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Thread: Vintage Mandola Insights

  1. #1
    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Vintage Mandola Insights

    Browsing the mandolin archives, I find it interesting to note that most early mandolas have mandolin bridges. The first instance I can find of a mandola having the correct compensation is around 1913-14 or so.
    From this point on there seems to be a smattering of correct original bridges as well as replacement bridges with mandolin saddles. One example seems to have a correct one piece bridge in the case with a replacement mandolin bridge on the instrument. There is even a Randy wood replacement mandola bridge that has been slotted the wrong way around.
    Being a longer scale length I realize the exact setback probably is not so crucial, and in times past the knowledge and availability of mandola parts would not have been common. Certainly my knowledge is due to the Internet and the willingness of the likes of Paul Hostetter and others to share their wealth of knowledge based on years of experience.
    I found it interesting that there seemed to be a certain point where Gibson wised up to the correct setback, and it has never been such common knowledge that replacements were often not correct.
    Perhaps this is actually due to a change from WWPP to WWWP is the standard string set at some point? The earliest example seems to have a WWPP string setup.
    Last edited by Ben Milne; Apr-13-2012 at 11:49pm. Reason: add links
    Hereby & forthwith, any instrument with an odd number of strings shall be considered broken. With regard to mix levels, usually the best approach is treating the mandolin the same as a cowbell.

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Mandola Insights

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Milne View Post
    The earliest example seems to have a WWPP string setup.
    Is that the correct link, Ben? That looks like a non-original bridge.
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  3. #3
    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Mandola Insights

    Link is correct. Although the bridge isn't the original, the D course appears to be plain strings. Anybody know if this was the norm early on, and was changed mid-teens?

  4. #4
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Mandola Insights

    I'm not sure what the question is, or if there is a question at all, but there are a few things that make mandola bridges more variable than mandolin bridges. Mandolins have two common scale lengths with 13 7/8" being the most common. Most mandolin string sets have 4 unwound and 4 wound strings. When that changes, as with some string sets, the "standard" bridge compensation is out the window and a custom bridge is needed.
    Mandolas are made with many different scale lengths and many different string sets, so coming up with a standard for compensating the bridge is not easy.
    For both mandolins and mandolas, I think of the bridge as a blank that needs to be "tuned" for the individual instrument. I've only built a few mandolas, each has a 17" scale, and though I started with Cumberland Acoustic mandola bridges on a couple of them (rather than starting from scratch), I adjusted the compensation to get each string in tune. I do the same thing with mandolin bridges, adjusting each string for best intonation.
    It is different at factories where standardization exists and large numbers of instruments are produced, but sometimes factories "punt" on low production items, and Gibson surely made more mandolins than mandolas, so it is no particular surprise that compensation of the bridges on early ones may have been given little consideration.
    How far up the neck do mandola players in mandolin orchestras play? Gibson was producing instruments for mandolin orchestras, for the most part, so that was the market, and if mandola parts were almost all first position (I'm speculating, I don't know what mandola parts for mandolin orchestra are like), perhaps not much compensation was needed.

  5. #5
    Registered User pfox14's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Mandola Insights

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Is that the correct link, Ben? That looks like a non-original bridge.
    Based on the pix, that is definitely not the original bridge.
    Visit www.fox-guitars.com - cool Gibson & Epiphone history and more

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