As you probably know, I'm a hobbyist making solidbody electric mandolins, and every now and then I put one up for sale on eBay. Every time I put one up I get at least one "question" from a bidder suggesting that a solidbody electric mandolin can't possibly be a legitimate instrument.
Here's a recent sample:
"What could this thing possibly sound like? I assume that with only 4 stringsit probably sounds more like a japanese string instrument, instead of the traditional mandolin which gets its sound from the twin strings. You can call it a mondolin because of it's tuning, but it probably doesn't have the characteristic manolin sound."
Does everyone get these comments from people about their emandos? It gets tedious, but I usually take the bait and respond. Here's what I sent in reply to the question:
">What could this thing possibly sound like?
It could possibly sound like a small electric guitar tuned to GDAE, but that would be in the ear of the beholder.
>I assume that with only 4 stringsit probably sounds more
>like a japanese string instrument, instead of the traditional
>mandolin which gets its sound from the twin strings.
Like a shamisen? No. The shamisen has three strings and the tuning is dependent on the style of music being played. An electric mandolin has four strings, most usually tuned GDAE, like the acoustic mandolin which is also tuned GDAE but in unison pairs. But I'm sure you already know that. Of course with an acoustic instrument the overtones are hidden in the blend of the overall sound. The 8 string electric mandolin is much less forgiving and strings tend to "beat" when slightly off frequency, which is why most electric mandolins are 4 or 5 string.
>You #can call it a mondolin because of it's tuning, but it
>probably doesn't have the characteristic manolin sound.
No. To hear the characteristic mandolin sound you'd need to listen to music being played by a classical mandolin ensemble. Of course some instrumentalists choose to play the coarser style called bluegrass on their mandolins, some choose to use the mandolin as an accompanying or even a featured instrument (some tracks by The Eagles and Led Zeppelin come to mind), and other have found a niche for solidbody electric mandolins like this one.
Thanks for your enquiry. As a reader of guitar, mandolin, fiddle, violin and even ukulele forums on the Web it's always interesting to see comment from individuals who perceive their genre of music and the style of instrument on which it's played as being the only pure and legitimate form. Fortunately I've never been afflicted with this attitude and have always kept an open mind to the various musical styles and the many types of instrument that exist for our enjoyment. Diversity of taste in music is just one of the great things that makes our many tastes and cultures so wonderful, don't you think? Solidbody electric instruments are fair game for criticism, and we're happy to live with that, but we do reserve the right to reply in kind.
Thanks again for your enquiry."
Any thoughts? Anyone?
Rob - Jupiter Creek Music - Australia