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Thread: Tonewood for octave mandolin

  1. #1
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    Question Tonewood for octave mandolin

    I am not a builder myself, although I am commissioning a flat top/back octave mandolin but I have no idea what wood I should ask for. I thought that some of you builders out there may have some more knowledge on the subject.

    I am looking for wood that can produce a very loud and bright, but also rich enough to accompany singing. I don't want it to sound too "zingy" but I also don't want it to be too deep and rich to the point where it is drowned by fiddles.

    I have a very large selections of woods available to use, including sitka and angelmann spruce, the usual tonewoods such as mahogany, maple and rosewood and sapele but also some more exotic woods. It is these woods that I am most interested but also cautious about.

    There is zebrano, goncalo alves (I think this looks amazing),bubinga, hyedua and Australian blackwood (I am also very interested in this)

    Basically, what I really want to know is, are goncalo alves and Australian blackwood (or other woods on this list) as worth buying as the much more available and standard woods above. Are they as loud (This is very important) and do they produce a tone that is comparable to a good piece of maple?

    Also, one final question, what woods (Both top and back) would any of you personally recommend for lower, larger instruments, such as an octave. I really appreciate any advice. (I'm a bit lost in all of this).
    Last edited by alistair2511; Sep-29-2016 at 5:20pm. Reason: grammar

  2. #2
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    I would simply talk to whoever is going to build your OM and listen to his/her advice on timbers. Explain the sound you want to get as best you can and rely on your builder's experience to deliver that.

    Cheers

  3. #3
    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    I agree with Graham.
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    I also agree with Graham. Your builder has the control of the voice for the most part and part of that is the choice of wood. That being said Australian Blackwood can be a stunning material and produce a very fine instrument.
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  5. #5
    F-style Apostate
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Play some different OMs and see what you like. I may be wrong, but I'd think that should be possible in the UK.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Graham's advice is good. Having said that, I've built several with Granadillo back and sides and like it a lot. There are a lot of good choices though, black walnut, mahogany, cocobolo and koa are some to think about. I've used sitka, Adi and Lutz and like all of them, but they all have their own flavor.

  7. #7
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    That being said Australian Blackwood can be a stunning material and produce a very fine instrument.
    But, Australian Blackwood is not "rich enough to accompany singing"....








    Just kidding...

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  9. #8
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    It is in Australia - have you heard Australians sing!

    Just kidding

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    +1 on talking to your builder: traditionally something like maple would tend towards a brighter sound, but other factors come into play too:

    * Bridge: pin bridge more guitar like, and floating bridge more punchy.
    * Scale length: more "zing" from a longer more 'zouk like instrument, typically "thicker" sounding for shorter scales with thicker strings.
    * Body width: brighter from a narrower body (more cut in a session?), more balanced and deeper/richer from a larger top plate (better for singing?).
    * Body depth: as above really.

    Probably all of the above are more important than wood choices IMO, but wood choice will certainly colour the sound...

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  12. #10
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    That was vet informative Tavy, thanks!
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  13. #11
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Hard to specify both "bright" and "rich."

    Having said that, I've had 25+ years of good service from a koa-bodied Flatiron "bouzouki" -- long-scale OM. Koa's mahogany-like, brighter than rosewood, not as bright as maple, in my experience.
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  14. #12
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Hard to specify both "bright" and "rich."
    Indeed, and hard to describe in words to your luthier a sound you only have in your head!

    If you have something specific in mind then perhaps the most successful design process would be one that proceeds by evolution - as in "make me one just like that, but with a touch more punch and less sustain" or whatever.

    Otherwise you risk specifying contradictory requirements, and end up with a sort of average / somewhere in the middle instrument which may or may not be what you want. Everyone wants an instrument that can do everything perfectly (me too!) but I'm afraid we're all still searching....

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    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    +1 on talking to your builder: traditionally something like maple would tend towards a brighter sound, but other factors come into play too:

    * Bridge: pin bridge more guitar like, and floating bridge more punchy.
    * Scale length: more "zing" from a longer more 'zouk like instrument, typically "thicker" sounding for shorter scales with thicker strings.
    * Body width: brighter from a narrower body (more cut in a session?), more balanced and deeper/richer from a larger top plate (better for singing?).
    * Body depth: as above really.

    Probably all of the above are more important than wood choices IMO, but wood choice will certainly colour the sound...
    I'm putting this in my phone's notes thingy... thank you loads mate. helps me decide on the thicker tone I'll be wanting on a build (thinking of a F holed GBOM)
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  17. #14
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    also it's tempting to say "i wanna sound like..." (In my case I'd be thinking Sarah Jarosz's playing on Build Me Up From Bones), but the danger there is your tone vs some famous person's tone...
    but it does give an indication that being said.

    My Gzouk is surprisingly un-zingy when I've got it in unisons - but I like that. It's loud and punchy but doesn't sacrifice anything.
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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  18. #15
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord of the Badgers View Post
    also it's tempting to say "i wanna sound like..." (In my case I'd be thinking Sarah Jarosz's playing on Build Me Up From Bones)
    Fletcher Brock nods.
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  19. #16
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    I'm sure Fletcher Brock does (but yeah I know it's an FB)
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

    Paul Shippey custom "Tone" Octave Mandolin, Paul Shippey "Axe" Bouzouki,
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    My band's website

  20. #17
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord of the Badgers View Post
    also it's tempting to say "i wanna sound like..." (In my case I'd be thinking Sarah Jarosz's playing on Build Me Up From Bones)
    Me too... but sadly I always sound like me no matter what I play!

  21. #18
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord of the Badgers View Post
    I'm sure Fletcher Brock does (but yeah I know it's an FB)
    I suspect that Fletcher Brock has sold more than one GBOM to mortals chasing the sound of Sarah Jarosz.
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  23. #19
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tonewood for octave mandolin

    and why not
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

    Paul Shippey custom "Tone" Octave Mandolin, Paul Shippey "Axe" Bouzouki,
    Phil Davidson A5 "Badgerlin" mandolin, Phil Davidson F5 mandolin,
    Mcilroy Tenor Guitar, Phil Davidson Tenor Mandola
    My band's website

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