National Style 1 Tricone Squareneck Resophonic Guitar (1929)

National  Style 1 Tricone Squareneck Resophonic Guitar  (1929)
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Item # 8371
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National Style 1 Tricone Squareneck Model Resophonic Guitar (1929), made in Los Angeles, California, serial # 1229, nickel plated finish, German silver body, mahogany headstock, ebony fingerboard, black chipboard case.

This Style 1 Tricone is a wonderful Hawaiian-style National, the premier instrument of its type in 1929 -- some would say ever! The National Tricone is generally considered the best-sounding of all acoustic Hawaiian guitars, and this is an excellent example. Built just as the 1920s Jazz Age party was about to come crashing down, this instrument remains the "state of the art" for acoustic steel playing.

The Tricone Design, as its name implies, used 3 small spun aluminum cones to amplify the strings, set inside a hollow metal body of "German silver" alloy. This mellows the attack and adds sustain, creating a uniquely ethereal sound. The Tricone was a product of a collaboration between inventor John Dopyera and Hawaiian guitarist George Beauchamp, who wanted a louder instrument for the vaudeville stage than existing wooden guitars. The project came out so well that in 1927 they attracted investors and went into production, with four styles of Tricone resonators ranging from a plain deco Style 1 with no body decoration through the elaborately engraved Style 4.

The Style 1 Tricone was the basic model of the first line of resonator instruments made by National, the least expensive guitar the company offered from 1927-29. Even so it was still one of the priciest guitars in the world, tagged at $125, more than enough to buy a contemporary pearl-top Martin. The plain Style 1 has all the same features as the more expensive Styles 2, 3, and 4, just lacking the fancy decorative engraving on the body and a few decorative touches. Some feel the Deco aesthetic is most perfectly embodied in these unadorned Style 1 German silver instruments.

The ultra-modern resophonic guitars would continue to be built until WWII, but only in very small numbers as the great bulk of National's production from 1930 on would be the far cheaper single cone instruments, and eventually those new-fangled electrics by later in the decade.

The Tricones were forgotten for many years after, until the blues revival of the 1960s brought a new interest to the old resonator designs. The striking silver deco look of the Style 1 is in many ways the purest form of the National concept, and looks modern even today. The guitar plays perfectly and has the smooth deep Tricone sound, fabulous for both the original Hawaiian style or other 6-string steel guitar playing.
Overall length is 38 3/4 in. (98.4 cm.), 14 1/8 in. (35.9 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 in. (7.6 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 25 in. (635 mm.). Width of nut is 2 in. (51 mm.).

This is a nicely unaltered Tricone with some light wear -- mostly minor corrosion to the plating -- and a few small dents. Everything including the cones, the 3-point saddle unit, fluted tailpiece, and engraved Waverly tuners remain original down to the last screw. As far as we can see the guitar seems to have never had any repair or alteration in nearly 90 years. Even the fragile headstock decal has suffered only a couple of small chips. As nice a Hawaiian Tricone as we have had in some time; great-looking and fabulous-sounding. Excellent Condition.