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Thread: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

  1. #26

    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    I've seen all kinds of mandolins in old-time music. At my own jam there are several vintage Gibson A-styles and F-styles and a couple of other non-Gibson F-styles other than my own, and maybe some other stuff. I don't really pay much attention, and neither does anybody else.

  2. #27
    Registered User Mike Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Mandolins still outnumber ukuleles in most gatherings I attend. If the mandolins start to school like fish I break out the tenor banjo. I’ve got it plunked out and into a real old-timey sound. The fiddlers love it. I may even pull it on the Kansas bluegrassers this weekend. Expect a mixed reaction.
    Mike Snyder

  3. #28

    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    A good oval hole mandolin or a flat top is hard to beat for old time music. Just as banjo players tend to lean toward clawhammer or at least use an open back banjo, the oval hole mandolin is just a great instrument for that tone.

    For a good option that doesn't break the bank, look at the Kentucky KM272. It's got great tone and would work well for the old time sound.

  4. #29
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    My two best oval holes are snakeheads but I rarely play any mandolin in large OT jams. Smaller performances I will play whatever suits my moods. I played a 1919 whiteface A3 for many years in my old band then switched to a '23 A2 snakehead which I still have , play and love. I have played my '83 Flatiron A5-2, a real, bluegrass-sounding A for one old time band and now my Brentrup A4C is my mandolin of choice for just about anything, especially OT. BTW in the larger OT jams around here I have played a modern National RM-1 if I want to hear myself. It all works fine for me.

    I doubt most folks care much for historic accuracy. I don't think anyone I know would call out ever a Chinese violin for playing OT. The only situation with a need for historical accuracy IMHO would be a civil war re-enactment, but for mandolins, there were no mandolins in the US back in the civil war days.
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  5. #30

    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Thanks, everyone, for the great answers. It always surprises me how much "conventional wisdom" I get in my head from Internet ramblings and it's always nice to check these things out with a larger sample size.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    BTW in the larger OT jams around here I have played a modern National RM-1 if I want to hear myself. It all works fine for me.
    And some MAS fuel to boot...

  6. #31
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I doubt most folks care much for historic accuracy. I don't think anyone I know would call out ever a Chinese violin for playing OT. The only situation with a need for historical accuracy IMHO would be a civil war re-enactment, but for mandolins, there were no mandolins in the US back in the civil war days.
    But no shortage of banjos and fiddles, and, to my surpirse, even the odd bodhran.Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #32
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    But no shortage of banjos and fiddles, and, to my surpirse, even the odd bodhran.Click image for larger version. 

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    Or big tambourine, with the jingles in the frame. I've seen films of similar big tambourines in country Irish sessions (famous video of Joe Cooley) so it may be part of the evolutionary history of the bodhran.

    It's interesting to see a flute player and fife (?) player in a "string band." Not what we usually associate with string bands or OldTime music, but apparently a more common thing in the past.

    The fife player makes sense, especially in a band associated with an army regiment. The flute is maybe more unusual, and it looks like this could be a 19th Century orchestra model with the keys removed. Either that or a more rustic "folk" flute, but the black color suggests a more upscale orchestra model. I'll bet that guy was a trained Classical musician before joining the band.

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  9. #33
    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    And that old time “string” band included a fife and a flute. One time I sat down with my concertina at a casual jam playing old time stuff. They had already started playing and I jumped in on concertina. When the tune ended the fiddle player angrily got up and stormed away, obviously upset that I’d jump in on an instrument he didn’t approve of. What he apparently didn’t know is that the other four people playing were all part of a group that I was a member of and played concertina with weekly. Or maybe he just hated my playing!

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  11. #34
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Or big tambourine, with the jingles in the frame. I've seen films of similar big tambourines in country Irish sessions (famous video of Joe Cooley) so it may be part of the evolutionary history of the bodhran.

    It's interesting to see a flute player and fife (?) player in a "string band." Not what we usually associate with string bands or OldTime music, but apparently a more common thing in the past.
    That's interesting about the tambourine. You're probably right. I've never seen evidence of a bodhran in Canada before the "Celtic revival" of the late 60's and early 70's (it's not clear to me what was being revived). Enlighten me if I'm wrong, folks.

    I don't want to get this thread too far off the original topic, but creative people tend to make folk music with the instruments available to them. I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Lonnie Young's Fife and Drum band at the Mariposa Folk Festival on the Toronto Islands in the early 1970's. Check them out:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6mRdPP6wRo
    Last edited by Ranald; Feb-16-2018 at 1:25pm. Reason: error

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  13. #35
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cary Fagan View Post
    Almost never do you see anyone playing a bowlback, although they were common way back when. As were less expensive flat tops.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tmcmakin View Post
    A good oval hole mandolin or a flat top is hard to beat for old time music.
    From photographic evidence it seems you would be quite historically accurate with a bowlback!




    and my favorite from New Orleans



    At the music camp/workshops where I've heard and seen old-time jams, any mandolin will do.

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  15. #36
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Love those pics, David, and, agree that the NO one is the coolest!
    Chuck

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  17. #37
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    For real old time, historically, what ever you had was what you played. You may have bought it, you may have made it, but you played it.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  19. #38

    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    what is the upper neck on that doubleneck acoustic? The lower neck looks like a 12 string guitar, upper neck almost looks like an acoustic bass but hard to say. Maybe meant as a harp guitar of sorts?

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  21. #39
    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seter View Post
    what is the upper neck on that doubleneck acoustic? The lower neck looks like a 12 string guitar, upper neck almost looks like an acoustic bass but hard to say. Maybe meant as a harp guitar of sorts?
    Looks almost like a tenor neck. Which would make sense in New Orleans.


    Edit: I think I'll agree with others that it's more than likely a harp guitar.
    Last edited by NursingDaBlues; Feb-16-2018 at 2:51pm. Reason: Revising opinion

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  23. #40
    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Looks like the terz guitar needs to be revived for old time. I love the sound of them. Anyone own and play one or play with someone who does? What was commonly played on them in an old time setting? Melody? Chords?
    Maybe harp guitars and reed organs too!

    http://www.earlyromanticguitar.com/erg/terz.htm

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  25. #41
    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Too bad we can’t hear those bands play. Can’t we send someone back in time to make high quality recordings of them, and many others? Looks to me like the guy in the bottom picture is playing a harp guitar. I wonder if we’d get any surprises if we could hear them play. Do you think the way the music is played has changed much?

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  27. #42
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Regarding the question of woodwinds in OldTime, I am allowed to make this joke because my family history runs through the Appalachian mountains:

    Q: Why is it that there is no flute in OldTime music?

    A: You need teeth to play the flute.

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  29. #43
    Notary Sojac Paul Kotapish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    I'm in the camp of "play the instrument you play best" with regards to which mandolin fits with old-time music. "Old-time music" is a pretty big tent, and there's room for all kinds of instruments to fit in it comfortably. In much the same way that there's a fair amount of diversity in terms of the styles of banjos that get played in old-time music -- fretted, fretless, with or without resonator, steel or gut strings, clawhammer, frailing, bare fingers, and fingerpicks -- there's lots of options for all kinds of mandolins and technique.

    I'd say that oval-hole vintage Gibsons have a special place in the old-time mandolin world, but ...

    Kenny Hall was about the most old-time mandolinist I've ever heard, and he played a taterbug with the (incredibly tough) nail of his index finger. Jody Stecher recorded some lovely old-time mandolin on a bowlback on his first LP and he plays old-time music on a Stan Miller A-5 style today. Mike Seeger opined that old-time music should be played on a flat-backed, oval-holed mandolin with a light or medium pick. Charlie Louvin played all sorts of mandolins--oval and f-hole, alike. Before his old-time music evolved into bluegrass, Bill Monroe played an F-7 with the Monroe Brothers. Bill Bolick played a Martin Style 20 with the Blue Sky Boys. Caleb Klauder plays a Sullivan F-5. Norman Blake plays all sorts.

    No rules. Pick on!

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    Last edited by Paul Kotapish; Feb-16-2018 at 3:23pm.
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  31. #44

    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    =bruce.b;1633546]Too bad we can’t hear those bands play. Can’t we send someone back in time to make high quality recordings of them, and many others? Looks to me like the guy in the bottom picture is playing a harp guitar. I wonder if we’d get any surprises if we could hear them play. Do you think the way the music is played has changed [/QUOTE]
    Yes, and no. Of course the human's environment and multiple referents (social culture, conflict, et al) - the specific circumstances to which humans respond and produce - have changed. But of our innate relationship/experience with music? - probably not so much.

    Yes I wish we could hear them. You might say that pursuing such sources of music and tradition is an effort at least in some degree to "hear them" - what we can reconstruct, reimagine, and with a foresnic cultural sensitivity preserve in some capacity. It's another aspect or dimension, and not too distant. (Obvious the importance of getting history "right" - what with humans' predilection for wrong foresight)

    Like most of what you hear from harp guitars, I imagine there's some simple bass accompaniment going on, there in the gtrist's hands. .our

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  33. #45
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    If there are fretted instruments that usually means it's in the 1900's. In the rural areas most instruments were hand made and frets were not used. The original string band was a fiddle and a fretless banjo. Rare before 1900 was a guitar or mandolin used in very rural area's.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  35. #47

    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    If there are fretted instruments that usually means it's in the 1900's. In the rural areas most instruments were hand made and frets were not used. The original string band was a fiddle and a fretless banjo. Rare before 1900 was a guitar or mandolin used in very rural area's.
    Yea I'll bet the introduction of European (wind) instruments had a lot of impact here as elsewhere as they made their way upriver.

    Recall that early music (here and elsewhere) hadn't yet been influenced by centuries of tradition of europeanization - polyphony, symphonics, etc in playing and listening - radio and record transmission, et al. (These are of course among the reasons why we love early music)

  36. #48
    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    After reading with interest, the entries, my input feels like a confession. 1st: I've played bluegrass for 50+ years.; 2nd: My first mandolin was a Gibson F-12; 3rd: I've always been (IMHO) a strong rhythm player; 4th: by proximity, I've been around lots of old timey music as well. My conclusion: I'm not appreciated for the "drive" my nature puts into the music in an old timey format. I get the feeling, that at its most boisterous, OT music is a kinder, gentler genre. Having owned many oval hole mandolins - F's and A's - it's never been them; it's been me! When I'm on my game, even my F model monster (a '37 Gibson F-12, Randy Wood-ized in '67), will fit in an OT setting. I just need to control my right hand and my enthusiasm!
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  37. #49
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    When I think of playing old time music I only think of playing melody, not chopping chords, so I really can't think of anything that wouldn't work playing melody.
    You are correct ! No sense to over think or analyze it !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  38. #50
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Specific mandolins for old-time music?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seter View Post
    what is the upper neck on that doubleneck acoustic? The lower neck looks like a 12 string guitar, upper neck almost looks like an acoustic bass but hard to say. Maybe meant as a harp guitar of sorts?
    It's a harp guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Kotapish View Post


    Kenny Hall was about the most old-time mandolinist I've ever heard, and he played a taterbug with the (incredibly tough) nail of his index finger.
    I recall that fingernail!

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