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Thread: Mandolin 101, style designation

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    Default Mandolin 101, style designation

    I've always wondered why the body styles are described as "A" and "F".
    I know that there must be historical reasoning but I can't find a definitive proof.
    Thanks in advance guys.
    Don

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin 101, style designation

    There is no definitive proof other than Orville Gibson called the F as his F style and A as his A style. In later years people have attempted to label them with names but Gibson never did. People claim to know but nobody can tell me why he called his harp guitars a U model. I suspect he just named them the alpha character based on his progressive designs but nobody knows. The Banjo designations came later and had a meaning (MB=Mandolin banjo, GB=Guitar banjo, RB=Regular banjo, TB=Tenor banjo). The others don't have a label and please, nobody say that F stands for Florentine and A stands for Artist. That's been beat to death over the years. The only time Gibson used the term Florentine it was on a banjo with pictures of Venice on the fretboard.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Mandolin 101, style designation

    Nor does it explain why he called the mandola an “H”, the mandocello a “K”, the mandobass a “J”, or archtop Guitar an “L”.

    Seems to me the most likely explanation is that he, just like engineers in charge of project development in other industries, gave his projects code names, and he chose letters that could not be easily confused with one another, for clarity.
    Don

    Weber Custom Bitterroot F
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    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin 101, style designation

    An easy way to keep the books? Designate certain instruments with letters and #'s so they know what is what.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin 101, style designation

    Do we actually know for a fact that Orville used any of those designations or were the folks at the fledgling Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company the ones who named them? And do we know if Orville even built any mandolas or mandocellos? BTW there were two models of harp guitars that Gibson Company made style U and style R. Of course, there is no rational explanation for either.

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    Default Re: Mandolin 101, style designation

    One of the reasons that I posted the question was that, considering the engineering aspect, were there ever body styles labeled B, C, D, and E that never got off the drawing board. Now I think that I was way off base with that line of thought. Sorry.
    Don

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    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin 101, style designation

    I am pretty sure Orville did not use the designations A or F or any other alphabetical to distinguish his instruments. They appear in the 1903 catalogue as 'Style A' and 'Style F' but I think that is the first time they appear, along with the other letter styles.

    Joyce Brumbaugh's blog about Orville does include an ad in an 1897 Kalamazoo city directory which show what we call an A style mandolin, but it is just described as The Gibson Mandolin. Not to forget her forthcoming and much anticipated biography of Orville.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin 101, style designation

    Quote Originally Posted by LostVenture View Post
    One of the reasons that I posted the question was that, considering the engineering aspect, were there ever body styles labeled B, C, D, and E that never got off the drawing board. Now I think that I was way off base with that line of thought. Sorry.
    Don
    I asked that question years ago. The "Lyre" mandolin that was shown on the early Gibson label struck me as one model that might have had a later letter designation like B, C, D, etc. I assumed that the A and F designation came forward with Orville but I guess it could have started with the formation of the company. The original Gibson mandolin patent is somewhat shaped like the A models but really is a different mandolin in the way it's constructed. Orville was an innovator. I'm sure there were designs he actually built that never made the transition to production the same way there were Gibson patents that never made it to production. The original F styles had three body points where the newer version had two. I believe that change took place after the company was formed as there were early company built mandolins with three points. Amazingly enough they kept that same designation after that change.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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