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Thread: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than bluegra

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    Nic the Greek Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than bluegra

    I have been searching on the web for a quality sounding A5 or F5 mandolin recently with a nice mellow sound without having to pay a fortune. I have been frustrated with the sound clips of various instruments - I don't want to hear another bluegrass chop chord put on any website as a selling point. The mandolin is capable of producing beautiful sounds and in keys other than G, C, D, and A. It excels in the swing, minor, and jazz chords.

    To that end I really enjoy David Grizman's music - have done so for the last 30 years.
    Having heard Mario D'Orrico's lesson on Dawg's Rag, the KM-1000 mandolin he plays sounds pretty good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXSV-...watch_response

    Any thoughts from forum members about a mandolin with mellow mids and bass and nice trebles up the neck for this and other styles of music?

    I am interested in hearing people's experiences in playing this and any other style of music on an A5 or F5 instrument.

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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    For years I was on the same search as you. Now I have found two mandolins which sound great and "mellow" though still with good volume: A KM1000 Blackface I purchased used from the Mandolin Store , and a Strad O Lin I bought at an auction which I had to replace the tuners and will soon need to be re-fretted.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    The sound of a mandolin, "mellow", "dark", "woody", "bright", "clear", whatever, is not only rather subjective, but is mostly from the player rather than the instrument. Surely there are mandolins that have more or less of the sound you seek, but the sound of Grisman (your example of a sound you like) is the sound of Grisman, whatever mandolin he is playing, and quite often he is playing a mandolin capable of considerable Bluegrass chop.

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    What's your budget? These are purely generalizations but for mellow look for a mando with a sitka or Englemann spruce top. Adirondack or red spruce tends to have a little more ping and brightness to it. Weber also does a great job with cedar tops that produce a bassier, mellow tone. But like John said, lots of subjectivity here. I've heard up close and played a few of Grisman's mandolins and mellow they are not!

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    Nic the Greek Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Yes I appreciate it is very subjective. yes and I agree that Grizman's mandolins are anything but mellow. I was actually referring to Mario D'Orrico's mandolin as a starting point.

    My budget is between $1000-1500US. I agree with sgarrity that a sitka or englemann spruce top sounds more mellow. Hear Steve Black's A5 mandolin sound and it sounds very different to a KM900 mandolin sound, which to me sounds a lot thinner up high in the trebles but ok down low. Given that most US mandolins are made with maple back and sides I don't find much difference in timbre and tone.

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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Start with using $15 Jazzmando or D'Addario Flatwound strings on your current mandolin with a Dawg pick. That ought to darken the tone a bit. Alternatively, break away from the arch top F hole paradigm and consider a flat top/back mandolin with a mahogany, walnut, or rosewood back and an oval hole (e.g., Big Muddy, Gypsy, Redline Traveler, Arches, Flatiron Pancake, vintage Martin). Those are in your budget and have mellower tones.

    Jamie
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    I agree that Webers have a bassy sound. What will also help is using a Dawg pick and some Jazz Mando strings or other flat wound strings. That will take the zing out of most mandolins.The Loar 400 is a bit on the bassy side and plays well.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Quote Originally Posted by NG53 View Post
    Given that most US mandolins are made with maple back and sides I don't find much difference in timbre and tone.
    I look fwd to the comments on that!!

    From your avatar, it looks like you play an octave mandolin? Personally, I think it is best to play as many real instruments that you can. Videos just don't do much for me -- for one thing you cannot get a real sense of what it feels like to actually play the instrument, tonewise and as concerns playability.

    If you are looking for a mellow sound to play jazz, check out jazzmando.com. Ted has reviewed quite a few instruments of varying kind that are suitable for jazz and that might be right for you.

    BTW Dawg's last name is Grisman -- no z.
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Yeah, some flat wound strings- JazzMando or Thomastik ($$) and a thick rounded edge pick can go a long way towards mellow.

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    Registered User George R. Lane's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    I would think a cedar top instrument would work for you.
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    Nic the Greek Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Thanks very much for everyone's ideas on this one.
    I have come away with a much better way to approach it.
    You have given me some new ideas to follow up on re strings, picks,
    and instruments.

    BTW I like the Gibson style A and F5 mandolins and their sound.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Just an addendum to my comments: I would also check on some oval hole instruments. If you are just looking at f-holes the timbre might be closer than an oval. Also transverse bracing vs. x-bracing vs. tone bars will make a tonal difference.
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    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    I agree with what's been said before. You will see a dramatic change in the tone of your instrument by going to a flatwound string and trying different picks. For the mellower and darker timbres, Dawg/GoldenGate picks excel.

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Very subjective... however.. if you are looking for something with "warmth" and an extended low end, certainly worth giving a Silverangel a try. As others have said, string choice and pick choice also have quite an impact. Lots of options out there. Play as many variants as you can.

    You say you like the Gibson F5. Not something most would describe as "mellow", so it is hard to know what you are seeking. Only you can know that.
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    Registered User John Kinn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    My late forties A40 is very warm and mellow sounding. But not for sale..

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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Well that is exactly the sort of A5 that I build (and play myself), and I supply them with FT74 strings. A good all round mandolin, I don't have many bluegrass customers. There are sound clips on my web site, and you won't hear any chop chords. A bit over your budget though.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Quote Originally Posted by JEStanek View Post
    Start with using $15 Jazzmando or D'Addario Flatwound strings on your current mandolin with a Dawg pick.
    I couldn't agree with this more. More often than not, a search for the right string and pick combo will greatly influence the end tone. I have a Breedlove Quartz OF and with standard J74's or equivalent, it is a VERY bright mandolin. I currently use D'Addario FW74 flatwound strings and a Wegen pick without a bevel. The combination has given me the mellow, warm tone I have always desired.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Try to get your hands on one of the best & most commented on "A" styles around at the moment,a Kentucky KM900.They've been receiving shed loads of praise on here over the last few months,much of it from folks who have other very much higher priced instruments. Somewhat over your current budget,are the highly regarded 'Northfield' Mandolins. Currently a Northfield "A" style will set you back around $2,000 US.Personally,i'd be looking very seriously at the KM900,currently on sale at the Mandolin store for $999 US - a saving of a mere $800 US,
    Re. 'mellow' tone - the style &thickness of pick that you use can determine the tone of your instrument.If you want a 'mellow' sound,which to me means a subdued (to some extent) treble,try a thick pick,one in the region of 1.5 to 2.0 mm. A 'Golden Gate' or 'Dawg' pick might give you what you're after,
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    Nic the Greek Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Try to get your hands on one of the best & most commented on "A" styles around at the moment,a Kentucky KM900.They've been receiving shed loads of praise on here over the last few months,much of it from folks who have other very much higher priced instruments. Somewhat over your current budget,are the highly regarded 'Northfield' Mandolins. Currently a Northfield "A" style will set you back around $2,000 US.Personally,i'd be looking very seriously at the KM900,currently on sale at the Mandolin store for $999 US - a saving of a mere $800 US,
    Re. 'mellow' tone - the style &thickness of pick that you use can determine the tone of your instrument.If you want a 'mellow' sound,which to me means a subdued (to some extent) treble,try a thick pick,one in the region of 1.5 to 2.0 mm. A 'Golden Gate' or 'Dawg' pick might give you what you're after,
    Ivan
    Yes thanks Ivan - very good advice on all accounts. I will certainly try a much heavier pick to get that mellow sound I am looking for. And yes, I have looked at the KM-900 mandolin. They are lovely looking and good sounding mandolins. The nut is a bit narrow for me though. I would prefer one a bit wider. One issue though with the mandolin store clips is that they are quite narrow in what they play - one really needs to hear the clip played for longer and preferably on video. Given their huge range in mandolins, that may not be possible.

    In contrast, Adam Johnson plays an Eastman 605 mandolin, which does n't sound too bad at all - nice inflection on this youtube clip (it is not played too fast so that one can hear the notes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWQUZ...eature=related

    You all have been very helpful, thank you for your wise advice and support.

    And to throw in an irish song played and sung by Andy Irvine on a vintage Gibson. Wonderful support by Paul Brady (guitar) and Donal Lunny (bouzouki) back in 1979. BTW there is a 7/8 section thrown in for good measure in the song. See if you can spot it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJNcE...eature=related

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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    If you like wider, try a used Breedlove OO (Quartz or American series - same mandolin different years). Used, those should be under $900.00.

    Jamie
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    http://youtu.be/uXN_pqbvl6U - "Dusty Miller" played on a KM900 Mandolin. Re.the wider nut - unless a mandolin is specifically built to have a wider nut,there's usually very little variation in the standard nut width.My Lebeda has a nut that's about 1/8" wider than the nut on my Weber. I find both easy to play. Once you get used to it,the nut width isn't a major point - unless you do have large hands (as i do),but i still manage ok,
    Ivan
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    Nic the Greek Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Thanks Ivan for a wonderful lead regarding the Northfield 'Big Mon' A mandolin, Sounds fantastic - good version of the Swedish Jig being played there. A bit beyond my price range at the moment. I will keep it mind if I ever get to the US next year for conferences. It becomes a bit expensive once one adds shipping to Australia and local taxes. One has to be careful making comparisons between the KM-900 and it as there might have been some twinkering with the sound system on the Northfield video.

    All the same, a slightly bigger bodied A mandolin gives more depth to the sound and possibly mellows it as well.

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    Certifiable Patrick Sylvest's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    I had an interesting experience with my Ratcliff A, varnish finish.

    I was practicing some Django tunes with my guitar player and I was playing my Weber, Cedar top as I usually do for this music. We moved to another room in my house where my Ratcliff was hanging on the wall. So I pull it down and begin to play, 'Minor Swing', I believe it was, and it was amazing how close the tone was to what I heard on Grisman's version. We even compared it straight to the recording. Elixir strings and a Blue chip pick completed the set up.

    The Ratcliff has a reallly nice woody tone and you can get one new for a good price.

    Dennis has some nice Lafferty A's with oval holes that may suit your style as well. I played them the day before yesterday and they've got tone to spare!

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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    One thing i should have added to my first post in this thread,don't overlook the Kentucky KM505 "A" style either. I played one several months back & was amazed at the tone.I wouldn't have believed that it was less than 1/2 the cost of a KM900.For the cash,they're superb,
    Ivan

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    Nic the Greek Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a mellow A5 or F5 mandolin - music other than blu

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sylvest View Post
    I had an interesting experience with my Ratcliff A, varnish finish.

    I was practicing some Django tunes with my guitar player and I was playing my Weber, Cedar top as I usually do for this music. We moved to another room in my house where my Ratcliff was hanging on the wall. So I pull it down and begin to play, 'Minor Swing', I believe it was, and it was amazing how close the tone was to what I heard on Grisman's version. We even compared it straight to the recording. Elixir strings and a Blue chip pick completed the set up.

    The Ratcliff has a reallly nice woody tone and you can get one new for a good price.
    Thanks Patrick for that insight. Yes I thought that one might be able to reproduce some of Dave Grisman's sound without having to pay a fortune for a Gibson F5 mandolin or equivalent. BTW I once had a Steve Gilchrist mandolin that I bought from a music shop in Melbourne for about $1200 back in about 1980 when I first started to play a mandolin. It was a difficult mandolin to play well - it had an uncomfortable neck on it. For that reason, I sold it without even knowing that it would be one day be a sought after Bluegrass mandolin. I could perhaps got 10 times what I paid for it if just sat in a cupboard as an investment. Amazing how short-sighted we are when we are young men without much wisdom!

    Anyhow back to this thread. I would like to hear a video of the Ratcliff A mandolin - anyone out there know of a video or music clip that we could listen to? This is turning out to be an interesting thread about how to make one's mandolin sound less brash and more attuned to different styles of music that may require a more mellow intonation and a different musical flavour. Ideas such as putting on different types of strings and using a much harder pick than I am used. The now late John McGann recommends some of this stuff on his mandolin sound fundamentals DVD. Worth getting a copy to get his take on it.

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