View Full Version : Mandobird Mods: Anybody done this?

May-04-2005, 11:06am
There's been a lot of talk on here about *wanting* to modify mandobirds, mostly either the bridge, the action, or the pickup (or all three). I just got mine and I'm pretty happy with the setup and the intonation, but was wondering if anybody has done a pickup mod that they're happy with. Also, feel free to use this thread if you've done other mods you're happy (or unhappy) with.


May-04-2005, 12:24pm
I saw a poster for Electric Hot Tuna (they're at McNears in Petaluma in June) and Barry Mitterhoff had his arms around a Mandobird. I wonder if he's done anything to it?


May-04-2005, 2:10pm
I just replaced the stock pickup with a Bartolini, and it sounds great. Pretty easy modification, too. I also had the action lowered at the nut since it seemed way too high to me.

Pete Braccio
May-04-2005, 2:13pm
Hi Bob,

I put a Quarter Pounder P-Bass pickup in mine and it was better, but still not that great. They guy at the local music shop who did the work said that he'd keep his eyes open for something else. A couple of weeks later I stopped in and he had an old Firebird pickup. He put that one in (had to do some routing to do it) and now the mandobird screams.

Save yourself from half measures and go right to a old firebird or mini-humbucker type pickup.


May-04-2005, 3:41pm
So is it the opinion here that a guitar humbucker would be better than a bass pick-up? It makes sense to me, especially if you want to play with some overdrive. I am looking for an upgrade in the pick-up as well, the high e string doesn't pick up that well.
And I did have to lower my action and set the intonation when I got mine...

Pete Braccio
May-04-2005, 6:28pm
I could never hear the E string come out of the amp with the stock pickup. The quarter pounder pickup was not much better. It's a whole different story with the Firebird pickup in there. That is the type of pickup that Epiphone should have put i to begin with.

Other people have said they had good luck with some of the P-Bass pickups that are out there. I haven't heard 'em so I can't comment.

As for action and intonation, I also had to lower the action way down. When I went to heavy strings (to try and give the P-Bass pickup more string mass to detect) I could never get the G string to intonate correctly. Since I moved back to thiner strings it's just about right now.


May-04-2005, 8:13pm
How do you get the poles to line up on the Firebird pick-up? I am very interested...I just go done playing my bird and man I wish for more definition on that e string and some nicer grind would be cool too...

May-04-2005, 9:07pm
... Just got mine back with a new nut and the intonation set properly what a HUGE difference that made!! Got my eyes (and ears) open for pickup suggestions. A friend of mine who writes for electronic musician magazine has offered to hook me up with someone who he thinks can retrofit a midi pickup back near the bridge. Now that would be the mother of all mods!!! Imagine ... you hook your mandobird up to a synth and suddenly your playing "Big Mon" on steel drums! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Pete Braccio
May-04-2005, 10:33pm
Hi Brian,

I just posted a picture of this in the photo section. Basically , you use the inner four poles under the four strings. The outside poles on the pickup were removed and the mounting screws went through those holes.

WJF, I'm REALLY interested if the synth option will work. Let me know how the experiment goes.


May-04-2005, 11:00pm
A midi setup would be a fairly easy addition to any electric. A set of saddles with encapsulated piezo crystals, a preamp with midi controller and a 13 pin jack. You can even leave the existing magnetic pickup on it. You'd have an electronics package that cost 3 times the price of your mando.

May-05-2005, 3:03pm
Hi Thistle ... yes I'm aware that the cost for a midi retrofit would not be for the faint of heart but it does have me intrigued. My friend, who has actually authored books on midi-guitar and knows this stuff cold, assures me that since the instrument is tuned as it is with notes in a range higher than a regular guitar, the notes will track perfectly and I'll have a screaming little mando/synth!

This is one mod thats a ways off but as I said in my earlier post, could be the mother of all mandobird mods!!

May-05-2005, 10:45pm
ok WJF now you got me thinking....BIG MON on steel drums.....
...now I got G.A.S....curse you! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif


May-06-2005, 2:41pm
LOL ... The possibilities are endless! ...

Wheel hoss played with the sampled voice of Alvin the chipmunk
An ultra cool bluesy version of Bluegrass Stomp played on the vibes
Rawhide played by a brass section

And ... just think of what you could do to those banjo tunes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Tom C
May-06-2005, 3:01pm
That's it. I think WJF needs a time out.

May-06-2005, 6:02pm
FWIW, From my investigation , 2 ways for synth access.
roland GK device slaps on top, a thin 6 pole magnetic pickup and the converter to 13 pin output are one unit.

RMC makes a piezo replacement bridge piece in strat and several other formats, you only buy 4, and drilling thru the baseplate and another one to the edge, for the 4 signal wires is the major modifications,
larger hole for an onboard implant of polydrive 1 circuitboard converter , or as I preferred, DIN 8pin on the body an 8 pin cable to an offboard black box "polydrive 2"

seem like a lot of work on a $200 instrument? but then again
bridge/ pickups are about 50 apiece. external controller /converter 400,some delicate soldering and drilling holes from under the bridge to the edge. [bigger hole for onboard direct output}]

, steve ryder builds a plug and play RMC pickup equipped model on his option list.
Its on the Les Paul Jr sortof model ..1500+220/260+600
now roland has several models of modules.
Athe one that has no internal sounds will borrow the MIDI ones in a keyboard.

Pedal Steel Mike
May-06-2005, 7:32pm
I really like EMG active pickups. I have no idea how they'd sound on a mandobird, or which model would be best, but I suspect the right one would scream.

Joel Glassman
May-12-2005, 10:34am
I use a chrome covered Firebird pickup on my
electric mandola. Here's a picture of one in
the neck position on someone else's guitar:
No problems lining up polepieces--the pickup has twin
rails, but is not as harsh as the "HotRails" pickup.
The Lawrence L500 humbucker is also perfect for electric mandolins:
Beware of bootlegs of this pickup--buy direct from
Bill Lawrence's site.

If you use either pickup without the standard guitar mounting
rings, the pickups are the right size for electric mandolins.
I think the Lawrence is a better pickup.

May-12-2005, 11:16am
Joel, Can you put your pickup recommendations in a stylistic context? And the type sound you are after.

There's a world of difference between Chet Atkins and Randy California/Robin Trower or between Mark Knoppfler/Richard Thompson and John Cippolina/Angus Young etc. etc.

What would be your choice for a hard rock (Angus, Trower, California, SRV, etc) useage?


Joel Glassman
May-13-2005, 4:41pm
I think its the amp which is most important...
Johnny Winter and I both play thru Firebird pickups.
He overdrives his amps for "high octane blues crunch" &
I use a clean jazz sound. For rock music, I like the sound of
small Fender amps and minimal or no effects.
(Clapton & Page sometimes did this in recording studios)
SRV used a TS-808 Ibanez Tube Screamer pedal for
overdrive/distortion with a Strat.
Trower I think used Hendrix type effects: Univibe, flanger,
& preamps to boost the signal. He used a Strat too.
I think Strat pickups are too harsh to use with
electric mandolins though YMMV. Lots of rockers use
Les Pauls with humbuckers.
The big guitar market for music stores is rock music, so you're in luck.
I'd retune store guitars to egdaae, capo at 17" and
try everything.