by, Apr-24-2012 at 4:37pm (1277 Views)
In a recent thread a member posted a complete personal 6 point criteria for the purchase of a new mandolin. I started to comment, and found my comments were more distracting than helpful, and that they really contributed nothing to the original poster's questions. But I had to write something about this, and that is what a blog is for.
The party line on how to go about buying something new, or any decision really, is to:
1 list your criteria
2 divide your criteria into must haves and nice to haves (required and desired is the term used in the management classes).
3 prioritize and rank the desired characteristics.
4 assign a percentage to each desired, the total being 100%
5 determine all the choices (options)
5 eliminate all those that don't meet the required.
6 score the remaining options based on the desired.
7 for each desired, multiply the score of each option by the percent assigned to the desired
8 add up these products for all criteria for each option; that is the overall score.
9 pick the highest score.
You know - make the plan, write the plan, work the plan, measure progress with the plan, all that management stuff you tried to pay attention to while nibbling chex mix and drinking coffee in some hotel conference room.
I never thought of doing that in my off duty after work life. Well maybe with important decisions like buying a house or a car. But I never thought of going that way in the purchase of a mandolin.
My style is more to see things and fall in love with them. (My experiences in the dating world might have benefitted from a more systematic selection process. In that arena I used a different system, summed up as: Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.)
When I look over my stable of mandolins, all purchased when in the throws of desire, a pattern emerges. An unconscious pattern I never set about identifying.
- Only one F style, the rest are, with the exception of a two pointer, A styles or bowlbacks. I do love the look of F style mandolins, F2s and F4s especially. But I haven’t found myself falling in love with them. The F I have is really an F style as realized by Paris Swing, its almost a gypsy jazz parody of the traditional F style mandolin. Way cool. The only mandolin with a scroll that I fell head over heals with is the one with the scroll on the head stock, the Lyon & Healy two pointer.
- Only one f hole, the rest are all oval holes with the exception of a resonator. I am drawn to the sound of the oval hole mandolin, and though I haven’t consciously avoided f holes I guess I unconsciously did. I play many different kinds of music, and except for bluegrass, the oval excels at all of them. The one f hole instrument I have is a Belltone with that uber-cool wooden resonator with all the bullet holes. The only f hole instrument I have loved was the Collings MT, and on first hearing I thought it was an oval hole.
- All acoustic, none have any electrics. I just never got all that interested in electrics. Neither acoustic/electric nor an all electric. To show how naive I am, let me explain that to me it feels like with electrics you can make it sound anyway you want, so there is no magic. You essentially dial in the tone and flavor and go at it. The mandolin to which all these options apply seems almost irrelevant. A frame into which you can put any picture you want, a transformer without fixed identity. I like wrestling with the sound the instrument provides, experiencing my mandolin as an individual voice and personality to be reckoned with.
- No bursts, all are solid color, most blond or natural wood. Nothing deliberate here, I just haven’t seen a burst I loved. I have heard it said that sunbursts were a way of covering up flaws in the wood or workmanship. They may have started that way, but today they are the result of meticulous work and raw talent, to be appreciated as art. I just never fell in love with one.
-All my mandolins are brand name, and most of them have that name emblazoned on the headstock and/or tailpiece. (This is not something I would have thought of, but the poster of the thread felt it important.) This gets into bragging rights, or the reverse, how one may feel judged by the brand of mandolin one plays. I have found that for the most part nobody knows which instrument is the mandolin, much less whether it’s a brand with bragging rights.
There is another thing - I am still in love with all of them. Some fiercely, but I would not part with any of them. I enjoy taking them out, and each one, upon opening the case I think “wow, I sure would like to own something like that... oh man, I do.”
I had a bouzouki that I loved. A Stefan Sobell. It took me many many years, double digit years, of not learning bouzouki to finally part with it.
So I have determined, and achieved my most important acquisition/retention criteria. Pick only mandolins you can love for the rest of your life.