View Full Version : 12 string mandolin?

Rob Grant
Oct-29-2004, 3:41am
Last weekend at our local music festival a good friend showed us a "mandolin" with 12 strings. I must admit, this is the first time I've seen something like this. The instrument was owned originally by the friend's father. I'm curious to know how common they are and whether they were a "successful" variation. This one is in reasonable condition apart from a bit of "butchery" behind the all-metal bridge that appears to be an attempt to increase the break angle. The mandolin is unplayable in its present condition.

Rob Grant
Oct-29-2004, 3:42am
The back...

Oct-29-2004, 6:31am
This 12 string appears to be an exact match well almost to mine.
I got my 12 string in Ireland about 7 years ago. My guess is that it is about 75 years old. Does your friend have any info on the maker or where it was made. I would be interested in getting some additional history on it if they have any info. The tuners on mine are covered but the rest of the instrument appears to be very close in design. The metal ajustable bridge appears to be a close match.
If anyone has info on these two 12 strings I would like to know. Mine is playable and has a set of GHS silk & steel on it. Below is a print that I created based on it last year.
Thanks for sharing!

Jim Garber
Oct-29-2004, 7:37am
12 strings were an attempt to increase the volume even more at the expense of playability. I have even seen a few Gibson A models that were original 12 strings.

Stella (Oscar Schmidt) made many of these as bowlbacks in the early part of the last century. Someone must have bought them since there are many around. I imagine that they mainly played chords on them. it would be hard to play single string music on them. I would think.

Stillpicking, what does the label read on yours? That bridge is interesting.


Oct-29-2004, 10:52am
There are some modern examples of 12-string mandolins as well...

I recently saw a Givens 12-string mandolin, with highly figured wood on the back and sides (rare for Givens), with 4 courses of 3 strings each.
Interesting sound, but nothing you could really rip on...

I have an instrument built by Ted Beringer that is designed to an acoustic version of the infamous Hammertone (http://www.fbass.com/octave12.htm)...
The scale length is a bit small, but it sounds great on tape, which is what I wanted it for...

Here's a pic:

Jim Garber
Oct-29-2004, 12:03pm
That one looks like 6 courses. The old 12 strings mandolins were 4 courses of 3 strings each. Pretty unwieldy.


Oct-29-2004, 12:18pm
...but the even older ones were 6 courses of paired strings:

Oct-29-2004, 12:23pm
I have one of those Oscar Schmidt 12 string bowl backs. It has been damaged and repaired, possibly more than once, and I had to have a banjo bridge cut down to make a bridge for it, but it is playable. It's tough to get much sound out of it, and the strings (in 4 courses of three) are close together so they buzz easily, but if you play it lightly and quietly it sounds sort of pretty. It's difficult to tune though.

Jim Garber
Oct-29-2004, 12:31pm
I would think tht the best way to deal with those would be to either string them as 6 courses of very light gauge strings or to use octave strings on the bass strings, like a Martin-style tiple.

could be a nice flavoring to a recording but not as a main mandolin.


Rob Grant
Oct-30-2004, 12:59am
As usual, thanks to all for the excellent response on my enquirey.

Stillpicking... I've forwarded the URL for this page to the lady who owns the mandolin. She might be able to provide you with a bit more info on her instrument. Here's a photo(not very clear) of the label inside the soundhole: