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Thread: Girouard A Studio Mandola

  1. #1
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Girouard A Studio Mandola

    Here are my first pictures of the new Girouard Mandola. Broadleaf Back and sides. sugar neck, Adirondack spruce top. The tone is dark and warm, not woody. Very smooth look, feel and sound. Am very pleased. My Old Wave was like a great spunky Irish ale, while the Girouard is more the a deep thoughtful Bordeaux Both great to drink, but more for different moods. Hope you enjoy.
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    Tony Huber
    1930 Martin Style C #14783
    2011 Mowry GOM
    2013 Hester F4 #31
    2014 Ellis F5 #322
    2017 Collings MT2-O #3666
    2017 Nyberg Mandola #172

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  3. #2
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    A few more.
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    Tony Huber
    1930 Martin Style C #14783
    2011 Mowry GOM
    2013 Hester F4 #31
    2014 Ellis F5 #322
    2017 Collings MT2-O #3666
    2017 Nyberg Mandola #172

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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Nice.
    Chris Cravens

    Girouard A5 Mandolin
    Montana Flatiron A-Jr.
    Girouard A Mandola
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  5. #4
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    I have had the Girouard Mandola for just about a week, so I will provide you with a short review. The tone continues to grow in volume, but continues to have a dark rich tone. It really does not sound like any mandolin family instrument I have played before. Deep and rich, but with the relatively short scale remains tight. By tight I just mean each note is solid, no tubbiness. Yet, in spite of each not being tight, I am very impressed with the sustain. It rings on. I know in writing this I am contradicting my self, Deep, rings, tight, sustain and not usually expressed together about the same instrument. But, there it is. When I get a chance, I will record a sound bite to give you guys a feel for what I am talking about. I am not sure what creates the dark tone other than the broadleaf back and sides. The Adirondack top would not seem to point in that direction. Maybe Max will chime in. This is a really different animal and I am really glad to have it.
    Tony Huber
    1930 Martin Style C #14783
    2011 Mowry GOM
    2013 Hester F4 #31
    2014 Ellis F5 #322
    2017 Collings MT2-O #3666
    2017 Nyberg Mandola #172

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  7. #5
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Hi Tony, glad you are enjoying the mandola! I'd say it is the overall design that is getting the deep rich tone you are hearing out of the dola. This was a long road from start to finish on this design so I'll give you a little history on it.

    Back in 2003 I was a member of the Providence Mandolin Orchestra, and I played mandolin, but got to sit next to some very talented mandola players. At the time there were half a dozen dola players and I got to play most of them at one point or another. I really liked the deep warm tones the mandola register offered and really liked listening to their parts in the music. A few things I noted that I thought could be improvements on the design, would be to lengthen the scale so that CC course wasn't as loose. To compensate, large gauge strings were used and they tended to sound thuddy or tubby without much complexity and a really fast decay in sustain. I was also a gigging musician at the time playing bass at for a few bands in downtown Providence in which I played several basses all with different scale lengths, so it was this experience that lead me to believe that a longer scale with thinner gauge strings would move the instrument in the direction that I had wanted to hear in my head. The other thing I noticed was that the two mandocello's we had were drowning out the half dozen mandola's we had anytime the dola's were playing in the lower register. These were mostly Gibson teen oval hole instruments. I had often wondered if moving to a parallel tone bar design with ff holes would help with the definition and separation in the orchestra.

    Fast forward to when I started building. By this time I had played a large group of mandola's over time and had taken notes on many of them. The first one I built was not what I was looking for in terms of tone and we ended up sending it up the chimney as a wisp of smoke. I decided to focus on mandolin building and altering different variables to see what would create the largest changes. After a handful of builds I was starting to get the hang of what overall changes would do to the tone and volume of the instruments. Using this info we set out to build another mandola. We stuck to the H-5 design but altered the graduations on the top and back plates as well as dropped the arch slightly on the top. The tone bar shape and position would vary depending on the density and flexibility of the top wood. F hole shape and position did not change from the H-5, neither did body depth. The scale length was increased from 15.625 to 15.9 (we also do a 17 inch scale). Finally we string them up in the white and ensure that the top and back are "talking" to each other. So that's it in a nutshell. Enjoy the dola, we really enjoyed building it!

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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Also, here are some shots of your dola when we just finished it up. The one thing I forgot to mention as a change is that we use a smaller bridge bridge foot as compared to the H-5 bridge design, and we use a full contact foot.
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  11. #7
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Thanks for the background, Max. I was really tempted by that mandola that you had listed in the classifieds:

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/101179#101179

    But having already added an octave mandolin and a tenor guitar to the stable this year, I didn't think the time was ripe to bring on another new instrument . . . yet.
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Max, you said that "a longer scale with thinner gauge strings would move the instrument in the direction that I had wanted to hear in my head." I am wondering if you have experimented with different strings on mandolas?

    I have tried different strings on my Collings MT Mandola and found big changes in the sound and feel under the fingers. The cc string response was also a concern.

    What have you tried? And can you answer this question in public? Ha, ha.

    Thanks in advance.
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

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    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Hey Pheffernan, congrats on the additions to your stable. I do love octaves and tenors.

    DougC, I experimented with a couple pre-packaged string sets as well as individual string sets. I finally settled on 48-34-24-12 The 24 is a wound string and sometimes depending on the instrument, I'll switch that plain 12 for a plain 14. Even at 15.9 you will notice the cc strings are slightly more loose than the rest of the courses. This can't be completely eliminated until you get up to 16.5 to 17 inches in scale length.

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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    I've found that the 48 is too heavy for most applications, move it to a 46 or 44. At 48 if you are playing with a guitar player the sound gets lost in the guitar's tonal response. You can also octave pair it and also the G string.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

  17. #11

    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    My Girouard mandola came with Curt Mangan mandola strings, 12, 24w, 34, 48. I like this set and I really like Curt Mangan strings on my mandolins too. Really great strings.

    My Girouard mandola has the bog red cedar top and it's all the mandola I will ever need. Just beautiful tone and a wonderful neck profile that makes it so playable. Highly recommended.
    the billyhawks http://thebillyhawks.bandcamp.com

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  18. #12
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    I've found that the 48 is too heavy for most applications, move it to a 46 or 44. At 48 if you are playing with a guitar player the sound gets lost in the guitar's tonal response. You can also octave pair it and also the G string.
    I had a set of GHS PF285 regular strings on the Collings and the set has 44 for the cc course that seemed to work very well.

    I then went to Thomastik 173 Light strings which are flat wound with 49 34 24w 15. Similar to Max's preference. These strings have an amazing richness to the tone I did not think possible. But the 49 is a bit floppy and if I want to stay with the set, I'll need to try individual strings on the cc course.

    Max, have you tried flatwound strings on the mandola?
    Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile

  19. #13
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    I did try D'addario Mandola flat tops, but those have a cc course that I feel is just too big, and is really designed for the shorter Gibson scale length. I also tried the Thomastik mandola 174 mediums, and I felt the 15 was a little robust for the A string. I didn't experiment too much with those only because I like the phosphor bronze string sets better. Another option that I tried on my 10 string mandola's was a set of D'addario Chromes that I bought from emando.com Those had a unique sound and feel as well. Lots of options out there for individual string sets for experimenting. I'd like to hear what you settle on once you have found it.

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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Thanks for the background, Max. I was really tempted by that mandola that you had listed in the classifieds:

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/101179#101179
    That dola should arrive here by the end of the week.

    Really looking forward to playing and hearing it.

    Chris Cravens

    Girouard A5 Mandolin
    Montana Flatiron A-Jr.
    Girouard A Mandola
    Leo Posch D-18

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  22. #15
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Max, thank you for all the information. Just wondering does the broadleaf maple have much effect on the tone. I am also curious at to what you think the effect of the Adirondack top has on the tone. Lastly, would you describe the differences between the instrument I bought versus the one you have on the classifieds? I think that would be helpful for those interested in your classified instrument.
    Tony Huber
    1930 Martin Style C #14783
    2011 Mowry GOM
    2013 Hester F4 #31
    2014 Ellis F5 #322
    2017 Collings MT2-O #3666
    2017 Nyberg Mandola #172

  23. #16
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Hi Tony, That is a great question regarding the tonewood, but I don't have a straight forward answer. Because each species of wood has a lot of overlap with other species of wood, I don't like to generalize about specific tonal qualities that each species will have. For instance, I have some western red cedar in the shop that is very hard and dense as far as cedar goes. I also have some Englemann that is much more soft and much less dense than the cedar. I also have a few pieces of sitka that are harder and more dense than some red spruce in the pile. These particular samples are opposite of what most people assume when they hear what species of wood it is. So each piece of wood must be judged as an individual without regard to species and what tonal profile one should expect to hear from said species. As small builders we are able to adjust carvings and graduations, tonebar size, shape and locations to alter each piece of wood to try to obtain consistent results. If I had taken your top and back and altered any of these variables, there would have been dramatically different results with the same pieces of wood!

    So to answer your second question, the main differences between the two instruments are looks, neck profile, neck support (carbon fiber / truss rod) appointments, finish and case options. I would say tonally they are very similar, but there would obviously be some subtle differences just due to the fact that they are completely separate instruments. That was my opinion of them anyway, and coincidentally they were both here at the same time so I was able to A/B them.

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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Back to the cc course strings question.

    Max said he wanted a longer scale length and thinner strings to get the sound he wanted. I assume that this makes the cc course less floppy. Is there more tension with thinner strings? And the logic goes that shorter scale length requires thicker strings.

    The direction I am going with my shorter scale length Collings mandola is to thinner strings on the cc course. e.g. 49 too floppy and 46 would be nice.

    Science marches on! At least in my little corner of the world.

  26. #18

    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Hi Max,

    I must have just missed playing with you in the PMO. I was back in Providence in late '03 to '04 for about 10 months before returning to FL. I played mandola for some of that time with the PMO. You could have sampled my Duff H-5 w/Virzi in the flesh, just to add another twist to the tonal palette. I use the aforementioned D'A EFW-76 stings and agree that they are better suited to Gibson scaled mandolas. I love looking at your work (gotta play one someday) and am happy that you and Laurie have returned back to RI.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  27. #19
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post

    The direction I am going with my shorter scale length Collings mandola is to thinner strings on the cc course. e.g. 49 too floppy and 46 would be nice.
    Doug, The lower in gauge you go, the less tension that string will be under tuned to pitch which means that the 46 would be more floppy than the 49. An exaggerated example of this would be to tune your g string on your dola down to a c. It would be pretty floppy. I plugged in the gauges for a 15.9 inch scale which is what your Collings is. The calculator shows the following

    49 at 21.17 lb
    48 at 20.39 lb
    47 at 19.50 lb
    46 at 18.88lb

    In order to use a smaller string gauge and reduce floppiness, you have to elongate the scale. For example, at 17 inch scale length a 45 gauge would give you 20.60 lb at pitch.

    Len, we must have just missed each other. I think by the time you had joined, I had already left due to my other bands gigging in downtown Providence 3 - 4 nights a week. Glad to be back in RI where we have access to stuffies, coffe milk, Nibbles Woodaway, waterfire, Cumberlandite and the random giant potato heads scattered across the state!

  28. #20
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Thanks very much for your advice Max. I'm sure others benefit from this information.

    I was going the wrong direction in thinking 46 would be less floppy than a 49. Sometimes it is difficult to think this stuff through without actually trying it. My physical situation is that the 49 is not bad if I don't strum the strings.

    So my proposition is; if you increase the height of the bridge, you increase not only the string height but also the tension. The the slack as well as the buzzing should 'go away'. Right? With some luck it may be enough.

  29. #21
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Mandola

    Kind of, when you raise the bridge, the tension will increase (assuming you are raising the bridge under full tension) and therefore your strings will be sharp. Once you retune, the tension will be right back where it was previously. There are several factors that can contribute to the buzzing. Make sure the cc strings are not hitting each other. I've seen this on a couple mandolas that I have done setups on. The slots at the bridge were too close causing the strings to interfere with each other. The other culprits could be a high fret, a forward leaning bridge, slots that were not cut for the gauge string you are using, a hump in the neck at the body join, a needed truss rod adjustment and or action height adjustment. Without seeing what is going on, I can only guess as to what one or more of these factors it could be. Might be a good time to visit your local luthier for a setup.

  30. #22
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Mandola

    Max,
    What was your reason for reducing mass in the bridge, yet going for a single foot bridge?
    BTW, another RI connection. I went to St. George's School in Newport/Middletown
    Tony Huber
    1930 Martin Style C #14783
    2011 Mowry GOM
    2013 Hester F4 #31
    2014 Ellis F5 #322
    2017 Collings MT2-O #3666
    2017 Nyberg Mandola #172

  31. #23
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Manlola

    Quote Originally Posted by Max Girouard View Post
    Glad to be back in RI where we have access to stuffies, coffe milk, Nibbles Woodaway, waterfire, Cumberlandite and the random giant potato heads scattered across the state!
    I literally know what NONE of those things are.

    I may have been in Texas too long...
    Chris Cravens

    Girouard A5 Mandolin
    Montana Flatiron A-Jr.
    Girouard A Mandola
    Leo Posch D-18

  32. #24
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Max Girouard View Post
    ... when you raise the bridge, the tension will increase (assuming you are raising the bridge under full tension) and therefore your strings will be sharp. Once you retune, the tension will be right back where it was previously.
    This is very good information.
    In changing string gauges, the diameter of the string changes and the nut slot and bridge groove 'fit' requires some adjustment. (I think this is my situation. But another look will be helpful from my luthier.)

    Now, how long does it take to drive from Minneapolis to RI?

  33. #25
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Girouard A Studio Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by red7flag View Post
    Max,
    What was your reason for reducing mass in the bridge, yet going for a single foot bridge?
    BTW, another RI connection. I went to St. George's School in Newport/Middletown
    I like the single foot design from a structural standpoint. I saw some pictures a while back where the top plate had pinched up at the seam right under the bridge. I figure a full contact foot would prevent that from ever happening on one of our instruments. We use full contact on all our instruments these days unless asked otherwise. As far as the lower mass on the dola bridge, that came about because I was fitting a H-5 style bridge onto a batch of mandolas we had built which were strung up in the white. On one of them, the foot had a hairline crack in it, so I temporarily switched it out with a mandolin sized foot and I perceived a tonal change that I felt was for the better. The instrument felt more responsive with a touch more volume, so from that point on we switched over to the lower mass bridge.

    Beautiful area Newport/Middletown. Lauri and I head that way every once in a while to go to the beaches and do some fishing. Only on weekdays. Weekends forget about it!

    Quote Originally Posted by ccravens View Post
    I literally know what NONE of those things are.

    I may have been in Texas too long...
    Time for a vacation Chris! Come on up and we'll go dig up some quahog's for the stuffies.
    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Now, how long does it take to drive from Minneapolis to RI?
    Now that's a bit of a hike!

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