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red7flag
Aug-14-2016, 10:36am
Here are my first pictures of the new Girouard Mandola. Broadleaf Back and sides. sugar neck, Adirondack spruce top. The tone is dark and warm, not woody. Very smooth look, feel and sound. Am very pleased. My Old Wave was like a great spunky Irish ale, while the Girouard is more the a deep thoughtful Bordeaux Both great to drink, but more for different moods. Hope you enjoy.

red7flag
Aug-14-2016, 10:40am
A few more.

ccravens
Aug-15-2016, 9:37pm
Nice.

red7flag
Aug-19-2016, 10:07am
I have had the Girouard Mandola for just about a week, so I will provide you with a short review. The tone continues to grow in volume, but continues to have a dark rich tone. It really does not sound like any mandolin family instrument I have played before. Deep and rich, but with the relatively short scale remains tight. By tight I just mean each note is solid, no tubbiness. Yet, in spite of each not being tight, I am very impressed with the sustain. It rings on. I know in writing this I am contradicting my self, Deep, rings, tight, sustain and not usually expressed together about the same instrument. But, there it is. When I get a chance, I will record a sound bite to give you guys a feel for what I am talking about. I am not sure what creates the dark tone other than the broadleaf back and sides. The Adirondack top would not seem to point in that direction. Maybe Max will chime in. This is a really different animal and I am really glad to have it.

Max Girouard
Aug-21-2016, 7:56am
Hi Tony, glad you are enjoying the mandola! I'd say it is the overall design that is getting the deep rich tone you are hearing out of the dola. This was a long road from start to finish on this design so I'll give you a little history on it.

Back in 2003 I was a member of the Providence Mandolin Orchestra, and I played mandolin, but got to sit next to some very talented mandola players. At the time there were half a dozen dola players and I got to play most of them at one point or another. I really liked the deep warm tones the mandola register offered and really liked listening to their parts in the music. A few things I noted that I thought could be improvements on the design, would be to lengthen the scale so that CC course wasn't as loose. To compensate, large gauge strings were used and they tended to sound thuddy or tubby without much complexity and a really fast decay in sustain. I was also a gigging musician at the time playing bass at for a few bands in downtown Providence in which I played several basses all with different scale lengths, so it was this experience that lead me to believe that a longer scale with thinner gauge strings would move the instrument in the direction that I had wanted to hear in my head. The other thing I noticed was that the two mandocello's we had were drowning out the half dozen mandola's we had anytime the dola's were playing in the lower register. These were mostly Gibson teen oval hole instruments. I had often wondered if moving to a parallel tone bar design with ff holes would help with the definition and separation in the orchestra.

Fast forward to when I started building. By this time I had played a large group of mandola's over time and had taken notes on many of them. The first one I built was not what I was looking for in terms of tone and we ended up sending it up the chimney as a wisp of smoke. I decided to focus on mandolin building and altering different variables to see what would create the largest changes. After a handful of builds I was starting to get the hang of what overall changes would do to the tone and volume of the instruments. Using this info we set out to build another mandola. We stuck to the H-5 design but altered the graduations on the top and back plates as well as dropped the arch slightly on the top. The tone bar shape and position would vary depending on the density and flexibility of the top wood. F hole shape and position did not change from the H-5, neither did body depth. The scale length was increased from 15.625 to 15.9 (we also do a 17 inch scale). Finally we string them up in the white and ensure that the top and back are "talking" to each other. So that's it in a nutshell. Enjoy the dola, we really enjoyed building it!

Max Girouard
Aug-21-2016, 8:05am
Also, here are some shots of your dola when we just finished it up. The one thing I forgot to mention as a change is that we use a smaller bridge bridge foot as compared to the H-5 bridge design, and we use a full contact foot.

pheffernan
Aug-21-2016, 8:09am
Thanks for the background, Max. I was really tempted by that mandola that you had listed in the classifieds:

http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/101179#101179

But having already added an octave mandolin and a tenor guitar to the stable this year, I didn't think the time was ripe to bring on another new instrument . . . yet.

DougC
Aug-21-2016, 9:26am
Max, you said that "a longer scale with thinner gauge strings would move the instrument in the direction that I had wanted to hear in my head." I am wondering if you have experimented with different strings on mandolas?

I have tried different strings on my Collings MT Mandola and found big changes in the sound and feel under the fingers. The cc string response was also a concern.

What have you tried? And can you answer this question in public? Ha, ha.
:whistling:
Thanks in advance.

Max Girouard
Aug-21-2016, 9:39am
Hey Pheffernan, congrats on the additions to your stable. I do love octaves and tenors.

DougC, I experimented with a couple pre-packaged string sets as well as individual string sets. I finally settled on 48-34-24-12 The 24 is a wound string and sometimes depending on the instrument, I'll switch that plain 12 for a plain 14. Even at 15.9 you will notice the cc strings are slightly more loose than the rest of the courses. This can't be completely eliminated until you get up to 16.5 to 17 inches in scale length.

Mandobar
Aug-21-2016, 9:57am
I've found that the 48 is too heavy for most applications, move it to a 46 or 44. At 48 if you are playing with a guitar player the sound gets lost in the guitar's tonal response. You can also octave pair it and also the G string.

Don Grieser
Aug-21-2016, 11:00am
My Girouard mandola came with Curt Mangan mandola strings, 12, 24w, 34, 48. I like this set and I really like Curt Mangan strings on my mandolins too. Really great strings.

My Girouard mandola has the bog red cedar top and it's all the mandola I will ever need. Just beautiful tone and a wonderful neck profile that makes it so playable. Highly recommended.

DougC
Aug-22-2016, 11:42am
I've found that the 48 is too heavy for most applications, move it to a 46 or 44. At 48 if you are playing with a guitar player the sound gets lost in the guitar's tonal response. You can also octave pair it and also the G string.

I had a set of GHS PF285 regular strings on the Collings and the set has 44 for the cc course that seemed to work very well.

I then went to Thomastik 173 Light strings which are flat wound with 49 34 24w 15. Similar to Max's preference. These strings have an amazing richness to the tone I did not think possible. But the 49 is a bit floppy and if I want to stay with the set, I'll need to try individual strings on the cc course.

Max, have you tried flatwound strings on the mandola?

Max Girouard
Aug-23-2016, 7:19am
I did try D'addario Mandola flat tops, but those have a cc course that I feel is just too big, and is really designed for the shorter Gibson scale length. I also tried the Thomastik mandola 174 mediums, and I felt the 15 was a little robust for the A string. I didn't experiment too much with those only because I like the phosphor bronze string sets better. Another option that I tried on my 10 string mandola's was a set of D'addario Chromes that I bought from emando.com Those had a unique sound and feel as well. Lots of options out there for individual string sets for experimenting. I'd like to hear what you settle on once you have found it.

ccravens
Aug-23-2016, 8:27am
Thanks for the background, Max. I was really tempted by that mandola that you had listed in the classifieds:

http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/101179#101179



That dola should arrive here by the end of the week.

Really looking forward to playing and hearing it.

:)

red7flag
Aug-23-2016, 9:07am
Max, thank you for all the information. Just wondering does the broadleaf maple have much effect on the tone. I am also curious at to what you think the effect of the Adirondack top has on the tone. Lastly, would you describe the differences between the instrument I bought versus the one you have on the classifieds? I think that would be helpful for those interested in your classified instrument.

Max Girouard
Aug-23-2016, 11:05am
Hi Tony, That is a great question regarding the tonewood, but I don't have a straight forward answer. Because each species of wood has a lot of overlap with other species of wood, I don't like to generalize about specific tonal qualities that each species will have. For instance, I have some western red cedar in the shop that is very hard and dense as far as cedar goes. I also have some Englemann that is much more soft and much less dense than the cedar. I also have a few pieces of sitka that are harder and more dense than some red spruce in the pile. These particular samples are opposite of what most people assume when they hear what species of wood it is. So each piece of wood must be judged as an individual without regard to species and what tonal profile one should expect to hear from said species. As small builders we are able to adjust carvings and graduations, tonebar size, shape and locations to alter each piece of wood to try to obtain consistent results. If I had taken your top and back and altered any of these variables, there would have been dramatically different results with the same pieces of wood!

So to answer your second question, the main differences between the two instruments are looks, neck profile, neck support (carbon fiber / truss rod) appointments, finish and case options. I would say tonally they are very similar, but there would obviously be some subtle differences just due to the fact that they are completely separate instruments. That was my opinion of them anyway, and coincidentally they were both here at the same time so I was able to A/B them.

DougC
Aug-23-2016, 4:23pm
Back to the cc course strings question.

Max said he wanted a longer scale length and thinner strings to get the sound he wanted. I assume that this makes the cc course less floppy. Is there more tension with thinner strings? And the logic goes that shorter scale length requires thicker strings.

The direction I am going with my shorter scale length Collings mandola is to thinner strings on the cc course. e.g. 49 too floppy and 46 would be nice.

Science marches on! At least in my little corner of the world.

lenf12
Aug-23-2016, 5:57pm
Hi Max,

I must have just missed playing with you in the PMO. I was back in Providence in late '03 to '04 for about 10 months before returning to FL. I played mandola for some of that time with the PMO. You could have sampled my Duff H-5 w/Virzi in the flesh, just to add another twist to the tonal palette. I use the aforementioned D'A EFW-76 stings and agree that they are better suited to Gibson scaled mandolas. I love looking at your work (gotta play one someday) and am happy that you and Laurie have returned back to RI.

Len B.
Clearwater, FL

Max Girouard
Aug-24-2016, 6:40am
The direction I am going with my shorter scale length Collings mandola is to thinner strings on the cc course. e.g. 49 too floppy and 46 would be nice.


Doug, The lower in gauge you go, the less tension that string will be under tuned to pitch which means that the 46 would be more floppy than the 49. An exaggerated example of this would be to tune your g string on your dola down to a c. It would be pretty floppy. I plugged in the gauges for a 15.9 inch scale which is what your Collings is. The calculator shows the following

49 at 21.17 lb
48 at 20.39 lb
47 at 19.50 lb
46 at 18.88lb

In order to use a smaller string gauge and reduce floppiness, you have to elongate the scale. For example, at 17 inch scale length a 45 gauge would give you 20.60 lb at pitch.

Len, we must have just missed each other. I think by the time you had joined, I had already left due to my other bands gigging in downtown Providence 3 - 4 nights a week. Glad to be back in RI where we have access to stuffies, coffe milk, Nibbles Woodaway, waterfire, Cumberlandite and the random giant potato heads scattered across the state!

DougC
Aug-24-2016, 9:52am
Thanks very much for your advice Max. I'm sure others benefit from this information.

I was going the wrong direction in thinking 46 would be less floppy than a 49. Sometimes it is difficult to think this stuff through without actually trying it. My physical situation is that the 49 is not bad if I don't strum the strings.

So my proposition is; if you increase the height of the bridge, you increase not only the string height but also the tension. The the slack as well as the buzzing should 'go away'. Right? With some luck it may be enough.

Max Girouard
Aug-24-2016, 10:25am
Kind of, when you raise the bridge, the tension will increase (assuming you are raising the bridge under full tension) and therefore your strings will be sharp. Once you retune, the tension will be right back where it was previously. There are several factors that can contribute to the buzzing. Make sure the cc strings are not hitting each other. I've seen this on a couple mandolas that I have done setups on. The slots at the bridge were too close causing the strings to interfere with each other. The other culprits could be a high fret, a forward leaning bridge, slots that were not cut for the gauge string you are using, a hump in the neck at the body join, a needed truss rod adjustment and or action height adjustment. Without seeing what is going on, I can only guess as to what one or more of these factors it could be. Might be a good time to visit your local luthier for a setup.

red7flag
Aug-24-2016, 10:48am
Max,
What was your reason for reducing mass in the bridge, yet going for a single foot bridge?
BTW, another RI connection. I went to St. George's School in Newport/Middletown

ccravens
Aug-24-2016, 10:53am
Glad to be back in RI where we have access to stuffies, coffe milk, Nibbles Woodaway, waterfire, Cumberlandite and the random giant potato heads scattered across the state!

I literally know what NONE of those things are.

I may have been in Texas too long...

DougC
Aug-24-2016, 10:55am
... when you raise the bridge, the tension will increase (assuming you are raising the bridge under full tension) and therefore your strings will be sharp. Once you retune, the tension will be right back where it was previously.

This is very good information.
In changing string gauges, the diameter of the string changes and the nut slot and bridge groove 'fit' requires some adjustment. (I think this is my situation. But another look will be helpful from my luthier.)

Now, how long does it take to drive from Minneapolis to RI?

Max Girouard
Aug-24-2016, 12:21pm
Max,
What was your reason for reducing mass in the bridge, yet going for a single foot bridge?
BTW, another RI connection. I went to St. George's School in Newport/Middletown

I like the single foot design from a structural standpoint. I saw some pictures a while back where the top plate had pinched up at the seam right under the bridge. I figure a full contact foot would prevent that from ever happening on one of our instruments. We use full contact on all our instruments these days unless asked otherwise. As far as the lower mass on the dola bridge, that came about because I was fitting a H-5 style bridge onto a batch of mandolas we had built which were strung up in the white. On one of them, the foot had a hairline crack in it, so I temporarily switched it out with a mandolin sized foot and I perceived a tonal change that I felt was for the better. The instrument felt more responsive with a touch more volume, so from that point on we switched over to the lower mass bridge.

Beautiful area Newport/Middletown. Lauri and I head that way every once in a while to go to the beaches and do some fishing. Only on weekdays. Weekends forget about it!


I literally know what NONE of those things are.

I may have been in Texas too long...

Time for a vacation Chris! Come on up and we'll go dig up some quahog's for the stuffies.


Now, how long does it take to drive from Minneapolis to RI?

Now that's a bit of a hike!

red7flag
Aug-25-2016, 8:54am
There is something about this instrument that keeps drawing me to it. It has this deep rich tone, but not the woody grassy sound that I normally think of with with a grassy F5. Rather than being loaded with overtones like my Ellis, it is more like one deep fat tone. I am having trouble describing what is going on. While it has plenty of volume, rather than growling at you, it fills you with warmth. I could see playing this in a small grass jam or. Celtic jam, where it would not need to take center stage. It plays Irish fiddle tunes very solidly. I am not sure how this instrument is going to play out, but I am having a lot of fun playing it in.

Max Girouard
Aug-28-2016, 9:08am
Glad you are enjoying it! One of our customers called his mandola a grand piano squished into a mandola body. We've had several customers that use them in ensemble settings and guitar / mandola duo's that we have seen in person and in videos. They blend in beautifully when needed, but can also jump to the front when called for. Here is a video of the first dola prototype we built being played along side a viola and a guitar......this one had a shorter scale length so the cc course was not as taught as I would have liked, but we changed this on subsequent builds.

Thanks Carleton and crew for letting us record this way back when!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjZDpUVM-j8

Don Grieser
Aug-28-2016, 3:04pm
Here's a living room recording done on a Zoom H2 with Girouard mandola #111, guitar, and 2 voices. I love the sound of this instrument. I'm sure you'll find a way to incorporate it in your recordings.



Pack Up Your Sorrows by Richard Farina

ccravens
Oct-10-2016, 9:18pm
Here's a recording of my new Girouard mandola. Recorded it in church yesterday with a friend on mando and another on guitar. It's a song we got together and played in the night service titled "There Is a Fountain."

I'll try to get a better recording of just the dola sometime soon.

https://soundcloud.com/ccravens

Marty Jacobson
Oct-10-2016, 11:12pm
Here's a recording of my new Girouard mandola. Recorded it in church yesterday with a friend on mando and another on guitar. It's a song we got together and played in the night service titled "There Is a Fountain."

I'll try to get a better recording of just the dola sometime soon.

https://soundcloud.com/ccravens

Sounds awesome.

Nick Gellie
Oct-11-2016, 6:39am
Here's a recording of my new Girouard mandola. Recorded it in church yesterday with a friend on mando and another on guitar. It's a song we got together and played in the night service titled "There Is a Fountain."

I'll try to get a better recording of just the dola sometime soon.

https://soundcloud.com/ccravens

Reminds me of Ry Cooder. Great Playing BTW. Great sound and rendition.

Don Grieser
Oct-11-2016, 7:34am
Sounds wonderful, ccravens, and great playing! Thanks for posting!

mjb128wv
Oct-11-2016, 10:42am
I have to concur that the Girouard mandolas are great. I've got #43 - it's lightweight, resonant and beautiful.
Used for classical and Celtic