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Thread: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

  1. #1
    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Iíve been considering a mandocello. Iím not totally committed just yet, but I think Iím getting close. Right now Iím looking for some additional information (or maybe an additional excuse to get one).

    As background, I play mandolin. I have a little guitar experience but nothing significant. I have not tried to play a mandola, OM, or mandocello. My total base of knowledge of these instruments is from literature and YouTube videos.

    First the reasons why: I like the tone. I like the instrumentís versatility and complexity. I like its capability to ďround outĒ a performing group. I like its uniqueness Ė not everyone who shows up at a pick-up jam will come walking in with a mandocello.

    Now my hesitations:

    I spoke with a cello instructor who states she has very limited experience with mandocellos ďbut if it remotely sounds like a cello and is tuned like a cello and [Iím] willing to read scores, then letís give it a shot.Ē This sounds good, but should I really be looking for an instructor who understands and teaches mandocello?

    Mandocellos are fairly scarce. I know that Iíll end up ordering one Ė which means that I will be fairly dependent on gut instinct on what will work for me. If I were to pull the trigger right now, Iíd probably get an oval hole. However, if I play with a mandolin group, an amateur chamber ensemble, or some other group of acoustic instruments, would the FF-hole version be better?

    I prefer modern neck designs and modern construction. So if I order one it will probably be either a Weber Vintage model or a Weber Yellowstone or Fern model Ė primarily because I happen to like Weber quality and sound. However, once again, you just canít go into any store and sample a mandocello. Are there any other brands in this price range that I should consider?

    Any other information that anybody could give me would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Registered User NotMelloCello's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    I was drawn to mandocello for nearly the same reasons as you.... it sounded great! Also, my arthritis makes it difficult to play 6 notes - but I can still handle 4. Hence, mandocello.

    The guy I studied with was a guitarist who taught from a mandolin book, and we just transposed down. Seemed easy enough, and I learned plenty in a year. Of course, I already had reasonable technique with a pick, fingering, had my ear training down, etc. I just had to relearn my theory and scales, and have picked up a number of songs by myself. Of course, I am learning jazz and pop tunes, as I don't care about bluegrass, Irish/ folk, or baroque / classical.

    If you can find an Eastman, they are affordable - but based on an L-5 archtop. The neck is 1.75 inches wide. If you like them narrow (like many), maybe it's not for you. I have converted an Eastman AR804 (oval hole archtop) to a mandocello, and it sounds terrific and plays great. Since I have been a pro luthier since the late 70's it was no big deal to convert.

    Enjoy your mandocello journey!
    The difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers

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  4. #3
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    I have a Weber vintage oval hole and while not cheap, it's one of the best sounding 'cellos for the money I've heard. From those that I've played, you really need to get up into the 5 figure range to have something that competes. It's a real love affair. Been playing it almost exclusively for about 6 years now (along with a regular cello). A regular cello instructor will be a help in learning the notes, so no worries there. The picking style is very similar to mandolin, so no worries there. The only thing that'll take getting used to is fretting without (much) buzzing. You need to hit right behind the fret spot on, and then right after the note sounds, lift completely off very quickly. Kind of like watching a really fast spider walk. Chord positions change somewhat, and lower down on the neck are a tough reach for four-finger chords. Big deal. The instrument has so much richness, two finger chords sound great, and there's usually an open string that works well.

    The biggest habit you'll need to acquire is moving your whole wrist when playing scales. Simply trying to reach will bring the buzz on, and wimpy notes as well. That's where the cello teacher will help. Make sure to tell her (him?) to remind you to move your wrist, always trying to keep it perpendicular. No lazy hands and fingers allowed for a clear bright tone.

    Go for it; it adds voicing to tunes and small groups that have audience members going "wow... what the heck is that, it's really cool." I would also go oval hole. In the big-bodied instruments, they have a lot more "air" and punch than the f-holes. It's easy to throttle back the volume, hard to get a quiet instrument to sound loud. You want the sustain an oval hole brings. Otherwise, it's not a mandocello. As you get quicker, you'll find that quick scales form their own chords with the residual sustain of the earlier notes.

    There's nothing like it. Get one.

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    The only thing that'll take getting used to is fretting without (much) buzzing. You need to hit right behind the fret spot on, and then right after the note sounds, lift completely off very quickly.
    I personally found that the magic bullet for mandocello buzzes is to use flatwound strings. My Suzuki 'cello came with TI flatwounds when I bought it and I first thought they sounded too dull, so I changed to d'Addario 'cello strings. They sound brighter, which is good for solo playing, but also buzz a lot more. I eventually switched back to the TI strings and the buzz just went away completely. In the end I found that I can tickle a fair bit of brightness out of the strings by using a large Jim Dunlop Stubby Triangle pick, with pointy rather than rounded tips.

    Great fun, the cello. Go for it.

    Martin

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    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    I have a Weber vintage oval hole and while not cheap, it's one of the best sounding 'cellos for the money I've heard. From those that I've played, you really need to get up into the 5 figure range to have something that competes. It's a real love affair. Been playing it almost exclusively for about 6 years now (along with a regular cello). A regular cello instructor will be a help in learning the notes, so no worries there. The picking style is very similar to mandolin, so no worries there. The only thing that'll take getting used to is fretting without (much) buzzing. You need to hit right behind the fret spot on, and then right after the note sounds, lift completely off very quickly. Kind of like watching a really fast spider walk. Chord positions change somewhat, and lower down on the neck are a tough reach for four-finger chords. Big deal. The instrument has so much richness, two finger chords sound great, and there's usually an open string that works well.

    The biggest habit you'll need to acquire is moving your whole wrist when playing scales. Simply trying to reach will bring the buzz on, and wimpy notes as well. That's where the cello teacher will help. Make sure to tell her (him?) to remind you to move your wrist, always trying to keep it perpendicular. No lazy hands and fingers allowed for a clear bright tone.

    Go for it; it adds voicing to tunes and small groups that have audience members going "wow... what the heck is that, it's really cool." I would also go oval hole. In the big-bodied instruments, they have a lot more "air" and punch than the f-holes. It's easy to throttle back the volume, hard to get a quiet instrument to sound loud. You want the sustain an oval hole brings. Otherwise, it's not a mandocello. As you get quicker, you'll find that quick scales form their own chords with the residual sustain of the earlier notes.

    There's nothing like it. Get one.
    Many thanks! Just the kind of information I was looking for. I appreciate it.

  9. #6
    Registered User wildpikr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    I have an Eastman mandocello and I agree with all that Charlieshafer said above. I don't have a teacher but am using the Mark O'Connor cello books to learn to read standard notation. The books also have chords above the score so you can practice them as well with the instrument. I've also found that Mike Marshall's video about chord theory is really helpful for the chords - the principles [and chord shapes] he describes for the mandolin apply to the mandola and mandocello.

    Hope this helps and happy learning!
    Mike

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Mandocellos sound great, but they could be expensive. So I converted a junior guitar (22.5" scale length) to mandocello (also called octave mandolin, OM for short, I believe). I also converted a full size guitar (25.5" scale length) to OM and it's a bit too big for me. The junior guitar fits much better as I have small fingers. The best would be a 20.5" scale guitar (my next project).
    The good part about mandocello is its range is one octave below mandolin, so it sounds warmer and louder than mandolin. My converted OM sound louder than the original guitar due to double string courses.
    One thing I found, I can play on OM most of the tunes I play on mandolin but not all of them due to larger fret spacing.

  12. #8
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by kkmm View Post
    ...mandocello (also called octave mandolin, OM for short, I believe)...The good part about mandocello is its range is one octave below mandolin...
    Mandocello and octave mandolin are not the same instrument. What you have is an octave mandolin. A mandocello is tuned CGDA, an octave below a mandola.
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  14. #9

    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Mandocello and octave mandolin are not the same instrument. What you have is an octave mandolin. A mandocello is tuned CGDA, an octave below a mandola.
    Thanks for the correction. I always got confused with these terminologies.

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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by NursingDaBlues View Post
    Iíve been considering a mandocello. Iím not totally committed just yet, but I think Iím getting close. Right now Iím looking for some additional information (or maybe an additional excuse to get one).

    As background, I play mandolin. I have a little guitar experience but nothing significant.

    should I really be looking for an instructor who understands and teaches mandocello?

    If I were to pull the trigger right now, Iíd probably get an oval hole. However, if I play with a mandolin group, an amateur chamber ensemble, or some other group of acoustic instruments, would the FF-hole version be better?

    if I order one it will probably be either a Weber Vintage model or a Weber Yellowstone or Fern model Ė primarily because I happen to like Weber quality and sound. However, once again, you just canít go into any store and sample a mandocello. Are there any other brands in this price range that I should consider?
    Your guitar experience will help you a lot with mandocello, since on those two instruments, each finger rules one fret, instead of two like on mandolin. When I play OM or mandocello, I feel like I'm drawing on both the guitar and the mandolin parts of my brain.

    Good luck finding a teacher who understands and teaches mandocello. I'm guessing that there are 20 in the entire country, and 0 or 1 in Louisiana. Fortunately, we have Skype.

    Mike Marshall's Monteleone has an oval hole, so there's your strongest argument for getting a 'cello with an oval hole. I have a Weber Gallatin with f-holes, which I absolutely love! Because mandocellos are so low and resonant, I like getting the extra punch from the f-holes. I've probably played a dozen mandocellos over the past five years, but there was only one that I liked better than this one: Mike's Monteleone.

    At that price range, you can also get a vintage Gibson mandocello, but that will have a very different sound and feel. (Their necks are reminiscent of Louisville Sluggers). I'm not sure what else is out there, though. You're going down the rabbit hole of a magnificent instrument in little supply or demand, so most mandocellos are custom-ordered. If you want to test the waters first, you can get an Eastman for less than half the price of a Weber, and you won't lose as much money if you decide that mandocello doesn't work for you after all and sell it --- or if you decide that it does work for you and you want to upgrade to a Weber.

    Happy hunting!
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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  18. #11
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    One option to consider is also a long-scale 10-string cittern -- they are pretty popular in Celtic circles and therefore have much better availability than 8-string mandocellos. I've seen the Ashbury cittern designed by Phil Davidson at festival music stalls, and they do look and feel very nice. Can't tell much about the tone as I only gave it a few strums at a noise festival. Much cheaper than just about all mandocello options, and one of several tuning options is CGDAE (aka liuto cantabile tuning) which is a combination of mandocello and OM:

    UK link

    For some reason, it's not available from Hobgoblin's US site, though.

    If I didn't already have a mandocello, I would consider one of these (or any of the similar 10-string citterns made by various UK makers).

    Martin

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    Market Man Barry Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    I went the inexpensive route and got an electric. I didn't want to spend too much in case I disliked the scale. Got mine off ebay from a fella in new york
    Kala tenor ukulele, Mandobird, Godin A8, Dobro Mandolin, Gold Tone mandola, Gold Tone OM, S'oarsey mandocello, Gold Tone Irish tenor banjo, Gold Tone M bass, Taylor 214 CE Koa, La Patrie Concert CW, Fender Strat powered by Roland, Yamaha TRBX174 bass, Epiphone ES-339 with GK1

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    Registered User NotMelloCello's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    I built one of those, too. Less than $100, it was a great way to see if I liked it. Of course, now I wonder why I didn't jump into it 25 or 30 years ago. By now I'd be awesome.
    The difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers

  21. #14

    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Jonas View Post
    One option to consider is also a long-scale 10-string cittern --
    Yes, my 10-str Freshwater has that big, clubby neck and can take some gauge.

    Another way I assuage the "low end" is with oud - of course that's a whole 'nother ball of fish though ..

  22. #15

    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    I have 2 Hathway , a mandocello , a bouzouki , and a Suzuki mandocello
    http://www.paulhathway.com/mandocello-2/

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    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    http://www.herbtaylor.com/instruments/mandolin/i198/

    Herb said he's proud of this mandocello, so it must be tremendous. I have one of his tenor guitars which is my main instrument, and should be getting another custom tenor guitar from him this summer, perhaps. I can't wait. I love his instruments.

  24. #17

    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    As a cellist as well as a mandocellist, starting with a cello instructor would be fine; I use my cello studies etc. all the time. Once you feel pretty comfy with the fingering system, shifting, etc. then I'd go with a really good mandolin technique book or studies if you need it.
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats" Albert Schweitzer

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by bruce.b View Post
    http://www.herbtaylor.com/instruments/mandolin/i198/

    Herb said he's proud of this mandocello, so it must be tremendous. I have one of his tenor guitars which is my main instrument, and should be getting another custom tenor guitar from him this summer, perhaps. I can't wait. I love his instruments.
    Great looking mandocello and a unique choice of woods too. As well the side sound hole is certainly interesting. Sadly the mp4 file that he has linked to the picture on his web site appears to be corrupted and will not play!

    Would have loved to hear that one!
    Bernie
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    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by NotMelloCello View Post
    I built one of those, too. Less than $100, it was a great way to see if I liked it. Of course, now I wonder why I didn't jump into it 25 or 30 years ago. By now I'd be awesome.
    Did you ever do your acoustic arch top to mandocello conversion?
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

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    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    >>Sadly the mp4 file that he has linked to the picture on his web site appears to be corrupted and will not play!<<

    Works fine for me.

  29. #21
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Enlightenment Needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by bruce.b View Post
    >>Sadly the mp4 file that he has linked to the picture on his web site appears to be corrupted and will not play!<<

    Works fine for me.
    I got the file directly from Herb and it plays fine on my computer too -- just can't play it or download it from his web site - I think my problem is some kind of Firefox issue?
    Great sounding mandocello!
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

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