View Full Version : bowlback mandos

John Rosett
Jan-27-2004, 9:22am
i have a new student that has a sweet old vega taterbug mando. i don't have any experience with these things, and i'm not sure what to tell him about holding it correctly, other than putting a strap on it.
do any of you bowlback players have any suggestions?
thanks, john

Plamen Ivanov
Jan-27-2004, 9:33am
Hello John,

Go to the Classical mandolin discussion area of the Board. You will receive advice from professionals. Here (http://www.plami.com) you can see how am I holding the bowlback. Of course, it depends also on the personal anatomical structure. Sometimes the big paunch causes troubles ;-)

Good luck!

Jim Garber
Jan-27-2004, 1:24pm
I have a moderate paunch but have dealt with it by the angle of the mandolin body. Also, I find it helps to use a footstool. I usually use one on my left leg that supports the mandolin body as well.

In addition a cloth on the lap may help the mandolin from slipping. Either a piece of chamois leather or some of that spongy rubber shelf liner materia; from the supermarket will work well.


Jan-27-2004, 2:29pm
Users of German bowlbacks tend to elevate the left leg. This places mandolins of old American/Italian proportions awkwardly low for my own tastes. To play my old bowlbacks, I elevate the right leg, either with a guitar foot stool or by crossing right over left (a la Plami above). Weight from the right forearm maintains the instrument's position and most of the picking action should come from the wrist. There are plenty of old methods with good illustrations. Try to find vol. 1 of either Bickford's or Pettine's method. Pettine even illustrated a standing position with unstrapped bowlback (or is that strapless?) in his.

PS: Those old Vegas are great. My compliments to your student.

Jan-27-2004, 4:50pm
It's just something that feels awkward for the first few weeks but once you get it right it becomes quite natural. Elevating the right leg helps unless sitting in a very low chair. No strap is needed, but I tend to wear leather vests when playing mandolin in public (more elegant than rubber shelf lining).

Pettine's standing position works well for me, but I'm tall and very thin. I think that's the key to strolling around with a bowlback.

Jan-28-2004, 3:05am
Reminded of Kenny Hall, he plays with the tailpiece end on his thigh, straight up, and uses a fingernail as his pick. He can't see anything wrong with it.

Jan-29-2004, 9:27pm
When in the seated or standing position I find that some carefully placed velcro will keep the instrument in the proper playing position #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Jan-31-2004, 5:09am
Amateurs...every one of you! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif I don't need to rest it anywhere. I just hold it against my body with my right elbow. If I rest it on my leg, it feels like it's sitting too low.

Feb-02-2004, 10:50pm
playing and standing or walking

I play walking around... I am asked to do this, and it helps tips.
it took a while to get used to holding it. for a while, I used a classical guitar strap with the "soundhole hook".
now I do not use a strap, I just got used to holding it and playing. I try to rest the mandolin belly along my sternum /solar plexus area - top of stomach area. if you have a nice angled tailpiece/armrest, you ( student ) can put a little pressure there and it will stay in place.

Feb-02-2004, 11:02pm
Has anyone put a strap on their bowlback? You could run one end of the strap through the tailpiece and the other end around the headstock. I'm not really opposed to drilling and installing strap buttons...but my Vega is so old and beautiful, it feels like I'd be hurting it to drill into it (sort of like the Red Violin scene with the scound tests I suppose). http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Feb-02-2004, 11:14pm
I personally would not do that until someone tells me it is ok. perhaps someone here in the cafe.

I do not trust the strength of these mandolins to do anything wierd. of course, I dont know MUCH about these

have you tried a classical guitar strap. they arent the best, but seem to be the only. my very old italian friend, vince rungo uses this kind of strap. I do not use a strap at all, I just practise standing and walking.

the hook will vibrate on the soundhole edge if there is slack in the strap. keep it snug.

Feb-02-2004, 11:21pm
doesnt it get in your way if you tie a strap around the headstock?

Feb-02-2004, 11:37pm
ps, #I have only been playing bowl backs for about a year.

but I say NO STRAP (best) or classical guitar strap.

I would wait and see what guys like vic, eugene, rsw, alex,

waite and see if one of them come in here and prove me wrong,
I would like to see what they say myself.

Feb-03-2004, 1:34am
No straps for me, standing or sitting.

Feb-03-2004, 11:12am
With a strap, I think you'd be putting less pressure on the bowl because you don't have to squeeze it into your stomach while standing. No, it wouldn't get in the way, the same as a strap on a non-bowlback mando doesn't get in the way. What's the difference?

It seems like mostly it's an issue of "they didn't do it back then, so I ain't gonna do it now". I can certainly understand that, but that kind of respectful imitation should only go so far.

This has got my dander up (so to speak), so I think I'm gonna do a little R&D and see if a strap will really work with a bowlback. Damn tradition; full speed ahead! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Jim Garber
Feb-03-2004, 11:24am
Frankly, I don't see it as a tradition thing. I imagine you are not the first to think of oing it and minstrels probably rigged up something like it in days or yore.

If you can do it without destroying your instrument, go ahead. But I don't see how you can attach anything to the tailpiece, if it is the kind of tailpiece that I think it is. I suppose you can string a thin piece of rawhide or even nylon cord on the neck above the nut. Good luck.

I have played my bowlbacks without a strap but rarely play it standing up. The advantage of the Italian style BTW is that it has an armrest whereas the vintage American ones do not.


Feb-03-2004, 12:02pm
Greek bouzouki players supposedly use straps when standing. Of course, they have much longer necks to contend with; nonetheless, there's your tradition. You can try attaching a strap with masking tape to see if something more permanent is worth trying. I suspect that the mando will want to rotate and won't be any steadier than it would be without a strap, but you can try.

When standing, I rest the bowl on top of my hipbone (instead of my thigh) and nestle the bowl into the depression below my ribs and to the side of my abs. No strap needed, even if I have to free up one arm to flip sheet music or whatnot. I don't suppose that's of much help to anyone who has a bulge where I have a depression, though.

Feb-03-2004, 1:16pm
It seems like mostly it's an issue of "they didn't do it back then, so I ain't gonna do it now". #I can certainly understand that, but that kind of respectful imitation should only go so far.
if you mean me, I honestly do not know too much about mandolin traditions. true, I did look at pictures and old paintings and never saw a strap, but I never took that as the WORD

my bowlback always tipped forward when I tried the strap. perhaps they are top heavy. I had to keep the forearm pressure there anyway. (my mandolin has the arm rest tailpiece. )

I did try, as I mentioned before, using a classical guitar strap, there is no alteration to the instrument- this strap is made for an instrument with a soundhole and no attaching pins or hooks.

I once tried to tie a strap around the headstock of my F5. I didnt really like that either- it just seemed to limit my mobility, maybe it was just visual, I dont know, I also didnt like the pressure of the strap putting down tension on my strings behind the nut. perhaps I am too paranoid for that. then I tied thru the little scroll on the headstock but somehow I just came to looping it thru the body scroll.

thats my favorite but I dont really play my archtops much anymore as my muscles have atrophied since converting to the bowlback. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif