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Thread: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

  1. #1
    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    For this week’s weird instrument, I decided to post a video playing a 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello. This double top instrument has an exceptional baritone voice that is well balanced with good volume.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5lNRQbr8g4&t=212s


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  2. #2
    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    Here is the link again

    https://youtu.be/W5lNRQbr8g4

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  4. #3
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    That's actually a pretty impressive sound. I had a Galas mandolin, but didn't think it was anything special. The mandolins all seem to have issues with both their action, and their intonation as well - how was this one?

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    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    I actually have a set including a Gelas mandolin, mandola, mandocello, mandobass, classical guitar and Hawaiian guitar, and they all play and sound just fine. I especially like the mandobass, mandocello and mandola, and I am a big fan of the design in general. That said, the Gelas style instruments are a bit of a challenge to set up. The two tops are positioned very close to each other and tend to touch over time as the string tension pulls on the inner top. My luthier had to wet and clamp the inner top on a couple of them to flatten out the top as part of the setup. Intonation-wise the frets on all of my Gelas style instruments seem to be in the right place, but like many old instruments, the bridge saddle is not intonated. That is not an issue on the classical guitar or Hawaiian guitar and it's not really a big deal on the mandobass and mandocello either. It's a little bit of an issue on the mandola though it's not particularly noticeable. Interestingly, the bridge on my mandolin has been replaced with an intonated version so the repair is possible despite the unusual bridge design. I have attached photos of the mandocello bridge which is original and the replaced intonated bridge on the mandolin.


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    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    I went ahead and attached an x-ray image of a Gelas mandola to illustrate the double top design.

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by gweetarpicker View Post
    I went ahead and attached an x-ray image of a Gelas mandola to illustrate the double top design.

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    Woh! Photo of the day that one

  10. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by gweetarpicker View Post
    I am a big fan of the design in general.
    So what do you like about these? Do they sound very different? I have never played one that wasn't a basket case and actually set up. What is the point of the design? I am also fond of oddball instruments but these make me a bit nervous just to look at them.
    Jim

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  11. #8
    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    To my ear, carved tops, bowl backs, cylinder backs and flat/canted top flatbacks all have their own tonal tendencies. The double top is another unique sound, and they tend to sound different from other designs. I have a set of Gelas style instruments and have played a couple others though I don’t consider myself an authority. We probably need a left brain luthier to chime in, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the string angle. With the Gelas, the strings are actually pulling up on the top instead of pulling down against the bridge (or at least positioned parallel to the top as is typical). Of course it’s better to play and hear one, but the Gelas instruments seem to speak quickly with an almost harp-like pizzicato attack and long sustain. They tend to have a “poppy” sound, a little like a good bowl back or maybe a good ukulele but with more power. The larger mandolin family instruments, mandobass, mandocello and tenor mandola, are all really nice, maybe also in part because the bodies are a bit larger than is typical. The classical guitar is fine too, but I would rather play a Ramirez for classical music. The Hawaiian guitar is bluesy sounding and fairly loud. The mandolin is crazy sparkly, almost reverby, and sounds closer to a bowlback mandolin if I had to compare. The E string on the mandolin almost hurts your ear it is so loud. Still, the bigger mando family instruments are the real stand outs.

    I can understand why they make you nervous! For sure, the setup is a challenge, and most of mine visited the shop when I first got them. I know a repair guy in Texas who is willing and able to put a Gelas in good playing order. He removed some of the belly from the tops on the mandolin, mandola and mandocello as part of the setup and replaced the fretboard on the mandola. The mandobass and the two guitars didn’t really need anything.


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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by gweetarpicker View Post
    I went ahead and attached an x-ray image of a Gelas mandola to illustrate the double top design.

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    Here are some more photos showing the design: these are from a half-mandolin built as a demonstration model for promotional purposes, I think by Rene Gerome (the makers of my Gelas mandolin, which plays very nicely but was a pig to set up...)

    Martin
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    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Jonas View Post
    by Rene Gerome (the makers of my Gelas mandolin, which plays very nicely but was a pig to set up...)

    Martin
    Does your Gerome have the "standard" Gelas style bridge like the Gelas mandocello bridge shown above? Would love to see a photo of the Gerome if you have one. What year was it made?

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by gweetarpicker View Post
    Does your Gerome have the "standard" Gelas style bridge like the Gelas mandocello bridge shown above? Would love to see a photo of the Gerome if you have one. What year was it made?
    There are several photos of the mandolin as a whole and the bridge construction in particular in this old thread which I started to discuss my setup conundrums: Link

    The bridge is a bit different from the "standard" Gelas-style. They normally have two saddles where the string bends downwards, one facing the nut and the other facing the tailpiece, which together with the upwards bend where the string goes through holes in the bridge makes three changes of string angle. Because of the symmetry of the string bending angles, the string tension pulls straight upwards on the bridge, without a net torque (the opposite of a conventional mandolin bridge, where the strings push downwards on the bridge). The Gerome has only one saddle, facing the nut,and only two changes of string angle -- the strings run straight from the holes in the bridge to the tailpiece. That has the advantage of a less convoluted path of the strings and (marginally) easier access for setup work, but the disadvantage that the strings in addition to pulling upwards also exert a torque on the top. I presume that's why the Gerome bridge is rather chunkier than the standard Gelas bridge.

    No date on the label, but I suspect it's 1930s (Rene Gerome became a Hohner-style mass market brand after 1945).

    I eventually finished setting it up last year, after a few years hiatus, and it sounds very nice now. Here are three recordings I made last year:

    Allegro for Two Mandolins (Carulli) (Gelas on first mandolin, Ceccherini bowlback on second -- two different incarnations of double top design!)
    Brunette (Laurent Fantauzzi) (Gelas on both mandolin parts)
    Chant et Pastorale (Carlo Munier) (Gelas on first mandolin, Embergher bowlback on second)


    Martin
    Last edited by Martin Jonas; Dec-11-2017 at 6:14pm.

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  17. #12
    Registered User gweetarpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1927 Lucien Gélas Mandocello

    I see that the bridge is a bit different, a slightly less complex affair but again with a straight saddle. I was curious about when the Gerome was made since the double top examples I've seen from the 1930s and earlier all seem to have dated Gelas labels. Perhaps the Geromes, Patenottes, Beuschers and others were built after the patent expired?


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