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Thread: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

  1. #1
    Registered User Travis Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Hi Gang!

    For those of you who have made the jump, what pulled you towards the expensive, toy-laden, world of pickups, pedals, and amps? Was it the pursuit of different timbres? Was it the desire to try your hand at classic rock/blues/jazz standards? Was it arthritis that led you to the lower string tensions of the 4/5-string?

    The electric mandolin is not a common instrument. So please tell us your story. Why did you go down this path?
    Thanks,
    Travis

    2006 Weber Gallatin, 1984 Flatiron 2MW, Wendler #194, Schwab #177

  2. #2

    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Electric rocks! Acoustic sucks!

    Just kidding! I use the electric mainly to practice at nighttime, when I don't want to bother my family with the sounds I coax from my bowlback.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    When I was in my early twenties there was a local pub (bar) that had bands on each week in summer. Friends and I used to go watch they were mainly either cover bands or your standard guitar bass drums set up. There was a band one week iirc a four piece front man, guitar, bass and drums. During one song which started off with controlled feedback and what I first assumed was a guitar riff. The crowd had quite a lot of following fans and they were literally bouncing as this riff repeated and the song built up behind it. I noticed the bass player had swapped his bass for this tiny thing which was playing the riff. That made me look at what he was playing thinking I wanted one. There was also a fairly healthy folk scene round about which is where I actually found out it was an electric Mandolin the bass player was playing. I couldn’t find an electric Mandolin so bought an acoustic. Tried and failed to learn much off the tape and book it came with. However I dug it back out a few years ago YouTube was my teacher. I also made a couple of electric solid body instruments. The first a five string 20” octave the second a 13 7/8” four string they are a different species but I like the way I can play about with them in a tuning that makes sense to me. The toys that go with them are a drain on both my wallet and storage space. My name Is Dave and I have MAS PAS and a slight case of GAS.

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    Registered User Tom Morse's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

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    Man, when I heard Tiny Moore on 5-string solid body with Jethro Burns on acoustic-8 playing on the David Grisman-produced vinyl album Back To Back I was sold on that electric mando sound, although it took decades before I could add a 5-string Mandoblaster to my quiver. And then the electric virtuosity of Paul Glasse and the amazing archtop electric mandos that Paul Lestock is building just reinforce the strength of the e-mando genre. Thanks for askin'!
    Jethro lives! (Tiny, too!)

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    I began playing mandolin at the same time I learned acoustic and electric guitar and bass about 1971.

    Oddly, I rarely play my electric mandolin with effects. I sort of leave that to the guitar. I mostly use mandolin for the acoustic stuff.

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    Cambridge Mandolinist Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    I wanted to be able to fill the 'lead guitar' role in a band supporting a local singer songwriter. So I bought a cheap Epi Mando-bird and got some amps out of moth balls.

    That progressed a bit when I picked up a Fender FM-988, 8 string. And a bit later I bought a JBovier EMC-5.

    Now I'm a 'solo' artist and I'm always looking for slightly unusual angles from which to approach folk/Americana. So the emandos will play a role in that for sure.

    Good question, btw.

    :-)
    Daniel

  8. #7
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    For the sake of this thread I presume we mean an instrument designed as an electric, vs. an acoustic with a piezo-electric pickup. The basic reason for me is that it was simply an extension of my interest in mandolin. At this point, I love the ease of plug and play in a live setting without worrying about feedback, and the seemingly infinite tonal options that come from different pedals and amps.

    EDIT: Also, I really like how radically dissimilar the sounds are from a double-vs.-single course electric instrument, even as they are in the same pitches. It allows me to enjoy different approaches to the "same" instrument.
    Last edited by Dave Greenspoon; Jan-08-2018 at 10:36am.
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    I don't think this is an easy question to answer, but I will try. Back in the early 60's I had a band and bands were a dime a dozen. We made very little playing, but played for the joy of it. I always coveted a fender strat, but it was out of reach. After serving in the navy, getting married, having kids, music was left behind. Eventually, I sold my cherished guitar, amp, and other gear to pay for diapers and doctors. I began playing mandolin late in life, at age 64, and bought some beautiful and expensive acoustic instruments. When fender introduced their reissue Mandostrat a few years ago I jokingly told my wife, maybe someday I'll finally get my fender strat. Well I finally retired three years ago and as a gift she and my daughter bought me a fender Mandostrat. Unfortunately the setup was horrible and it got played little. I finally sent it off to a luthier for a good setup...I just didn't trust myself to do it right. When it came back it was like heaven to play. As time passed, playing time increased, and acoustic playing time decreased. Two years ago I added a five string and have never looked back. My poor, expensive acoustics hang on the wall as decoration. With a few select pedals and a decent amp I can get sounds that make me weak in the knees. I play mostly classical and write a lot of my own arrangements. With the effect pedals I can get sustain, delay, reverb and vibrato that makes each piece unique and really brings them alive. A mandolin purist would shudder and look the other way, but for the last two years my playing time has doubled and my musical inventiveness seems to have no boundaries. I love the electrics.

  10. #9
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    I thought this might be interesting.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  11. #10
    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Well I started playing violin in 6th grade, went to a performing arts school, played in advance orchestra, but when I graduated I went and bought an electric violin and started playing in rock bands, then I started playing guitar, and played in bands again once I got a mandolin I played acoustic for a little while, then had to go solidbody so I could play in rock bands and actually I started playing a solidbody 5 string octave mandolin for years and never touched my acoustic, years ago I went through a time I only played acoustic, but now I'm switching between solidbody octave, acoustic octave and solidbody mandolin and acoustic mandolins, just got a new solidbody octave electric strat I'm loving. It's the black one in the photo

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  13. #11
    acoustically inert F-2 Dave's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Chicks, mostly.
    "Mongo only pawn in game of life." --- Mongo

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  15. #12

    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Quote Originally Posted by F-2 Dave View Post
    Chicks, mostly.
    well, that's a given. Only thing better than a guy up there playing electric guitar in a rock band is a guy playing mando in a rock band. People always come up afterward wanting to know what that little thing is (the mando). Rock fans mostly don't know what it is.

    I went electric mando (Godin A-8) because I couldn't get an acoustic mando to sound good or stop feeding back in a full on rock band setting with Marshall's and drums and monitors blaring. We'd do a lot of R.E.M., Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, mando arrangements I made up for other rock songs, etc. Never had a problem with the Godin and it sounds and plays pretty darn good.

    Since then doing acoustic classic rock (without the Marshall's / drums) I found a good sonic place with my acoustic mando going direct into a powered mixer with a fire eye red eye DI box, a little delay and a Boss GE-8 eq pedal. Reluctant to sell the Godin though just in case I end up back in a hard rock band.

    And that is why I went electric.
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    Registered User Martin Ohrt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    I wanted to produce a guitar sound without having to learn how to play the guitar... So I bought an solid body Octave Baritone to use it as a "guitar" in my jazz band. Works nicely!
    And man, all those pedals
    Of course, I still love and play acoustic music on different mandos and banjos...
    Last edited by Martin Ohrt; Jan-10-2018 at 11:20am. Reason: Content added...
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  17. #14
    Registered User Travis Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    It’s interesting reading people’s history with this uncommon version of our instrument.

    I played the clarinet through college, and then life happened. Music took a back seat. When things finally settled I had the clarinet re-padded and re-corked, but I couldn’t find any woodwind musicians with which to play. While asking around, I discovered a few neighbors who played folk instruments. Because I was familiar playing the upper octave voice in ensemble, I picked up the mandolin (It has a virtually identical note range to the clarinet). I enjoyed it greatly, and the ability to play chords—quite a departure from the clarinet—kept my curiosity in check. The one thing that the acoustic mandolin and the clarinet share is the relative inability to change the overall timbre of the instrument. You get the sound you get.

    Fast forward several years, I became familiar with the music of Paul Glasse, Michael Lampert, Don Stiernberg, and others. Necessarily I had to have an electric mando. After getting one, a Ryder 4-string, I was amazed at the different tonal textures that were available. It was also a lot easier on my left hand to play! I was enthralled with the sonic possibilities when I discovered effects. I’m still having a blast almost ten years later.
    Thanks,
    Travis

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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    I wasn't going to post here as although I have a mandostrat I don't play it -one day. Travis's post has got me thinking though, as I have picked up my daughters' abandoned clarinet in the last 6 months. It's a tricky beast to play but wonderful for 'sustain', smooth legato -and tone to some extent, when it's not squeaking

    The electric point of this is that I guess I can get sustain and tone out of the mandostrat, especially with a few pedals, I will have to give it a try, it hurts my fingers, but I guess that is because I am pressing as hard as I do on the acoustic -and I don't need to.
    - Jeremy

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  20. #16

    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Because there were songs that I really connected with on a visceral level at that most impressionable time in our lives and most of them featured electric guitars. It turned me on to "that" sound. Since becoming immersed in mandolin family instruments, I haven't lost that visceral connection with those songs and instrumental voices. I even pull out the electric guitars on occasion to re-familiarize with that crazy tuning.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  21. #17

    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    In terms of "influences" it would have to be Nash the Slash in FM and JPJ in Zeppelin.

    I was a guitar and bass player with a bevy of amps and pedals already. I've done design work for pedal makers and am always putting different electric things through pedal boards - like electric kazoos and mandolins!

    A number of years ago one of the online big-boxes was blowing out f-style mandos for $79 with a featherlight case. Since the case is worth more than that I took the plunge into the world of mandolin. That was followed with a used Fender FM60E for cheap that got me and my mando plugged into my pedals in a big way. It has grown to be one of my favorite instruments.
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Powerful, the electric side is.

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    Seriously, I tried it with a Mandobird with a custom pickup and pots. I had played electric guitar in a semi-pro band in my misspent youth, so I thought I could recapture some of that. I got tired of it pretty quickly. If I wanted to do it again, I would go back to guitar. The 4-string electric mandolin just didn't call to me.

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    Registered User Ausdoerrt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Acoustic with pickups wasn't loud enough and produced too much feedback on stage.

    I rarely ever use effects with it, and didn't even think of using guitar techniques, but then again I have an 8-string, not a 4-string.

    A 4/5 string emando/octave would be an interesting beast to try, but not sure I'm ready to invest in a new instrument just to 'try it out' and potentially be disappointed.

  24. #20

    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    If I wanted to do it again, I would go back to guitar. The 4-string electric mandolin just didn't call to me.
    5-string is where it's at on electric. With good pickups you can get some pretty awesome riffing going on that compliments bass well then solo on the high strings. Very versatile once you catch on to it.
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    Cambridge Mandolinist Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Quote Originally Posted by Verne Andru View Post
    5-string is where it's at on electric. With good pickups you can get some pretty awesome riffing going on that compliments bass well then solo on the high strings. Very versatile once you catch on to it.
    Agreed.
    Get used to playing a mandola and think of the e course as a cheat. Suddenly 5 strings is 'OMG why didn't I do this before?'


    Daniel

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  27. #22
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Nestlerode View Post
    Agreed.
    Get used to playing a mandola and think of the e course as a cheat. Suddenly 5 strings is 'OMG why didn't I do this before?'


    Daniel
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  28. #23
    Cambridge Mandolinist Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Hi Jeremy,

    Glad my little analogy worked for you!

    Thanks for asking! I think I'm doing the Rochester Sweeps in May. Which at the moment is the closest I am getting to Essex this year. Odd that, really. I usually gig a lot in Essex (Wivenhoe, Grays, Colchester, Great Bardfield, Loughton, Romford, etc.)

    Keep an eye on the calendar on my website. I'll be putting things in as the dates and times are confirmed.

    best,
    Daniel

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  30. #24
    Registered User Joey Anchors's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    Great idea for a thread.

    For me it was wanting to play through electric blues/jazz through a tube amp after hearing players like Yank Rachell.

    I’m currently learning to play jazz/blues and the mandolin all at since..
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    Default Re: Why did you gravitate toward the electric side?

    I've been messing around with mandolins since I played (guitar) for a while in a bluegrass band in college. I played electric guitar in bar bands for a while, and then later in life (I'm in my late sixties now) got serious about playing bass guitar--studied, practiced, and played in a few bands for a few years. I was drawn to electric mandolin because I wanted to play a melody instrument--mostly for my own amusement. I play mostly celtic music on it, plus a little classical and a little rock.

    What I like about the electric mandolin is the tone and--especially-- the sustain. I tried five-strings, and decided to stick with the four-string. I feel like I can attempt anything normally played on violin, clarinet, trumpet, soprano sax, etc.

    Here's my current bunch of four-string electrics:

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    Left to right:

    Kentucky KM-400E semi-solid body. I've modified this a lot. Got rid of the original brass bridge assembly, which was heavy and clunky, and replaced it with a Cumberland Acoustics bridge, ditched the odd original pickguard, and added a Gibson-style tailpiece and Gotoh tuners. This mandolin has a great acoustic "pop" in its voice and the original pickup sounds great.

    Gibson EM-150 four-string hollow body from the fifties (likely a custom order). Terrific sounding instrument--like a soprano version of an ES-175 guitar. (There are a couple of older threads about this particular mandolin.)

    Blue Star Mandoblaster solidbody. My first electric, and I've modified it a lot over the years. It's got a Jim Weider tele neck pickup, a custom one-piece pickguard to replace the original two pieces, and Grover mini-rotomatics. I stripped the body and had it refinished in Shoreline Gold. I love the neck on this mandolin, and it has a nice, flexible tonal range.

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