Not tunes, though we can bring that up later. What's your axe -- what mandolin do you use to play the blues? Is it the same one you use for jazz, bluegrass, old time, or whatever other music you play?
I've been using a Gibson A9, but recently found a National RM1. I love the resonator mandolin, but obviously it's not a requirement for the blues. What do the rest of you find useful? Any other gear come to mind?
I play my trusty 1927 Ajr but any other mandolin is fine for blues too ... but as with all music styles : it΄s the player not the instrument
I have a bunch of lower end mandolins... but my favorite for blues and most other stuff is my 1935 Stradolin. I sometimes play my cheap steel resonater for fun or to irritate my neighbors and if that doesn't do the job I haul out my tenor banjo, which is a surprisingly effective blues instrument and is tuned the same as a mandolin only an octave lower.
I agree that it's the musician and not the instrument. DelGrosso could make my cheap Gibson A9 sound like a harp while I would make his nicest axe sound like mud. But I'm a gear- head, and am always interested in what people are using.
I like the idea of trying the tenor banjo, but I've never played one. Do you suggest a make or model that I could invstigate?
I just sold a five-string cello banjo with the idea of replacing it with the four string version and doing just what is described above.
The blues mando community is a small on and it's nice to have people to correspond with!
regarding tenor banjo: I am playing an eBay purchase (no-name) which turned out to be a fine sounding tenor and I truly love its deep tone (one octave below the mando and tuned the same (GDAE). A terrific blues instrument, much to my surprise. My wife liked the tone so much that she bought one for herself, a new Deering Goodtime tenor (their no-frills model). She has hers tuned to CGDA, a little higher than mine. I have grown to really respect the Deering company and its policy of making the entire banjo in America with American parts.
Her Deering has a mylar head (plastic) and its tone is noticably different than mine which has a skin head (goat skin). I prefer the goat skin (sound-wise) but that is a matter of taste and I wanted the head to be consistant with the age of my banjo (probably 1920s). I rather enjoy the putting on the skin head process which is not really difficult, once you've done it once, but is a bit time consuming.
Anyway I have no real expertise but would certainly suggest looking into a Deering if you are interested in buying new and want a warantee. They have a nice catalogue for their banjos which range in price from reasonable to rediculous. There are plenty of other makers I have no knowledge of.
Talk of banjos reminds me of the octave mandolin I've been trying to sell. I haven't been playing it (hence selling the instrument!) but I should drag it out and try some blues on it. Might have to take it out of the classifieds! If not I may try a tenor banjo. I see some '60s Gibsons for a decent price at Elderly, but I'll want to try one first. I suppose I can get tenor strings and put them on my old Goodtime -- kind of a 5th string conversion in reverse . . . .
A 5 string without its fifth string gives you a plectrum banjo and capoing it up a few frets will give you a tenor... There are specifications for strings somewhere on the web... I forget where, but if I recall only one has to be changed. (could be wrong though because I don't think I read the article carefully.). Anyway that sounds like an interesting experiment.
My Mandolin is a Washburn M5-S #2388. It's a Jethro Burns Model. The gentleman couldn't tell me how old it was because of a fire.
But it's funky and it's got soul. I got inspired to play mandolin some years ago when I saw Taj Mahal play an old steal body National mando at an Ann Harbor Blues Festival many years ago. I've been at it off and on ever since. I had an excellent old A2 Gibson but I had to part with it to help pay for my daughter being. Nows she's grown and I playing again.
I have been using my 1940 National Style 0 mandolin for a number of years at gigs, but have now switched over to the National RM-1 2007, with a hotplate coverplate pickup by Jason Lollar. Easy for festivals and gigs that have lousy mikes and the playability is great. Love the wider neck than most mandos.
For solos on cds now I have been using a Chris Stanley V-5 because of its great ring and overtones. It is fun to switch between instruments, but not to travel with them!
For tuning down to E on the G string --- 1.5 steps down on the whole mando, I use the Style 0 or a 1914 black Gibson F-2. I like that woody sound on it.
Cheers from Bangkok... just finishing recording a cd here with the RM-1 on it!
Having had to sell my 1913 Gibson A last year, what was a poor boy to do. I went El Cheapo Chic. A Strad-O-Lin with a DeArmond Monkey on a Stick pickup and plugged into a Supro Sportsman head.
As long as everyone is talking about gear, and if anyone wants to read this post, let me tell you how I wound up joining this a group a few days ago. trying to make this short- I am 47 playing music since 6. first instrument -violin-classical -loved it but even the "gypsy" hot stuff did not provide much of an outlet. I loved jazz , rock, soul, and blues.grew up in the Bronx and didn't know bluegrass existed-except when channel surfing and passed he-haw. got older played violin jazz, rock fusion...jeanluc ponty stuff, started to play clarinet, then Sax. The sax spoke to me-finally Jazz, rock,soul,blues and no one looked at me like that instrument os not made to play in those style. I gigged alot and had a great time
Fast forward...2009 still playing all the axes and I am in a pawn shop in Israel with my wife and I see a crappy electric mandolin I think the name was "TACO"-no "Paco" I say that has the same strings as the violin so, i bet I can play that and do something with it. My wife knows I have an almost disease level instrument fetish ..but for 50 bucks who cares. I but it start playing and learning what a pick is...noun and verb. the piece of sh#$t never stayed in tune but I had a good time and started looking for things to play. 1 month later bought a factory second kentucky 675 or 700 for $200 ended up that it had a warped neck- but when your coming from a Paco it was a big upgrade! Now I'm having a good ol time, 2 months later I'm ready for an upgrade and end up with 2 "the Loar lm 600's because I was bidding on 2 at the same time on ebay and one both auctions really low. Now I'm beginning to start to play and want to seek out some knowlege...a teacher.
Get one from Craig's list-terrible great guitarist who owns a mandolin. So I call up an old friend who i used to play with a bit..the only guy I know personally who plays mandolin...Andy Statman I had know idea that he was a recognized giant on the instrument. he gives me a lesson -rocks my world in 1 hour and says if you want to learn how to play mandolin go learn bluegrass. So I start going to Jams and picking stuff up from all those around me and my playing takes off----and what FUN! I even pulled out my violin which everyone was calling a fiddle and its great and really a good time.
Doing it for a year playing some rock and roll and blues too. Finally I'm readt to feed my fetish again and I Buy a Gibson Jam master Oval hole mando. Sounds woody and beautiful...take it to jams and the highs aren'e projecting and I am having trouble hearing it myself...so I take it to mandolin brothers ...world famous on Staten Island. Big Mistake as afr as my fetish is concerned. I was a kid in a candy shop!! remember in NY there are not alot of places that stock lots of mandolins. I tell them the problem with the Gibson and they agree to look at it and to set it up. Meanwhile I don't want to leave. Its like I am in the middle of an instrument orgy. I played collings, Gibson, Weber, Phoenix ...and then........I touched a National RM-1 I almost...well it was love at first play,touch listen. I could not believe the sound..feel..resonance..loudness, and it was a used 2010 model! it was speaking to me I started to bargain with the owner..Nice nice guy.and I leave them with my Gibson and think to myself its a down economy I just bought the Gibson 2 months ago (6 weeks but who's counting) Needless to say I came back one day later and bought the RM-1..I didn't care so much that the gibson gas a neck issue and I have to send it back to the guy I got it from to fix it.
I played it so much I can hardly move the fingers on my left hand. Wow!! so now I am looking for more stuff to play with this thing. I start you tubing and find Rich delgrosso and start listening...and loving it and its great blues....the stuff I was playing on fiddle that no one was listening to in my "holier than thou" classical music environment..the stuff that led me to the sax( which i still love and play a lot) but its full circle.
Anyway slow day ,cold outside if you read this story it does go through some mandolins (btw I also have a Michael Kelly electric which I got to bring on gigs) and all that lead me to this discussion group loolking to find tunes and learn who the "greats" are on blues mandolin. find out more of the vast volume of knowledge I don't have about this kind of music.
I'm having a Blast listening and Playing! and I can't put down the rm1.
great story Danny!
Thanks , I just got "Takin Sam's advice"...wiring a dog's Nose??..Sure sounds hot though!.anyway are you using the "hot plate"?
My main player is a Stradolin (1935) which I restored from a sat-upon broken wreck.
My newest is a sat-upon Harmony Batwing, soon to arrive and be fixed, which will allow me to sound exactly like Yank Rachell... Won't it???
My most raukus is my cheap resonater mando guarenteed to irritate my neighbors in the summer.
My most authentic looking is the same one as seen in the great portrait of Charlie McCoy seated with mando on his lap... Mine goes by the brand name "La Melodia" but it was sold under several brand names in the '20s
My most obscene one is a LYRA (late '20s or 30s) which looks like it has a serious case of erectile disfunction. You would have to see this one to believe it.
And a whole bunch of other less distinguished but fun mandos and banjos, repaired or in process of being repaired.
Hi Dan, on TAKIN' SAM'S ADVICE I use a few different mandolins. BUT NOT the National. I didn't have it while recording. Most of the tracks are done on a 1941 National Style 0, a 30's Regal Dobro resonator with spider cone, or a 1919 Gibson A3 whiteface.
Glad you are enjoying the cd. Since it is virtually impossible to get in the US, I can sell it to folks including postage at an okay price if they contact me PM or email.
bmac, the batwings are fun but tend to feedback in small places, so a bit difficult in live situations. I have one, and love to fool around with it, but don't gig with it anymore.
I've dabbled with everything I've had, but right now my faves are a Kay I got last weekend, for everything F-hole, and my Victoria, B&J New York, a flat back oval hole that (I got in 1984 & will never part with) for anything & everything. Victoria has much the sort of sound of Howard Armstrong & such.
I don't intend to play out in public much, if any. My concern is with the mojo factor I might absorb from having one just like Rachell's.
My Batwing arrived yesterday and it is a real project!!! Somone apparently sat on it and pretty much destroyed it... So I am busy glueing it back together but it will take some time and maybe a bit of luck. One intereting thing is that it shows no use wear at all suggesting that it was destroyed shortly after purchase... no fret wear, no scratches on pick guard, no indication of use whatsoever. I do a lot of fixing of instruments so I am confident I can get it looking nice and playable again. Were I not able to fix it myself it would cost a fortune to be commercially repaired.
One question about the pickup: Mine was apparently salvaged after the accident and is no longer with the mando... What brand and type am I looking for to best match the original in appearance and fit? I believe that type is no longer being made but hopefully I might find one on eBay some time. This would be the only electric instrument I own and don't have a sound system for it.
I downloaded the album from Itunes I almost never buy cd's anymore. It was readily accessible. and bart...wow good luck
Danny, yes the cd is on iTunes. I was more thinking if people wanted a physical cd! ;-)
Bart, it is a DeArmond pickup of some sort mounted in the mandolin. Don't know if anybody does retro ones. i am not much of an electric guy, but there are some real experts on pickups out there and a lot of manufacturers doing BETTER versions of classic pickups! PERSONALLY, if a P-90 would fit in there, I had a Gibson EM-150 before with a P-90 and it rocked! P-90s are available everywhere. Jason Lollar does special order telecaster style single coils pickups for mandolins. I ordered one as an extra for my RM-1.
Thanks for the info on pickups for mandos .... I think I may really need one for my batwing.... I just finished repairing the front and sides and repaired 17 cracks and some total breaks and seven some missing wood.... So it is a complete rebuild.... I had to do so many cleats i suspect that the sound might be deadened a bit. Should look pretty good though but will require a total refinish as well; The body only, the neck is in great shape.. Shsould be able to get it back together this week for a test (repairs and sound) before putting a finish on it..
I've seen DeArmond's on e-bay the last few days, but I think they may have all been the add-on type. I'm pretty sure there have also been some potential deals there on P90's or other similar pickups. I'd recommend searching at the bay to see what you can find.(or post in the Cafe Wanted classifieds)
Vintage Gibson EM-150 P90 Mandolin Pickup e-bay:
the Late David Hodson's, D'jangolin has taken over the Go To position Of late ..
Still using the same nickel wound light strings for the G&D, the plain ones have been replaced.
1st when the Bridge was modified to being the action down ..
zero fret fingerboard, and there is a notched fret atop the Bridge .. cuts through like a knife..
Blues jams are mostly a question about how to cut them off..
A friend of mine in Bangkok just ordered a MIX, A model, witht the red finish! Cool. I can't wait to try it out when I go over in November. Did some recording on my new cd, using a Pomeroy Mandola too. Nice woofy tone for chords and I even did a little bit using slide on it! I play slide on mando too sometimes, but the scale is short and VERY difficult to get the tone right. The mandola was easier.
Hi Bert: Sounds great!
Can't wait to hear the slide mandola!
Every Pomeroy instrument I have heard has sounded excellent.
I look forward to your new CD.
I'm the guy in Thailand waiting for the Mix A4. At the moment it is 99% complete, and just waiting for Peter Mix to return home from a trip to California to do the final set-up. Then all it has to do is find its way to me in North Thailand, which isn't as easy as calling up FedEx, and might involve shipping to a friend in Hongkong, collection and hand-carry by another friend to Bangkok, then waiting for me to pass through Bangkok to pick it up. This could add a couple of months to my wait. Pure torture, but there is no other sensible, safe way due to the unreliabilty of couriers here and the unpredictability of predatory Customs officials.
p.s. I've played Bert's RM-1, and the National remains high on my hypothetical wish list. If only....
Nice to read all these posts regarding instruments we use to focus on blues music. I have several that all seem to impart their own tone so no favorites. I own a F style mando made in the 70's I think. It's made by the folks who own Intermountain Guitar & Banjo out in Salt Lake City. The mando is named the Deseret, which is a common Mormon term. Very good tone with excellent play wear housed in a beat up Calton case. Also a Weber Bridger A and a 1926 Martin A Style. I am a late bloomer on the mando having spent time with the guitar and piano, even a trombone. Fortunately, music theory applies to all. My songs come from the Blues Mandolin book compiled by Rich Del Grasso. Like many have noted, I'd like to play a resonator type mando some day.
I'm somewhat new to blues in general, but have been trying to play blues on my Jon Mann octave electric mandolin, as well as my MT. As I'm more interested in electric blues, I picked up a book on electric blues guitar and have been working through that, with mixed success. It's fun, even if not ready for public consumption. I'm mostly a Celtic player on mando and octave mando. I may end up playing electric guitar, if I'm not careful...
Dana, how's that Jon Mann Octave Electric working out for you? Is it a solidbody? I'm looking for a solidbody OM so I can practice quietly unplugged. I use a Mandobird for practising my mandolin quietly... shhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Well I sprang for an E-Mandocello by the legendary Mike Soares. I can't wait to get my hands on it...
Just saw your post; sorry for my lack of diligence and late answer.
The Mann OEM is great. It is not solid-body, and is in fact a full hollow-body (he usually does semi-hollow). It is quite good for blues and moderate rock (and Celtic), less successful at, say, Crazy Train (which is fun to do on an acoustic, just to torture my son...) or other metal (feedback as you'd expect). Post pics and clips of the eMandocello when you can; that's be fun to hear and see.
However, as it happens, I did get an electric guitar, and am working thru the blues books, and haven't really touched the OEM in the past 3 or 4 weeks. I'm trying to split my time between mandolin and guitar, so it's the acoustic mando that gets played during mandolin time.