View Full Version : Tone differences

May-30-2006, 2:34pm
I'm mostly a modern-built F-5 player. But I have been enjoying greatly lately my grandfather's 1917 A-1, all spruced up by my local luthier.

I really admire the look of the F-4s but don't have access to any.

I'd like to hear from you vintage experts on what the differences are in tone and playability between the teens A-1 and F-4.

Just curious, but also hope to buy one in the far distant future.

Bob A
May-31-2006, 3:15pm
Not a vintage expert here, but certainly a fan.

IMHO, the difference between various Gibson oval hole mandolins, model by model, is less worthy of remark than the observation that the difference between any two instruments of the same type and year. One can be a clunker, the other the masndolin from heaven, and you can't tell until you play them. That's why I always insist on an approval period. FWIW, I once played an A@Z that was in rare condition next to my favorite Gibson, a '21 F4. The A@Z blew the 4 away volume-wise; but I kept them both anyway. Somehow I'm emotionally involved with the 4, probably since I've owned it longer than most of the crowd here has been alive.

John Flynn
May-31-2006, 5:38pm
I am a big fan of oval players like Curtis Buckhannon, Clyde Curley, Skip Gorman (who sometimes plays an oval), Mike Compton (ditto), Bruce Ling and a few other players. I know this is complete generalization, because individual instruments are different, but what I hear on the CDs is the F4 and F2's sound more "bell-like" to me, with really clear, ringing trebles that don't sound quite like any other mando. They also sound more balanced across the range. The A4s and A2s tend to sound more "tubby" to me with really solid bass and mids, but perhaps less treble. They also seem to have kind of a unique "harder edge" on the notes than the Fs, which produces a nice effect, IMHO. I like both sounds equally well, but they do seem a bit different to me.

Jun-01-2006, 12:12pm
Thanks for input. It's been 20 years since I had my hands on a vintage F-4. At some music shop in San Franciso.

Here in the Midwest, we see lots of A and A-1 models float by. But for some reason, I never come across the F-4s.
The result of living in poor farm country I guess.

I'm really curious about the vintage F-4s, but I hesitate to pull the trigger on one if it's not that much different than my A-1.

I've been meaning to check out the Skip Gorman recordings and need to get to that.

Jun-01-2006, 12:22pm
Don't "pull the trigger" on any of these old Gibsons until you hear them. They ain't all created equal.

Rick Turner
Jun-01-2006, 9:23pm
You could get one of the specialty string companies to make some "Loar Lore" strings. That could be very interesting for a mandolin that wasn't expected to be a Bluegrass machine gun. I bet you could get D'Addario or LaBella to do it. If there's enough interest, I could get in touch with Peter D'Addario or Richard Cocco. Might take a gross of sets to make it worth setting up the machines, but it sure would be cool.

Rick Turner
Jun-01-2006, 9:25pm
Hmmm, that was supposed to post over in another thread. I'll copy and paste it, but it's kind of appropriate here, too, being about vintage tone.