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Thread: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

  1. #1
    Registered User PDGotro's Avatar
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    Default Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Opinions on the oval hole A style mandolin or the FF style mandolin to play bluegrass - or does it matter?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    F holes are better for bluegrass. Doesn't matter if the body style is A or F.

    Still, you can play perfectly fine bluegrass on an oval hole mandolin if you really want to, and many have.

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    F holes are better for bluegrass. Doesn't matter if the body style is A or F.

    Still, you can play perfectly fine bluegrass on an oval hole mandolin if you really want to, and many have.
    I agree, and I'm an oval hole guy generally - but the F hole gives you that bluegrass pop in a way the oval hole doesn't. Especially if you're playing acoustically or just around one mic like in the traditional style. But I prefer the oval hole for non-bluegrass types of music, which is more what I do. Oval, to me, has more natural reverb than F - but less of that crispness.
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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    I used a Weber 'Beartooth' "A" style oval hole to play Bluegrass until it developed a warped neck. I did also have a Weber "Fern" "F" style as well,but the Beartooth was a hellishly powerful mandolin,easily a match for my Fern. For me - when i listen to Bluegrass music,i really couldn't care less what 'style' of mandolin is being used as long as the music's good !,
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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Just to weigh in, I have two f-holes, 2 oval holes and 1 solidbody. The best Bluegrass mandolin is my Epiphone MM-50e, which is an -f-Style with F-holes. I put flat wound strings on my other A-style F-hole (a Gretsch New Yorker). It is now not great for bluegrass, but good for blues, jazz and some old time. My oval holes (1 F and 1 A) can be used in bluegrass, but that 'chop' works better with the compressed sound of the f-holes.

    But all types of things play a part, including strings, picks and how well you can 'chop' (or at least play bluegrass).

    In short, if it works, it works.
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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    If you play an oval hole and play BG you are hot in bad company. Most of Jimmy Martin’s mandolin players played his F4,Duffy played an A2 for the early Country Gentlemen,Red Rector played an oval hole A (I think anA2j. The way you play it makes it BG, not the model of mandolin. At times even Monroe played an oval hole and can’t say he ain’t bluegrass.

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    F-hole mandolins tend to have a sharper attack and quicker decay of the sound. This works well for the ubiquitous bluegrass off-beat mandolin "chop." When playing lead on mandolin breaks, overall sound projection is more important, so a loud oval-hole can cut through as well as an f-hole.

    The other consideration, often important in bluegrass circles, is that the f-hole is the "usual" mandolin bluegrass musicians use. So an oval-hole may be seen as "odd." Doesn't bother me, bothers some.
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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    ...
    The other consideration, often important in bluegrass circles, is that the f-hole is the "usual" mandolin bluegrass musicians use. So an oval-hole may be seen as "odd." Doesn't bother me, bothers some.
    Bill Monroe doesn't seem to have considered it important:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTxol40qYmI

    There may be a few people around who would be bothered. So what?

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    The issue should be your competence in playing the music, not the kind of holes in the mandolin. Keep on pickin'.

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  18. #10

    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Play the instrument you have.

    I play old-time and have an f-style with f-holes. A bunch of others in my jam have oval hole F- and A-styles. A friend of mine plays bluegrass and has an A style with f-holes. I don't think it matters. Honestly, the difference in sound and volume among all the people I know who have mandolins seems to have less to do with the style of mandolin than the player and that individual mandolin.

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    The issue should be your competence in playing the music, not the kind of holes in the mandolin. Keep on pickin'.
    It would be great though to have such a fine mandolin that you could be incompetent and still sound awesome.

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    It would be great though to have such a fine mandolin that you could be incompetent and still sound awesome.
    Where would I get such an animal?

  23. #13

    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Where would I get such an animal?
    You can convert your own with a very special bridge I could sell you.

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Good to see Old Sausage back on here...

    Cover up the round sound hole and see what you hear, I met Charlie Louvin one day in Florida at a festival and we got to talking about Ira`s F-4 mandolin and Charlie said Ira was good at working on mandolins and he had removed the cross bracing in his mandolin and replaced them with tone bars like the ones in an F-5 model and it had a different sound then before so in my opinion, for what it is worth, its the bracing/tone bars that give them their own sound, not too much with the shape of the sound holes...

    Willie

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    What have you got now?
    Play that.
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  29. #16

    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    I donít have the level experience and expertise thay several of the Cafe members have, but I participate in a weekly BG jam and can convey my experience. There are usually 4+ mandolin players including me and their instruments range from Eastman F style with oval hole, Kentucky F with f-holes, old Martin with a bowl back and flat top, Collings F with f-holes, Gibson (not sure the model) A with f-holes, and Northfield F with f-holes. There are others that Iím unable to remember well.

    The only one that struggled was the Martin. It sounded beautiful but the volume was low. Maybe it was the person playing it but when he let me give it a spin, it sounded very warm and fairly quiet in my hands as well.

    Most of the time, and I include myself in this statement, the Mandolin sounded better than the person playing it did

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    It really depends on the mandolin itself. I've heard a few oval holes (both old Gibsons) that actually worked alright in a BG context. That said, I've also heard plenty of oval holes that sounded lousy in a BG jam. In general though, it's harder to find an oval hole that will cut it well in a BG situation.

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    I mentioned in my previous thread that my once owned Weber 'Beartooth' oval hole "A" style was powerful - it was. Playing 'chop chords', it was immense. It was easily equal to my Weber "Fern" F style,if not more so. It did have a tonal difference however. It was 'darker' & tended to be more 'bassy',not a bad thing for me, as my 'Fern' was, & still is a tad 'toppy'. There's no way that if i still had it,that i'd be afraid to use it in a Bluegrass band context = it depends on the 'individual' instrument - some will some & won't be suitable,
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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Why doesn't somebody record Bluegrass Stomp (just picking a number @ random) once on an f-hole and once on an oval-hole - same player, same backing music - and measure the difference in volume (including highs/mids/lows), instead of just posting "well, it seems like to me ..." ????

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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Most folks might prefer to just listen. Nice shoes.


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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    Most folks might prefer to just listen. Nice shoes.

    He really got me on his last break at about 1:35 on to where the melody comes in. that was a cool descending musical idea he worked...developed? Anyway it was sweet.

    The only people that care what kind of mandolin you play are other musicians, the audience just knows what they like in ANY kind of music.

  40. #22
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by jesserules View Post
    Why doesn't somebody record Bluegrass Stomp (just picking a number @ random) once on an f-hole and once on an oval-hole - same player, same backing music - and measure the difference in volume (including highs/mids/lows), instead of just posting "well, it seems like to me ..." ????
    Ah, you want to be scientific and actually do double-blind experiments and see what really happens rather than go by hearsay?

    First, are volume and basic tone color/timbre the only criteria to measure?

    Plus, you would have to have the same player in the same spot in the studio with the same microphone at the same distance from the instrument...etc. to limit the variables.

    Anyway, I have always liked the idea of settling these musical issues with some hard science, but it has not happened a lot. Just check any electric guitar forum.

  41. #23

    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Itís never a simple comparison, especially with acoustic instruments (IMHO). You can play two of the same model and they often sound different.

    It seems like the best advice is to go for a F style with f-holes and then cherry pick your favorite. That said there are going to be many many exceptions to that.

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  43. #24
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    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by jesserules View Post
    Why doesn't somebody record Bluegrass Stomp (just picking a number @ random) once on an f-hole and once on an oval-hole - same player, same backing music - and measure the difference in volume (including highs/mids/lows), instead of just posting "well, it seems like to me ..." ????
    Because not all oval hole are equal, nor for that matter are all f-hole mandolins. Again, I've heard some old Gibson A5's that hold up fine in BG settings, and I've heard plenty of oval holes that sound weak, airy, thin, and whimpy in BG jams.

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  45. #25

    Default Re: Mandolins for Bluegrass Music

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    If you play an oval hole and play BG you are hot in bad company. Most of Jimmy Martin’s mandolin players played his F4,Duffy played an A2 for the early Country Gentlemen,Red Rector played an oval hole A (I think anA2j. The way you play it makes it BG, not the model of mandolin. At times even Monroe played an oval hole and can’t say he ain’t bluegrass.
    ...Red Rector's Gibson was an A-4 !

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