What drew you to the resonator?
I was in a band down in Vancouver playing
electric swing and I was offered a chance
to join a bluegrass band, but I didn’t have
a resonator guitar. I was working at Larrivee
Guitars at the time—with my current building
partner Jason Friesen—and we just thought,
“Why go buy a resonator when we’ve built
so many guitars with Jean Larrivee?” So, we
built our first resonator guitar and it was well
received, so we kept building them.
What influences from other resonator gui-
tars can be found in your shop’s work?
I think Tim Scheerhorn’s name will come up
a lot. As far as resonator guitars, he brought
it to a whole other level with the selection of
his materials, level of craftsmanship, and the
overall sound of his instruments.
I noticed on your site that you use
Scheerhorn designed cones. Are there any
other Scheerhorn parts you use?
We tried out the cones first on my personal
instrument—as I do with all new parts and
ideas—as I’m familiar with how that guitar
sounds, and how the changes affect its tone.
I tried the Scheerhorn cone, and it had a
warm, direct punch with an emphasized mids
and not washy, but clean lows. We also use
a Scheerhorn coverplate because it offers a
removable palm rest, which is nice for allowing a clean access to the saddles for repairs
Why do you use nut-serts with stainless
steel bolts to fasten the coverplate?
Is this an industry standard?
It’s not an industry standard, but there are
some other guys out there doing it, like Paul
Beard. The reason we do this is because it’s
a little knurled insert into the wood, and
as you screw in the stainless steel bolt, it
spreads that knurl into the wood and it just
wedges itself in there. You get a really nice
seal on the coverplate to the body and you
don’t have to worry about stripping the
screw holes when cleaning or adjusting the
Are the tonewoods used on your
resonators similar to tonewoods we
associate with acoustics?
One thing that has to be said about the
resonator guitar is that it’s not like an
acoustic, where the wood is built lightly
to resonate, so when you strum a chord
the whole thing vibrates and you get that
woody tone. The sound generator in a
resonator guitar is the resonator, so you
want to build something that allows the
resonator to speak its best. The most
important thing about the tonewoods used
on a resonator guitar is the deflective characters—how readily it kicks back the tone
that’s produced inside the cavity.
What does the arched-back
option offer players?
The back is thin, like a typical acoustic
guitar. Our first model that came out had
a 3/16" back and top with parallel sides,
so it was a really sturdy guitar. We decided
to thin down the backs and arch them, just
like an acoustic. From the back and profile
shot of our guitars, they look like traditional acoustics—and the reason for that
was to use the soundpost to activate the
back to produce a tone.
Do you guys offer any particular brand of
pickups for your guitars?
Because the sound of the resonator is so
complex—it’s produced in two different
areas—the projection of the aluminum
cone out of the front and the body cavity
as well, a good well-placed mic is often
preferred. When a mic is not an option, we
have been putting in Schertler BASIK pickups co-designed with Tim Scheerhorn. It’s a
nice, warm-sounding pickup and represents
the complex sound of the resonator quite
nicely. We often discuss pickup options with
our roundneck customers depending on the
desired resulting tone.
How far are you willing to let customers
design and customize their guitars?
Our key focus is to build something that
people will be happy playing for a long
time, so within certain parameters, we’ll
listen to their ideas and recommend different woods, parts and setups. We both
really enjoy working with our customers.
Ultimately, our name is on the guitar, so it
has to be something both the customer and
we can appreciate and stand by.
Why should someone turn to Rayco
for a resonator guitar?
Our sound is very unique and distinct,
which goes back to how we set our braces
that produce those midrange tones. Resos
have inherent highs and lows—produced
off the back of the cone—but it’s important
to have those mids, which cut through the
mix. With the strong mid-presence, our guitars are naturally very loud.
Who are some professional
players using your guitars?
We have Chad Jeffers [Carrie Underwood],
Chad Graves [Valerie Smith and Liberty
Pike], Todd Livingston [Ralph Stanley II],
Randy Kohrs, Sally Van Meter, Keith Scott
(Bryan Adams), David Lafleur and Jerry
What’s your building philosophy?
Jason and I are very thankful to have worked
with Jean Larrivee, because we learned that
it’s important to pay attention to the quality of materials and parts. In addition, we
always have to make sure that our level of
craftsmanship is impeccable. We always try
to push and challenge each other, and not
settle for mediocrity.
Master Grade Koa-bodied resonator