View Full Version : Favorite mandolin

Jim Garber
Jun-09-2004, 7:21am
Many folks on this list have at least a few instruments. I was just wondering what mandolin is the one you reach for first. I realize that there are times when one may be more suitable than another, depending on the music, the mood of the player, the weather conditions, etc. I know that some mandolins are intended for orchestra playing and some for solos. I know that some folks may just have one nearby within reach for that moment of inspiration, but that when it comes to playing in public may use another, more suitable mandolin.

In any case, the one I keep by my side for most occasions is my Pandini. It is needing some adjustments but still sings sweetly and plays very nicely. I also have my Lyon & Healy A, which I have taken on gigs where I need to play a greater variety of music, venturing into the American old time country and Irish repertoire as well as the classical and Italian pieces.


Jun-09-2004, 7:26am
Gibson F-5 Master Model #73675

Jun-09-2004, 7:31am
Jim, you DO tempt me to quote Mae West... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Ken Sager
Jun-09-2004, 8:01am
I use the reach method. Whichever mando is within reach I play.

Joy to all,

Jun-09-2004, 8:43am
My favorite is my 1908 Martin...and I wish it wasn't. It is one-of-a-kind (one of Longworth's "unidentified specials"), and keeping it as my main player gives me some concern. I suppose I need to get something else in as good playing order and learn to like it.

Jun-09-2004, 9:10am
My favorite is my Collins A. It is a perfect instrument. I play the others (a 1907 Martin bowlback and a 1980s East German bowlback) quite frequently, however.

Jim Garber
Jun-09-2004, 10:17am
Jim, you DO tempt me to quote Mae West... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
Victor... you tempt us... please do quote MW.


Jim Garber
Jun-09-2004, 10:19am
My favorite is my Collins A. #It is a perfect instrument. #I play the others (a 1907 Martin bowlback and a 1980s East German bowlback) quite frequently, however.
Is this a Collings or a Collins?


Jun-09-2004, 11:10am
Well, to paraphrase the latter-day, bawdy actress / determinist philosopher: "If I'm not with the mando I love, I love the mando I'm with."

As you know, I have (just) one in every port and therefore it's always the local mando that's the favorite one. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Only in my New York home do I have two: the baby Calace and the Ceccherini; and among those two, I try to distribute my affections equally.

Jun-09-2004, 12:10pm
Collings, sorry. Slip of the keyboard.

Jun-09-2004, 2:10pm
I'm surprised to report that I'm still reaching for my Troubadour Josquin. This thing sounds incredible! It's even better now that I've thrown on some Boston strings (first time using them, and VERY happy). It's also very comfortable to hold and play. The fact that it was only $200 just makes it that much better.

Bob A
Jun-10-2004, 7:49am
At this time, my bowlback time is mainly divided between the newest example, the Monzino, (about half the time), and the Stahl and Kevorkian. The F4 also gets some attention.

It's sort of surprising to me that, no matter what I'm playing, I seem to sound better on the Gibson. I suspect it has a lot to do with a 30-year association. Still, I love the bowlback sound, which no Gibson will ever produce.

Jun-10-2004, 8:03am
Phoenix Neoclassical. It gives me the flexibility that I need to play the various styles that I am called on to play and it always sounds great.


Jun-10-2004, 9:56am
mine is the Pomeroy that Don started building yesterday. it probably is only a couple of scraps at the present time but i can still dream. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Jun-10-2004, 5:36pm
See comment below!

Mark Levesque
Jun-11-2004, 8:09am
I use my Weber Bridger (A model, oval hole) when I am playing anything Italian or classical sounding. A student of mine also recently bought one that sounds fantastic.........I love these things!
Is anyone else using one?


Jun-11-2004, 8:51am
custom Red Diamond F5. She sounds like a dream. I had the neck angle pitched forward are bit so now when I am playing classical or jazz I just lower the action down. It is practially on the fingerboard and not a single buzz to be found. I love it!

Jun-12-2004, 8:50am
Sorry to be predictable but......mines my Baby - 1933 Luigi Embergher. We're seldom apart........

Jun-12-2004, 7:56pm
I just flip a coin and let it decide for me which of my two A.Lawrence Smart mandolins I'll play. It's a beutiful thing ... heads or tails, I still win!!! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

I have a John Garrity mandolin coming soon. Does anyone know where I might be able to find a three sided coin??? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jun-20-2004, 12:36am
did snow white have a favorite dwarf?, even grumpy got a condecending pat on the head.
[i wanted to put in 7 emoticons, but it wasn't allowed]

Jun-20-2004, 6:56am
My Lyon & Healy B


Clyde Clevenger
Jun-20-2004, 9:07am
My Givens A is my couch mandolin. Too ugly to take to the dance, but she can sure sing pretty.

Jim Garber
Jun-24-2004, 2:42pm
I was trying to get a census of the players who play classical here who plays what as their main instrument (or the one they reach for first at home and first to play a concert).

Any more takers? Alex? Richard? Plami? Others?


Jun-24-2004, 3:05pm
I play classical music on my Hohner 2 point. This Mandolin sounds good no matter what type music it plays or rather i play on it.

Jun-24-2004, 4:06pm
Rigel G-110-- great playability and killer tone. Makes even me sound decent.

Alex Timmerman
Jun-25-2004, 4:38am
Hi Jim,

Well it depends what music I study, but most of the time it is my 1904 Luigi Embergher.

But since the talk at this topic is mostly about non bowl-backs, I may add that I occasionally play - when studying for instance Sam Bush´s wonderful bluegrass pieces with my pupils - my 1984 Daniël Royé flatback mandolin (see image).

I hope you like it´s appearance as much as I do.



Jim Garber
Jun-25-2004, 6:05am
But since the talk at this topic is mostly about non bowl-backs
Actually, my intention in starting this thread was to see what folks in this "classical" corner played and preferred for the music. Others have chimed in and that is all right, too.

One thing I do find interesting in my learning about mandolins for this music is the difference in solo instruments vs. orchestral instruments. I notice that makers like Knorr distinguish between the two and that in Alex's book there are mentions of different examples by the prominent makers. There is no such distiction (as far as I can see in the American vintage or contemporary makers. Curious since many of these were made during the heyday of the American mandolin orchestra. It seemed that the soloists must have played the upper end instruments.


Bob A
Jun-25-2004, 7:23am
Jim, I've noted that variation in bracing seems to be the most easily-seen variable between the soloist and concert instrumenys. I can't say whether this is a general truism, or just working from too small a sample.

There were few visual differences noted between my two Vega bowlbacks; one was parallel-braced, the other (Pettine) was asymmetric. I don't believe the ornamentation or number of ribs had any effect on anything but price and man-hours; still, the Pettine is a superior instrument.

I still favor the Monzino instrument at this time: it, like seemingly all my favorites, is of very light construction. I wouldn't say it is a soloist's instrument, but it suits the situation I most often play in; solo in a living room. I'd go for something stouter, perhaps, if I were earning a living filling concert halls with my playing. (Doubtless I'd also starve, but that's another topic).

Alex Timmerman
Jun-25-2004, 1:19pm
Hi Jim,

It had (and obviously still has - as you refer to a German mandolin example -) all to do with the wood material, number of ribs and frets etc. and with the willingness of the better players - the ´soloists´ if you want - to pay the higher price of an upper end mandolin.



Jim Garber
Jun-25-2004, 1:59pm
It had (and obviously still has - as you refer to a German mandolin example -) all to do with the wood material, number of ribs and frets etc. and with the willingness of the better players - the ´soloists´ if you want - to pay the higher price of an upper end mandolin.
I just get the feeling that there was a difference in the construction of the soloist models in the italian and German instruments (maybe French also). Would they be looking for a more "cutting" (projecting) tone. As Bob A noted, even in the American models there was a difference in the bracing, I assume to produce a different tone. Yes, there was the higher end surface appointments but i think that the soloists were looking for more in an instrument than just fancy inlays and numerous ribs.

I know that in violins there is a similar distinction made in terms of orchestral vs. solo instruments.


Alex Timmerman
Jun-25-2004, 3:16pm
Hi Jim and others,

1) I presume that with (to quote you):"Would they be looking for a more "cutting" (projecting) tone", you mean the Italians as opposite to German (French) makers?

2) As for (quote): "Yes, there was the higher end surface appointments but i think that the soloists were looking for more in an instrument than just fancy inlays and numerous ribs", I think that you see this correctly. However there were makers who kept nearly all their models very plain and undecorated.

This is especially noticable in the instruments of the Roman luthiers.
Beside orchestra- and soloist models also student mandolins were made.

Of course fabulous decorated mandolins by these makers have survived but these instruments have to be regarded as artistic examples and proof of the extraordinary skill by their maker(s). Often they won prices (gold, silver and bronce medals) with these high quality and highly decorated mandolins. Examples of art which are mostly described in old catalogues - with yet another indication - as " Mandolino artistico".



Jim Garber
Jun-25-2004, 4:02pm
Maybe I am not too clear in my question:

I am mainly concerned with the tonal differences between the soloist models vs. the orchestral regardless of the ornamentation (and even regardless of nationality). I know that top soloists might choose a more ornamented instrument for stage effect, but i would also think they would be even more concern with projecting their sound over the backup ensembles. Whereas the orchestral instruments would be more of a blending one with like-minded instruments.


Alex Timmerman
Jun-25-2004, 5:51pm
Absolutely. Soloists like to be heard. So that´s what they look for: a rich, balanced, voluminous and well projecting sound of their concert mandolin. And that is what is made for them by Embergher, Calace etc.

It can not be said of all makers, but the (highest) orchestra models by the makers mentioned above differ indeed with their soloist/concert models. Not only in things like the number of ribs or internal bracings, but also in the design of the soundboard, bowl, etc. #
Something that, I have to say, can best be seen in the instruments of Luigi Embergher.

The sound of his high end orchestra model is in my ears excellent and perhaps ´rounder´, but certainly less extrovert when compared with his soloists models.

It is indeed likely that Embergher initially created his orchestra instruments with the assumption that ´blending in´ and ´homogeneity´ were more vital.
But since his concert/soloist model was so succesful it pushed aside the role of his highest orchestra model (a model that, besides the artistic ones, is most rare to find. A reason that when one sees a photo of an orchestra with Embergher instruments the musicians mostly play the the soloist model(s).

That is likely the cause why this idea - an orchestra with only high end orchestra instruments of the mandolin family (unfortunately) never fully matured.

But it would be nice to put together a chamber orchestra compleately with high end orchestra models made by this luthier.
Something like this can already be heard in the recording of the Raffaele Calace´s 1st Mandolin Concerto with Sebastiaan de Grebber and Het CONSORT.

Wisches... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif