View Full Version : Weber Bighorn

Aug-08-2009, 10:44pm
Just got this today... I'm giddy with excitement... More discussion later, just enjoy the pics...

Ken Olmstead
Aug-08-2009, 11:14pm
Congradulations! I know how getting a new mandolin feels!! Like to hear you play it! 'Tis a beauty thats for sure!

Mike Snyder
Aug-08-2009, 11:35pm
There's nothing quite like opening the box on a brand-new instrument. I was hoping that you got a D hole. That's a beauty, anyhow. Love the diamond & knot inlay. That's unique.

Aug-09-2009, 12:51am
Sweet! I've always liked the look of those, and the Weber sound. Congratulations.

Aug-09-2009, 8:25am
Congratulations George. Glad you pulled the trigger. There is one at Greg Boyds with sound clips for you that want to hear one til George can post us some from his new baby. Great sounding instrument.

Aug-09-2009, 9:51am
Here's a couple of more pictures. Now it's ready for action: I've installed my McClung Armrest and the ToneGard. I've got to choose between two straps the green leather one I used with my old two point or the Bill Bailey I used with the 515. The leather one tucks in real nice but I'm guessing the Bailey will be on shortly.

BTW, I can see where the Bighorn is bigger than my 515 by how the Tonegard fits. It appears to be a little longer. As I understand it, the Eastman was an F5 copy dimensionally.

Gerry Cassidy
Aug-09-2009, 10:27am
Congratulations on your new beauty! Wishin' ya' many days of good music on that looker. If your experience is the same as mine it will sound better and better with each passing day.

Make sure to join in on the Weber social group. Also, there's a nice gallery getting started on the two-pointer group. Yours would look nice in there as well.

Aug-09-2009, 12:16pm
Actually, I was looking to buy a flat screen HDTV. My old set is showing some age signs and it can’t pick up the stations. Since I missed out on the converter coupons, I’ve got $50 towards that right there. I’d pretty much narrowed it down to a 50” plasma for $800 at Costco. I don’t actually need to a new TV, since I’m on DirecTV, all I really need to do is reorganize, get rid of the LaserDisc player and VCR that I don’t (can’t and won’t respectively) use (oh yeah, the cassette deck too now that I think of it…), clean everything and do the proper maintenance. Well all that’s a lot like work and a new TV would likely be only thing that could get me to do it.

I spent some intensive looking time at Costco and at Best Buy last Saturday early, before the boss was ready for her afternoon excursion. She says, “I’m headed down to the Yarn Barn, do you want me to drop you off at Guitar Tex?” (i.e. do you want candy little boy) Yes, please. I stroll into Tex and it’s a usual Saturday at San Antonio’s acoustic nirvana, four or five people thinking seriously about musical instruments. Mark, the owner is engaged in a conversation but Gus, resident philosopher and bon vivant, sticks a mandolin in my hands and says “try this!” It was beautiful Weber Bighorn. I grabbed a pick and started in, my world shifted on its axis.

Now take a step back in this process. I had been contemplating my next mando purchase for a while. I found with guitars that experience led to better equipment. A while back my friend, fellow scientist and professional Irish musician Cliff Moses said the best strategy is to buy an instrument that you can afford and in which you can hear an improvement in the musicality. The better you know instruments the more expensive these life lessons become, by the way. It’s a little more complicated than that when you start adding your timbre and sound space requirements but it’s a good fundamental starting point.

As I got more familiar with my Eastman 515 and had the opportunity to play other mandolins, better and worse, I began to form my ideas about what I wanted in a mandolin. I knew for instance that while the 515 was an entry level mandolin for them I wouldn’t be considering any fancier F model from them as they just wouldn’t be an improvement on what I had musically. No, my next mandolin would need to be an American built mandolin. Because I am a committed believer in only buying instruments I have played that pretty much limited it to instruments from Collings, Gibson and Weber. (Yes there are other domestic factories but they just don’t meet my personal tastes.)

Finding mandolins to play can be tough for many but we’re lucky here in central Texas. There’s Guitar Tex (Weber) here in San Antonio and Fiddler’s Green in Austin (Breedlove, Collings, Weber). Also in reasonable driving distance is Fuller’s Vintage Guitar in Houston (Gibson). The local guys have a reasonable turnover so indulging in the only buy what you play philosophy was very reasonable. Fiddler’s Green also has some exotic high level mandolins like Altman and Ellis for a high level benchmark.

I’ve visited Fuller’s a couple of time in the last couple of years and I didn’t find a Gibson that I would trade my Eastman for even much less add money. Just the breaks I guess as I’ve played some very nice Gibsons of recent vintage. So this pretty much narrowed it down to Weber or Collings. Being a native Texan I would have loved to prefer the Collings sound but I don’t. The Collings are clearly better than my Eastman and reasonably affordable but the, what I call, ‘tightness’ of their sound as built is just not for me.

So I felt there was a Weber in my future and made a point of playing as many as possible, in stores and those belonging to fellow players. This all just came to reinforce that belief as they start where I think a mandolin should be and get better. I had experimented with oval holes with an Eastman two pointer and while I liked the mando I found I preferred the more aggressive F-hole sound. This held true with the Webers. The ovals are very pleasant but ‘nice’ doesn’t do it for me.

There were a couple of Bitterroots that came through that offered the promise of better things but not enough to excite me. The Gallatins weren’t an advance over my Eastman and too plain for my luthiery fancying self. There were a pair of amber Yellowstones, an F and an A. The F had a great sound but the amber finish is not for me and a plain A is, well, plain. (This is not absolute BTW, if I had $5K to blow I would take an Ellis A over most anybody's $5K F, street price.) There was a distressed Yellowstone F but I’m not one for artificial aging though I did like the semi-gloss finish. The latest Yellowstone F has a cedar top, it’s an interesting sound likely well suited to jazz or Celtic but a little too civil for me.

So with all these thoughts in place I was sure it was a decision that I would push downstream time-wise as all of these fine mandos were better than mine, but not earthshakingly so. I could plan my next acquisition coolly. Then Gus handed me this mandolin, the Weber Bighorn…

The ‘Encounter’ next post…

Aug-09-2009, 12:54pm
Man, it sounds like you went about this the right way, playing as many different models as you could and buying the one that really spoke to you...I think I'm going to impose a play it before you buy it limit on myself as well, though I've had good luck with my recent internet purchases. You just can't beat playing until you find the one...congrats!

Aug-10-2009, 12:31am
Lucky places have shops like Guitar Tex (http://www.guitartex.com/). Located just north of downtown San Antonio it’s an acoustic musician’s oasis. Guitars, mandolins, banjos, ukes can all be found in the shop. (He’s not crazy and does carry some good quality electric guitars but he only allows them to be played loud enough to evaluate the functions not destroy hearing.) He’s a Martin, the Santa Cruz, the National and the Weber dealer for San Antonio but it’s not all about fancy stuff. He doesn’t try to compete with the box stores for cheap but a serious beginner can find good quality at a reasonable price. But it’s not just the instruments there are all kinds of accessories for acoustic players that you won’t find in a box store. But it’s not that either, it’s the atmosphere – players welcome.

I walked in and nodded to a couple of the regulars and was surveying the room when Gus walked up and said “Here, try this!” and handed me the Bighorn. He must have seen me crossing the street from where my wife had dropped me off and prepared his ‘ambush’. I had left home without my picks or tuner so I had to grab a stock pick before I took one of the cool red and white ‘50s diner seats and got comfortable. Hmmm… where’s something heavy like I normally use. Sit down, stretch pop my hands loose, cross my leg to lift the base to comfortable height, adjust my hand positions and start to play. From the moment I started playing this I knew it was special, an exceptional mandolin. The notes virtually exploded off the instrument with moderate picking force and there did not seem to be a force limit. In particular it seemed to have a stronger soprano voice than other mandolins, there wasn’t the need to play harder to get the sound out of the E string.

Did I dare run up one of those fiddle tunes that plays way up the E string, the ones that say ‘that’s a mandolin son not a fiddle with the power of a bow’? I did, I played Lost Indian, with those three repeated high D notes that choke on many a mandolin. It was loud and clear on the Bighorn and other tunes that run in that range like Gary Owen and Ragtime Annie were equally well served. I even moved a D tune (that I can’t recall) to the 5th position D on the A string and played it FFCP with out any sign of strain. I was breathless. Solid performance on the E string has been one of my biggest hopes for a new mandolin.

I played it for over an hour. Up and down the neck, high and low pitched tunes and plenty of rhythm figures. It does it all. Almost as an afterthought I take a good look at the instrument. As I said previously I find A models to be a little plain compared to the luthiery on display with an F model. On the flip side it’s easy to see how an F can be perceived as an overbearing extravagance where an A is sleekly elegant. I’ve always admired the two points for splitting those differences. The color is a lightly shaded dark brown they call translucent walnut that’s very similar to traditional fiddle coloring. The binding is ivory with black/ivory purfling. “The Weber” tops the head stock with a counter inlaid Weber Knot just below. Besides killer tone, it’s beautiful to boot.

My head is smoking; I have to quit playing before I keel over. There is a general “boy, that sure is nice” discussion. We drift on to other things. Both Mark, the owner, and Gus, sidekick and part-time assistant are long time professional musicians and can discuss the whole music scene to a great depth. I call my wife to come get me. My world has been shaken and I need to contemplate my place in it.

Next "The Week of Contemplation"

Mark Walker
Aug-10-2009, 3:26pm
George - beautiful looking Weber! Enjoy that two-pointer! :)

B. T. Walker
Aug-10-2009, 5:03pm
I called George on my drive back from Chicago via Omaha (more on that soon), and could tell his MAS was flowing. He already had the plan worked out how to get it. Not twenty-four hours later, and he calls me (I'm still driving) to tell me he went for it. You really have no idea how much agony he has gone throught to find "The One". Way to go, George!

That is a beautiful mandolin. Like George, I'm a freak for two-points. Tomorrow night at the bluegrass jam, a closer evaluation can be made, but you know it's a killah. Very exciting. Woohoo!

Randy King
Aug-10-2009, 6:07pm
Man That's a good looking Mandolin. I like the Bighorn!!

Aug-12-2009, 8:23am
It was on my mind all Saturday evening. I went over the way it played in my mind. I pulled out my Eastman 515 and went through most of the same tunes and exercises while the memory was still fresh. It all kept adding up to say that the Bighorn was that good. Shortly before hitting the sack I dropped a query, titled simply ‘Weber Bighorn’, into the Mandolin Café section ‘Looking for information about mandolins’. That was after searching for what had already been said. (All positive, BTW.)

I dreamed about that mandolin. It was everything I wanted in a mandolin except free. There was no way I could afford it straight up, to get it would require sacrifice. My inventory of instruments would be significantly reduced, maybe liquidated entirely. Hmmm… How bad do you want it?

Sunday afternoon I sought a diversion. While the HD TV thing was a potential goal a related thing was my intent to ‘upgrade to stereo’ for music listening. It turns out that all the fancy sound field processing just annoys me. I want listen to stereo recordings in stereo. I’ve got good equipment in general so I only need minor tweaks to meet my requirements. I went to the local serious A/V store, Bjorn’s. In spite of the big box stores Bjorn (Dhybdal) has been successfully serving the medium to high-end audio market in San Antonio for as long as I’ve lived here. Turns out I’m not alone and, trend spotter that he is, Bjorn is dedicating new resources for the stereo enthusiast.

He had a big show on stereo while I was at Camp Bluegrass. I missed the displays and demonstrations but I did want to see the $250K Macintosh stereo system. It was pretty impressive sound wise but garish to view at the same time. You can do a lot with simpler components. My personal issue is accurate reproduction of acoustic instruments and voice. The system did an excellent job of reproduction but it was played too loud. Still it made me think of sound and tone and permanence, all issues at hand.

So I have all these issues rolling around in my head – HDTV, Stereo Upgrade, Weber Bighorn, etc., etc. Still the Bighorn keeps coming to the surface. On Monday, after reading others comments on the Bighorn, I dropped a note to Weber asking about the Bighorn concept. Besides answering my question and posting it in the Café too, Tony Polecastro said about this particular mandolin “First off that Bighorn that went to Guitar Tex is an Absolute Hoss!!!! One of my favorites of the last couple months.” Oh, my!

So how did I come to be obsessed with a mandolin? I never had a guitar effect me that way and for most of the last decade I would have considered myself a guitar player who dabbled in mandolin. I think the transition started last summer when I took a week of mandolin training from Roland White at Camp Bluegrass. Up until then I was a guitar player who played mandolin kind of like a guitar. Roland showed me how to start becoming a mandolin player. I practiced a lot and by the time this summer rolled around I was hooked on mandolin as my go to instrument. Guitar was relegated to a support role for learning new songs and introducing them at jams.

This newfound role of main instrument started my contemplation of a potential better instrument. My main mandolin was an Eastman 515 on which I had worked assiduously at breaking in and setting up to my satisfaction. I was getting what I could out of it but even casual playing of the better US built mandolins proved to me there was more to be had but until now it had been sort of a slow burn improvement opportunity. That is they were desirably better but I could wait until I was ready.

Surprise! You’re Ready! So says my gut about the Bighorn. There was a palpable visceral connection to it. It just hung in my mind. The thing is that it would require radical surgery of my instruments to acquire. I’ve had more in the past but at that moment I had four; two mandolins, Eastman 515 and 804D, and two guitars, a Martin OM-21 and a CA Cargo. Good quality all but most or all would have to go to move to the new mandolin.

Capt. E
Aug-12-2009, 9:07am
Looks just like mine. Same color, same beautiful flame. Ain't is great how the flame moves and looks 3 dimensional? Even better is the sound.

Aug-12-2009, 10:15am
Looks just like mine. Same color, same beautiful flame. Ain't is great how the flame moves and looks 3 dimensional? Even better is the sound.

Yeah, every time I look at it I feel so lucky, and then I play it, oh my...

B. T. Walker
Aug-12-2009, 1:14pm
I got to play the Bighorn last night at the bluegrass jam. Wow! It had that punch you'd expect from a bluegrass cannon, with so much sound it was hard to play soft. Just playing along normally you could feel the whole body vibrate, and it made my guts tingle. A very fine mandolin indeed. Congratulations.

Aug-12-2009, 1:23pm
Brian had his beautiful blue Ludewig with him. I wish I had the foresight to have my camera with me to get a picture of this unique brace of two-pointers. We're working on some mandolin duets and the unique voices of these two beauties will really work well together.

Capt. E
Aug-12-2009, 4:25pm
Two points forever!

Aug-13-2009, 5:42pm
The big issue was the Martin. I had spent a good deal of time selecting it. My first serious guitar was a Taylor 414K. It was a Grand Auditorium (GA) model and more comfortable for me than the more ubiquitous dreadnought. A few years ago my wife bought me a Taylor 814 with proceeds from her father’s estate. It was special cocobolo/maple bound model very pretty with great tone. While the GA was more comfortable than a dread I still suffered shoulder pain after an hour or so of playing. I didn’t have that problem with my mandolins so I just assumed it was a guitar issue with which I would have to live.

Serendipity resulted in my acquisition of a Martin 000X1 as beater. This formica bodied, spruce topped guitar was smaller than my others and more comfortable to play. So there I was with two, top quality Taylor guitars and all I was playing the beater, strictly for comfort reasons, as the others still sounded better, because the good guitars hurt me to play. I explained the problem to the boss and she said it didn’t make sense to keep a guitar I wasn’t going to play as she considered the sentiment lay in the thought and not the object. (I actually agonized over it more than her and, no, I am not so stupid as to think I can supplant thoughts for gifts going her way.)

So I set out to find the ideal guitar in the 000/OM size. I was a Taylor guy so I looked there first. Their GC model is the same general size but, as they clearly state, it’s a fingerpicking guitar and just doesn’t stand up to a pick. I tried many different models 000/OM size and smaller, primarily Collings, Martin and Santa Cruz but others too. It came down to the Martin OM-21 being my favorite just beating out the Santa Cruz OM/PW. This was early last year that I made the switch. I played the OM-21 a lot, as it was just so good. At that time I was still a guitar player that dabbled with mandolin.

I was already had my Eastman’s by this time. My main ride was my Eastman 515 that I had got in a straight up trade for a Taylor 555. (I got the latter used at a crazy low price so the trade was more even than you might assume.) It replaced my first mandolin a mahogany Mid-Mo. I did a lot of work on getting it set up just right and that led to more playing time and that led me to take Roland Whites class at Camp Bluegrass. Right before I went I hot rodded it up with a Bailey strap, a McClung armrest and a Tonegard. I also had an Eastman 804D oval hole two pointer. It rounded out my mandolin collection a ying to the 515 yang. Just naturally it was softer in tone than the 515 so I pushed it even further by putting a set of Jazzmando stings on it. The effective result was a very limber lead device with limited rhythm capability, fun to play but not for jams.

So last summer I went to Camp Bluegrass and immersed myself in mandolin playing and it took hold. I started playing the 515 at home a lot too, not just at the jams. I did the exercises Roland recommended and practiced with a metronome to get my timing under control. I took the 804D to work and practiced 3 or 4 days a week during lunch. That’s how I became addicted to the mandolin.

I did not quit playing the guitar as there is an advantage in working up songs and introducing the new ones to jams. I worried too much to carry the OM-21 to sessions so relied on the 000X1. But that was not satisfactory at home (and it wasn’t satisfy playing out either but I did not worry about it). I still had the Taylor 414K but it was still too big for comfort. Then Composite Acoustics introduced the Cargo, a carbon fiber parlor sized guitar with a surprisingly huge sound. When they finally got production going I maneuvered the 414K and the 000X1 to new homes and got a Cargo. Guess what, it became the only guitar I routinely played. The OM was clearly better in terms of tone but the Cargo was even better playability wise and it was just so darn handy.

When I came back from Camp Bluegrass last year I started to think about a better mandolin. For the most part the 515 held its own but I was exposed to better mandolins played by much better players and learned the potential. I started looking around. My buddy Ron Fritz and I did some road trips. (Ron was good mandolin player before truck driving took a toll on his hands but he is still an excellent listener.) We went to Houston for the Texas State Mandolin Contest and we stopped over at Fuller’s Vintage Guitar and played some Gibsons. We went up to Fiddler’s Green in Austin and played a real variety including Breedlove, Rigel, Weber and Altman. We went a second time after they became a Collings dealer specifically to compare Weber and Collings and see the Ellis demonstration. On my own I visited Appalachian Bluegrass in Baltimore during a trip to the DC area. This effort plus begging time on any decent instrument I came across. I’m not sure I understood myself but I was definitely ‘looking’.

I’ve played a lot of mandolins in the last year. About midway through this process it was obvious that the most likely selection would be a Weber. I’m a ‘bird in the hand’ buyer so my ideas come from what I have played in my quest. The question resolved itself to Collings vs. Weber reasonably quickly. In direct comparison of reasonably equivalent models I just preferred the Weber sound. I could easily understand the opposite decision or rejection of both for something else. Personal taste is not a ‘fair’ evaluation, it’s just what it is. So I primed my self to want a Weber. The basic rule was that, when I moved to a new mandolin it would have to sound better ‘green’ than my broken in Eastman (which was continuing to get better).

The rule basically said it was going to be a Weber Yellowstone or higher. As they wandered through the market that was confirmed with consistent tone and value and I even had fantasies of a custom, when the time came. Then comes this exceptional mandolin and just grabs me. I set my own trap and was caught in it. I chatted with Bryan and Ron a couple of times during the week and neither one tried to dissuade me (LOL). I decided to take Friday off to do personal errands, one of which being to spend more time with the Bighorn, accompanied by my Eastman 515 and Ron to listen. I spent some time going through basic exercises to limber up my fingers. Friday would be the big evaluation, feast or famine.

Aug-14-2009, 5:10pm
I knew the Bighorn was special but I had to do the ritual comparison. Ron showed up and we went to lunch, this was not a task for an empty stomach. After a pleasant repast we headed down to Guitar Tex, with my Eastman in tow. I had been up at my usual 6:30 am, got ready for the day and went out and fixed the wooden fence. Being this the hottest summer on record in San Antonio I was soaked to the bone so I had to get ready again. I spent the time waiting for Ron practicing to limber up.

We arrived and I grabbed a chair and pulled out the Eastman. It was awake from the morning playing but it was still worthwhile to check the tuning. Gus tried to distract me by putting the new Bryan Sutton CA Dread in my hands – yes, very nice but I’m here for a reason. Here comes the Bighorn, back in my hands. Plinky, plinky – yep it still has that sound but a quick check shows it is off pitch, too low.

Too low is a common issue with new guitars and mandolins. They may have been loosened for shipping or the change in climate might make a bid difference or whatever, it’s just common. What I have noticed is that fine instruments clearly want to be at standard pitch. There seems to be a marked increase in response when tuned up to the designed pitch. The Bighorn was no exception, seeming to double down on tone as it was brought to pitch, just like there was a hidden volume knob.

Friday afternoon was a good time to do this comparison. Not too many customers to disturb me or for me to disturb. I went through cross comparisons on tunes and songs, simple and complex rhythms and physical comfort. I had Ron play them both so I could here them from the listener side. It just confirmed to the nth degree this was the mandolin for which I didn’t understand I had been searching. One of the most telling things was the strength of voice. I can overdrive many mandolin but not the Bighorn. We did a power test and after the Eastman topped out there was still plenty of reserve on the Weber. It also became apparent I would have to modify my playing style. I could be too loud with the Eastman and the Weber doesn’t need as much force for the same volume.

So now I knew, if I could do it, I had to do it. Ron just laughed. He had gone through the same process to get his Martin guitar. A process that required letting go of his blond maple Weber Gallatin F mandolin. Turmoil.

Aug-14-2009, 5:16pm
Great purchase. You will love it. I like the two points. I have a Weber Yellowstone A and love it to death. I play mostly hymns and Celtic, so my needs are different. You got a good one.


Bob DeVellis
Aug-14-2009, 6:43pm
Lots of love for the Bighorn f-holes. How do folks feel about the oval-type Bighorns? they seem to get less attention. I have my own thoughts but am curious as to what others think.

Aug-15-2009, 12:54am
We made a few more stops before Ron deposited me at the house. My plan was to make a deal with the mandolins and the Martin. I thought the advice I received about going all in on the eponymous thread in the Café suggesting to not go without a guitar was too good to not follow (thanks commenters). I pulled them out and started the detail process.

It was a two-part process, removing accessories and cleaning. Between the first and the second I spent some time playing each to savor its uniqueness and to remember what led me to buy it. I think I said previously that I’m not too sentimental about things; I am, however, sentimental about experience. I played each one for 30-45 minutes then cleaned it, polished it and put it away. On my music stand a collection containing a Tonegard, two McClung armrests, two straps and a three capos (all from the guitars, BTW).

In the middle of this effort I called Brian Walker and caught him on the down map return leg of his trip from Chicago on his way to Omaha. He was ecstatic about his trip and I filled him in on my plans, more amusement at MAS effects.

Saturday I load up the sacrifices and head to Guitar Tex. Saturday is always a crazy ebb and flow there, from quiet as a church to Grand Central Station. It was church time when I got there and Mark was out on an errand so Gus and I discussed tone and luthier philosophy while he played the Martin OM versus the new CA OX. The CA was competent but with that generic sterility which I have come to associate with carbon fiber guitars. The OM-21 clearly showed superior breeding. Gus is a very accomplished musician and can really wring out an instrument.

The crowd arrived with Mark, there was no rush so I just played the Bighorn and discussed instruments and music with people, known and unknown, as they passed through. My friend and well-known local instrument collector Ron C. came in, spotted me and said he was there to see if he could outbid me on the mandolin I was interested in. I guess the panic on my face kept him from keeping the pretense up. We did get into a long discussion about mandolins. He has great guitars for all seasons but has had trouble finding a mandolin that meets his needs.

In his possession is National Reso Mando that is just super but it’s not home friendly. I pointed out the Yellowstone on the wall with the cedar top, which I had found to be very pleasant sounding even if not to my particular taste. He got it and asked me to play it. I’m not Mark or Gus but I can play well enough for someone to hear what an instrument sounds like and will do so when asked. I switched back and forth between the Bighorn and the Yellowstone. He noted they sounded very similar and I agreed as they were both Webers and reflected the luthier but then I hit a couple phrases and some rhythm on the Yellowstone pretty hard and it compressed up and leveled off just as I expected. I then did the same with the Bighorn and the sound just exploded off the face. He understood then.

Another local jammer came in, looking for an expensive guitar and a cheap mando. He had been left unsatisfied by a Big Muddy he bought on-line. He wanted me to play some of the inexpensive mandos for him, I said I would but that if he was left wanting by the Big Muddy he should look up not down. Fortunately his guitar discussion with Mark led to him getting a first class demo of the A and F Gallatins by Mark (who not only sells Weber but gigs with one professionally). I was happy see him take one home. Meanwhile, freed from the need to demo an inferior mando, Ron C and I went through the other Weber mandolins in stock so he could hear the differences.

Finally, when things calmed down, Mark and I came to agreement and I was the proud new owner of a Weber Bighorn. I was happy with my acquisition but I was also happy with the trade process. Mark has a knack of matching people to instruments they need, karma wise. I regret the loss of the OM-21 but that doesn’t bother me as much as seeing it sit in the corner in the case did. As a denouement to the process I drank a couple cups of water from his chiller while discussing my ‘buy what I’ve played’ philosophy. The obvious reason is you know what the instrument sounds like but there is a second reason for me. If I buy a Weber, Taylor, Martin, etc., etc. I want it to be a true expression of the luthier’s philosophy. Given any pile of suitable tonewood I just have to believe that Bruce Weber knows better about what is required to make the best mandolin than I.

I took the Bighorn home grabbed the camera and made the pictures posted at the start. Then the wife says, “The girls (my precious grandchildren) are coming over.” Precious they may be but the mando stays in the case while they are here. I call Ron F and Brian W (somewhere on I-35 in Oklahoma) to tell them the deed is done and that they will see it at the Tuesday jam.

And thus the tale of acquisition is complete. Day by day it just makes me happier. For me it is ‘all that’ and more. I appreciate the time it took you to read through to this point. I like having the opportunity to express my feelings about music and related topics. I think the only real ‘point’ in this is to be as serious about your hobby as your family life and career. It’s supposed to refresh you for the other two.

Bill Snyder
Aug-15-2009, 9:22am
You are quite the writer. You really put the reader right there with you in this process.

Aug-15-2009, 10:05am
Yes, great to read that story. And lovely mando!

Have fun getting to know it better. :)

Aug-19-2009, 8:37am
Thanks everybody for reading this story. Sometimes you just need to share and the Cafe is great for that. Here's a picture of me with the mandolin. I'm surprised my wife didn't make me smile but it's kind of typical of how I deal with cameras. I guess it's my Scotch Irish coming out, thus the perfect Bluegrass face.

B. T. Walker
Aug-21-2009, 8:10pm
His wife merely had to say "Bighorn" instead of "Cheese", and George would have been grinning like the Cheshire Cat. :grin:

In fact, I'm surprised you're not smiling since you already have your Bighorn in your hands, ready to play. :mandosmiley:

Aug-31-2009, 3:41pm
Yeah. That does it. I'm gettin' one. Someday.

Great story, George. I'm pretty much the same as you WERE: a guitar player starting to dabble in mandolin. I also see me moving more and more toward the mandolin, more and more each day. (These are addictive little things.)

I'm also looking at my stable of guitars, and thinking, sheesh, can I really sell all but one, to finance a Bighorn? I'd need to keep the 000-18GE, I reckon. Or do I wait, earn my stripes by actually learning to play this Kentucky properly, and save for the Bighorn bit by bit?

It might take six months or more, but I think that's my plan.

(I also have a 1979 Silver Anniversary Stratocaster, that, if I could trade even up for a Bighorn, I would... but I think the Strat's only worth $1500-2000. My first real electric guitar. I don't know that I could sell it.)

The particular instrument I'm currently obsessing about is this Bighorn custom at Steilbring Instruments in Louisville, KY. (1-3/16" nut, Weber combo armrest/tailpiece):


chris scott
Aug-31-2009, 9:45pm
I did not have the time to read that whole deal but must say, yes I must, that a bighorn played in Santa Cruz a few years back made me think differently about weber mandos. Very nice punch and wooooolf. When the time is right would check one out for sure. I play a Rigel and compared it to that.( I have a very loud and woooooody A Natural) It was sweet and complex and had a good woooolf, if you know what I mean. thanks for listening, Chris.

Sep-02-2009, 12:31am
Chris -

I highly recommend playing a lot of mandolins. The more you play the better your understanding of the nuance of tone. And the most important thing is what you hear and like. You have to spend the bucks and you have to live with it. While I coveted the Weber sound after a lot of mando tasting someone else might land on Collings or Gibson or a custom builder who can deliver at their price point.

But I think it is important to get your chops up where you are really comfortable playing. You don't have to be Sam Bush or Chris Thile, just comfortable in your playing. I can't advise you on your guitar. I don't get very sentimental about instruments and I kind of like the idea my former OM-21 will go to someone who will play it regularly.

The Bighorn really continues to grow. As I work it in, it's getting better. BTW, in a letter to Weber I encouraged them to have Bruce expound on the design philosophy behind the Bighorn. I sense a great deal of modesty on his part but, as I pointed, the gearheads among us really enjoy getting the inside scoop (and what's the expression "It ain't bragging if you can do it"?).

Sep-02-2009, 10:00am
Thanks George...

yeah, I'll definitely play a bunch of different instruments... IF I CAN FIND SOME! (Mpls. St. Paul isn't known for its mandolin shops...)

It's only been the last month or two that I've become obsessed about this. So I'm not rushing into anything yet. Like you said, I'm gonna get my chops before I invest in anything more than the $500 mandolin I have. It works perfectly fine for what I do at this point. It will be an accomplishment to "outgrow" it.

We were at the MBOTMA Fest last month, and I had my guitar and mandolin with us, and we were noodling around under our canopy... A couple of folks walked by and asked if they could join us, and the jam grew. Another guy on his way back to his campsite after that evening's concert came by, wanted to join in. He didn't have his mandolin with him, so I offered him mine. He was a pretty good player and my mandolin sounded great in experienced hands. It's gonna take a good stretch of time and practice to get even halfway to his potential, so I think I'll be fine for a while with what I have.

I wish I'd have been as "into" playing mando even a month ago, as it would have been fun and enlightening to talk up a few of the other jammers at that festival to find out what they played and why and how they liked it. Because frankly, I've never played any high-end units. Unlike guitars (which I've tried plenty of amazing examples), I don't even know how good a really good mandolin can be!

Sep-02-2009, 5:46pm
I want one I want one now.

Sep-03-2009, 12:12am
I want one I want one now.

I see this is your third post. If previous lurker or relative newcomer, welcome to the dialog side of the Cafe. If you have played a Bighorn then I understand your position. If not, may I suggest that what you want is the dream, the thrill of acquiring that just right mandolin.

I offered my story not to sell more Bighorns but to share the idea and the passion of the quest. It was both educational and emotional in nature. Let my process help you to understand how to find yours. Seek your own path... Perhaps it will lead to a Weber Bighorn or maybe Gibson A or a Collngs F on any of the numerous fine quality mandolins being built today.

Sep-03-2009, 4:25pm
I have very much enjoyed this thread and your journey. It's great to find, be able to obtain and appreciate a great instrument. I have my assortment of instruments I've bought or traded for that I work and or play on-all very good pieces, old and new but only a couple are great instruments.
I wonder how many hit that level of outstanding? 1 in 10 or 1 in 100?
I love the Bighorn look.

Bob DeVellis
Sep-03-2009, 6:30pm
Well, I guess I'll just have to remain curious.

man dough nollij
Sep-03-2009, 8:02pm
I see this is your third post.

Er... going on 5000, I reckon. :whistling:

Sep-04-2009, 12:40pm
Er... going on 5000, I reckon. :whistling:

oops I'm so used to the last line being the total posts... duoh

Sep-04-2009, 3:29pm
Congradulation on your new mandolin George. I find it hard to explain to someone what it's like when you find a mandolin that really fits you. I don't know if I could tell anyone what it is exactly that makes me feel so comfortable playing my keeper and why other mandolins just don't seem to mesh.

Sep-07-2009, 2:24am
I've said before and will continue to say how important it is that your mandolin meet your listening desires. I had a good example of that Saturday. Altair and I went to Austin for a lesson with David Long, well worth the time an effort. He has a Gilchrist and throughout the lesson you just couldn't help but notice how good a mandolin it is. We did a mando/swap tasting at the end of the lesson. David played Altair's Ludewig and my Weber and we played his Gilchrist.

I was amazed at how light the Gilchrist is. (Altair says it's the scroll that's been knocked off the headstock but I don't think so.) It also plays like butter, although I may do more churning that playing sometimes.

Still, all and all, I preferred the sound of my Weber. I would not be surprised if the majority would see it the other way and I suspect a substantial number would have preferred the Ludewig oval hole.

This why you have to be careful, we can't 'hear' you the mandolin of your dreams. Comment on finish quality, offer opinions on the relative strengths and weaknesses, give historical insight, etc., etc. but what it sounds like and whether it will suit you is totally up to you.

Sep-07-2009, 9:47am
My dream is to have a Bighorn Mando-cello. The Bighorn is truely beautiful. My 1st mando was an Epihone 2-pionter but I was never drawn to two poiners until I saw a Bighorn. Enjoy.

Sep-28-2009, 2:13pm
The 'A' course stays in tune!

I just had to say it. It's just so refreshing because that course has been the bain of my mandolin experience. Oh, I don't mean it's perfect all the time it's just, relative to my experience with three other mandolins I've owned, so different.

Simple pleasures... :)