since 1997, for all things resonator guitar

Resonator Roundup

The Care and Feeding of Your Resonator Guitar

The The Effects Of Heat And Humidity

by Howard Parker,

2001 All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission of

Its that time of the year again.

I'm referring, of course, to those temperature and humidity changes which cause resonator guitars to shake, rattle and roll...and buzz.

I suspect that the physics have to do with all the mechanical components of the guitar flexing. All that metal-on-metal putting a buzz on every note. Like an old fashioned dental drill making your head, well...resonate. Open wide now!

When the phenomenon occurs (and it will) there are a few tricks of the trade that the player can use to identify the source and effect a cure. You won't need to take it to your local repair guy, who's probably never seen a resonator guitar anyway.

Let's start by removing the guitar from its case and placing it on a nice wide workspace. Please place it on a towel or blanket and have (depending on your guitar) a small flat blade and/or phillips head screwdriver.

Lets start on the left with the peg head.

No! Let's start with the strings. When was the last time these puppies were changed? Windings on the second through sixth strings do not last forever. Let's change them. OK?

Check the tuners for sloppiness. The open tuners as used by Dobro(r) can loosen up. Just firm up the screw holding the star gear.

Check the nut now. Roughly half of the strings diameter should be resting in the groove. The rest should be exposed. Uneven heights will not allow the tone bar to rest evenly across all of the strings. The lower strings will vibrate against the bar. You can "dress" the nut if you feel qualified. If not, take it to your reso friendly luthier. Oh, if your nut is plastic, replace it.

Now, let us sight down the neck and check for even height at the saddle. It'll be time to replace those saddles if the strings are buried in the grooves. The third and forth strings should warrant special attention.

I'd suggest that all brave souls should consider removal of the cover plate, the cone/spider assemble and the strings and vacuum the guts of the guitar. This requires unstringing the guitar, but heck; we were going to replace them anyway, right?

The cover plate is removed by loosening the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock screws, then moving to the next position, loosening the opposites. I'd recommend not removing the screws until all are loose and the cover plate is flexed.

Unscrew the spider and clean the cone with a window cleaner or water. Loosely reattach the spider to the cone, put back in the guitar and loosely install the cover plate.

Before restringing the guitar check the tailpiece. The area is a common offender. The metal tailpiece will eventually make contact with the cover plate and will produce an annoying rattle. The cheap fix is to place a piece of fabric or leather under the tailpiece. This will cure this problem area for the life of the guitar.

Now let's string up the guitar. I'll usually install the first, second and sixth strings, placing enough tension so I can position the spider using a flat bladed screw driver through the cover plate at the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions. Make sure those legs are at right angle to the neck. Now it's time to replace the rest of the strings and firm up the cover plate using the same method used for removal. Please do not over torque the cover plate screws. Tighten to the point of resistance only.

Shall we firm up the spider now? Applying too much torque to the spider has ruined more days. Ask me how I know. Here is the trick.

Place a small, flat bladed screwdriver through the center hole in the cover plate and tighten the screw until you Just feel resistance. Tighten an additional one-quarter turn and leave it there.

Now, If you weren't confident enough to rip the guitar apart, but still want to check the common problem areas, you would want to check the spider position relative to the neck, spider torque on the cone and the cover plate torque on the guitar body.

There you have it. You've just made your annual spring adjustments and cured all those undesirable noises.

Now it's time to tweak up the gas grill!

Any questions? Drop me a note at or join me on the RESOGUIT email discussion list. Instructions at

See you next month!