Results 1 to 16 of 16

Thread: Very cheap mandolas

  1. #1
    knows little
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    a remote Sierra Nevada village
    Posts
    52

    Default Very cheap mandolas

    I will confess: my cheap Harmonia mandola (19-inch scale) doesn't bother me, quality-wise. But I'm easily satisfied and not dependent on the approval of listeners.

    Alas, problems arise anyway, specifically my fat fingers, which don't fit well playing three-finger chords up a mandolin's neck. Contrawise, some chords on the mandola require too much of a stretch. I tested my reach on 'ukuleles and determined that around a 16-inch scale fits best. Thus I need a short mandola. That's a tenor, right?

    Alas, I lack money. A custom-built mandola is not in this year's budget. Most commercial mandolas I see are too long and also out of budget. I could get by with a concert or tenor 'uke fitted with Aquila Fifths nylguts but it would be a bit quiet. I considered a Hora mandola. Reviews indicate they're mostly okay after the nut, bridge, strings, and tuners have been replaced. Hmmm. I think I'll skip Hora.

    Which brings up the much-eBayed KTone thang: Free Gig Bag 8 String Solid Mahogany Dolphin Ukulele, Mandola, Uke for a hundred bucks shipped. The description claims a 17.2-inch scale and steel strings. The pictures don't show enough detail to see the string ends so I dunno...

    Here's what get me. This thang has been available for some time. I have yet to find ANY user reviews. It seems like nobody on the planet will admit playing one. Should I be suspicious? Yes, I know it'll be a piece of crap. But only mild crap like the Harmonia, or really serious crap? Does anyone here have hands-on experience?

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    21,422

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    There are a couple of threads that mention K-tone but nothing on this instrument.

    Old threads:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...ghlight=k-tone

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...-for-under-100
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. The following members say thank you to MikeEdgerton for this post:


  4. #3

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Might I suggest a very cheap way to get a shorter scale length. As a capo at second fret and re tune a change of strings if required but at least you can try the scale length. You can try third fret too see what feels best.
    Someone with better music theory knowledge might correct me but you are tuning down a whole step then adding a capo at second. That would give you CGDA with some fine tuning.

  5. The following members say thank you to sonic for this post:


  6. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    SE Texas
    Posts
    21

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    I have the same Harmonia. I just treated it as a Octave Mandolin. Bit short on the scale length but it works. Currently using GHS PF285 Octave set. Tuned to GDAE, so that allows me to use 2 and 3 finger chords. Capo'ed at the fifth fret has a scale length around 15". Tad short but you can use the Mandola chords that way. Not perfect but it works.

  7. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    25,249

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Re: KTone. If you go that route, I would double check with the seller that it has or would tolerate steel strings. I have a feeling that may be a typo esp from looking at the photo.
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes - Old Sheet Music for mandolin

    Playing lately:
    1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- Gibson TB-Junior -- National RM-1

  8. The following members say thank you to Jim Garber for this post:


  9. #6
    knows little
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    a remote Sierra Nevada village
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Thanks for the suggestions. I've seen the Ktone mentions but I'm concerned that NOBODY admits playing this very one. Yes, I'm suspicious of the steel strings claim, but it appears in all variants of the offering I've seen. Yes, an inquiry is in order.

    Aa for capoing: In 50+ years on guitar and 40+ on mandolin, I've yet to find a capo I like, or that likes me.

  10. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    25,249

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    I like the Planet Waves NS capo for guitar. I suppose the banjo/mandolin version would work for a mandola.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 4.14.39 PM.png 
Views:	7 
Size:	368.3 KB 
ID:	163726
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes - Old Sheet Music for mandolin

    Playing lately:
    1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- Gibson TB-Junior -- National RM-1

  11. #8
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    15,445

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    What is being sold is double-strung ukulele, or taropatch. These are not -- repeat, not -- normally designed for steel strings. Note the "tie" bridge, for example. Also, isn't the scale a bit long for what you want?

    I'd be a bit suspicious of a $100 instrument, even though it claims solid wood construction, being built sturdily enough to take steel strings. Taropatch bridges, even on expensive makes like Martin, have shown a propensity to tear off the tops to which they're glued. My Regal 'patch has a replacement Martin tiple bridge, glued on some time in its distant past history.

    I like the recommendation above, to shorten your current instrument's scale with a capo, and de-tune it with slightly heavier strings so that it's CGDA at the first or second fret. My semi-informed take on the instrument in question, is that it's a pretty high risk to be tuned CGDA with even light steel strings.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  12. #9
    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    south florida
    Posts
    2,719

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Hi Allen,
    I've read in the ukulele forums that a taropatch is specifically an eight-string concert sized (15" scale) ukulele, and that eight-stringed tenor or baritone ukuleles are simply referred to as eight-stringed tenor or baritone ukuleles. FWIW. And I know nothing about the eBay Dolphin referred to, but from the description, it sounds like an 8-string tenor ukulele.

    bratsche
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life: music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer

    GearGems - Gifts & apparel for musicians and more!
    MandolaViola's YouTube Channel

  13. The following members say thank you to bratsche for this post:


  14. #10
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    15,445

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Quote Originally Posted by bratsche View Post
    Hi Allen,
    I've read in the ukulele forums that a taropatch is specifically an eight-string concert sized (15" scale) ukulele, and that eight-stringed tenor or baritone ukuleles are simply referred to as eight-stringed tenor or baritone ukuleles. FWIW. And I know nothing about the eBay Dolphin referred to, but from the description, it sounds like an 8-string tenor ukulele.
    Martin made taropatches with s slightly larger body than their soprano ukuleles originally, with a longer scale. My Regal is definitely tenor sized, but I've seen eight-string instruments with several body sizes.

    According to Walsh and King's The Martin Ukulele (Hal Leonard Books, published 2013). the instrument we call "taropatch" derived from the Portuguese rajao, and had five strings, while the ukulele derived from a four-string instrument called the machete. The rajao was of slightly larger size, and had a longer scale. Sometime in the early 20th century, it evolved into a double-strung instrument tuned like a ukulele, slightly larger but similarly shaped.

    Originally, the "concert ukulele" was a four-string taropatch, as musicians liked the additional volume produced by the larger body and higher string tension of the longer neck, but disliked fussing with eight gut strings. Their may be some terminological differences in the ukulele community, but I've seen a variety of eight-strung uke-family instruments called "taropatches."
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  15. The following members say thank you to allenhopkins for this post:


  16. #11
    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    south florida
    Posts
    2,719

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Interesting info, thanks! I haven't yet come full-circle and bought an 8-string member of the uke family, after dabbling in ukuleles - fifths tuned, of course - for the past year. It's definitely an itch wanting to be scratched, so I probably eventually will. It will have to be one of the bigger sizes, though.

    One of the brands I've been looking at is Ohana, which makes an 8-string tenor model as well as a concert one, which is referred to as a taropatch, while the tenor is just called an 8-string tenor. I don't know why certain people maintain this distinction, but I've seen it in other places, too, and watched people be "corrected" various times, and assumed the ones doing the correcting knew what was what. I don't, really, as it's new territory to me. Of course, I'd really love to get a baritone 8-string, since that's my favorite uke size, but good ones are harder to come by, relatively speaking. And more costly. We'll see.

    bratsche
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life: music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer

    GearGems - Gifts & apparel for musicians and more!
    MandolaViola's YouTube Channel

  17. #12

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Here ya go, bratsche:

    http://ukerepublic.bigcartel.com/pro...ritone-ukulele

    Funny how I just stumbled upon this thread as I too am thinking about an eight string (4 course) ukulele. I've actually been contemplating either a mandola or octave mandolin, but I really prefer nylon strings. I'm keeping my eyes glued to this thread....

  18. #13
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    25,249

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Quote Originally Posted by bsfloyd View Post
    Here ya go, bratsche:

    http://ukerepublic.bigcartel.com/pro...ritone-ukulele

    Funny how I just stumbled upon this thread as I too am thinking about an eight string (4 course) ukulele. I've actually been contemplating either a mandola or octave mandolin, but I really prefer nylon strings. I'm keeping my eyes glued to this thread....
    I have both the tenor and concert versions of that Kala uke and they are a good choice for a mid-range uke.
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes - Old Sheet Music for mandolin

    Playing lately:
    1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- Gibson TB-Junior -- National RM-1

  19. #14
    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    south florida
    Posts
    2,719

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    I've seen that one before. I suppose I might be tempted if I saw a used one at a decent discount, but I keep thinking "That much for a laminate body?" I guess I'm a solid wood snob, but my all-solid mahogany deluxe Pono 4-string baritone (used) cost less than that...

    bratsche
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life: music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer

    GearGems - Gifts & apparel for musicians and more!
    MandolaViola's YouTube Channel

  20. #15
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    25,249

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    These have solid cedar tops which accounts for the tone. Frankly decent laminate back and sides don’t necessarily impact tone as much as the top.

    I bought both of mine used. I played the concert at my local store but the price was more than I wanted to pay then Elderly had one for much less and included a hard case. I bought the tenor on eBay with a crack on the top for very cheap and had my luthier fix it. So that was a bargain too.
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes - Old Sheet Music for mandolin

    Playing lately:
    1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- Gibson TB-Junior -- National RM-1

  21. #16

    Default Re: Very cheap mandolas

    Yamaha used to know how to do laminate tops right in guitars. Some of those older all laminate Yammies were some nice instruments.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •