1929 National Style 4 Tricone
In the past I’ve looked at a National Style 2 Tricone, a National Style 3 Tricone and National Style 2 Tenor so I figured it was about time I looked at National’s top of the line guitar, the Style 4 Tricone. In 1929, the year this guitar was made, Hawaiian steel guitar was still extremely popular and the striking looks, sweet tone and exceptional volume of National’s instruments made them the most desired steel guitars on the market. The tricone, so named because it had three small aluminum cones to acoustically amplify the strings, came in four styles. The Style 1 was the plainest and it had no engraving. The Style 2 was engraved with a wild rose pattern, the style 3 had lilies of the valley and the style 4 was engraved with chrysanthemums.
Although the Style 4 was a fairly expensive guitar in its day, it sold quite well. It had a list price of $195 in 1929, about half the price a Ford Model A Roadster. Almost all of the Style 4s that survive today have square necks, as this one does, a good indicator of how popular the Hawaiian steel style was back then. This example looks to be in excellent condition with only a few minor dents here and there. Tricones have a very mellow tone that is well suited to 1920s jazz and Hawaiian music, but many country and bluegrass players fine it bit too sweet and prefer the rawer tone of the single cone Dobro. Still, I think that National tricones are some of the most beautiful guitars ever made. This particular guitar is priced at $6500 and it’s at Elderly Instruments.
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A Style 4 on the cover of National’s 1929 catalog.