I have read that the A00 is not good for bluegrass...why?
I have read that the A00 is not good for bluegrass...why?
Most trad grassers seem to say so either outright or through looks and shrugs about A shaped oval hole mandolins. Mostly, because Bill Monroe played an F shaped ff holed mandolin and the ff holes give more of a projected, short sustained sound associated with bluegrass music. Andy Statman played bluegrass (very well I'll add) for years on a Gobson oval holed mandolin. It can be done but it isn't what folks expect. Expectations often drive perceptions of outcome.
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Does it have anything to do with the scale length? Is the scale length shorter which prevents doing chords up the neck?
Given that the A-00 was first introduced as an oval hole mandolin then transitioned to the f-hole configuration, I would say that the BG police frown on it because of the A shape AND the fact that it has the shorter 10 fret neck. The A-5 has the longer 15 fret neck so it probably doesn't get as many disapproving looks from the BGPD. The scale length is exactly the same but the bridge placement is closer to the tailpiece with the 10 fret neck and nearer the middle of the top with a 15fret neck. The longer neck also provides more playing space up the neck.
My 2 cents,
I think OP needs to specify if he means the oval hole or F hole version. The F hole version is equal to the A40/A50 models and those have been making bluegrass music for over 75 years.
I mean the F-hole version. Does the shorter neck scale mean there is more space between the frets compared to the longer neck? And does anyone know if the tops on these were adirondack spruce?
Jeff...that is my question...why would someone think that or ask that....I am trying to find out...
See post #4 here
For one thing, the OP should understand that the scale length is exactly the same (13.75 inches) whether the neck is shorter or longer. The only thing it really affects is where the bridge is placed on the mandolin top, closer to the tailpiece for the shorter neck and closer to the middle of the top for the longer neck. There will be more frets that are easily reached with the longer neck but the spaces between frets are exactly the same. I don't know for sure what kind of spruce they used. It may have been Adirondack red or ............?
My 1935 A-00 has a couple of cracks in the back, and that back is flat to begin with, so it is no show piece regardless of its provenance (considerable). But its funky ratty old-time (not old-timey) sound was just fine for the music I was playing in the seasonal Cajun-country-bluegrass band. Now, I have never taken it to a festival so I can only imagine what scorn this oval hole A model would get. But I do think (as has been mentioned) there is something about f-holes that bluegrassers prefer, regardless of body style.
That said, I think most mandolins can be played to sound like authentic bluegrass instruments if one knows what one is doing. I do a couple numbers nearly every week on my old plain A and it sounds pretty real to me. It sounds like you ran into some pretty backward-thinking or conservative-minded opinions there. Used to be a lot of progressive picking in bluegrass in the 70s and 80s; hope that hasn't fallen by the wayside. Keeping traditions alive is one thing; stomping on progress or denying acceptance to non-traditional approaches is another. Someone from the BGPD must be overstepping his bounds.
Thanks for the input folks. This was kind of an emergency post because I found an a00 on ebay that I was interested in and the auction was going into the last few minutes as you were all responding. I have a regular scroll mandolin, but last weekend at the florida folk fest I played an a1 gibson that looked and sounded great...very vintage sounding. So I was bidding on this a00 and just won it...the last 10 seconds it went from $455 almost to my max bid. I finally got it for $613...which seems like a good price when I see this mando for over 1K at dealers.
You done good Timmando!! ;-) A vintage Gibson A00 for $613 delivered to your door. Congratulations!! My friends (Gypsy Wind) played at the Florida Folk Festival last weekend and had a great time. Glad you enjoyed it too and have fun with that new old A00.
Thanks Len...I wonder if I picked with a fiddle player from Gypsy Wind at FFF...she did alot of gypsy type breaks in a bluegrass jam. I forget her name, black hair, kind of whimsical...gypsyish if that is a word!
I'm wondering if that is an adirondack red spruce top. In the guitar world a wide grain like that is thought to be red spruce. I have seen other gibsons from this timeframe that supposedly have a red spruce top...I hope this is because that will help the sound. Here is where I saw the reference to the red spruce top...same year 1936, same mando...already sold...
And here is a 1938, same reference to red spruce top...
Last edited by Timmando; Jun-01-2012 at 4:33pm.
I've seen them play with a couple of male fiddlers, but not with a female so who knows. Their mando player is Mark Robertson-Tessi who is a member of this forum and contributes some excellent posts. I take mando lessons with their guitar/banjo player Mike Godwin. Congrats again and please let us know how you like your new (old) A00 after you receive it.
There is absolutely no substantive reason why an A-00 cannot be used very effectively for bluegrass. The reasons some folks may object might be they think that only an F5 will do because that is what Bill did, in which case they would be wrong, or they think that only F5s have been used on professional bluegrass, in which case that would be wrong, or they think that there is some accoustic or playability feature of the A-00 that prevents it from excelling at bluegrass, in which case they would be wrong.
So as to which reason why they think it, I dunno, but what ever it is, they would be wrong.
Bear in mind that what Jeff says is surely tainted by his being more flexible than bluegrass purists, or whoever those narrow-minded people are raising objections to your A-00. After all, he has admitted to occasionally playing bluegrass on a (gasp!) bowlback! But I'm with him on this, and still aver that the way you play whatever you are playing factors into how it will work. And those who are unable to differentiate between what an instrument looks like and what it sounds like, and put too much faith in the former and not enough in the latter, well, they are wrong.
Red Rector, highly respected bluegrass player, did most of his work on an oval-hole A-4. Even Monroe, whose Lloyd Loar F-5 is the template of bluegrass mandolins, played other instruments (including an Epiphone) before he got the Loar, or when it was in the shop.
The F-model silhouette is indelibly associated with bluegrass, and nothing will change that, at least in the foreseeable future. But there are lots of wonderful mandolins around that aren't F-5's, or clones thereof. Take the A-00 out to jams or whatever, play it, and see how it works. Don't be limited by others' opinions of what is or isn't "bluegrass."
Hell, take your harmonica along too, and really cause a dust-up...
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Didn't/Doesn't Red Rector use an A style mandolin with an oval sound-hole to great effect?
My 34 A-00 with an oval sound hole does not project and resonate like my other A models... and I believe it's because they are structurally different. The A-00's flat, 2 piece mahogany back with a brace will project different from an A models carved back. The other difference is in the bridge. My A-00 has a very short bridge making the string angle over the bridge real shallow compared to an A Model with a much taller bridge.
Well, obviously, one of those issues is pretty easily addressed. Is that the bridge it came with? I have an adjustable bridge on mine, and while it is set all the way down so the action is low, it still projects OK. It does have f holes, and while I wouldn't say it has a whole lot of bark or bite (after all, I am a cat person), it projects OK. It just sounds thin, which I think is due to the flat (and cracked) back and the woods used.
I think this is an A00 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8UCCU1mf00. Doesn't seem real loud but sounds sweet and bright to me. I'd say you got a good deal and probably a great player. Notice the simulated clicks in the video. If you play it on stage you could tap a microphone with a cupped hand while the other people a soloing to simulate chop chords.
Last edited by journeybear; Jun-03-2012 at 10:00am. Reason: out cattin'
From this website:
Model: A-00 Mandolin
Available: 1933 to 1943
1933 A-00 specs:
Symmetrical body, oval sound hole, carved top, flat black, non-adjustable ebony bridge, pickguard glued to top, bound top, ebony fingerboard, dot inlays, "The Gibson" peghead logo, brown sunburst finish.
1934 A-00 specs:
"F" holes, elevated pickguard, clamshell tailpiece, "Gibson" peghead logo.
1936 A-00 specs:
1939 A-00 specs:
Adjustable bridge, single bound top and back, sunburst finish.
A-00 discontinued 1943.
Since the mandolin in that video has binding on the back, if it is an A-00 it would be 1939 or later, with a carved back, and thus a different sound. And dustyamps, yours would be a 1933 with that oval hole. Of course, people more knowledgeable in these matters will be able to tell whether this info is accurate.