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Thread: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

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    Registered User hbkolb's Avatar
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    Default Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Hi all, I am a guitarist that started playing mandolin about 3 weeks ago. I got one for an acoustic music ministry I'm in. My friend gave me an old Harmony A style, that I love and have learned quite a bit on, but after playing live with it for the last two days, I think I would like to get an acoustic / electric one that I can just plug in instead of mic'ing. Plus there are a few fret issues on mine.

    Since I play in a music ministry, money is tight, I have about 300.00 to spend, can anyone recommend one for me in that price range?

    I would appreciate any help or advice.

    Thank you,
    Howie

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    Long , Strange Trip Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Hi Howie
    Welcome to the cafe and the world of mandolin obsession. I'm sure you know $300 is a tight budget for a mandolin. Godin and Ovation/applause are the 2 most common accoustic electrics, The Godin and the Ovation are pretty mandolin sounding when plugged in but generally above your price range. The quality control on the Applause instruments is pretty poor with bad action and the resulting difficult playability being the main problem as they have pretty decent pickups and pre amps. I have made an applause a decent playing instrument but it took some work, mostly re cutting the nut and saddle. You might want to consider a decent entry level acoustic from Kentucky,Rover, or maybe eastman and adding a pickup or buying a good mic to play into. There are fenders and epiphones as well as others with magnetic pickups on an otherwise acoustic instrument that can be plugged in but they tend to sound more like an electric guitar. If you can , try as many as possible to fined what you are looking for.
    Good Luck
    Jim
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    Registered User hbkolb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Thanks Jim, I appreciate your response. I know that is a pretty low budget. Luckily I do have some nice mic's from my old studio. I am a big guy and keep hitting the mics when I move, that is why I was thinking an electric / acoustic would be better. I will try to come up with some more cash, I don't want to buy something that won't do me any good.
    Thanks,
    Howie
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Save up another $150 to $200 and you should be able to get something secondhand. For $300 you're not going to find anything better than the Harmony, so you might as well stick with that for now.

    In addition to the Godin and Ovation, you can look at the Fender FM62SE/FM62SCE/"Robert Schmidt Signature Model" (all slight variations on the same thing) or the GoldTone GM110. These should be available for a little under $500.

    I would avoid the Fender FM52E and anything that looks like it ... cheap magnetic pickup on an acoustic body. Doesn't sound acoustic or electric, but more like a pale imitation of both.
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Again, welcome to the cafe Howie. For an entry level price you kind of get what you pay for. As a guitarist transplant you'll have to get used to the fact than a quality mando will generally cost you more than a quality guitar. Not to say that you can't get by with something in that budget, I got lucky on a second hand Rogue that served me well for several years and it's still my back-up. The critical issue is set-up. Even a modestly priced instrument can be a good player, but it is extremely rare to find one that is set up well from the factory for that kind of money. Best advice is to play it first if that is at all possible. Incedently playing worship music with mando is a great learning tool. It forces you to play outside your known structure. I've learned more chords playing at church than in my Irish folk group, which may not be saying much, but I'm just saying. Beware! This may cause you to neglect your guitar, you know that you cannot serve two masters. Have fun and make a joyful noise! Dan

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    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Firstly, welcome Howie.
    Good advice so far... I would either
    A: spend the money on having someone dress the frets and set your harmony up, and get yourself something like this microphone
    or B: Save for a bit longer and get yourself one of the new Fender Rob Schmidt models or find a good price on a secondhand Godin A8.

    Either way, I recommend you C: check out this page.
    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.

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    Registered User hbkolb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Thanks to everyone for the welcome and responses, I really appreciate it.

    Martin, I think that I will probably hold off for a while and save up my cash and work toward something that will be a better choice than just a cheaper one. I will keep my eyes open for some good deals on something used.

    Dan, it already has taken away from my "Strat" time, ha ha.

    Ben, great link on the font !

    ~Howie
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    Shook The Dust - Acoustic - Worship - Rock - Folk www.facebook.com/shookthedust

    Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.
    Psalms 33:3

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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Welcome again Howie,

    I think that's the wisest choice for your situation. AE mandolins are available new for $300, but you'd probably be disappointed in the result.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    I think that the low end electric / accoustic mandolins are not made for serious mandolin players, but for those new to the mandolin and more used to guitars and guitar culture, where there are many good electric/accoustic options. In mandolins I have heard it said its a compromise in both the accoustic and electric side. Put servicable but nothing special electrics on a servicable but nothing mandolin, and don't worry, someone new to mandolins will buy it.

    I think your decision to go for a better accoustic and mic it is sound.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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    Registered User hbkolb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Thx Tim & JeffD, that is the plan.
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    Consider This - Christian Rock www.facebook.com/considerthisaz

    Shook The Dust - Acoustic - Worship - Rock - Folk www.facebook.com/shookthedust

    Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.
    Psalms 33:3

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    Master of mediocrity Barry Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    I tried playing acoustic into a mic last night... that's actually really hard to do... you can't move. and I can't stand still... I hit the mic with instrument and hand... and trying to adjust volume during performance? I dunno. I think I like my mandobird even more now hehe

    my acoustic is by far the better instrument but in a band with drums and such, I am pretty sold on the bird.

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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    That's why I play an Ovation AE. I don't go as far to the electric side as you do with a Mandobird, but the principle is the same.
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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pipeous View Post
    I tried playing acoustic into a mic last night... that's actually really hard to do... you can't move.
    A lot depends on the mic, the sound person, and the stage volume/venue. At high enough on-stage volumes, mics become problematic - but it's remarkable how well they can be made to work. Not all mics need you to hang right on them either.

    Took a while to learn to use a mic well, to forget about the `rules'.

    I wouldn't have gotten to the point to where I prefer using mics if I wasn't able to `bail' and run the piezo signal the times when I had to, though. Nor would I be happy with mics if all I used was my SM57.
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    Registered User hbkolb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    One of my problems is I switch between, guitar, bass, and mandolin, so it is like playing red rover with musical instruments. Thank goodness for condenser mics on swinging arm boom stands !!
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    Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    get a peizo pick -up and a pedal with either volume or an on /off switch . ( the boss tuner pedal is good) the peizo will turn your mandolin into a microphone and any rubbing or bumping of the mandolin body will come out the pa/amp . just turn it off with the pedal when not playing .

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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Having an 'electrified' acoustic running through a good preamp into its own channel is handy too. You can do a lot to minimize handling noise that way. Controlling the gain structure is key to managing the handling noise nightmares that you often read about.

    That's another reason I like my Ovation. Like a quality microphone, it has practically zero handling noise. On one tune we rap our knuckles on the soundboard to make a sort of drum sound. Practically nothing comes out of the Ovation, it's that quiet.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pipeous View Post
    I tried playing acoustic into a mic last night... that's actually really hard to do... you can't move. and I can't stand still... I hit the mic with instrument and hand... and trying to adjust volume during performance? I dunno. .
    Yea, in addition to learning closed position chords, and FFcP scales, tremolo, how to inprovise, how to read music, how to play by ear, in addition to all that, you have to learn how to manage a free standing instrument mike. Its all part of it.


    I have a huge advantage on stage, when it comes to fixed position mics. I play sitting down.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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    Master of mediocrity Barry Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    ya our volumes are a bit high. I've been fighting to get levels down since I joined this band. it's getting better.

    I'll probably get an ovation or godin someday. I play my electric midi guitar mostly because I do the keyboard work, acoustic guitar and mandolin... I setup the set list to group songs with instruments to mimimize the instrument switching... I only play mando for 2-3 songs a set (finish each set on mando). I'll work mando more into things as we go. I've learned many of the tunes on mando, just need the other guitar player to learn different parts

    and hey, the mandobird would make a great weapon if there was ever a bad situation. I don't think you could hurt it lol

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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    FWIW, I found a Tonegard cut piezo handling noise a lot for me (all handling from back, rustling noises disappeared).
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Hmmm. There's something to remember the next time this subject comes up. Good advice.
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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Tim, I do the guitar-like over the left shoulder with my strap - when the mando moves around from vigorous picking or body movement, the piezo picks up everything that happens to the body of my mandolin. It does not seem to `hear' what happens against the tonegard. I have a weekly gig sitting, with my amp as my whole sound reinforcement [smallish bar] - for my mando/piezo-install it really cut that down for me and I'm content with it now.

    There's enough sources of non-musical noises from the piezo on the top of the mandolin to worry about [all self-inflicted].
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Having thought about it, perhaps there's something about the Ovation's resin back that contributes to its quiet performance? And as for self-inflicted, non-musical noises, tell me about it! LOL!
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus View Post
    ...There's enough sources of non-musical noises from the piezo on the top of the mandolin to worry about [all self-inflicted].
    Yeah, someone years ago surprised me by singing loudly, directly into the top of his piezo-equipped guitar, and having his voice come through the amplifier. Piezos can pick up anything that produces a vibration in the instrument top. Interests me that some who go to piezo pickups because they don't want to feel "tied" to a microphone -- want to move around more -- then have to restrict greatly their actions in handling their instrument, 'cause the piezo picks up the vibrations caused by moving their hands on the mandolin.

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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    A bit non sequitur when you think about it.

    I think it's Mandroid who's fond of saying that a piezo turns the whole instrument into a microphone.

    But more to the point, in my experience I've noticed that those who suffer most from handling noise do need to look carefully at their gain structure. I've almost always been able to bring handling noise under control to a great extent that way. Never gone mind you, but greatly reduced.
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    Registered User Terry Allan Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advise on a acoustic / electric mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I think that the low end electric / accoustic mandolins are not made for serious mandolin players, but for those new to the mandolin and more used to guitars and guitar culture, where there are many good electric/accoustic options. In mandolins I have heard it said its a compromise in both the accoustic and electric side. Put servicable but nothing special electrics on a servicable but nothing mandolin, and don't worry, someone new to mandolins will buy it.

    I think your decision to go for a better accoustic and mic it is sound.
    One thing I've noticed is how many variations of this "theme" there is out there:



    Not a bad electric mandolin if your replace the pickup w/ something of quality, like a Seymour Duncan "mandocaster" p/u or a P-90M


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