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Michael Dunn guitars

daverepairdaverepair Vermont, USANew Craig Bumgarner 'Selmer' style

I'm curious and intrigued about the GJ guitars built by the Canadian luthier Michael Dunn, especially those with his version of the internal resonator(usually, it appears, with the d-hole and shorter scale). Can anyone who owns or has played them comment on their sound, compared to a well-made petite bouche with the longer scale? I do like his colorful take on woods used and decoration.


  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 319

    I've had a 2001 Daphne (14-fret D-hole, cedar over purpleheart, no resonator) for more than a decade. It's one of my favorite guitars, and for most of that time it was the one I took when I only wanted to tote a single instrument to a gig. (My partners' repertories covered everything from country to swing, and I do a lot of fingerstyle.) I know that for a lot of GJ players, the usual Dunn voice is not dry enough, but I tend to disagree with that taste**--and I've heard Michael play my guitar at a jam, and it sounds plenty GJ to me. My Daphne's voice is sweet and fat, but it can bark just fine (with a hint of resophonic honk) when it needs to.

    I've been able to hear quite a few of Michael's guitars, and I test-played a good half-dozen before buying the Daphne, including a couple of the resonator models. I liked them all, especially Michael's personal guitar at the time, which for some reason he declined to sell to me.

    Here's a pretty representative sample of a Mystery Pacific's voice, played by our host:

    And the man himself on an early Mystery Pacific:

    I would point out that the variety of woods Michael use means that there can be quite a bit of variation even in a given model's build formula.

    I don't play the Daphne much now because my left hand started acting up, and its 1-7/8" flat-fingerboard neck profile is very shallow, which really bothers my now-arthritic thumb joint. In casting about for a guitar with a similar voice but a more comfortable neck, I settled on a Shelley Park Elan--appropriate, since she worked with Michael before setting up her own shop. Nevertheless, should my hands experience a miracle recovery, I'd put the Daphne right back in the playing-out lineup, and I'd buy a Mystery Pacific in celebration. (I think I'd still keep the Park, though--it's a sweet guitar.)

    ** I realize that I'm in a minority in this, but the rather thin nasality I hear in all but the very best "dry" Selmer-styles strikes me as ill-suited to any role beyond leads. In the rhythm role that voice doesn't do anything for me. And FWIW, I tried and returned a Dunn Stardust because it was just a bit too petite-bouche dry for my taste.

    BucoBill Da Costa Williams
  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 461

    I had a Dunn Stardust model for a time. It was a short scale oval hole, though the oval hole was wider than the ordinary oval hole on a Selmer style guitar. That guitar was as loud and cutting as any GJ long scale oval hole guitar that I have ever played, but the neck profile was very much like playing a classical guitar, so away it went.

    I recently played a couple of Dunn D-Hole guitars with the internal resonator (The guitars were built for the late Bob Brozman) and was again turned off by the neck profile.

    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 303

    I agree that you would have to try out the neck profile -- it's very different, and it could bother your hand (particularly your thumb) after weeks of playing on it. Possibly it's more suited to playing with the neck up higher (like classical).

    While you could conceivably reduce the string spacing with a different nut, you'd still have the wide neck itself -- so no thumb on the 6th string (if you like that kind if thing). And the neck would still be very shallow. (Ergonomically, I think that a shallow neck probably should have wider string spacing.)

    Tonewise, I liked the D hole with internal resonator (cedar top), but I wasn't comparing it directly with a "traditional" gypsy jazz guitar.

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 319

    I should point out that I played my Daphne for about fifteen years before my thumb started acting up--I'm 77, and the problems started about four years ago (after nearly 60 years of pretty bad playing habits). So for most non-geezer players, a Dunn neck profile should not present any issues.

  • daverepairdaverepair Vermont, USANew Craig Bumgarner 'Selmer' style
    Posts: 11

    Thank you all for these thoughtful and informative replies. I have noticed that many of MD's guitars have a 1-7/8" nut, which is probably too wide for me(and I'm not fond of thin(front-to-back) neck carves). I will hopefully have the chance to play one of his grand bouche/resonator instruments at some point.

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