About Don

 

                                   President  and C.E.O. of the world wide Donmo Corp.




I started my musical career as a harmonica player at high school. My first band, The Mecca Powerhouse Five featured amongst other things, washtub bass, washboard, and the “Drainola”, a piece of plastic drain pipe played via a trombone mouthpiece. The bloke who played it had perfect pitch so we used to tune the guitars to the drain. For a while we had a jug player called Grogan but one night he passed out from hyperventilation and retired.

Our attempts to go electric were thwarted because no one was old enough to drive a car. The bass player bought an amp and we had to get it to our practice room some three or four kilometres away. We decided to push it through the streets on its castors. The roads were so rough that the speaker cabinet fell apart en route and so the washtub survived a little longer.


Music became the dominating influence in my life from then on. You can read and hear all about my musical career on my other site HERE .  As time went by  I leaned more toward playing acoustic music which lead to my search for a metal bodied resonator guitar. They just weren’t available here in Adelaide in the days before Ebay and Asian mass production so I decided to try to make one.  I’d always been handy with tools and my last hobby - grinding telescope mirrors and lenses - gave me confidence that I could make almost anything! There are no books, videos or classes on metal body guitar making so I had to start from scratch.

My first efforts involved the steel from the door of an old Volvo car but I soon realised it was way too heavy. I would lay awake at night thinking of ways to overcome difficulties and eventually got one guitar made well enough to string it up.

I made another, better, one and then one for a friend and now, nearly 20 years later, I don’t have time to do very much else. As of mid 2017 I have made 360 guitars, 65 or so mandolins and more than 60 ukes.

Because I use my own guitars in many different situations – solo, duo, band, amplified, acoustic, for recording, for busking – I get a chance to see how they perform in all conditions. (Some customers may be disturbed to hear that their guitar has been road tested at the local markets!)




















I’m always looking for improvements in all areas of the instrument, especially the sound, and make time to experiment with new ideas.


Don


 

A road-testing session with Prawnhead a the Adelaide markets

See a short documentary         about  Donmo  on Youtubehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwHr-f7avrkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwHr-f7avrkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwHr-f7avrkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwHr-f7avrkhttp://www.guitarseminars.com/cgi-bin//forumdisplay.cgi?action=topics&forum=The+IGS+Guitar+Forum&number=1&DaysPrune=5&LastLogin=shapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1shapeimage_2_link_2shapeimage_2_link_3
Another Youtube clip. this time with the Hillbilly Hoothttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPmukT2n5nc&feature=related

Pic by Thomas Wielecki

                                                     SCALE LENGTH?



As far as I know, the scale length used on resonator guitars has always been either 635mm (single cone and spider bridge types) or 648mm on tricones. National Resophonic use 652mm on their tricones, presumable to get the 12th fret closer to the edge of the body.

I’m glad we now use the metric system in Australia, the old imperial system is a handful when you get down to fine measurements. I’ll put the translation below.

When I first started making resonators I thought I would dispense with the different lengths and just use the tricone scale for single cones as well. I was always a bit disappointed with the sound of my single cones until I tried the shorter 635mm scale on one. It made a big difference. The sound lost some harshness and chords sounded fuller. It seemed a warmer more “friendly” sound. Since that discovery, I’ve made all my single cones with a Gibson scale of 630mm.

I realised then that sooner or later I was going to have to do some experimenting with scale lengths on my Donmo’s. It’s not easy. On an acoustic guitar you can just glue the bridge in a slightly different spot to accommodate the different length of your fretboard but on a metal body resonator, to get any appreciable change in scale, you need to alter the body by either moving the cone assembly forward or shortening the body between the cone and the neck.

A little bit goes a long way when dealing with scale length.

So far I’ve made a few tricones with a 635mm scale and I have a single cone of 610mm and another at 620mm.

So, what does it all mean?

The shorter the scale the easier it is to play. The frets are closer together and the string tension is lower. It’s easier to play with bare fingers. It’s possible to pick up your drink unencumbered by fingerpicks. A short scale has implications for slide playing though. It’s harder to get a clean sound with “slack” strings. The 610mm single cone was a good example of this. It was just too short (for me at least) to play slide well. It works OK in E or A tuning but not in G or D. The 620mm single cone is great for E and A and OK for G or D, especially if you have a lighter touch.

The difference in sound is subtle on the tricones. As with  differing body materials, brass wood or steel, a tricone still sounds like a tricone. They just don’t seemed to be affected much by all those changes going on around the unique cone system.

On single cones, the tone is softened a bit and it’s easier to avoid that harshness (if that’s what you want to do) that can come into the sound.

In regard to the resonator baritone guitar (686mm), all I will say is that there is only one Bob Brozman!


As with much of this experimenting, there is no definitive finding.

A short scale might will some players  but not others. It’s another confusing element to choosing a guitar.


635mm = 25”

648mm = 25.5”

652mm = 25 21/32”

610mm= 24”

620mm = 24 7/16”

630mm = 24 27/32

686mm = 27”

Outside my workshop things are pretty relaxed!