Matt’s Collection


National Duolian 1935

Matt's Collection

In the 1920s, the guitar was looking for a way to gain volume and make itself heard in the big bands of the time: steel strings, bigger bodies... anything and everything to avoid being supplanted by the banjo, which could at least produce significant volume. Before the invention of amplification, which won the race for volume once and for all, a Californian luthier by the name of John Dopeyra had the ingenious idea of installing a resonator in the body of the guitar.

With this built-in speaker, the guitar gained power and produced a sharper, more aggressive sound. He set up the National brand with his partner George Beauchamp, a lap steel player who would play a colossal role in the electrification of the 1930s via Rickenbacker.

The agreement between the two men was short-lived: the first resonator guitar left their workshop in 1927, and in 1928 John Dopeyra founded the firm Dobro (a contraction of Dopeyra Brothers) with his brothers, but National continued to exist.

This Duolian was made by National, as evidenced by the beautiful logo on the headstock. The body is unadorned, free of all the decorative touches usually seen on these instruments, which makes it a rare model. Indeed, the format with 14 frets beyond the body was only introduced at the end of 1934 (before that 12 frets on the neck was the standard, which is necessarily more restrictive), and the openwork headstock was replaced with a solid one in 1936. This configuration of 14 open frets only existed for a few months, even if we could swear that all the Duolians were like that, such is the strength of the impression that this look made on guitarists and collectors.

The panel covering the resonator is made of bronze, hence the difference in colour that makes it stand out so clearly from the rest of the body. As is often the case with vintage guitars that were only produced on a small scale, it is far from common, but it has existed! And this unusual juxtaposition gives an even more rootsy and bayou-like appearance to this superb Duolian.

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