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Thread: Long scale, high pitch

  1. #1
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    I may come into possession of a rather large folk-lute, but one that is, curiously enough, pitched rather, ehm... high for its size. The specs (roughly) are:

    Scale: 28-29 in. (!)

    Tuning: Gg-Dd-Aa-ee (i.e. an "octave blend" of OM and mandolin)

    Obviously, this instrument is more of a "strummer" than a melody-player. Also obviously, the strings on this creature must be reeeeeeeeeeeally light and reeeeeeeeeally loose. How else could such a mega-scale sound to the same high E of the wee, little mandolin?

    Ye experienced players/builders of long-scale instruments: What should I expect? What problems can you anticipate? Finally, how to deal with said problems?

    Any and all help much appreciated.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  2. #2
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Indeed, Jacob, you and I have stumbled on the very same illogical claim of the instrument's previous owner. I have spent days re-re-re-reading the correspondence between him and myself, wondering "how can it be?"

    But, if the E's are an octave lower, i.e. such as the OM's E's (as you and I suspect), thus also the HIGHER strings of the octave-courses, what on earth would the LOWER of the octave-course strings be?

    You follow my puzzlement, I am sure: Would the lowest-sounding G be anOTHER octave below the OM's low G? Hard to imagine... that would place it a fourth BELOW the mandoCELLO's low C!

    Some serious, serious weirdness happening here... #



    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  3. #3
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jacob; that makes perfect sense. I suppose the higher strings of the G and D courses are there for the "folkie octave-ring" of ever so many such instruments.

    Curiously enough, in the (digital) pictures I have seen, the A-course does seem to be an octave-course, as well...

    One could, of course, eliminate the octave issue altogether and string this creature to plain, OM-pitch. That seems, however, like underutilization of such a large bowl and huge scale. Or perhaps, one could consider mandocello tuning...

    Clearly, I am still soul/pitch/string-searching...
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Victor - Jacob ... this isn't a realy unique problem but the length is - ah - remarkable. Roger Bucknell of Fylde Guitars has run into this in some of the Bouzouki's / Citterns he makes and he makes some interesting - if seemingly illogical at a first glance conclusions.

    Go to his website above and go to his 'Strings' page - essentially he makes some HUGE instruments with long scales but his strings are really an interesting mixture -

    Bouzouki (ball end octave)
    (024/048, 010/028, 016/016, 010/010) £7.00 per set

    Bouzouki (ball end unison)
    (046/046, 026/026, 016/016, 010/010) £7.00 per set

    Cittern (ball end CDGDG)
    (46/46, 35/35, 28/28, 16/16, 13/13) £7.00 per set

    Some of his suggestions were suspicious looking until I got a Fylde arch top bouzouki. BIG sound and really easy to play, even with a long scale.

    Hope this helps - Dion - Chicago
    Mandola fever is permanent.

  5. #5
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Indeed. My skepticism also extends to the fact that this instrument, in true lute fashion, has a glue-on, mostaccioli bridge, i.e. no endpin, no tailpiece, no support from an interior butt-block, etc. I'd hate to see more tension than intended simply yank the bridge off the top, leaving the soundboard in shreds...

    Also consequently, the mechanics involved do not speak of pressure being brought to bear ON the top (as in mandolins) but simply of string-tension. And yes, the scale IS, ah... remarkable!
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    One question Victor - was this instrument intended for metal or nylon strings? Most Oud types (granted not that - ah - remarkably long) I've seen or tinkered with were nylon or gut strung with mostly fretless boards. What are you getting into? Is this an Oud or an Oud Bass?

    I know your preferences and background - you might be onto something here - or ...
    Mandola fever is permanent.

  7. #7
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    The instrument is designed for metal strings, and very light ones, indeed! I think that the owner was confused when he said it is tuned just like a mandolin; the truth (as I know it of this type of folk bass-lute) is that the higher strings are plain metal, i.e. not wound. In other words, I think he meant that, visually at least, it is strung "just like a mandolin", i.e. with some plain metal strings, some wound.

    The instrument is fretted; there are reports of some buzzes (which naturally concerns me) but, with such super-light, super-loose strings and a bridge whose height is more or less fixed, I am a bit at a loss about what to do— rather, what I would do to correct the problem. As per the very beginning of this thread, I only may acquire this instrument; it's not a done deal yet.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  8. #8
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    The scale length, while long, is not that much more than the longer bouzoukis: my (Romanian flatback) Troubadour has a 26" scale. That scale is just under twice as long as most modern mandolins (pretty exactly twice for bowlbacks); yours is just over twice as long. Thus, using octave mandolin tuning should work with normal mandolin gauges, resulting in normal mandolin tensions. The gauges I use are .011 to .039, which works just fine for OM tuning. As long as the instrument you're looking at can cope with the same tensions as a mandolin, there should be no need to go ridiculously thin on the wire gauges.

    Martin

  9. #9
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Yes, precisely, Martin: twice the length, an octave lower = more or less the same gauges. Obviously, the "feel" of the instrument would be looser, more flaccid, as thin strings are stretched over such length. And I agree: at this length, no need for strings that would be super-thin even by mandolin standards.

    Let us see...
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  10. #10
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Victor:
    What exactly is this thing? Do you have any pics you can post?

    I agree that std (but long in length mandolin strings should work. I would also experiment with single strings at first and see how the tension feels up to pitch.

    Jim
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  11. #11
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Oh, Jim... it's just by own bass (base?) instincts, welling up again...

    It's a Greek laouto, an instrument that was cross-bred between the oud-type instruments of the Middle East and the long(er) necked lutes of Western Europe. Said cross-breeding happened in the 16th-17th century, as most Greek islands were ruled by the Venetians, who were in turn the principal traders between East and West. The historical point is rather obvious...

    I do have pictures of it, but they are in IMG-format, as e-mailed to me by the owner of the lute. Sadly, I don't know how to upload those from my office machine; perhaps impossible, as there is no PhotoShop here. I can read (i.e. see) the images, but can't show them to you all.

    Then again, I could try to subdue the baser elements of my character...
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  12. #12
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Is it like this one?

    Victor, you can email them to me and I can post them, convert them if necessary.

    Jim



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  13. #13
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Well, yes, roughly... What is the instrument you posted, Jim? It looks of the proper, ehm... species but far too "artful" to have been a folk instrument. Very, very curious...

    P.S. I just forwarded you the pictures, of which there are many. If you care to, yes, please post one or two, for everybody's elucidation as to what the *#&^$#$%^% I am talking about.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  14. #14
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Here is the one that Victor is getting. Looks pretty nice to me. The amazing thing is that it has tied-on frets but uses metal strings.

    Jim
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  15. #15
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    The laouto comes in three, distinct sub-species; they, and their respective tunings, are:

    Aegean: cc'-Gg-dd'-aa (Please note that the "geographically" highest course is NOT the lowest one in pitch; a true oddity, that the lowest-pitched string, G, is embedded, deep amidst the other ones!) This is also the type of laouto that is played along the coastline, obviously by cultural infiltration from the islands.

    Cretan: Gg-Dd-Aa-ee (like the one depicted) This is the biggest one of them all. Of course, these tunings are not quite Gospel; CGDA with some octave-courses would be perfectly OK. Why, I'd even consider classic bouzouk-tuning, something like GDAD (ditto on the octaves)...

    Politiko: (A)A-dd-aa-d'd' This often comes with 7 strings only; friction pegs (unlike the others), much smaller than the other two, and most oriental in flavor. Such instruments, built in bulk by Turkish luthiers, commonly appear on eBay listed as laouta or lavta. If you take a look at any given time, you will surely find a handful, priced well under $200. These, however, are UNeven-tempered (Pythagorean) and a bit too oud-ish for my taste. No accounting for such things, though...
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Oh, Jim... and what exactly is the "portly beauty" you posted earlier?

    Parenthetically, Jacob, ALL folk tunings are, well... organic. I know for a fact that folk lutenists in Crete would tune the top course (pitch-wise) to their own, untrained vocal range, then work downwards in fifths. So, ANY such tuning would beat letter-name specificity in terms of authenticity. But you know all that... My practical concern it to figure out specs that would allow such an instrument to work, even in the hands of one ruined by classical training.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  17. #17
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (vkioulaphides @ Jan. 04 2005, 14:28)
    Oh, Jim... and what exactly is the "portly beauty" you posted earlier?
    I found it with Google here.

    Jim
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  18. #18
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Hmm... it looks like the creation of a more, ehm... "studied" luthier, perhaps someone working on this side of the pond.

    I am used to such instruments ornamented with little birds a-chirpin', little touches of art primitif, etc. Some, "high-end" instruments from Crete have traditional, Venetian lion's-heads on their scrolls (after St. Mark's pet lion), or eagles, after the bird native to the island's mountainpeaks.

    The one I am considering is barely a year or two old, and clearly of a working-class background; it WAS, however, built in Crete, presumably by someone who understood these beasts.

    Ooooooh... that itchy trigger-finger is itching again... Brother James, a true supportive fellow-addict, already calls it "the one Victor is getting"... Somebody, ANYbody, take my purse-strings away from my hands!
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  19. #19
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Well Victor if it is meant to be your then it will be. I would ask/remind if you are going to Greece this year what instrument purchase could you miss because of getting this one? just a thought If I remember correctly you were thinking on stopping at a shop while you were there. John

    Jim, What are the frets on the sound board made of? Brass?



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    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Ah, John, you wake up the economist in me, when you bring up opportunity cost! #

    Frankly, I don't know the answer: The laouto is an instrument I have played on occasion— #very, veeeeeeery rare occasion. While living in New York, I have precious little opportunity to actually perform on it. Also living here, I have precious little space in my abode for another, rather bulky instrument (grand piano and bass being, ehm... the "regular" tenants).

    Not to mention that the laouto is inherently an accompanying instrument, so I would need to find a folk fiddler, or clarinettist, or singer to play with; or perhaps, accompany folk dancers, something I used to do quite a bit but have, sadly enough, seen wane over the years.

    On the third hand, (as Jim likes to point out), it perhaps more defensible to get a whole new type of instrument, one that I like but do not have to-date, than to acquire yet another mandolin, of which I have several that keep me as happy mando-wise as I deserve to be, considering my very limited skills.

    Still, Instrument Acquisition Syndrome is going strong...



    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Registered User otterly2k's Avatar
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    So here's a question, Victor.
    Do you WANT to move in a direction where you are playing more with others or for dancers? If so, then getting this instrument may act as a catalyst for this change. If not, ask yourself how likely it is that this instrument will go drastically underplayed... in which case (imho) you might choose to pass.

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  22. #22
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (vkioulaphides @ Jan. 05 2005, 07:24)
    so I would need to find a folk fiddler, or clarinettist, or singer to play with;
    Ah, Victor, another possibility for duet playing... perhaps I can learn a few of these Cretan tunes on fiddle along with the Telemann?

    Jim
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  23. #23
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    You are SO right...

    Mind you, when accompanying folk dancers, I principally played the tiny, Greek baglamá, not mandolin. The dance-group I worked with has (sort of) disbanded. I miss them... And yes, the laouto would act as a catalyst, as you say: with it staring at me every day, I would be at the very least inclined to pick up the phone and contact whatever contacts I have in the folkie universe, trying to jump-start something.

    On the other side of the picker's universe, I have initiated some get-together kind of music making with "classically" minded mando-friends, and wish to do much more of that in the future. Then again, that is really comparing apples to oranges.

    Mine is a psyche torn, as you see... #

    P.S. Ah, Jim beat me to the "Submit Post" button. Sure, ANYthing is possible, no? #



    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  24. #24
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    GO FOR IT!
    I think you may well regret it if you don't. Of course you can't let Jim down, sounds like he is already picked out the tunes to learn. John
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  25. #25
    Registered User vkioulaphides's Avatar
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    Aw-right, aw-right... I have bitten the bait, e-mailed the owner with an offer / #request for his rock-bottom price.

    Yes, otterly2K, I DO want to do more folkie playing; John, thanks for the encouragement; Jim... rev up the fiddle!

    Let us see...

    P.S. John, I neglected to answer a question you posed earlier, namely [QUOTE]"What are the frets on the sound board made of? Brass?"

    The answer is no; they are made of wood. These frets of the "extended fingerboard", stretching on to the soundboard, are a common trait of many folk/early lutes. In the case of the laouto, fundamentally an accompanying instrument, they are strictly decorative. There are 11 (tied or fixed) frets on a laouto, the 12th and beyond being essentially "toothpicks", sometimes ornamented ones. To my knowledge, folk lutenists don't visit those Alpine heights often.



    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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