View Full Version : OM Scale Length

Mike Buesseler
Mar-17-2004, 9:25pm
Can any of you OM players speak a bit about OM scale lengths? #It seems they come in just under 24", 22", and I've heard of 20", oh and somebody here claimed he had one with a 410 FOOT long neck #:-O

What are the significant differences, particularly regarding sound? #I know the answer about the ease of playing a shorter scale. # I tried out a 24" awhile ago, and found it a bear to play. #When I capoed at the second fret, it was a whole lot better.....


Mar-17-2004, 11:13pm
I think you just answered it yourself - the shorter scale instruments are easier to play - the sound out of shorter scales however, may not be exactly what you want. Interestingly, the tradtional tenor banjo's come in (normally) two scale lengths, about 540mm (21.25 inches) and about 575mm or about 22.5inches. The desireable instrument for celtic (banjo) is normally the shorter scale - the reason? That high B on the E course is a lot easier to reach in an arpeggio or as a triplet on the shorter scale.

My best sounding instrument is a carved top and back O/M strung Mando Cello with a 610mm - 24 inch scale. Terrific looking and sounding instrument - it's also my least played. It is a monster to get around on with any speed - but it does sound great.

Mar-18-2004, 7:24am

I noticed that Freshwater lists an octave mandola (542mm) and an octave manolin (610mm), both listed with GCDA as standard tuning. His mandocello is listed as 660mm with FCGD tuning.

What is the standard tuning you use on your Mando Cello?

Mar-18-2004, 8:27am
CGDs is the "Standard" tuning. But that gets ropey and buzzes badly. I restrung it to GDAe and if I want more Mandola like playability, capo at the fifth fret for CGDa. This is a nice instrument, incredibly "tight" sounding with a lot of initial punch, not a lot of sustain. This is a total custom made Peter Sawchyn instrument and it is amazing to hold and play - for a short period. I may grow into playing it more in the near future but physically, for me, it is a struggle.

I've tried a few F tuned instruments and find they normally are played more like a stentorian bass. The seem to have a flat response and are not very melodic - but that was me - in a very small sampling (2). I think the 660mm and other long scale instruments really attract guitarists and bass players. I come to the mando family after a long hiatus from guitar and am much more comfortable with the shorter scales. My opinion -

Mar-18-2004, 8:56am
Thanks, I've got the 610 mm one on order. Since that is the same scale length as his 10 string cittern which lists an alternate tuning of CGDAE, I'm thinking that at some point I could restring at CGDA and see how it sounds. That is the primary reason I went with the longer scale instrument.

Mike Buesseler
Mar-20-2004, 11:42am
When I asked the question about scale length, I was hoping someone might point out any advantages there might be to a long scale (other than using a different tuning).

Assuming I want GDAE, what differences in tone might I notice in a 22" scale vs a 24"? #I know there are other variables--body size, wood type, probably string gauges, but all things being equal, how does scale length affect sound?

Mar-23-2004, 4:47pm
All else being equal, a long scale tends to give a sound with more harmonic content; i.e. when you play up the neck on the wound strings, you get a more piano'like tone and less of a 'thud".

I am happy with the Sobell OM scale as a compromise between playability and tone. Long scale zouks sound amazing, but unless I retune (to what? guitar tuning?) I can't really play them. I like transfering my mando head, give or take a few guitar fingerings, to OM, rather than going the modal route.

Mar-23-2004, 6:18pm
Tim O'Brien has recently been playing a blonde octave mandolin by Corrado Giacomel which has a 20 in scale length, considerably shorter than his guitar shaped Nugget Bouzouki. Having heard some solo performances of him on the short octave, from a radio show appearance, I must say he manages to get good tone out of this short scale instrument. You can see pictures and descriptions of all of his instruments on his website at timobrien.net.