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Thread: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

  1. #1

    Default Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    Mandolins have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride over the past couple of years. Theyíre in an interesting spot right now for a number of reasons. Both Webers (the Bruces) left the company last year, Bill Collings passed away, Breedlove Mando stopped American production, and Gibsonís numbers dropped somewhat due to the flood. You have to wonder where the instrument is headed. Now, there is no doubt that we are in the golden age of flat top acoustic guitars. Todayís builders have brought flat tops into a new era; their quality and sound is breathtaking, however, I donít think the mandolin is far behind in its own way. The music scene for folk and bluegrass has changed a bit. You are likely to hear it with younger folks (hipsters) with flat brim hats on their heads and PBR in their hands. Still, the mandolin is chopping away in the back ground. Who saw the craze of the ukulele coming? Nonetheless, the mando holds its place. There are luthiers out there making Aís, Fís, cellos and octaves; carving away to create something that becomes a part of you. Many of the luthiers are on a smaller scale and hard to find, but that kind of fits the mandolin; Montana Lutherie (The Bruces), Pava, Michael A. Lewis, Ratliff and [hopefully still] Collings, are just a few that come to mind. Retailers, such as The Mandolin Store, and Stringfest, are still going strong. I am lucky enough to make my living off of these instruments. They can be beyond frustrating at times, but itís always worth it in the end. They get into your soul and never leave. We should be proud of the instruments we love and try to spread the word a little more. The next step is getting those goofy violin people to pick up a real instrument.

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  3. #2
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    Not to worry, Collings will be making mandos for years to come!

    I think we are in an amazing age of lutherie, and that applies to mandolins as well as guitars. So many individual builders out there making amazing instruments. I won't attempt to list even some of the many fine mando makers who regularly contribute here.

    I am thankful for my Girouards; they look, sound and play amazing. Ditto for my Leo Posch D18 guitar.
    Chris Cravens

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    And I am sure the Bruce's will be back and creating better mandolins than before.

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    I think that there are many folks out there making excellent quality mandolins. Let's hope they don't get bought by Two Old Hippies also...

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    From a personal e-mail from Bruce Weber - "We’re all pretty excited to get the new line going and will be ready to roll when our no-compete ends in March of 2018.". Bruce & his son will return to making mandolins next year,all being well & i suspect that they'll be somewhat 'different' that the Webers that may continue to be made by the 'Two Old Hippies'. Bruce has designed & built a few 'specials' in the past which have been extraordinary mandolins - i'm expecting that level to be pretty much 'standard' for his new builds - whatever,they'll be terrific.

    Re. the OP's question - you bet they are !!!,
    Ivan
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  10. #6

    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    It's certainly relevant. What's gone on in the industry over the last decade has made for a more interesting, more accessible market, with great, high-quality instruments that are reasonably priced coming from small-shop operators and clever international set-ups like Northfield.

    What it will never be is mainstream, and that isn't something that bothers many of us.

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    Nice to hear that mandolins will be made in Montana again.

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Welch View Post
    Mandolins have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride over the past couple of years. They’re in an interesting spot right now for a number of reasons. Both Webers (the Bruces) left the company last year, Bill Collings passed away, Breedlove Mando stopped American production, and Gibson’s numbers dropped somewhat due to the flood. You have to wonder where the instrument is headed. Now, there is no doubt that we are in the golden age of flat top acoustic guitars. Today’s builders have brought flat tops into a new era; their quality and sound is breathtaking, however, I don’t think the mandolin is far behind in its own way. The music scene for folk and bluegrass has changed a bit. You are likely to hear it with younger folks (hipsters) with flat brim hats on their heads and PBR in their hands. Still, the mandolin is chopping away in the back ground. Who saw the craze of the ukulele coming? Nonetheless, the mando holds its place. There are luthiers out there making A’s, F’s, cellos and octaves; carving away to create something that becomes a part of you. Many of the luthiers are on a smaller scale and hard to find, but that kind of fits the mandolin; Montana Lutherie (The Bruces), Pava, Michael A. Lewis, Ratliff and [hopefully still] Collings, are just a few that come to mind. Retailers, such as The Mandolin Store, and Stringfest, are still going strong. I am lucky enough to make my living off of these instruments. They can be beyond frustrating at times, but it’s always worth it in the end. They get into your soul and never leave. We should be proud of the instruments we love and try to spread the word a little more. The next step is getting those goofy violin people to pick up a real instrument.
    A reminder this forum is governed by consistent guidelines. It would appear you have a business relationship, or have in the past with Webers and Montana Lutherie and may be looking to represent their interests, which while we all are happy to see Bruce in his new gig, they have yet to produce a single instrument for retail, so putting them in the same category as Ellis, Pava, Collings, etc. is quite a remarkable stretch. Your business relationship if one has existed in the past or future needs to be clearly identified from this point forward which should include that you're posting from Montana.

    Had never heard of "Stringfest," but not surprised to see from Google that The Mando Shop once again appears.

    - Vendors: for the good of our community we ask that all vendors of mandolin/music related products/services exercise good faith in clearly identifying themselves. Vendor participation is welcome and valued, and we expect you to be involved in discussions of your products. Visitors to the site arrive from all over the world and possess widely varying amounts of knowledge, expertise and experience with our subject matter. This is an international web site for mandolin, not a country-specific web site. All visitors should be able to clearly discern a business relationship at all times in discussions of products sold in the retail market. You can do the latter here.

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    I have nothing to hide I was the former lead finisher for Weber mandolin and I currently do finish repairs in the bozeman area.

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Welch View Post
    I have nothing to hide I was the former lead finisher for Weber mandolin and I currently do finish repairs in the bozeman area.
    That information should be disclosed then.

  17. #11

    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Welch View Post
    I have nothing to hide I was the former lead finisher for Weber mandolin and I currently do finish repairs in the bozeman area.
    Welcome to mandolin cafe with your 3rd and 4th posts!

    "Those who know don't have the words to tell, and the ones with the words don't know so well." - Bruce Cockburn

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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    I recently acquired a vintage Stromberg-Voisinet tenor guitar and after a bit of research found that Don Rickert is now making modern versions of the Strombeg-Voisinet (later became Kay Kraft) venetian style instruments: octave mandolin, 6 string guitar, and mandocello. He is soon to begin making a mandolin and a tenor guitar. There seem to be craftsmen exploring just about any type of stringed instrument you can think of, to our great delight.
    Jammin' south of the river
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    Of course it's still relevant. I'm confused by the post, though. Relevant in terms of newer players playing music on it, or relevant in terms of builders building them? Drastically different questions, but with one common denominator: if musicians don't want that sound in their band, then the luthiers don't have customers. Fortunately, many players do want them, and not surprisingly, many are not in the strict bluegrass tradition.

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    To me, yes, it's relevant. I play guitar, bass, a little banjo, Uke, and mandolin. Used to have an octave, and now have a mandocello. Were it not for other needs in our praise band (depending on who can make it and what they play), I would play the mandolin family instruments almost exclusively. I don't know if that translates into a viable business model for a luthier, I know I'm not the only one with that preference...

    Great appreciation for your work, Ryan!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    Well since Ivan and Ryan have let the cat out of the bag about Bruce building again, I have already placed my order with Bruce. I know it will be on par and maybe better than what is available now. I met Ryan a few weeks ago when I was at the shop and he is very knowledgeable about his art. I look forward for the day I get mine.

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  23. #16
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    From the administrator's post - "....they have yet to produce a single instrument for retail,....". Maybe so,but i don't think that they've been sitting on their hands in the interim. As for 'letting the cat out of the bag' - i don't think that there was anything 'secret' in what Bruce Weber told me personally,quite the opposite. Bruce was only to eager to let folk know that he wasn't ''out of the picture''. If he told me anything other than that - only i know !

    Like George,i think that the 'new era' Webers (or 'whatever' they'll be called),are going to be terrific,& i wish also,''like George'', i was able to place an order for one - maybe a move to Montana ??,
    Ivan
    PS - He didn't.
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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    I have been working with Bruce and Mary taking photographs for their website and have seen the molds for the new line and the travel mandolins (The Ranger) . These Rangers were made and sent to troops in the middle east. I have been keeping quiet about his plans out of respect for Bruce.

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    I should tell everyone that I am not being paid for my photography work for Bruce. I am doing this as a favor to a good friend. I will be paying full price for the mandolin I have on order.

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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    We're closing this discussion. This has turned into a mess of people that have business relationships acting as cheerleaders. That's fine, but please identify yourselves as such in the future before engaging. If you are acting on behalf of another business it is your duty to state such in your signature as is outlined in our guidelines.

    - Vendors: for the good of our community we ask that all vendors of mandolin/music related products/services exercise good faith in clearly identifying themselves. Vendor participation is welcome and valued, and we expect you to be involved in discussions of your products. Visitors to the site arrive from all over the world and possess widely varying amounts of knowledge, expertise and experience with our subject matter. This is an international web site for mandolin, not a country-specific web site. All visitors should be able to clearly discern a business relationship at all times in discussions of products sold in the retail market.

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    Chief Moderator/Shepherd Ted Eschliman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is the Mandolin Still Relevant? A Luthiers Point of View

    I'm not at liberty to discuss the details of which I'm privy after an unpublished interview with Bruce months ago, but I think it's important to point out when an enterprise is sold under terms of a limited non-compete agreement, that party is not at liberty to discuss (confirm or deny) details publicly, let alone promote future plans until this agreement expires.

    On behalf of the Moderators, we request not putting someone we greatly admire and respect in harms way "outing" a potential business plan that risks legal retaliation. You've been given a date when the non-compete ends. You're on your own to conjecture what the next step might be, or certainly, discuss it privately with the source.

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