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Jstring
Dec-16-2013, 7:04pm
I've had a fun adventure looking for a new bowlback over the last month... I play in a classical quartet that's focused on Italian music, so using bowlback mandolins seemed like a natural choice...

I bought / restored an old Lyon & Healy "Am. Conservatory" model a few months ago (ebay) and while the sound + intonation turned out pretty solid, it wasn't as playable as I had hoped.

So, after exchanging a bunch of emails with Jim Garber, who was very generous with his information and time, I bid on / won an Eastman bowlback on Ebay. A quick search of the seller's email revealed that he was a Cafe member (no big surprise there!) who has posted about this very mandolin. http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?72139-Eastman-Bowlback-Feedback

As you can see from the post, his name is David Miller, a well-known musician from New England... Mr. Miller also went above and beyond to pack and FedEx the mandolin so that I got it in perfect condition. (Yes, I made sure it had warmed up before I opened the box). He even put on a new set of Calace Dogals ($25 strings!). So, a big THANK YOU to Jim Garber and David Miller.

Well, I thought this was an interesting story of a mandolin's journey, courtesy of the Cafe. It's a shame more new bowlbacks aren't made... The Eastman has a lovely sound and the construction is beautiful. Oh well supply+demand, I suppose...

Here's a pic + quick video of the first half of Calace's Saltarello, didn't want to bore anyone...
111185

sebastiaan56
Dec-17-2013, 4:23am
Nice axe man!

Jim Garber
Dec-17-2013, 10:05am
Sounds great, Jason. I am glad I could be of help. I did like the one Eastman I played at CMSA.

Jstring
Dec-17-2013, 10:24am
Thanks Jim... I noticed when I made the video that I'm getting some wicked "pick click" right in the spot where the mandolin sounds the best. Should I "Sam Bush" it, haha?

I didn't have time to record a 2nd take + see how it sounds in a different spot... i'll have to see if there's a place that's a good compromise between fullness of sound / lack of clicking... Or maybe a softer pick, my BlueChip CT55 is pretty hard...

Jim Garber
Dec-17-2013, 10:42am
That is a tough one. You want the tone you want and to use the pick you want. Not sure what the solution would be tho maybe looking at your picking and be aware of the clicking and see how you could possibly change the angle of your pick slightly?????

Jstring
Dec-17-2013, 10:49am
Yeah, good point...and maybe dig in to the strings a little less? I really don't wan't to change picks...

Jim Garber
Dec-17-2013, 10:56am
I don't know that I don't do that, too. I should record myself one of these days. I switch picks but usually play with a BC LG Jazz tho I sometimes fool around with a Roman pick as well.

Tavy
Dec-17-2013, 12:47pm
Hey, congrats on the lovely mandolin!

Re the pick click: yes it was rather distracting, but was this your pick or was one of your fingernails tapping on the pickguard? Whatever it was, the effect was probably exacerbated by the mic placement, and may not be nearly as bad in "real life" as it were. Wait... just watched again.... yes your pick is catching the fingerboard extension by the looks of things... those fretboard extensions can be pretty annoying for that actually, but I suspect the issue will disappear once you get more used to the geometry of new instrument?

Jstring
Dec-17-2013, 3:30pm
Hi John,
Thanks, is it weird to see a bowlback you don't have to restore? Haha...

No, it wasn't my fingernails...just the tip of my BlueChip... I was surprised by how LOUD it was on the recording (which was just an IPAD, nothing fancy). Not sure if it's that annoying in "real life"... I didn't really watch the video until I uploaded it to the Cafe, so I did get a bit of a shock.

The fingerboard extensions are a "higher-end" feature on nice bowlbacks, I've assumed... but it sure does get in the way. My F5 mandolins are scooped, no issue playing in the sweet spot there...

Well, I'll try some new techniques, etc. - I've only had the instrument for a couple of days - I'll try to record a new video and redeem myself as a player if I get a moment tonight!

brunello97
Dec-17-2013, 5:23pm
Someone performed a "Puglia-ectomy" on my Vinaccia bowlback, no doubt for a similar reason. It looks a bit gnarly, but I am actually glad it is out of the way. I'm not going to be fretting up there anyhow.

What would it be on an Eastman? "Leizhou-ectomy"? Doesn't roll off the tongue. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Mick

DougC
Dec-17-2013, 6:19pm
I saw an Eastman bowlback at last year's CMSA convention in Minneapolis. It was really loud. A lot of folks liked it. And I thought for that price, it was a real good value. I'm sure you will like this one.

Jstring
Dec-17-2013, 9:51pm
Hi Eddie-
Yes, I read your thread about your visit to the Eastman warehouse- very informative + was actually a factor in my decision to get this one. This one is maple.... It has a nice bright tone, like you said. I've only played it for a few days now, but the sound is getting richer... I think it was a little sleepy and needed some hours of playing to wake it up.
I paid $1000 for it, which I felt was very fair. I like the old bowlbacks, but it's nice to have something that plays cleanly and easily with no issues. Frankly, I'd rather play 'em than work on them.
I don't think they made too many, and I haven't seen them come up for sale very often, which is why I decided to jump on this one. Other than the pick clicking, I really like it... I think it's a keeper.

Jim Garber
Dec-18-2013, 8:08am
I have a feeling that they made a decent amount but few of them came over here. I started a dialog way back then with the Eastman rep about getting those bowlback cases and it took some time for him to get one to me to review. Even now I don't think there are many of those around for sale tho prob more than the mandolins.

Tavy
Dec-18-2013, 8:43am
Hi John,
Thanks, is it weird to see a bowlback you don't have to restore? Haha...

Well yes it is rather strange to see one less than a century old, I guess it even has the frets in the right places, I mean good heavens, whatever next!


The fingerboard extensions are a "higher-end" feature on nice bowlbacks, I've assumed... but it sure does get in the way. My F5 mandolins are scooped, no issue playing in the sweet spot there...

Indeed, and I agree they get in the way... I remember a nice one brought to me for repair which had something like 28 or 29 frets... I mean what on earth did they imagine folks would be playing up there? :confused:

Jstring
Dec-18-2013, 10:00pm
One last post about the Eastman:
1. So, Jim was right about pick angle... Keeping the pick more upright took care of most of the pick click. I'd rather concentrate on playing than think about pick angle, but it did help.
2. Playing at the end of the fretboard obviously gets rid of the click, but sacrifices volume and tone... No good.
3. There is a brace under the end of the fretboard, right through the length of the sound hole... Never seen that before! I've played several old bowlbacks with extended fretboards, but none of them were hiding a brace. 'Course, my experience with bowlbacks is limited. In any case, it precludes messing with the fretboard.
4. Guess I'll learn to live with it!

Here's a short, click-free version of Thile's version of Cuckoo's Nest, at not-Thile speed. Thanks to all for your suggestions.

D.Martin
Mar-17-2014, 7:44pm
I have a feeling that they made a decent amount but few of them came over here. I started a dialog way back then with the Eastman rep about getting those bowlback cases and it took some time for him to get one to me to review. Even now I don't think there are many of those around for sale tho prob more than the mandolins.

They are still making the bowl back mandolins but almost exclusively for the Japanese market. As far as I know they normally only make a handful of them each month, unless of course demand requires more I assume. Maybe we should create an online poll to see who would like them more available in the US and show it to them!

They even make one with a scroll style headstock but I've never seen one of those in the US.

Ken Olmstead
Mar-18-2014, 12:28am
Nice Eastman "Taterbug!" I like the click free version a lot!