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Thread: Not much of a mando culture in my area

  1. #1
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I got bit by the mandolin bug because I always liked listening to bluegrass music. I tried guitar, that didn't pan out too well and I was looking for something smaller that I could take with me to all the "dad responsibilities" and enjoy (soccer practice, the park, etc).

    My local shops around here (Fayetteville, NC) don't have much in the way of mandolins. The local guitar center has two actual mandolins and a Martin Backpacker. Of course I had to try out the backpacker just to see what it was about, tone was pretty bad but the thing was pretty loud for it's small size. I already own mandolins though but I had to get them off the internet due to the low participation around here.

    I always "drop a dime" in conversation at the local music stores in an effort to see if they are interested in exploring that market. I think it could be good, after all, at least for me, mandolin was the right size and easier to play than guitar. I even went so far as to post an ad on the local craigslist to see if anyone would respond in the local area that might also partake of the mandolin interest...not much luck.

    If you're from an area that has a heavy concentration of mandolin interest, count yourself lucky as you can always find someone to learn from and jam with....here, not so much.

    I always have the hope that someone will take an interest when they see me out and about with my mandolin and possibly get the crowd to grow larger. If you are local to the area, hit me up.

    What's the culture like in your area?

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    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I don't play bluegrass, so I'm generally the only mando player when I play out. I did fish a colleague into buying a 20s Gibson A, though, so now there's two of us.

    D.H.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I live in Chicago, there are a few bluegrass jams around the city and suburbs. I wouldn't say theres much of a mando culture around however. At most of the jams I'm the youngest picker by a decade or two. Then again, it's a big city, maybe there is a mando culture and I'm just not tapped into it

  4. #4
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I am of the opinion that with only an occasional exception most areas are devoid of a mandolin culture, whether here or in most parts of Europe.
    I feel rather fortunate here in Pittsburgh as we have one well stocked mandolin music store and an active mandolin orchestra. My wife and I travel extensively throughout the year in a RV and only occasionally run into mandolin pickers (especially those playing something other than Bluegrass).
    But on the upside, as a mandolin player you are usually welcomed to join the other eight guitars in a jam.
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    In Montana, there are both camps of mandolin knowledge. Some people say, "I love the mandolin"...others say "what is that thing?"
    The local shop has some entry through mid level mandolins, but the shop with nice ones is 200 miles away,
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    We have a few regular bluegrass/fiddler gatherings here near SJ CA.

    Gryphon Strings is here too, and they usually have a stock of good mandos to play with.

    I had no idea until I took up the mando though.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    In my area (southeast central Washington, nevergreen side of the Cascades) its kind of a growing musical oasis. I belong to 3 acoustic music organizations and have the opportunity to attend 6 or more jams a month. There are at least 6 mandolin players in my circle of local friends/aquaintances. Next month I'm heading to Spokane (about 130 miles away) for a weekend mandolin Congress at my friend Daniel's place. There will probably be over 50 mando players doing workshops and jamming. We have festivals all over the state all summer and of course Wintergrass in February. My biggest problem is not being able to attend everything I want because of work and family responsibilities.

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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I would have thought North Carolina would have lots of mando culture, lol! KC isn't great, but there are some stores within a reasonable distance that carry small selections of mandolins (Mass Street Music in Lawrence, The Fret Shop near the Plaza (I just learned about the Fret Shop last week since that store showed up on Northfield's site as a distributor)). To be fair, the number of independent music stores has steadily declined in the last decade or so, replaced by Guitar Centers (I only wish that Guitar Centers carried as many mandolins as ukuleles!). The used mandolins in KC Craigs List are typically Ibanez, Rogue, or Michael Kelly. There do seem to be a lot of jams around town and in my experience there are generally at least one or two mandos in attendance. I guess that means that overall I have it lucky!
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  11. #9

    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    You will find that all purpose music stores, if they have any at all, will have one or two mandolins at the bottom of the food chain. A local GC had two. Both were plywood. On a rack with several hundred guitar straps, no mandolin strap. This is normal. Mandolins are right out of the box.

    Now most finer guitar shops, I'm lucky to be near two, will have varying degrees of mandolin inventory. But still, it is a struggle to find a large assortment, and a road trip to Nashville is in order.

    As far as connecting with others, that is harder. Frequent open mics, but there will be a hundred guitar player to every mandolinist. The only shurefire way to find mandolin players is a bluegrass jam. If you are looking for a non bluegrass mandolin culture, lots of luck. Even Celtic sessions, you'd be more authentic with a larger mandolin family instrument.

    But really, I'd be thrilled to be the only mandolin player around. In a room with one other player, I'm bound to be the worst.

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  13. #10
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    But really, I'd be thrilled to be the only mandolin player around. In a room with one other player, I'm bound to be the worst.
    Lol!
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Up (to many of you anyway) here in Ottawa (the Canadian one), we don't have much of a mandolin culture, but bluegrass and Celtic music are popular, so there are a few jams where mandolins are welcome. A few groups have generalized (pop, folk, country, etc.) acoustic jam sessions as well. Our urban area has about a million people, making the population big enough that music stores generally have a few mandolins for sale, not a great selection but I can buy mandolins from $150 to $4,000-plus close to home. However, like other places, we're getting fewer and fewer music stores. To the best of my knowledge, the mandolin was never an important instrument in Canada, though I find a great many people are familiar with mandolins, and generally expect the owner to be a bluegrass musicians. My mother, from rural Prince Edward Island, was quite familiar with mandolins from her youth before the invention of bluegrass, though she never mentioned mandolins being played around her until I took up mine. If you really want to experience obscurity and isolation, take up blues mandolin.
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  16. #12
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    If you can't find anything in Fedvulle, I'm guessing you'd have to drive up to Raleigh.

    Really?

    No, Raleigh.

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Isn't it funny - as a guy from Connecticut, I would have thought that N.C. (being several hundred miles south of here) would have more than its fair share of bluegrass fans and mandolin players. Around here, most people think that a mandolin is a miniature guitar, and the closest thing they know to bluegrass music might be a couple of old Freddy Fender songs . . .

  19. #14
    Registered User Mike Arakelian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I live in NC about two hours east of Raleigh. Like so many other places finding a music store that carries anything but low end mandolins is impossible. I’ve made it a point to know where several very good stores are located that carry a good inventory of mandolins and visit them whenever I travel to those cities. Both of my current mandolins were bought at two of these stores. As a fellow North Carolinian, I would strongly suggest that you make a point to visit IBMA in Raleigh next September. The exhibit hall will have booths including Elderly Music, The Mandolin Store, plus builders such as Sorensen, Pave, Ellis, and others. You’ll be able to pick up and play some very fine instruments in addition to hearing some good music to boot.

    There is a strong music culture in Eastern North Carolina, and open jams are readily available. I play in two to three on a regular basis. The music is varied and not all BG. Mandolins are always welcome, and i’ve Been invited to join one or two jams that were specifically looking for a mandolin player. At my main Saturday morning jam we have two regulars mandolin players (including me), and sometimes have visiting mando players join in. I count myself as very lucky in this regard. If you’re ever up this way, PM me and maybe we can get you to one of the jams.

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  21. #15
    mandonucs John Uhrig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Definitely none here in southern NM. I know of only 2 other people here in town that have a mandolin. I have been able to get with one and play a few duets (mostly John Goodin tunes :D ) and the other person is my violin teacher. (And she hasn't touched hers in years)
    We do have a 'music store', but there is nothing to buy there except for really cheap off brand guitars.
    I have gotten together with a guitar and a banjo player a few times...but I'm not into bluegrass or country.
    I play mostly classical for my own enjoyment.

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  23. #16
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Here in western NC, I get to 3 or 4 jams per week and am usually either the only mandolin player or one of two mandolin players, while 4-8 guitarists strum and play. Oddly, we're pretty short of fiddle players in my area too.

    In the past 12+ years of playing mandolin, I've bought about 15 mandolins (& sold most), but have bought ONLY ONE mandolin from anyone in NC. (Of course, I wasn't in the market for any of the Gibson Loars that live around the area.)

    You have to find special places to be able to play and compare lots of really nice mandolins. Closest to me is Nashville, but as mentioned above, IBMA gives a special chance to try some great instruments.

    Now that I think about it, if I were looking for good mandolins to compare in NC, I'd arrange a visit to Siler City or Mebane. Or go individually to some local luthiers.
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  25. #17
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Oddly, we're pretty short of fiddle players in my area too.
    That's the really hard thing to find in my area, unless you play old time (then you're surrounded by packs of them).

    I'm lucky to live in a spot with a pretty vibrant mando-centric scene. I know at least a dozen other pretty serious players, and a dozen more who have one that they pull out from time to time. As far as brick-and-mortar mandolin stores go - good luck. By my estimation, there's maybe a couple dozen in the entire country that carry an enviable stock. Up to now, all of my decent instruments have been purchased online. But a local luthier is just finishing up a custom build for me, which is another plus of this area.
    Mitch Russell

  26. #18
    Registered User Miltown's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I'd say the upper midwest has a pretty good mandolin culture.

    Michigan, of course, is a great mandolin locale: Elderly, Northfield, Don Julin and Brian Oberlin as resident gurus, Mike Marshall making regular appearances via his connections to Northfield.... and, of course, the history of Gibson in Kalamazoo.

    Chicago, while maybe not a great mandolin city in terms of stores, does have the Old Town School of Folk Music, which is just an awesome place. Mandolin classes, jams, and lots of like-minded people interested in acoustic music.

    And if you're willing to drive an hour and a half north of Chicago, Milwaukee is a pretty awesome mandolin city, too, especially if you're willing to branch out of bluegrass. The Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra is great, and it seems like Carlo Aonzo is now making Milwaukee his summer workshop home. And SE Wisconsin and Madison have a good number of bluegrass jams, if you're not into the classical stuff.

  27. #19
    Mandol'Aisne Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Mandolin culture in norther France? Might be an oxymoron.

    I am the only mandolin player I know of between here and Paris. But I've only been here 3 months. No Bluegrassers either. I'd love to set up a good acoustic band, but the rock scene is so strong here that all the guitarists are electric first.

    Strings? Set up? Gear? Nope. I may have to open my own shop. (And I'm sorely tempted!)

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  29. #20
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I used to live in New York City and played in the NY Mandolin Orchestra in the 1980s with some of the best bluegrassers like Barry Mitterhoff and Wayne Fugate. I now live about and hour or so north of the city so I can still hear some excellent music. There is a fairly active bluegrass club near here and a few other venues for excellent music. The Towne Crier in Beacon and Darryl's Place are two of the larger venues. Friends of mine run house concerts and there are some community square and contra dances. And I run one monthy old time jam at a farm near here and another friend runs another also in Beacon. There are also some Irish sessions close by as well as bluegrass. So as far as hearing or playing music, it is a fairly rich area.

    In terms of buying a mandolin, it is a desert. The chain music stores have very few mandolins and they don't seem to want to set them up for playing. The Sam Ash store has an Epiphone mandolin that still has the thin foam protector under the bridge and there may be a Fender also on the wall that has probably been there for a few years. The GC in Danbury CT is just as bad. Guitars and ukes are OK but the mandolins really are terrible. There is an excellent music store in Beacon (again!) which carries a few mandolins and there are some other vintage stores closer to the city. If I really want to try out mandolins I go to NYC.
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  30. #21
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    The music shop selection of mandolins is nada round here except for student models. Lowe Vintage in Burlington is closest shop to me with nice used mandolin. MandoMutt is further east - I've bought and traded mandolins from him at his home. IBMA expo is a do not miss event for sampling mandolins (as stated above)

    Local jams exist but the best ones are not advertised. If you can ever find a group of local players someone will know the scene. Keep asking. The open jams I've attended have been a mixed bag and I've gone to a few just once. The best jams are small groups imo. I hooked up with one by networking thru pickers who know pickers...

    Come next spring our group RV camp together near MerleFest and pick every night at camp. Some go early and attend Pete Wernick's music camp. Lots of picking there at night and usually leads to meeting more pickers who drop by our camp later in the week at MerleFest. Too much fun

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  32. #22
    All in FredK's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, there's slim pickin's for mandolins. A few jams around but you have to seek them out. The guitar stores around here have a couple of low end mandolins but they have a ton of ukuleles (sold my 30+ year old uke to use towards purchasing my mandolin). The closest store I know of with an inventory is Fiddler's Green in Austin. Planning a road trip in the Spring with the wife. She doesn't play but she supports my habit.
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  33. #23
    Registered User slimt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Up (to many of you anyway) here in Ottawa (the Canadian one), we don't have much of a mandolin culture, but bluegrass and Celtic music are popular, so there are a few jams where mandolins are welcome. A few groups have generalized (pop, folk, country, etc.) acoustic jam sessions as well. Our urban area has about a million people, making the population big enough that music stores generally have a few mandolins for sale, not a great selection but I can buy mandolins from $150 to $4,000-plus close to home. However, like other places, we're getting fewer and fewer music stores. To the best of my knowledge, the mandolin was never an important instrument in Canada, though I find a great many people are familiar with mandolins, and generally expect the owner to be a bluegrass musicians. My mother, from rural Prince Edward Island, was quite familiar with mandolins from her youth before the invention of bluegrass, though she never mentioned mandolins being played around her until I took up mine. If you really want to experience obscurity and isolation, take up blues mandolin.
    Yep nothing in the way of to much up here .cant say any more either without getting neg feedback.
    :D

  34. #24

    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    Yes, there are many ukes for sale. $50 can buy you a playable instrument, $400 a very well made great sounding Uke, and there are some $3000 works of art. But try going into a music store and finding even the $400 instrument. I love ukes just for the fact more people are playing music.

    The two fine stores I go into, Sylvan in Santa Cruz and Gryphon in Palo Alto, stock Hawaiian Koa instruments in the over $1000 range. It's no coincidence they both carry inventories of mandolins too.

    There is an old time music group that meets once a month. 2/3 guitars, but usually a few mandolins, banjos, and a dobro or two, and since it's a fiddler's association, quite a few fiddles.

    But city or country, we each have to make our culture. After all, most folk based music was created and passed on on back porches, with the occasional dance. Family bands were created out of necessity.
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  36. #25
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Not much of a mando culture in my area

    I guess i've been lucky -- Acoustic Music in Guilford is a 40-minute ride (give or take) and they have a great selection; and NYC is an hour by train. The ITM sessions I attend can vary from me to 3 mandolins and even when i travel, i've been able to find a session and usually another mandolin. i know of at least 2 old time jams in the area (although i've never actually attended either and the area has to expand to include lower/central Massachusetts). there are 2 people in my office who play mandolin and there was at least one other mandolin/banjo player in my own job (i dunno, maybe journalism attracts mandolinists?) plus there's the NYC mandolin orchestra, the Carlo Aonza mandolin workshops (alas, now moved from NYC but still available) on the classical side. i have no information on bluegrass jams, though, since i don't play it, although I have easy access to a couple bluegrass camps in the area.
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