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Mandolin Cafe Blog

Lance Armstrong can beat you on a 40 lb. Huffy

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
A friend recently visited Italy for a day as part of a 12 countries in 14 days tour and said he saw all that was worth seeing. No need to return.

A common bistro meal in France consists of onglet (hanger steak). It's fabulous, affordable, and an absolutely wonderful meal in the hands of a competent cook. In the U.S., it's mixed in with stew meats or ground up for hamburger.

Feijoada is a remarkable dish made of throw-away cuts of smoked meats (think hoof and face meat, cheeks, parts...) and black beans (with side of white rice). The invention of slaves in Brazil, oddly, it's now considered a delicacy there, served in fine restaurants. Delicious.

And you reading this? Trust me, Lance Armstrong can beat you on a 40 lb. Huffy at any distance, on any day--time trial, mountain stage or single day classic. Your $5K tricked out road bike with titanium everything be damned.

What's all this have to do with mandolins?

If you're getting idea this piece is rambling all over the place and makes little sense, but some legitimate questions are getting raised, congratulations. You're getting the point. The relationship some people have with a mandolin creates a problem in paradigm for them.

Why are so many people interested in arguing the point that mandolins that are more expensive cannot be that much better--if better at all--than those that aren't? Oh yes, if it's twice the cost, it must produce twice the sound. Or better yet, march out that good ol' tired and tested line "twice as good." As if that's measurable.

Give me a break.

Musical instruments are about way, way more than the price tag. That applies from affordable to expensive. I happen to own a very expensive instrument, but relish the company of a vintage Gibson snakehead less than 10% the price of the former. I'm on the hunt for a 30s Kalamazoo (they're a steal!) at well under $750, but have something on order for close to 20 times that amount.

But let's get one thing straight, they aren't the same experience, and I have specific reasons why I choose to play one instrument over another. That my choice happens to be expensive and others may not be able to come to grips with that is simply not my problem.

Mandolins are not commodities based solely on price, and everyone is entitled to what pleases them. There are $20K+ mandolins I lust over, and those I wouldn't give a nickel for. There are $1K mandolins I'd be embarrassed to be seen with, and those I'd die to spend a day playing. Find ten musicians and you'd get ten different opinions on what they desire.

So, when someone feels the need to apply their problematic views with price comparisons in conversation, I head the other direction. Not interested. Why we make choices should be obvious.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the car wash to tidy up my 1996 model (paid for--easily worth $750) and then it's off to an early afternoon casual gig (in blue jeans) and then an evening performance in the Nutcracker orchestra (in a tux, no less), both on that pricey Nugget mandolin.

What a fool, when I could be driving my kid to school in a BMW instead.

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  1. Malcolm G.'s Avatar
    Hear, hear!
  2. Maddie Witler's Avatar
    well said!
  3. Chris Willingham's Avatar
    Very well written. Enjoyed it.
  4. Mike Bromley's Avatar
    me, I'd Nug over a Beemer any day.
  5. Paul Statman's Avatar
    Well sed, that man! Thanks for that, Scott.
  6. Rob Powell's Avatar
    Not that I deserve a Nugget, nor could I do it justice but I would drive a pinto if it got me a Nugget.

    My Weber was 4 times the price of my LM-700 but certainly not 4 times the sound.
  7. billkilpatrick's Avatar
    ok, but my triads - such as they are - are faster than his tricycle.
  8. fred d's Avatar
    whats the point and Ibet my mandolin that when and if I was the same age as Lance I could give him a good run but I'm not?
  9. mcgroup53's Avatar
    Having ridden with Lance Armstrong AND played music with Scott Tichenor, I'd say both are wonderful experiences to be cherished and remembered. Well put, my friend!

    Dave McCarty
  10. CES's Avatar
    A friend of mine who played college tennis used to always laugh when he played guys in the matching outfit from one brand (ie, like they had a sponsor) and carrying 6 high end raquets in their bag...he almost always smoked those guys. He carried about 5 raquets too, but only used one and had a backup in case the strings broke...the others were just to make him look the part for prematch mind games.

    I have a different friend who plays guitar. He's had the same Taylor since the mid 90s, plays out a lot, and usually doesn't have a backup. He smokes me and my "several" guitars and mandolins. There's really just no substitute for talent (especially if the talented have a little hard work to go along with it)...
  11. Jason Kindall's Avatar
    As one that loves his J Bovier blem and lusts after any number of middle-to-high end instruments alike... Good read!

    Its all about the heart of it all.
  12. Kevin Briggs's Avatar
    This is a good moment of clarity for me. I'm guilty as charged arguing against super expensive mandolins. I agree though, it shouldn't be a point of contention, if we are really happy with what we have.
  13. GTG's Avatar
    The question isn't really 'is a mandolin about more than the price tag'. The real question is 'is a mandolin about more than tone and playability'. And there we have the whole mass category of what we might call 'pretty decent instruments' - something you could gig with, bring to a jam, record with, etc. - sounds good and plays well.

    Beyond that, how much of that $25k experience is just exclusivity - to want something because few can have it (usually because of price or supply), and how much of it is something more tangible? It may be a different experience, but is it a meaningful one? And finally - wouldn't it be something to play in a tux in the Nutcracker orchestra with a sub-$1000 instrument??