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Thread: Which to woods to choose?

  1. #1

    Default Which tonewoods to choose?

    Hi, I am looking for a mandolin with a fairly bright yet quite warm tone and good projection. I play celtic / Scottish folk on an A-shape with oval hole model. I'm based in Scotland.

    I have a Sitka top and walnut back and sides mando but is verging on being too warm. Someone suggested European spruce top and walnut back & sides. I wondered if a maple back and sides with euro spruce top would do? Rosewood is seemingly the brightest, so may avoid that.

    Any advice would be welcome!

    Cheers,

    Scott
    Last edited by Scottymando; Feb-08-2016 at 8:20am. Reason: Incorrect title

  2. #2
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Re: Which tonewoods to choose?

    There are so many variables involved that it is difficult or impossible to make generalisations. Best thing is to talk to your luthier and he will give you advice based on his experience with his mandolins.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
    http://www.petercoombe.com

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  4. #3
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    I have an a-model mandolin (f-holes) that's redwood and walnut. I love it!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    f-d
    °papŠ gordo ainít no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  5. #4

    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    Can you make any guesses as to how these instruments are constructed? (Ideally without looking at pictures or specs?

    https://soundcloud.com/martyjacobson...olin-34-sample
    http://martinjacobson.com/27.mp3

    One is an instrument with a very soft maple back, and fairly lightweight Sitka spruce top. The other has a very, very dense wenge back ("like rosewood, only more so") and a fairly stiff redwood top.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    I'd say the first is the very very dense wedge back. Am I right?

  7. #6

    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    Fat-dad, what does that beauty sound like?

  8. #7

    Default Re: Which tonewoods to choose?

    Thanks Peter. My luthier recommended Wallnut back & sides with Euro Spruce top. Not sure if it would be bright enough as my Wallnut and Sitka Spruce is a bit too warm...

  9. #8
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    I can't describe sound, but I love it. I use flat-wound strings (Thomastik Heavy), which does affect the sound. I don't play bluegrass either. It's a great instrument for sure though, built by my buddy Dave Cohen.

    f-d
    °papŠ gordo ainít no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  10. #9
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    Good advice already given above. Want to observe that I normally expect Sitka to sound bright and crisp - more so than any other soundboard wood except maple. I expect walnut back and sides to sound hard, crisp and dark - not warm. Your current mandolin doesn't fit what I would expect, demonstrating the reality that these things really aren't so predictable. Given your descriptions, I would suggest considering a sitka top with mahogany back and sides. If it is a new build, realize that it may not sound at all the way you predicted.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    There is such a wide variation in wood properties, even within a single species, that you just can't expect the choice of a wood species alone to produce the tonal results you want. I have had pieces of walnut with a density of ~0.42 g/cm3, and other pieces with densities around 0.65 g/cm3. Expect similar variations in stiffness (aka Young's modulus or elastic modulus), and possibly even greater variations in internal damping. The damping is largely responsible for the "ringy" aspect of the "tap tone" of a piece of wood, but I am not sure how or even how much it affects the tonal outcome for an instrument. Maple samples have displayed similar variation in properties. Same thing applies for top woods. I have had pieces of redwood with densities below 0.3 g/cm3, and I have some in my shop with densities as high as 0.56-0.58 g/cm3. I have seen similar variations in samples of Engelmann spruce, European spruce, sitka, adirondack,.....

    With all that variation in mind, I would suggest that you choose the woods you want on the basis of cosmetics, and trust your luthier to try for the tonal outcome you want. If you are considering purchasing from a store or dealer, I would still suggest choosing the woods based on cosmetics, and trying different instruments within your parameters until you find the tone that pleases you.

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  13. #11
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tommando View Post
    .....demonstrating the reality that these things really aren't so predictable.
    +1.

  14. #12

    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scottymando View Post
    I'd say the first is the very very dense wedge back. Am I right?
    Nope. It's got an extraordinarily soft/floppy maple back. But thanks for playing. :-)

  15. #13

    Default Re: Which to woods to choose?

    Great advice! I have tried out a few different wood combinations in the shops and keep returning to Sitka top with Maple back and sides. A bright, full sound but still with a little warmth and certainly enough volume. I do also like the look of these woods together with a dark rosewood sound board and binding...hmmm

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