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Notes from the Field

MAS This

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A recent thread about MAS inspired my thinking a bit. But I didn’t want to go on about it in the thread, and sound like I was “justifying” or “defending” what could be looked upon as conspicuous consumption.

In terms of numbers I do not have as many mandolin as some of the real accumulators out there, but I do have a few. I have more mandolins than I can play at the same time, and I don't think it’s a crazy number. As you read this you will, I hope, realize that it is even kind of insulting to reduce it down to a number.

The thing you need to see is that each of those purchases made sense. And it is my prejudice that it would make sense to you, if I explained it to you. If I wrote about how each one was acquired and how I use it, I am sure (of course I am sure) that I could put together a coherent story in which all of them made sense as keepers, because of what they allow me to do, or to play. All were purchased to play, and they all get played. None of the purchases were spontaneous. They were all researched to some degree, thought through and even agonized over. None of them were purchased on credit, or irresponsibly. I got here incrementally, each step making total sense as an individual decision.

So when I see all of them in their cases against the wall I am surprised myself at the number of them, and can't help feel a little weird. Like how did that happen?

It is just simply that I don't have just one way of being musical. This life in music has become diverse and complicated. Each mandolin facilitates different aspects of the ways I am musical. The mandolin I play at a bluegrass old timey jam is not the same as the one I play classical music on, is not the same as the one I use in the pick-up band for outdoor contra dances, or when playing traditional Irish. It is not the one I record with, or the one I play alone at home when working out a new tune, practicing, or noodling around, or the one I plug into a modeling amp to play angry noises.

I would never say that I need them all. I don't need any of them, truth be told. I certainly don't need more than one. But when I contemplate selling any particular one, I immediately start to miss how that mandolin moves me, how the music I do on that mandolin is done so fittingly on that mandolin, and I feel the loss. And the longer I keep them (I do not do catch and release) the more experiences and good times accumulate with each one, and each instrument reflects back to me a unique part of my musical journey, my musical story.

I never intended to have a stable, and certainly could not justify the budget to acquire all of them now. But considering the number of years I have been musical, the amount of resources tied up in wood and strings is really surprisingly small. It would not purchase much in the lives of real collectors and paraphernalia accumulators – hunters, avid fishermen, coin or stamp collectors, antique collectors, boat enthusiasts, antique tractor restorers, hot rodders, horse owners, gun collectors, book collectors, photographers, all have left me way back in the dust in terms of total net resources tied up in their passions.

Look, while I would not begrudge anyone who was content with one mandolin, I also don’t think it mad, sad, or tragic to have more than one. I am content with each one. We each are musical in different ways, and we are also each at a different point in our own musical journey.

I had a casual friend over the house once, who I knew from work, who saw my accumulation of mandolins and made the typical snide remark about them. “How many mandolins do you need?” Then as I got to know him a little better and I found out he has one hell of a collection of electric guitars. In a snarky mood I pointed this out to him, and he responded, way too seriously, “yea, but they are guitars. How many mandolins do you really need?”

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Updated Apr-14-2016 at 7:13pm by JeffD



  1. Richard J's Avatar
    Nice piece. Wish I still have my Kentucky 172 because I would then own 2 mandolins. I only play with a friend, and my Loar 590 is perfect but sometimes I do think an A-style would fit a song better then an F-style.
  2. puckmank's Avatar
    Makes perfect sense to me