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Thread: 10" body on octave mandola?

  1. #1

    Default 10" body on octave mandola?

    Hi, I'm new to this genre, a very amateur musician--played guitar and hammered dulcimer many years ago. I want to buy an eight-string teardrop octave mandola, 20" scale (for Renaissance and Celtic folk music)--not too pricey but not a piece of junk, either. The one that appeals the most that I found online is the Ashbury Rathlin for $415 through Hobgoblin Music. But being a bargain hunter, I kept searching, and found a guy on Etsy who makes them for $345, but he uses only either a 10" or a 14" body, versus the standard 12.5-13.5" body. He uses Old World Florida bald cypress. As a somewhat petite woman, I think 14" might be too big for me. I'm wondering if the sound of the smaller body of the 10" would be noticeably different from the standard 12.5", or would it negatively affect the sound, and in what way?

  2. #2
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    A 10” octave mandolin sounds awfully small to me, considering that’s the size of a typical mandolin body (though I realize that this style of instrument would have a deeper body than a typical mandolin to try to compensate). I would expect the sound to be somewhat thin, without much low end. I would also look at the body depth of the instruments you’re considering, as that can play a major role in playing comfort as well.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    The smaller body could suit you, depending on what sound you are looking for. Are you sure you mean an octave mandola, and not an octave mandolin? I don't think a twenty-inch scale is going to support the C2 string. Most use at least a 25" scale. If you mean an octave mandolin (G-D-A-E), then it's just fine. And I know that nomenclature of these instruments varies a lot, with different names for basically the same instrument, depending on geography.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    It was my understanding that octave mandolas and octave mandolins are the same instrument. But it would be tuned G-D-A-E. The luthier doesn't give the dimensions, other than the body width and the scale length. He puts different scales and different numbers of strings onto the body, per customer request. I do prefer a deep, rich sound.

  7. #5

    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Amena View Post
    It was my understanding that octave mandolas and octave mandolins are the same instrument. But it would be tuned G-D-A-E. The luthier doesn't give the dimensions, other than the body width and the scale length. He puts different scales and different numbers of strings onto the body, per customer request. I do prefer a deep, rich sound.
    I have heard the same thing. I refer to my octave mandola as a "mandocello" Others would call the same instrument an Irish bouzouki. The 20" scale should be fine for GDAE tuning. I tune my tenor guitar to that (21" scale). If you want a deep, rich sound, generally speaking, you want the largest body with which you are comfortable, all else being equal. Good Luck!

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    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    Yep, "octave mandola" is a typical European term for what we in the call an "octave mandolin". The 20" scale is probably fine but is at the low end of the typical range. With shorter scale lengths you need thicker strings to get the richness that you would get with a longer scale.

  9. #7

    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by amowry View Post
    Yep, "octave mandola" is a typical European term for what we in the call an "octave mandolin". The 20" scale is probably fine but is at the low end of the typical range. With shorter scale lengths you need thicker strings to get the richness that you would get with a longer scale.
    Yep. And since my 25" scale mandocello needs .070" or ,075" strings to get that nice, rich sound, I hate to think what one would need for a 20" scale!

  10. #8

    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by amowry View Post
    Yep, "octave mandola" is a typical European term for what we in the call an "octave mandolin". The 20" scale is probably fine but is at the low end of the typical range. With shorter scale lengths you need thicker strings to get the richness that you would get with a longer scale.
    Thanks! Would the heavier strings be harder to hold down when chording? Or maybe easier, because the thin ones might cut more into the fingers?

  11. #9

    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Amena View Post
    Thanks! Would the heavier strings be harder to hold down when chording? Or maybe easier, because the thin ones might cut more into the fingers?
    I don't know of anyone who has built a mandocello on such a short scale, so I really don't know if it would work at all. A .075 string might work, but I am unsure if it would stay in tune "up the neck." However, as I said, your 20" scale should be fine for a GDAE tuning. CGDA is a different animal, and I doubt you would get a good bass response from that small a body. The GDAE tuning is more versatile, having a similar frequency range to a guitar. I use the mandocello as a solo instrument and for accompanying fiddle players in our Old Time Fiddler association. It's sort of like having a bass in the mix.

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    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    i have one that small. it was an 1890 ish vega mando/guitar , but sounded terrible as a guitar so i had it converted to an octave mandolin. the back and sides are brazillian rosewood. it is very throaty, but a cool sound. it is not the big bass tone of modern octaves. if you like that throaty tone its' fine. i like that tone occasionally. i also like greek bouzoukis, if i want bass i play guitar.

  14. #11
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by meow-n-dolin View Post
    .......It's sort of like having a bass in the mix.
    While it may add more low notes than a mandolin or fiddle player has, no bass player in the world would ever agree with you!

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    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    My Weber Gallatin 20" (octave mandolin GDAE) is about 12 " at the widest part of the body ( oval shape).
    This is considerably smaller compared to my Freshwater's ( which I don't have anymore to measure) , which were closer to a guitar in body width, probably 14" at the widest.
    Still the Gallatin ( carved top) is deeper sounding ( more bassy) than the Freshwaters ( flattop), with perhaps slightly less volume and sustain than the Freshwaters.
    I'm sure different luthiers have different ideas of how to "generate sound" so the right instrument for you is out there I'm sure.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

  16. #13

    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    Just to note... I went to Etsy, and the only 10" body mando instruments had only 4 strings, not 8. Assuming that the builder is the same, using single strings will definitely thin out the sound.

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    Crazy Cat Lady collingwest's Avatar
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    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    If we're talking about the same builder (he uses cypress soundboards), he's currently designing a 12" two-point body for me as a custom ordered 5-string CGDAE cittern, based not on his mandolin pattern but on his tenor guitar pattern, and with a couple of measurement adjustments to account for the fact that I also have small hands and short fingers. I think I'm somewhere around #3-#4 in his queue right now. You might want to ask him about it as I think he plans to rework the design for general offering.

    Cypress isn't a common wood for sound boards, and from what I can tell his instruments have a sound I'd call "bright," but not brassy or metallic at all. They're also not particularly bassy (but for that I'd look at a mando-cello anyway). I don't expect that my particular acoustic instrument will have a lot of volume but, like you, I'm very amateur -- I'm buying it primarily to play in my living room at home.

  18. #15

    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    I used to play bass, both upright and electric bass guitar, and you are absolutely correct. I use it primarily for solo work. When added to a bunch of old-time fiddlers and a couple of guitars, it does add a bit of "oomph" to the mix. But yeah, you are correct.

  19. #16
    Crazy Cat Lady collingwest's Avatar
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    Default Re: 10" body on octave mandola?

    Custom instrument received! My fingers are sore...

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