View Full Version : Celtic set-up/tackle survey
Hello . . . just a little set-up survey . . . I'm curious what other "celtic-style" player on the Board are using. What kind of strings, picks, and mandolin(s) do you use? How would you characterize your action height of preference (i.e. low, medium, high or "a manly height" as BM says. )? Do you use any mando-gadgets?
My current set-up is:
Mandolin: A-5, blonde and otherwise unadorned, but more than decent, made in 2003 by a local fellow. I used to have a mid-mo, but sold it - for now my MAS is in remission well . . . the same dude is making me a zouk.
Action: As low as I can get it without buzzing
Strings: D'Addario J-75's (the Ronnie McCoury set) - I have used Flat Tops and GHS Bobby Osbornes and like both but like the J-75’s the best for now.
Pick of Choice: Saga-era David Grisman (I have a buddy that used to be a dealer and he gave me a wack of them).
Tail-piece: I just use what the mando came with . . . a Gibson-type, but dream of replacing it . . . maybe next Christmas?
Gadgets: Tone Gard and an arm rest (03 and 04 Christmas gifts). You know, I would never play without them - I have had the Tone Gard for over a year and when I take it off it just isn't the same. My friends tell me that traditional players don't use such things . . . maybe when I'm good I will stop (neither is likely to happen).
What factors have influenced your set-up choices? I, for one, once thought that I had the desire and capability to play multiple styles of music and tried to set-up my mando accordingly. Turns out that I only really want to play jigs and reels . . . and strathspeys of course!
Happy New Year!
1994 Zeidler F style
D'Adarrio J74 ("Grisman set")
Dunlop Tortex 1.5 mm- use the "dumb end" rather than the point
I play Irish, bluegrass, and jazz, and whatever else I can get away with. Obviously a very "non-trad" choice for Irish music. So sue me. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif
This is my only acoustic mando (also play a Sobell OM and Zeidler electric mando).
My tackle is Breedlove Quartz KO, IMHO, oval hold sounds drier and less overtones to my ear. Better for Irish sound. The KO is a wonderful instrument, great build and great value for the price.
Setup is J74s, would use Thomasticks but had an allergic reaction to the strings. Very bad dermatitis.
Weber mandolin picks. I got one with my Weber Sweet Pea and fell in love with it. You can bulk order them from Weber.
"Dunlop Tortex 1.5 mm- use the "dumb end" rather than the point"
Why the "dumb end rather than the point"?
What does that give you that using the point does not?
P.S, like your playing with FF
Lebeda F5 Premium Plus (loudest, nearly including my national reso, lovely bass, great session axe)
1923 Gibson A (beautiful recording tone, not quite as loud as lebeda)
1903 Gibson F2 (very snappy tripletty tone, sounds good in ensembles)
1924 Loar F5 (borrowed briefly, unspeakably wonderful)
I use j74s as well..
Clayton Ultem .72mm rounded triangle picks.. I use the points, eventually replace 'em when they wear out. They are great like *a lot* of this shape and thickness are, but.. they don't chip. At all. Play as long as you want on 'em, and they never get little chips that catch on the strings. Every other type I've tried does.. so these are my babies. I try other stuff often, but I've been steady on these picks for 6 years or so
I have a tone gard. Used it for a couple tries, and as I normally play sitting down with the back of the mando away from my gut, it didn't make an awful lot of difference. Anybody want to buy one? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
Mandolin: Freshwater walnut large-body 10-string.
Action: low, which seems to make it easier for me to do left-hand ornamentation.
Strings: since no one makes 10-string sets (that I know of), I purchase loose strings locally. I am currently playing some J74-equivalents, but want to experiment with other types of strings (TI, silk, synthetic core, etc.) since my lowest course doesn't like to stay in tune very long.
Picks: I alternate between Pro-Plec rounded triangles and Golden Gates.
Add-ons: an Allen nickel tailpiece (which is the only cast 10-string tailpiece that I found readily available via the internet), and a King Brown ebony armrest.
Music: mostly Irish and Scottish.
1. Teens Gibson A1
2. Krishot F-5
I normally use Dunlop 207 picks and sometimes a Dunlop Ultex 1.14 with the Gibson, J74 strings and a medium+ action.
Epiphone MM20 PacRim mando
Trinity College Octave Mandolin
Both are setup with low low action. For picks, on the mando I like to use Clayton 1mm rounded triangles and on the octave mando I like to use "First Act/Wal-Mart" cheapie 72 mm guitar picks. For strings, on the mando I like to use JS-74. The JS-74s don't seem to wear out as fast as regular J-74s (at least under my fingers). On the octave, I'm still experimenting with strings, but at the moment, I'm partial to ghs phosphor bronzes..They seem to have a nice honk to them.
The biggest factor influencing my setup...I like the low action because it is easier on my hands and it makes it easier for me to slur notes. This is important for me right now because I'm at the point in my playing where slurring notes is starting to become a natural thing, and the easier it comes the better it is..if that make sense..
The other is cost..because I'm on a budget, strings and picks that are cheap catch my eye. No thomastiks for me for awhile..
Tackle,? a Rugby sub theme? , Hurling too is different activity in australia,I hear, though lots of beer is consumed in all .
Main mandolin is a 20 year old 10 string Sobell. Also use a Sobell 8 string cittern. Both have magnetic pick-ups installed by Mike Vanden. He later sold the design to Fishman, who call them Rare Earth.
For the mandolin, I change strings maybe twice a year. Usually use D'addario lights. Previous set I had on were Elixirs. I liked them at first, but they went very dead on me quite suddenly. Thought it was the pick-up at first actually. I virtually never break mandolin strings. I'm unlikely to use Elixirs again - D'Addarios seem to last me longer.
For the cittern, I buy individual Phosphor Bronze strings or buy light guage guitar sets. I tune ADAE; strings are 42,30 ,21 and 11 or as close as I can get. Can't always be too fussy.
I play a lot of rhythm on it and break the middle strings more than I'd like. Where possible I tie knots in them beyond the bridge or the nut and use them again. Quicker and cheaper than hunting for a new one, doesn't seem to affect the sound.
Don't change the strings much apart from that.
I also play a short open backed Windsor tenor banjo, similar strings to the cittern. I amplify it by tying a cheap Sanyo microphone to the inside with elastic bands, so the head is below the bridge. Works surprisingly well - cheapest system I've seen by far!
I also sometimes play a 1912 A model Gibson mandolin, and we have 3 guitars around the house, plus a Buchanan mandola which is my sons.
I always use Swedish made Sharkfin plectrums (the white ones) as do virtually all my friends.
I don't really vary that much. I've had the same banjo for over 30 years. Having said that, I would consider selling my Gibson which I don't play too often and maybe try one of these Czeck mandolins which I think look good.
Mandolins: a Breedlove KF with GHS phos bronze medium lights
A Mid Missouri M2 with Thomastik mediums
an old "Oliver Ditson" Martin flat top with ghs
light phos bronze
Just got the Breedlove in July and it's just starting to open up. I love the feel and tone of both very different instuments. The Mid Mo sounds fabulous around the house,playing with a couple of friends, or recording. I got the Breedlove to have an arch top f hole to project a bit more in sessions. The Martin was given to me by a friend who found it in an attic. It was a bit of a wreck, but after some repairs it plays and sounds far, far better than it looks.
CBOM Trinity College zouk in octaves with ghs light Irish
Flatiron 3M octave/zouk unison with ghs octave mando strings
Lark In the Morning cedar top octave mando with ghs
octave mando strings (I enjoy this thing, but would
not recommend them...you get what you pay for).
I go through experiments with picks, but always seem to come back to the Fender 358 pointy teardrops...heavy for mando and meduim for zouks.
I'm playing a Trillium Octave Mandolin which I string a little heavier than recommended, especially on the high end.
I'm still experimenting, but at the moment I have it strung (phosphor bronze, indiv. strings) all in 4's...44,34,24,14.
I'd say the action is medium...as I like to go back and forth between melodic and rhythmic playing, and do a lot of crosspicking.
I play in GDAE or ADAE like Dagger. Haven't wrapped my brain around GDAD yet.
I'm not currently playing with any pickup, and I don't have a clear pick preference yet...other than it must be medium-heavy or heavier. I use a Shubb capo sometimes, and an Intellitouch tuner when in a noisy session.
re: tailpiece...I have the tailpiece that came on the Trillium which has such a lovely design that I am loathe to replace it with a cast one for aesthetic reasons. However, given that I am using non-standard string gauges, I may go to an Allen so that I can use both loop and ball-end strings without having to cut out the annoying little brass cylinders (and end up wasting strings in the process!).
As for other instruments...
I play a 1980 Martin D-28, a Freshwater zouk (for sale in the classifieds, btw), and have just received a tenor banjo (30's era, made by Epiphone, but a different name on it) that I"m getting ready to string up and take for a spin. On a recent trip to Ireland, my mom bought a bodhran for me, but I don't know how to play it yet. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif
Hey Dagger: how do you buy your D'addario lights for your 10-string; as loose strings, or as a set of eight plus loose strings for your lower course? Also, if I recall correctly, you tune your lowest course to D, but I don't think I ever asked you what guage and type of string you use for your lowest course.
I'm playing a 1920 Vega cylinder-back mahogany mandolin which I recently found on Ebay. It has a surprisingly sweet and punchy tone. I have GHS light phosphor-bronze strings on it and use a 1 mm. (blue) Tortex pick; on guitar I use the pointy point while on mandolin I use one of the blunt points.
My main instruments are fiddle and guitar; I started on mandolin last year with a used Michael Kelly F-5 copy. Playing in sessions I've found that playing mandolin is twice as much work as fiddle! You really have to dig in in order to project.
"Why the "dumb end rather than the point"? #
What does that give you that using the point does not?"
Take your pick, turn it around and listen. To me, the point doesn't lay enough mass on the string to get the body to resonate as well as the "dumb end" does. For me, it's about tone. I'm coming from the Rice/Barenberg/Grisman/Bush old school, I learned to "draw tone" from the instrument from hanging out with Russ Barenberg, and I just prefer that sound.
CAUTION-FLAME BAIT: I find that most Irish players use medium to light picks, it is almost a characteristic of the sound, but I don't like it. I think it gives the illusion of voulme, but it's the LOW frequencies, the fundamentals, that give an instrument projection. I don't care for the sound of "pick click", i want the body of the instrument to resonate like a Steinway piano.
That doesn't mean I don't dig the PLAYING of people who use lighter picks, I just wouldn't want to play with that kind of sound. This makes me a target for critics who say I sound "hamfisted" (Geoff Wallis) and "pedestrian" (Phillipe Varlet).
'cos it ain't traditional.
John's statement on picks is well taken. A lot of the players of Irish tenor banjo use super-light picks (they feel like paper to me!) which helps with success rates on picked triplets.
I agree with John that it produces unsatisfactory tone.. in general I'm impressed with the fluidity of the Irish TB players who dabble with mandolins, but I'm not fond of the overall effect or tone.
I feel that the bulk of players with super-light picks don't have much in the way of dynamics, which is to say that the notes are all roughly the same volume. I'm kind of a middle-of-the-road with a .72mm. The big thick bluegrass picks sort of start at the 100mm range and go up. I've got a pile of the big boys (Golden Gate, 1.22 Ultems, tortoiseshell of approx 110mm, etc). I have been trying them a lot recently, especially since I borrowed that Loar, as they are a big part of the archetype bluegrass tone.
Taking it to the other extreme, I've often been accused of beating mandolins ruthlessly, to the extent that most sessions I go to have at least one guy commenting on how loud the mandolin is http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
That said, I keep coming back to the Clayton 72s. I hit the string pretty close to perpendicular most of the time, and dig pretty deeply with that point. Rotating the pick so that you point to 1 or 2 o'clock (if the strings are 6 o'clock to 12 o'clock) starts steering you in the direction of that heavier pick sound.
Picking closer to the bridge with a heavy pick gives you that Stanley bros sound.. picking really really hard midway over the extension gives you pretty credible Monroe tone..
Anyway, to continue to play devil's advocate here, I am actually a fan of getting the midrange and the high end too, you get nice articulation and "Snap" to your picked triplets. My 3-point F2 is almost completely missing that low end, so a t-shell or golden gate pick transforms it.
If I use too heavy of a pick, I feel I have to do only left hand decorations, as triplets loose their definition. Too light a pick, and that's all you can do.. you can't get the string moving with enough intial force to get a hammer-on or a pull-off to work.
Dan- whatever you are doing, it works- your playing is excellent! These choices are the ultimate YMMV!
191x (??) Vega two-point flatback mandolin (maple back, sides & neck)
Thomastik Medium strings
Dunlop Ultex 1.14 -- mostly the point, but I've been "trying out" the blunt end lately
1" nylon strap
Viola shoulder rest across the back as a "Tone Guard"
I'm pretty firm about my pick & string choices, though the 1.00 pick isn't too bad, either. Ultex is more flexible at a given weight than some other materials, it's very smooth and, as near as I can tell, shatterproof. Also "musical" on its own--there's almost a ring to it if dropped on a table (kind of like the sound of a real silver quarter (coin), as opposed to those sandwiched jobs). I used to use the Dunlop Tortex greens (.82??), which were okay, 'til Mandohack packed an Ultex in with the first set of Thomastiks I bought from him...took a day or two to get used to it & never looked back).
I'm completely strap-dependent.... 'Round back & over the left shoulder, none of that Monroe-style one shoulder action.
I'd like to get my '81 Flatiron 2M back into service, too--it needs some bridge work to get the right intonation with Thomastiks. All other specs the same.
Occasional forays on a Trinity College mandola (no SN, date unknown, but from the MIJ period before the hiatus & Korean resumption). Also Thomastik Mediums, but I've been considering putting on a set of lights & tuning up a whole step (DAEB). I use the 1.00 pick with it when I can find it (I've only got one that weight...), but the 1.14 works okay. Oh, and the strap for this one is inkle-woven cotton, that I made myself.
I buy ordinary sets and use guitar sixth strings for the bottom D. I've always got some left over if I've used a guitar set for the cittern, as I don't use sixth strings for that.
It might seem a bit heavy, but I've found that anything much lighter just flaps around. I don't play much melody down there, but I do chord on it.
John, Sure enough. I've been working on coppping some of your left hand licks, now I know where to start with picks to get the hang of it http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
Completely true, it's not exactly the same for any two people, and none of this is cast in stone anywhere.
*Light guage strings, usually D'Addario.
*Flat-top Moon mandolin (spruce top, maple back & sides) with Shaller tuners, Weber tailpiece, selfmade cocobolo solid bridge with bone cap, extra radius on the binding for arm comfort.
*Medium (0.73mm) pick, usually Dunlop Ultex, sometimes Dunlop Tortoise, rounded point which I dress myself.
*Prefer a shotgun condenser mic but will use whatever is going.
*Wide Levys strap cause I don't like a sore shoulder.
Also use a guitar shaped bouzouki, 6, 12, bass, and baritone guitars.
I have used any of these setups for Irish and Scottish tunes:
1) Majestic 1920s flattop, d'Addario J62 light strings, Wegen 1.0mm bluegrass guitar pick.
2) Antique Italian bowlback, Lenzner bronze medium strings, Jim Dunlop 0.88mm nylon pick.
3) 1989 Washburn M3SW, D'Addario J74 strings, Cumberland Acoustic ebony bridge, Wegen 1.0mm bluegrass guitar pick.
4) Troubadour bouzouki, replacement ebony/bone bridge, Newtone medium strings, Jim Dunlop nylon picks (1.0mm most of the time, 0.73mm for strummed rhythm).
Apart from the bowlback, all of these are distinctly non-prestigious instruments, but they have decent tone and can shine in the right setting. I should probably concentrate on one (not being a good enough player to do all four instruments justice), but I like the variety in tone they give me; they also make it easy to switch genre. Most of what I play is Irish or Scottish, but I also dabble a bit in early music, bluegrass, German and Italian tunes and am currently playing around with some Brazilian choro tunes. I play sitting down, and never use a strap. Action is pretty exactly 2mm at the 12th fret for all four instruments.
1998 Stephen Owsley Smith "Acme" prototype (spruce and koa with pau ferro fretboard. Scale is a smidgen longer than an F5 - about 14.25")
D'Addario strings .011 .015 .024 .038 - I buy them singly as these gauges don't conform to any set that I know of. They're like a set of J74s with lighter D and G strings to ease the tension a bit from the SOS's longer scale.
Clayton Ultem "Tortoise" .072 picks - similar to what DB uses but the smaller size with only one "point." I use the point as the "dumb" ends sound too dull to me and it takes some of the snap out of triplets the way I play them, but, yes, I agree totally with DB and JM - YMMV.
Action is medium/medium high
2 - SOS 10 string zouks (one for sale in the classifieds section - ad #11713)
1 - SOS 8 string flattop zouk on loan (my main axe for the past year and a half)
Oh, one other thing about those Clayton Ultem picks, they don't chip, as DB said, but they do have an annoying tendency to develop small cracks along the edge. I usually toss them when they reach this point but if you don't the tip will sometimes break off, the pick splitting at the point of the crack.
That ever happen with yours Dan?
My current mandolin is a Davy Stuart LT8: A-shape, oval soundhole, mahogany/spruce with maple trim. Very sweet. Medium action, Gotoh tuners.
Strings are D'Addario J62 (.010 - .014 - .024 - .034).
My pick of choice is a Jim Dunlop Big Stubby 3.0mm. Just love 'em.
It has a Fishman pickup built into the bridge; if I'm playing plugged I run it through a Baggs Para-Acoustic DI box. Intellitouch or BOSS stage tuner depending on circumstance and I also use a Kyser quick change capo when the need arises http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
I usually play Irish/Scottish/Australian music, however I also play it in church where we cover lots of different styles!
Hmm, I've never had them split. I wear the point flat an get a new one usually
It's quite interesting to see and compare Jon, Dagger and Dan's set-ups.
It's also quite inspirational that some critics think John's playing "hamfisted". There's hope for all of us yet! though if he is hamfisted, I'm "Little Hands of Concrete" to quote Elvis C.
For what it's worth, if anyone is interested in what this amateur (pub sessions and the occasional amplified gig) uses,:
I use AXL heavy picks. They're made in China and my local shop sells them in packs of 10.
They work well on my mandolins, a Marshal Dow recycled mahogany beauty and a Donmo resophonic.
Neither of these cost me very much at the time, though both Marshall and Don Morrison have had to put their prices up since. I'm grateful that I could afford them. There are better instruments around no doubt but these continue to improve with playing and a bit of adjustment.
The AXL picks shred around the edges after a heavy banjo gig (wound A string) but as they are cheap and plentiful I don't mind chucking them. Up until then the point is just about right for me.
I use J74s on the Dow. Some say they give this "Celtic" style mandolin a chunky "bluegrass" tone but that may be the pick as well.
I'm trying a set of Thomastik Mittel on the Donmo, after I happened upon them on my travels. I hoped they might balance and sweeten the tone a bit. I suspect Starck might be better and am still not sure what to make of them.
I also experimented with some Grisman Dawg picks I got by mail order. I don't think they're right for me so if anyone in the UK wants some drop me a line.
Here's what I've got:
2002 Phoenix Deluxe (w/built-in pickup for the odd gig I play)
J-74's (although I'm still trying out other sets on occasion)
Fender extra heavy pick (with the tip worn down to flat, not pointed)
Thanks for your reply. I checked out your website after to learn more of your thoughts on the subject (dumb end of the pick). I tried messing with my dumb end and I like the different sound it gives. Thanks for the ideas.
I have four mandolins;
A small bodied Stefan Sobell (1983) spruce top, Indian rosewood back & sides, and a custom neck width at the nut of 33mm, much narrower than Stefan usually maked at the time. The action is low to medium, always use D’Addario J74s, and orange coloured Dunlop Tortex picks 60mm. Fishman piezo strip under the saddle, installed by Stefan.
This is the one on the eye candy section.
Gibson F4 (1922) with the same setup, done beautifully by by Jimmy Moon for me. I may use other rounder harder tortoiseshell picks for tremolo work, and I have a set of Elixir goretex for a fresh sound. If I played it out more I would revert to J74’s but this is a studio and in house instrument. No pickup
A Mike Lewis Fine Resophonics maple laminate bodied resonator mandolin, (2004), a prototype. All as before, but still trying different picks, yellow Dunlop in sessions and a black Gibson guitar pick sounds good too. No pickup yet but might get a Highlander installed at some point.
This is the one is also on the eye candy section.
Fender electric 5 string a modern cheap reproduction. Thinking of replacing the pickups with quality ones – any suggestions - Schwabs?
I do use Herdim Appalachian dulcimer plectrums on my two Greek bouzoukis, and may use them on the mandolins for a gentle sound.
I use a .73 mm Peavy pick that is triangle-shaped with slightly rounded sides and fairly pointed corners. Any thinner than that and it feels like I'm not getting enough tactile feedback and the pick is just waving over the strings with no resistance. I like the triangle shape because the pick is over 1.25" wide and it's easy to keep a nice grip on it. Same pick for mando and banjo.
I recently started using some crazy, expensive coated strings because they last longer and I like how slick they feel.
I have a Freshwater deep-box walnut mandolin with GHS A250 light gauge strings. #The action is about as low as it can get without buzzing -- I had it set up professionally, but waited 6 months after I received it to allow the instrument to adapt to the local climate.
I have a King Brown armrest on it, which keeps my sweaty right arm from damaging the finish, and keeps the sharp binding from damaging my sweaty right arm. #It also makes the instrument louder (not that it needs any help in that department). #The strap is a plain leather Weber model which ties around the peghead.
My pick choices are constantly changing, but lately I've been using a white Fender heavy pick, which feels thin to me since I started using a Golden Gate pick on my bluegrass mando. #I switch between the pointed and rounded ends, depending on the type of sound I'm trying to create.
I haven't played the Freshwater much in the past year, since I've been focusing pretty heavily on BG, but I still like to take it out once in a while and hear that amazing clarity and sustain.
I use a Flatiron A5 Artist with J74 strings and a Siren arm rest. Occasionally I'll use a Phil Davidson oval hole mandolin (sort of Brazilian looking). It has a very sweet tone but needs some setup to make it more playable. That mandolin is strung with FT74's at the moment but I'm still experimenting. I just got a used Petersen OM (Level II) and I'm in the process of setting it up and getting acquainted with it. Bill Petersen recommended GHS phosphor bronze and he make up sets (ball end) so that's what I'm starting with. I try just about any pick that I can. Recently I've found that the 0.72-0.73 thickness is the stiffest I can use and still maintain good triplet control and speed for Irish traditional music. Now it's a matter of finding the ones with the best sound in that range. The Dunlop Tortex (yellow) and the Ultex ones are what I like at this time. I guess I don't play quite enough to have longevity/shredding a purchasing consideration.
Hey Joe -- I forget, do you have an A-hole or a knot?
(Out of context, that could sound kind of personal, huh? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif )
Bill Van Liere
I play a Brentrup A with a Italian Spruce top, very low action, I usually use GHS Phos. Bronze A270s. I also play a Stephen Owsley Smith Octave Mando which I string up with GHS Strings. The guages are: 14 22 34 50. I like to get a percussive effect with the pick on the strings while playing the octave, so I usually use a regular Fender Medium pick for this. I switch between the two instruments frequently and don't bother changing picks. I used to use heavier picks for the mandolin, but they just don't feel good to me anymore.
Hey Bill, I'm doing a Steve Smith archive on the side as well, I don't think I knew about your SOS octave. Do you have any pictures you could email me? When did you get it
Bill Van Liere
Hey Dan--I own the Acme Fireworks Special Octave Mandolin. Last I knew it was still pictured on Steve's Website and has been since I bought it in about 1998 or 99. I recieved it from Steve with a pickguard and some inlay work on the fretboard, so it looks somewhat different than Steve's web pic. I will get some picture of to you this weekend.
I do most of my damage with a souped up Mid-Mo M1
I received a couple free sets of Sam Bush strings (lights) from a dealer to try out--they are vacuumed packed (good) they have a good punch and seem to last a little while longer.
I play with two different bands and jam often.
My action is low, but not too low.
I use a 46 mil pick...bassackwards (my own technique)
you can listen to me on this (MandoCafe) MP3 site...Chris Bliss
I knew I was going to forget something. #My Freshwater has the Celtic Knot sound hole.
can you tell something about the SOS 8 string flattop zouk? I'm curious about it and about what made you switching from 10-string archtop to this kind of instrument. I know your sound and style from "Dragon Reels". What difference do it make for you?
This is a pretty interesting conversation and it is helping me understand some of the books, CDs and DVDs I have a little better. Although I play mostly tenor banjo for ITRAD, I am starting to use my OM and mandolin a lot more and am getting away from the stereotyped and expected techniques I use on tenor banjo. I think playing the coursed instruments will make my tenor playing more complex and interesting. Thanks to Dan, Roger and John for the books, CDs and DVDs.
OM: I have a Dave Dart K style OM with a 21" scale similar to my banjos. Currently I have a set of TI OM strings on it, but they don't really fit it well in spite of giving the instrument a sweet tight tone. I usually use the D'Addario OM strings and substitute a .048 G course the way Dave told me. It is a fine instrument with a slightly clubby mahogany neck that makes me play with more precision and no doubt adds to the sweetness of tone. I play it with a Dugain acetyl Gypsy type of pick which has a 2-2.5 mm tip but is thick in body. I can get all the triplets plus a very fat sound with this pick. I also use a Dunlop 207 at times. Thinner picks give a thinner sound.
Mandolin: I bought a Weber Bighorn (which is an oval hole carved top mandolin) strung with silk and steel. The sound is a cross between a Weber F5 and an older Gibson A-1 and I use it in sessions most of the time. Not as sweet as I would like (I am still trying out strings, the TIs were terrible) but interesting and complex. I use a variety of picks; the 207 brings out the best tone but triplets are easier with Ultex .72mm picks.
I also use my Fern V at times which is a wonderful versatile mandolin and still being broken in. I've used a variety of picks with it but have settled on the Wegen Dawg style pick for best sound. I can play the triplets easily with this pick on the Fern V but for some reason can't on the Weber. The Weber is a more difficult instrument to play well as it is less forgiving if your technique is not up to snuff. The Fern is LOUD when I want it to be or soft and sweet if I wish. I don't think that the sound fits in as well in a session, but in our band it is terrific.
F4 Threepoint - clone by German builder with J74-strings,
Davy Stuart Mandola tuned CGCG, with capo 2nd its DADA,
Chanticleer resophonic tenorguitar in GDAE or GDGD,
use Clayton Ultem Picks 72 because of the triplets, though 80 sounds a bit better for me,
sometimes a Wegen pick on mandolin
can you tell something about the SOS 8 string flattop zouk? I'm curious about it and about what made you switching from 10-string archtop to this kind of instrument. I know your sound and style from "Dragon Reels". What difference do it make for you?
I borrowed it from a friend to use on a record I was producing and just fell in love with it. I like the fact that it is a lighter sound but definitely not thinner. It is quite responsive, VERY loud, and it really cuts through - especially on melody. Sometimes I get frowns from fiddlers when I (unintentionally) drown them out in a session. Also, it is one of the very few "Irish" bouzoukis that works just as well for Greek music as it does for Celtic stuff. A very versatile instrument that is more closely related to the "classic" Irish zouk sounds of the 70s (i.e., Planxty) than the arched top hybrids from Sobell, SOS and others.
This is an interesting thread... I just stumbled onto it.
I haven't had much opportunity to play Celtic since the band broke up last spring, although I did sit in with a contra dance band last weekend... fun!
I usually play a late 40's Gibson A (nice mellow, balanced tone) or my '81 Flatiron 1SH. The Flatiron is very "punchy", probably not as refined a sound as the Gibson A. Since the disbanding, I've acquired a Gibson F9 that I'll try out as the opportunity arises.
The Gibson gets J74s, the Flatiron usually gets a light gauge Martin set. I've also strung the Flatiron G and D sets with one wound string and one unwound (.012) tuned an octave higher... just for something different. I like it on some tunes, on others the octave string brightens up the low notes too much.
Picks are either Golden Gate or Dunlop Tortex green picks (can't recall the weight). I always wear these down to round and have never had one chip or split... maybe I need to be more hamfisted! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif I change the pick, or sometimes turn the Tortex to the "dumb" end based on the speed of the tune and whether I'm trying to stand out or fill in.
No other gadgets. I would be interested in trying a tone gaurd (Dan... are you serious about selling one? ). I use a microphone rather than pickup when I need to amplify, more out of economics than any other reason. I also intend to get an arm rest to see what that does, as I know I end up damping the bridge occasionally when I play.
We weren't a very polished band, but we had fun. Hopefully we'll get a chance to do it again and I can refine my selection and sound.
No other gadgets. I would be interested in trying a tone gaurd (Dan... are you serious about selling one? ).
I was contacted by a cafe member last week and have sold it.. it's a nice piece of kit if you play standing up, but you can also just not hold the mando against your belly!
Thanks Dan... I'll have to pick one up one of these days.
Apologies for resurrecting an ancient thread... Saw it while searching for something else and thought I'd put in my specs. Better late than never?
* Eastman 504 oval hole A-style
* J74s (sometimes with lighter than standard strings swapped in on the G)
* Dunlop Tortex yellow (.74 or something?) or Planet Waves yellow (.69). I punch a hole through them for grip, and although I play with the point I round it off a bit first with fine sandpaper.
Music: mostly IrTrad tunes (Jigs, reels, hornpipes, set dances, polkas, slides etc), but also Celtic and English folk songs, a little bluegrass, and some folk/rock/reggae/bluegrass spoof fusion!!!
Actually it is a good thing that you renewed this thread.
I was wondering if anyone has changed their setup since January? I have been playing my Weber Bighorn a lot more recently and have settled on LaBella Jazz Flatwounds (.033-.011) that I get from Ted E. (http://www.jazzmando.com) . In addition I have been using the D'Andrea Pro-Plec triangular 1.5 mm pick that Ted packs with each set as that pick seems to bring out the best sound.
With the flatwounds I lose a little of the bite that the Bighorn has, but I gain better left hand mobility and the strings last forever. My action is medium and the instrument sounds great in a microphone with good lows and mids and without the tinny treble. It does not sound like a vintage Gibson A, rather it has it's own distinctive sound.
My Dave Dart OM remains the same.
Mel Bay Banjosessions (http://www.banjosessions.com)
steve V. johnson
Thanks for the revival of this thread, I've learned a good deal from the good folks here! Thanks!
I don't play mandolin mucn in public, but I play them a lot at home... The original of mine is a '36 Kalamazoo KM-11, an old sweetie. #I've added a John Pearse Ebony Jr. armrest and a woven strap to it, a friend did a refret for me a while back with big (not banjo, but big) modern round frets to replace the original bar frets, and it has a new bone nut that replaced the original ebony one, which chipped at the edge and wouldn't hold the G course any more. It gets light Gibson strings, just because they're what's on the shelf at the local. #A pal gave me some old Grisman Golden Gate picks that are really thick and stiff and they really bring out the old full, round tone of the KM. #The action is pretty low, I guess... It has its original single-piece, non-adjustable bridge and just a touch of top sinkage, so I haven't messed with the action at all that way.
I recently got an Arches (Chris Baird) Flat Top mandolin, which has a spruce top over walnut b/s. #It's a couple of years old but has very, very little playing time. #I understand that the guy I got it from had just changed out the original set of strings when he put it up for sale, so I'll experiment with string choices in a while. #It's really loud (hey, I'm used to the KM... <GG>) and can be heard very nicely in a big Irish session. #I changed the stamped tailpiece for an Allen after asking Chris about it. #He said that if it was cost effective for him, he'd always use cast tailpieces, if only for ease of string changes. #I think the change deepened the bottom and the low-midrange, and added a bit of clarity to the trebles, and may have made it louder. #The fretboard is flat, which is nicely like the KM, but if I had commissioned it I would have asked for a radius. The action is probably a bit high for most mandolinists, but I wanted to err on the side of tone over fast action...#I have lowered it since it arrived here (two months ago), and I had it real fast and sweet, but brought it back up again. It's just a gorgeous instrument, and very elegant in its simplicity.
I mainly play a Phil Crump B-II bouzouki, cedar top and rosewood b/s. #I haven't changed much on it at all... I did replace a PUTW #50 two-piece soundboard transducer with a single-piece #27, which only changed the sound of the pickup output a tiny bit, but removed some extra wire and freed up the #50 for a big guitar I have. # I've stopped using the Ernie Ball Earthwood single strings that I got at the local shop for bulk strings that I got from JustStrings.com. #These Phos' Bronze singles are brighter, fuller and last longer than the EBs, and are a -lot- cheaper. #It's cured the tendency of the Crump to be a bass instrument and now the top sparkles a lot. #String gauges on this one (tuned GDAD) are .052, .042, .020wound, and .016 or .014 on the high D, depending on what sort of playing I'm going to do. #With box players and guitars or with a bassist or keyboard (lots of low end in the room) I use the .014s, if I'm playing with fiddles and flutes predominantly, I like the heavier .016s. When Phil sent it to me he said that he set the action the way he likes it, which he thinks is high for most players, but I haven't changed it.
This one also has had a new nut, and for the same reason. A guy played it at the Dublin, Ohio, Irish fest and managed to chip the low side of the nut... go figure.
With the new strings I've found I can really change the sound a lot with different picks. #I used to use the orange Dunlop tortex picks on both the zouk and guitar, but now I'm finding that a heavier pick results in a sort of midrange scoop (audio guys would call it a 'smiley curve') with the bottom full and the treble sparkly, and with the increased string response I can play a lot lighter right hand, which is wonderful. #White Clayton .63 picks and yellow Dunlop tortex .73s are sounding very good to me now. The orange tortex brings out the midrange much more, so I've found that one a good one to use when accompanying songs.
The aforementioned guitar is a Santa Cruz OM PW (2001) which 'wears' D'Addario Flat-Tops in the EFT-17 light gauge set. #It has a PUTW #27 pickup (I -love- these things!!) and is otherwise bone stock. The action on this one is a bit high and that serves well for hammer-ons and pull-offs that I do, so I'm fine with that. I do have a saddle shim that I used to use when I was experimenting with medium string sets, but I no longer use it.
The pickups go thru either a Raven Labs PMB-II or a PreSonus AcoustiQ preamp, and their two-channel configuration allows me to keep both the guitar and zouk plugged into one preamp and one line out to a PA. #But even tho I like this setup really well, I usually carry a Shure KSM-27 microphone and use that without the pickups. #Even tho we have a whole PA, mics and stands and all, when we play events where we only do one set, I just use whatever mics the stage has up. #It saves time and we can get right to the tunes. (And get off the stage promptly for the next folks, makes everybody happy... <GGG>)
I play Irish trad with all this stuff, and sometimes some American oldtime with the mandolins and guitar, so the above are sort of tailored to that purpose. (On blues, rootsy stuff and original music I use other guitars and basses).
Ahhh, hardware, ain't it great? <GG>
p.s. #Intellitouch tuners and Shubb and Kyser capos (but I don't capo much).
Well, since this has been resurected, I might aswell add my set up. I don't currently own a Mandolin, but I have an Octave and will soon finish my Kawelek kit which I have been working on for way too long. I use individual Phosphor Bronze strings in the gauges of .46 .36 .22 .12 on my 22" Petersen level 1 Maple and Spruce OM. I like to use Jazz Star Picks for tunes and Davas for backing. This OM is pretty loud and crisp, just how I like it. A great session instrument, compared side by side t oa Weber sage this has way better projection. I like my action pretty low as when I play Jazz I like to go up the neck. I tune it GDAE as it is the most universal.
When I finish my Zouk, I am not too sure what I will use.
My setup has changed a little bit. For mandolins, I've made a change up (well, up a little bit!) from using an Epi to alternating back and forth between a Mid Mo M0 and a Kentucky F style. The MM has medium action, Daddario J62 strings, and favors Fender .73mm medium picks. The Kentucky has looow action, Daddario JS-74, and seems to like Fender .88mm medium picks.
And I've made a small foray into Zoukdom with the purchase of a long scale zouk from the "O'Fender" line of Irish instruments. I have no idea what the string gauges are that I'm using, but I have been messing around with GDAD, ADAD, and ADAE tunings and using (I think) .63 mm Fender pick.
Has anyone considered changing some of their setup based on what they've read here? I may be trying some flatwounds pretty soon....
Mandolin: Mid-Mo M-11 (http://www.midmomandolin.com/products_mandolins.php)
Strings: Darco lights (http://www.juststrings.com/dar-d-500.html)
Pick: F1 (http://www.f1pick.com/) (heavy, black)
Old Gibson A1 with J74 strings and a Siren armrest. Mid Mo M-3 that I just got, that sounds like a lightweight version of the Gibson, with J73 strings.
Looking back at my old notes, I realize that I've made changes to my setup. My mandolin is the same (Flatiron A5-Artist) but I've switched to using JM11 strings. Most recently I've been experimenting with the pro-plec 1.5mm picks - both "standard" and large triangular shape. These also come from Ted. I never thought I'd be able to play Irish music well with such thick picks but these have such smooth beveled edges that triplets are coming out better. The tone is excellent. I haven't played with this pick at a session yet, but maybe this coming weekend.
1995 Joe Foley mandolin
Light gauge strings (elixirs or martins)
Clayton white acetal rounded triangle .63mm
There's really something special about the sound of the Foley, i've gotten used to the thick neck and i'm playing it every day more or less exclusively right now. On my A5 style i primarily use 1.5 mm proplecs so getting used to the thin pick has been challenging (i've only recently stopped bending them all out of shape), but i'm really surprised by the range of tone i've been able to get using a thin pick and light strings on the Foley.
I use J74s on both my Paul Shippey and 1917 Gibson both have non adjustable bridges and both are very low and sound great, I alternate between Dunlop 1mm nylon and a heavy Dawg plectrum.
I also have a Fylde mandola and a 1914 Vega Whyte Laydie short scale tenor banjo, this is seriously LOUD, my neighbours now hate me.