Used Resophonic Guitars
National: DUOLIAN(Item ID: DUOLIAN Serial#: C 1880)
1931 National Duolian (SN. C 1880)
Now, I was nineteen (not seventeen) when I learned the truth… that National guitars are magical. Indeed, my life was forever changed by the first National I ever played (a Delphi, which is very similar to a Duolian), as there is nothing that quite compares to the haunting tone of a resonator guitar! Thus, like so many other songwriters and guitarists before me, I owe much inspirational credit to my first National guitar.
In their early years, Nationals were definitely a luxury item, with top models exceeding the price of the fanciest Martin guitars. As the company grew, they invariably sought the embrace of the working class players, who were continually forced to balance their priorities, weighing good tone and performance against cost. As a result, many of the so-called iconic guitars are not so much the dream top models, but rather the more common models that players could afford. The National Duolian is just such a guitar. The simple steel body delivered a brighter, more primal tone than the bell brass or German silver bodies of top models. This is well-mated with the less refined voicing of the large single cone; however, the single cone contributes a unique openness that is both powerful and full, and that boasts more bass than a tri-cone. In short, the Duolian is a guitar that lives for honky tonks and blues joints rather than Hawaiian Tiki lounges.
This particular Duolian formerly belonged to the Grammy Award winning singer, Janis Ian, who wrote the hit “At Seventeen,” among many others. Evidently this guitar was used extensively on her album, Folk is the New Black, which was released in 2006 (she recently sold the guitar to help finance another project). One can understand the recording appeal of this particular Duolian, as it has a firm, focused, and well-resolved note foundation. This enhances clarity and sustain, thereby making the instrument less loose than some of its brethren, without sacrificing power and projection. No doubt Janis was simply another victim of the resonator charm, and was thus just another chapter in this guitar’s long life as a vehicle for creation. In the end, though it may have a somewhat ravaged face, and lack a little social grace, this old National is a truly beautiful guitar that will draw you in with its siren song. – L. Petsch, 2020
This Duolian has developed a well-worn patina that is quite alluring to many dwelling in the realm of vintage resonators. Is it collector clean? No. Does it exude the mojo of decades of dust, countless hours of play, and the primal channeling of soul? Yes! For its age, the somewhat innately delicate Frosted Duco finish is in pretty good shape, having worn in all the right places. The finish is completely gone around the edges and it is quite worn (if not worn through) on typical strumming and picking areas of the top, as well as wherever it might make contact with the body. We see patches of rusty oxidation where the arm rests, but we would not call this a rusted resonator! All in all, this is the good ‘ol fashioned “honest wear” that only comes from playing the hell out of a guitar that you love! Apart from some spots of buckle rash, the finish on the back is surprisingly intact with plenty of its original frostiness.
At some point in the past, a steel truss rod was added to this guitar. Though a strike against its originality, many would consider this to be a good move (for instance, there are plenty of these guitars out there with non-adjustable necks that have too much relief/bow!). We also note a neck heel crack repair and an unrelated open hole on the heel cap from a previous strap button installation. There are two small sections of slight side separation along the weld joint at the waist on both sides—upon close inspection, these do not pose a structural threat. The tuners appear to be original and are fully-functional, but they were curiously painted green long ago. The back of the neck has quite a lot of finish wear, but nothing overly distracting. As is often the case with all older guitars, this Duolian would benefit from having its neck re-angled. The action is presently right around current factory spec—thus, quite comfortable for both fretting and slide—but one presently has to feed the strings under the tailpiece to get a good angle over the bridge. Therefore, any subsequent lowering of the action will necessitate a neck re-set. The frets are in excellent shape and have a good deal of mass. We suspect that the case is original; but, if not, it is certainly of the period! While functional, the case does have a considerable amount of wear, including extensive separation of the vinyl covering on the back, so we would recommend a replacement case for anyone transporting the guitar regularly. GOOD+ to VERY GOOD Condition
• Steel body
• Frost Duco finish (green)
• Single Cone w/maple biscuit bridge
• Mahogany round/”Spanish” neck (12-frets clear of the body)
• Rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays
• Aftermarket truss rod installed
• Flat F-holes
• Original tuners (3-on-a-plate) with black buttons
• 1 11/16” nut width
• Low E clearance at 12th fret = 4/32”
• High E clearance at 12th fret = 5/64”
• Period case included (FAIR- condition) (used)
Click below to popup a larger image