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Thread: Owners of 27" scale mandocelli, what tonal differences are there?

  1. #1

    Default Owners of 27" scale mandocelli, what tonal differences are there?

    Hello all,

    Been considering the topic of MC scale length, which has been discussed quite a bit on these forums. Many seem to agree that 27" is the ideal scale for letting those C courses really growl, has this been your experience?

    I've also read that the longer your scale goes, the more "zouk-like" your high A's will start to sound. The question this raises for me is that of string length vs gauge: what are the tonal properties of longer, lighter-gauge strings vs shorter, thicker strings in terms of overtones, fundamental and projection?

    The only videos of 27-inchers I know about are those of the Mendel mandocello. Would anyone else be willing to post a few sound samples?

    Thanks, y'all!

  2. #2
    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Owners of 27" scale mandocelli, what tonal differences are th

    I have never played a 27" scale mandocello, but I would definitely like to try a Mendel. The scale length for vintage mandocellos range from about 19 3/4" for a Howe-Orme to about 25 3/4" for a Lyon & Healy Style A or a Vega cylinderback. Gibson, Gelas, Stahl, Bruno, Kay Kraft, Vinaccia, Bohmann, etc. are in between. While scale length is a factor, the fullness of the C strings' tone and the overall balance and projection of the instrument are greatly influenced by other factors as well such as body size, soundhole shape and size, bracing, graduation of top and other build characteristics.

    I suppose you would have to compare different scale lengths on identical bodies to really check it out. With a scale length of 27" you would have to use lighter strings or accept the risk of placing greater tension on the instrument. I'm guessing it would have a more zouk-like tone as you say. While we probably need a builder to chime in here, the lighter strings and longer scale might in theory produce a slightly brighter sound with more overtones, all things equal, since the upper harmonics are less physically "compressed" on a longer scale instrument. Of course, I lot depends on the tone you are after. I have heard some great well balanced vintage mandocellos with deep baritone voices. I prefer mandocellos that sound somewhat cello like. Also if I recall correctly, actual cellos have a scale length around 27" or 27 1/2" but of course they are a very different animal all together.


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  3. #3

    Default Re: Owners of 27" scale mandocelli, what tonal differences are th

    I just finished another mandocello, but after hearing from Matt Morgan (the guy that bought the first one), I reduced the scale to 25" on this one. Matt really liked it, but did end up deciding that the 27" scale with two strings per course was just too beastly to play for any length of time. He took one string off of each course & used it that way. I used the same set of strings, D'Addario J 78, on the 25" inch scale & don't think there was much difference in the tone, but I think it is just a little quieter. The 2 inches makes the slight loss of volume well worth the trade off, it's a lot easier to play. I generally am a fan of a longer scale, but it does have to be playable. If it doesn't feel good, no matter how good it sounds no one will want to play it. I would certainly build with a 27" scale if that's what is desired, either way there are trade-offs.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Owners of 27" scale mandocelli, what tonal differences are th

    Thank you both for your inputs. I hope you won't consider me rude for kinda-sorta replying to you both at once.

    Full disclosure: I am interested in this topic because I'm communicating with a luthier about a custom build.

    Joe, your 'cello was one of the primary inspirations behind my initial request to said luthier for a 27" inch instrument (along with several speculative threads here in the 'cafe forums). However, as gweetarpicker correctly pointed out, there is the tradeoff of length for string gauge, barring some kind of extra reinforcement in the top. As my 'cello will also have a high E course, I am really trying to avoid the 'zouk-jangle. Instead, I want an instrument with authority in its voice, indeed "somewhat cello-like."

    It thus seems like going longer scale and thinner strings is counter to my goal, after all. I assumed longer would necessarily yield that piano-like power found Matt Morgan's Mendelcello, but as gweetarpicker again correctly mentioned, scale length is hardly the only deciding factor in the character of the tone. I forget who said it here in the forum, but the #1 variable in your instrument isn't the wood, scale, bracing or anything else, but the luthier him/herself. The Mendelcello sounded great not because it was 27", but because Joe is a great builder.

    I've considered 26" as a middle ground, but now I'm not so sure. Would this scale accommodate J 78's, or would you want to go down in gauge? Would this still feel too "beastly" to play for extended periods? I initially thought this might offer the best of both worlds when cross examining tone and playability, but now it just seems like a bad compromise, especially considering that longer scales will tended to go more 'zouk-like in general, barring other (admittedly crucial) factors in the build.

    Monteleone used 25", that ought to be good enough for me. But, my curiosity forces me to explore other options. I truly appreciate you folks taking the time to offer your opinions.

  5. #5
    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Owners of 27" scale mandocelli, what tonal differences are th

    I don't know if it will help or not, but I posted videos playing a Lyon & Healy Style A mandocello and a Vega Style 403 cylinder back mandocello. Both of these instruments have a 25 3/4" scale and are very comfortable to play. I use Thomastik Luito Set No. 1804 strings on the Vega and a custom set of phosphor bronze, .069, .049, .033, .023, on the Lyon & Healy.

    https://youtu.be/tXM1t8Ds9cI

    https://youtu.be/pg4088vMwJg


    www.vintagefrettedinstruments.com

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