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Thread: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

  1. #176

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    The Ruhland neck is custom. Matt used a mandolin I used to own that now lives in Portland as a template and then modified the neck it to be a little less deep. The Ruhland neck turned out slightly slimmer/shallower than the Heiden and I think that's even better for my left hand. In my experience, Ellis necks are deeper. I took it to a weekend picking party where I played 10 hours a day or so. No hand problems other than very sore fingertips. Will get to recording sometime soon.
    Palatable to a Goat: New Music from Gregg Daigle and Don Grieser, now on bandcamp
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  3. #177

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Here's a little sample of #37. The tune is "Monroe's Farewell to Longhollow."



    https://youtu.be/gVlcd98NqT0
    Palatable to a Goat: New Music from Gregg Daigle and Don Grieser, now on bandcamp
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  5. #178

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Very nice tone Don, nice playing as well. Thanks.

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  7. #179

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    that one has nice pop to it, Don. Enjoy it!
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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  9. #180

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Don,

    i just listened to your new A5 recording again. I'm biased but to my ear that little A5 sounds pretty darn nice. What is it now 2 months old, one month, i forget?

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  11. #181
    Registered User JAK's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    That mandolin has Punch brother!
    John A. Karsemeyer

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  13. #182

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Thanks, I've been enjoying it since Sept 25, so not a month old yet. Still a growing young 'un.
    Palatable to a Goat: New Music from Gregg Daigle and Don Grieser, now on bandcamp
    http://HillbillyChamberMusic.bandcamp.com

  14. #183
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    A couple months ago, I was passing through Portland and Old Growth kindly let me play his two Ruhlands and I thought I would share my experience here.

    First and foremost, they were amazing! Honestly, if I had not needed to continue on to Oakridge, Oregon that evening, I would have considered imposing myself on his gracious hospitality even longer. The tone, volume and responsiveness of both mandolins was a whole new world from what I’m used to. I’m currently playing an Epiphone MM-50 and when I occasionally play with a group at my church, I have to play about as hard as I can to even begin to hear myself. Matt’s instruments responded to even the finest touch and only got louder from there (in a good way). Admittedly, I didn’t play them as hard as I do mine since I was feeling a bit self-conscious and I really didn’t want to really dig in and accidentally make a pick scratch or break a string on Old Growth's beautiful instruments he was so kindly letting me sample. I can only imagine how much those instruments can do in more capable hands.

    Getting to play both an A-style and F-style side-by-side was eye opening and fun. His A has a very sweet tone to it that was very pleasant to play and hear, but I have to admit that the sound of his F really grabbed me. I don’t know if it was a matter of tone wood differences or some other luthier voodoo, but the bass response on his F5 was intoxicating. I was playing “Big Sciota” using the G-string as a drone in part of the song and I’ve never felt a mandolin feel so alive in my hands.

    I am still on the beginner end of the spectrum, but I came away from the experience with a huge grin plastered on my face and a personal understanding of why Matt's instruments are causing such a stir. Finding the right instrument is a very personal decision, but I would highly recommend playing one of Matt's instruments as part of your decision making process. Thanks again Old Growth and keep up the great work, Matt!

  15. #184
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    I agree 100% regarding the tone and power of Matt's mandolins. The responsiveness is simply startling.

  16. #185

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    https://soundcloud.com/dennis-benjam...88/sly-rey-mp3

    My thoughts are likely pretty well known about Matt's work. Just recently I was afforded the opportunity to take another of his F5's for a spin. The consistency of tone is a hallmark of Matt's work for me.

  17. #186
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    I've heard/played more than a couple of Matt's instruments and have been super impressed with all of them. Really quality work.
    "Keep your hat on, we may end up miles from here..." - Kurt Vonnegut

  18. #187
    Registered User JAK's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    How do the Ruhlands stack up against Gilchrist, Gibson Master Models, Duff, and other higher end/cost mandolins regarding volume and tone?
    John A. Karsemeyer

  19. #188

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Hi John,

    I have my perspective on an answer to your question but feel i should probably recuse myself. I'm clearly biased having owned and played more Ruhlands than some of the builders you mention. I do know that there is an article coming out soon that may speak to topics of interest regarding top builders, Matt's work etc. Now...i'm hoping my popcorn doesn't go to waste

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  21. #189
    Registered User EvanElk's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    I'll jump in - I own a Duff, a Heiden, a Sullivan and a Voight as well as a Ruhland F5 (and miraculously, I'm still married!!) and have previously owned a couple Nuggets.
    My Ruhland has the best volume and punch in my studio...holds up to any of them in terms of tone and playability. Very woody and resonant, crisp and articulate...and you can get all the way up the neck to the Florida and get great tone on the very high notes....not often the case with mandolins

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  23. #190

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    I currently own a Duff, Kimble and Ruhland A. The Duff has been my main axe for a few years and people always remarked on how loud it is. The Ruhland is quite a bit louder than the Duff, like scary loud. I just recently took the Kimble in on a trade so haven't had much of a chance to A/B but the Ruhland is definitely the loudest instrument I have and one of the loudest I've played. Haven't had my hands on too many Gils or MMs, but it can certainly hold its own as far as volume and playability go. Tone is a pretty personal thing, so you'd have to decide for yourself on all that business. They sound great.

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  25. #191
    Registered User JAK's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Thanks for the input regarding comparisons. Now I'm wondering how Matt Ruhland does it???
    John A. Karsemeyer

  26. #192
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    Thanks for the input regarding comparisons. Now I'm wondering how Matt Ruhland does it???
    Couple thoughts:

    - Matt has an innate "way with wood." It's intangible.
    - He's a master craftsman
    - Flat out passionate about refining his art, seeking information, tips, knowledge, and sage advice, including from some of the legendary greats
    - He's a player

    He's not the only builder with these traits, but he does pull them together in a pretty magical way, especially this early in his mandolin building career.

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  28. #193
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Quote Originally Posted by Luna Pick View Post
    Couple thoughts:

    - Matt has an innate "way with wood." It's intangible.
    - He's a master craftsman
    - Flat out passionate about refining his art, seeking information, tips, knowledge, and sage advice, including from some of the legendary greats
    - He's a player

    He's not the only builder with these traits, but he does pull them together in a pretty magical way, especially this early in his mandolin building career.
    I was pondering how to say similar things. It is that 3rd point that really stands out to me. He is constantly working to learn and improve. I talk with Matt fairly regularly still, and he is always stoked when he gets feedback from players and builders.
    To speak to the request for comparisons, I will first state that I am no expect. I have played a few Kimble's, a couple Gilchrist's, a handful of Gibson's, probably 5 Heiden's, and 13 of Matt's mandolins. I have been able to directly A/B a couple Ruhland's against a Harvey signed Fern, a Kimble (the one currently at Greg Boyd's), a Gibson Flatiron, and a couple Heiden's. The Ruhland's have a very consistent punch that goes toe to toe with all of the above and outshines many of them. The one instrument I have played that stood out, perhaps above all of these, is Evan's Heiden F5.
    Ruhland #41
    My unnamed build #1
    Various other stringed and percussion tools

  29. #194

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    I have initiated a charm offensive to pry Evan's Heiden away...he is a fine player, and a handsome son of a gun:/

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  31. #195

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    ***Long Post Alert***
    I just wanted to hop in here and say how much I love my Ruhland mandolin. It has really inspired me and changed the way I play for the better. It's a unique mandolin and might be the only one of Matt's that has 2 name tags on this inside. The story goes like this, I was on the hunt for a "real" mandolin. You know, a handmade one with good tone woods and a good tone. I had started out on an Epiphone mm50. Great starter mandolin (had the look) but after some years I outgrew it and realized I was ready to commit to a more expensive/lifelong investment.

    During my search I decided to message Caleb Klauder, who I had met years ago when the Foghorn Stringband rolled through the Indiana Fiddlers gathering. My string band at the time, the Woodstove Flapjacks had gotten to know those guys(prior to Reeb and Nadine joining) and I have always been in awe of their sound and playing. I played dobro at the time and came to the mandolin later in life. Anyways, I was looking at a couple of builders that I thought I could afford and asked Caleb about those builders and if he had any thoughts, he said "oh you gotta check out my friend here in Portland who's been making mandolins" and that was Matt Ruhland.

    So I went to his website and called the number listed. It probably didn't hurt that Caleb had given me the recommendation but Matt and I talked on the phone for almost an hour and a half about all sorts of things, mostly mandolins. He explained his process and the woods that he sourced from Bruce Harvey and his own back story on how he started building in the first place. So at the end of the call I realized we hadn't talked price. I figured I better ask what the wait time and price was. This was in the winter and I had hoped to get a mandolin by festival season. Matt told me his price and wait time and honestly it was a little higher and longer than I could afford at that moment in time. I thanked him and said I would be in touch if I could get the money saved up and then he said "well I do have one that I wasn't going to sell" my ears perked up.


    Turns out this mandolin was #12 and was an x braced model. Matt had told me that he had experimented with a low arch on the top. During a cold winter I guess the top had started to crack. The original owner had contacted Matt and decided to send it back and have Matt make a new one. To my knowledge this is the only Ruhland mandolin that was sent back. Matt said he was just going to hold on to it and re-top it for himself as he didn't own a mandolin that he had built. After discussing it further Matt said that he was going to re-top it with Spruce from an Alaskan bridge that had been decommissioned. I have seen mention of this wood before on here.(legendary stuff!) He was also going to add Tone Bar bracing. Matt said if I was interested he could start working on this mandolin with his next batch of F5's. At the time he was doing his first batch of A style mandolins. Given the circumstances Matt didn't want to charge me his going rate for a brand new Mandolin.

    I didn't mind a re-top at all, the price fit my budget and it looked like I might be able to get it before festival season. A couple months went by and I would check in with Matt every so often. I live in Indiana and he lives in Oregon so I couldn't go out there and play it prior but I did express my interest in preferring a neck on the thinner side (the epiphone made my hand cramp after extended playing) So he shaved down the neck and actually stripped the finish completely down to the wood and refinished it too. I ended up with a new neck profile, new tuners,a new top, new finish and new bracing. I think it was during this time that he started using the script logo for his headstock but I have the old school original R logo on mine.

    I will upload some photos if anybody wants to see it. When Matt strung this baby up for the first time he said "Wow, this thing is a crusher" and it is! I couldn't be happier. The tone is amazing and I love the back story. So yeah back to the 2 name tags, he left the original #12 x braced tag in there and added another tag that had the new build date on it. It does't have a new number though. So technically it's number 12 but it was re-built during his 7th batch which would put the number somewhere in the low to mid 30's.

    I am really proud of this mandolin and everybody who has heard it has been blown away by it. I hope Matt doesn't mind me sharing this lengthy story. I would recommend a Ruhland mandolin to anybody considering a new purchase.

    One last thing, I was at the John Hartford fest down in Bean Blossom last year and sat next to a fella playing a Gilchrist. We swapped instruments for a little bit a jam and the Ruhland held it's own in tone and volume. There are so many incredible builders out there but I am really happy to own a Ruhland. Here's a clip of a me and a friend playing our version of Watson's Blues if ya'll wanna hear it in action. Thanks for reading.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DgCqppK9sk
    Last edited by Jmoon; Jun-12-2020 at 3:22pm.

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  33. #196
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Nice playing and good sounding mandolin but man.....if you'd break that up into some paragraphs it would make it a lot more readable.

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  35. #197

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Thanks. Haha. I will edit that. Good call.

  36. #198

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    Nice playing and good sounding mandolin but man.....if you'd break that up into some paragraphs it would make it a lot more readable.
    Shaun,
    Was going to suggest that also. JM don't take it personally ( or anyone else) it happens all the time. Paragraph breaks needed in long posts IMO. Nice F5 BTW, wow

  37. #199
    Registered User EvanElk's Avatar
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    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Defund the grammar police...
    1998 John Sullivan A5 - Ella
    2009 Heiden Mandola
    2015 Heiden F Artist
    2017 Duff A5
    2019 Ruhland F5

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  39. #200

    Default Re: In praise of mandolin builder Matt Ruhland

    Yes plz and as always more Ruhland mando

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