ports in the sound well.
Post by Michael Messer on Jan 6, 2018 10:50:07 GMT
This subject of tuning cones is somewhat hit and miss and while cone makers do claim they can tell a good one by tapping it like a cymbal, there is only some truth in the fact that they can pick a really good one. I would really need Mike Lewis to take this any further because he spins cones and I don’t. Spinning cones is unquestionably a black art that requires experience and feel.
Chris, the point you have raised about the ‘Harry’, which was my guitar at the time this myth was created, is not based on any facts at all and I am not sure how anyone other than the people directly involved in the conversation are aware of it. It is interesting how stories travel through time and how a few words in a conversation can become historical facts.
Harry first came into my possession in 1991. Apart from it being it being the most anyone had paid up until then for a National guitar, and the most incredible sounding Triplate anyone had heard, it got us all very excited and conversations between myself, Bob Brozman, Mark Makin and Mike Lewis, about how it was made, went on for a few years! It was Bob who said that he thought the instrument was so perfect that the manufacturers must have understood how to match certain components together, especially the cones. This was not based on anything other than total fantasy and guesswork. Up until then, nobody had ever considered the idea of the manufacturers in the 20s and 30s being aware of which components were good and that they may have been able to match sets of cones for Triplates. Personally, I don’t believe that the National factory in the 20s and 30s did have this knowledge, because if they did they would have used it on other instruments. I believe that the Harry was just very well and carefully built. We used to joke about it in the early 90s when people asked about the Harry and why it was so good, we would say…”Well, when you build a leaving present for the factory’s quality controller, you’re not going to build him a bad one are you!” ….for those that don’t know, the Harry Triplate was built as a leaving present for Harry Watson (National factory superintendent / quality controller) in 1931. Harry Watson stayed in the guitar industry and along with his friend, Paul Barth, they built the first frying pan guitar for Adolph Rickenbacher. This was arguably the first electric guitar.
Over the eight years that I owned and played the Harry, and for a couple of decades since we parted company, I have often thought about this and why it sounds so good. I believe that much of its incredible tone is down to luck and to the way it mellowed over the six decades before I owned it. This is much like storing wine, and I believe that the conditions the guitar was stored in for much of those 60 years has a lot to do with its tone. For a start, the walnut neck was not something that was on any other Triplates. Then there is the nut raiser (Harry is a round neck guitar), which changes the angle of the strings and therefore affects the pressure on the cones. When I got the Harry it only had two strings on it and both were tuned quite high and tight, these were very tarnished and had seriously corroded, they were bright green. The guitar had not been properly strung or tuned for decades and had lived in its case in a couple of attics, maybe since Harry died. There was also a bone bridge saddle, which was obviously what they chose at the time, but it did somewhat choke the sound and stop the cones from ringing. I think that when I got the guitar and changed the saddle and put a set of strings on it, that it was much like opening a bottle of ancient wine that had been stored in perfect conditions. So while it is romantic to continue a story that Harry’s cones were hand-picked for that guitar, I do not believe that was the case at all.
Back to the original point, to take this conversation any further I would need to talk to Mike Lewis, which I will do in due course.
Hi Michael! As Bonzo said, great back story and thank you for that. I was aware that you owned the 'Harry' guitar and remember some backward and forward between you and Bob B on the subject on this forum. I think you are right, it was Bob who speculated about cones being 'selected' for this guitar. As non of us were there when the guitar was built or, I assume, we have no verbatum account, we can't do any more than speculate and I don't think there is any thing wrong with that is there? I was not presuming this was a fact which is why I described it as a 'story' I had heard and it was just my way of posing a question to those with greater knowledge and experience.
I by no means wish this to be taken as being confrontational but I have to say I am suprised to hear you say you don't think there was this level of knowledge with at least a few people at the National company. As a company with production pressures like any other, I think it would have been far too much of a stretch to be swapping out cones and experimenting on a production line to get the best sound out of every Tricone. But if you have the time and wanted to go to the nth degree with the finer details, well perhaps it may bear even sweeter fruit. I must say that even with my limited experience with Resonators, I've found that care with small details produces great results.
Mike Lewis's opinion on the subject would be wondeful as we know from his own stated experience, spinning a cone shaped object is not enough. Spinning produces work hardening in the aluminium and changes the tension and rigidity giving a higher, more bell like tone than a cone that is just stamped out. Learning to impart the right amount of pressure against the mandrel to produce the 'right' tone is the art, so I would be facinated to hear from this learned artist!
Again, I hope you don't find any of this confrontational or peddling fantasy, I just have an Aspergian interest in absorbing information and fine detail, especially through speculative and theoretical conversations with the wise.
Not in any way at all do I find it confrontational. I actually find it very interesting, because it makes me dig back into my memories and thoughts about all this stuff. Writing it down is good.
The reason said what I did about the three cones in the Harry probably being more luck than judgement, was because there isn’t another Triplate with a tone like that guitar has. If they knew how to do it they’d have made others as good. I can name a few incredible sounding Triplates, but none are like the Harry. That is not me being a romantic or looking at Harry ‘through rose tinted glasses’. It is a known fact among the collectors, makers and researchers, that the Harry is arguably, or probably, the finest sounding round neck Triplate in existence. You have to understand its impact on the community at the time, and the insane amounts of money and guitars that Brozman offered me in exchange for the Harry. Eventually, a few years after I bought it, we fell out over this guitar. The dealer whose hands it passed through on its way to me, that called me to come and check out a rather interesting Style 2 National, has never forgiven me for not telling him what he was holding when I went and saw it.
While I do of course know that those guys at National were amazing craftsmen with an unbelievable understanding of their subject, I do also believe that much of the true wonderfulness of vintage Nationals is due to their age and what effect that has on an instrument as a whole. I can see that happening now with my two Fine Resophonic guitars that are both heading for 20 years old. They have always sounded beautiful and had a lovely feel to them, but recently that has gone up a few notches and they are becoming even better instruments than they were. Sweeter, warmer, louder, more character, more everything. Nothing, apart from time can do that to a musical instrument. We know this about vintage musical instruments, Stradivarius violins for example. However, one of the interesting things about getting older and having owned the guitars from new, is actually seeing the process happen. They have to be great guitars when they are built, but that process of ageing is a major part of the magic. All these years later and all the dozens of Triplates that I have played, I really do believe that the Harry’s tone is as much a result of it being used and stored in perfect conditions, as it’s beautiful craftsmanship when it it was built.
Hi! I can experiment and figure out alot of stuff in my head but there is no substitute for time and experience so thank you for your insight. I'm sure I'm not alone in finding the views and opinions of the deeply immersed in this world, such as yourself, facinating. Cheers!
Another gong for the back story. What is missing (at least for me) is why anyone would part with such a tremendously revered instrument, especially when its unique qualities were so widely recognised at the time.
I have never forgotten trading in my 1960s AC30, but I hardly think that compares but these things do happen. Rather than pry on what may have been a personal decision, I just wonder whether like me with my Vox, any regret exists at passing it on?
Post by Michael Messer on Jan 7, 2018 10:51:29 GMT
Stevie, I would have thought the answer to your question about why I sold it, was obvious.
I loved playing that guitar and I did so every day for seven years, but it became too valuable to use as a musical instrument, and I have no interest in owning guitars that I do not play for one reason or another. At the time, as a working musician with two young children, I could no longer justify owning it.
Of course I would have liked to have kept it, but since then I have had a 20 year relationship with my Fine Resophonic guitars. They were built for me by a dear friend and have now been part of my life for a long time. They mean more to me than any vintage National guitar, whatever its value.
I believe that Alfred Lord Tennyson may have owned a similar guitar, because his words are spot on... "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"
Stop it Michael I'm welling up! Lol. It all adds to the story of guitars and their almost independent lives. The Harry was with you when you needed him musically, and went on his way helping you bring up a young family. In human terms that would describe a friend. Best wishes, John