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Thread: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

  1. #1
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Excuse me for the long post. I am trying to clarify what I am looking for:

    So - I am looking for a quality mandolin, preferable new, with an "open" sound, long sustain, bright tops (but not buzzy) and "full" basses.
    I play mostly Greek and Irish music, so I am not looking for the woody, choppy sound of bluegrass mandolins.

    I listened to some oval-hole mandolins on Youtube - Big-Muddy, Kentucky k272 and Collings MTO but did not like the sound much, each mandolin for its own reasons.
    On the other hand, I heard some great sounding bandolims, such as Brasinilson Do Souto and Del Vechio who had the sound I am looking for.
    For example:
    https://youtu.be/OfxrJbH95go

    I live in Israel and we have practically no good mandolins here. It is also very hard to mail-order an instrument here, as almost no shops send mandolins to Israel and our postal service is outrageous, they'll probably break it or lose it.
    I have a friend visiting from the States and wanted to ask him to bring me an instrument. So unfortunately, I cannot try the instrument myself and will have to order something to my friend's home in the States and have him bring it to me.

    Could someone recommend me a mandolin that sounds similar to what I describe?
    Could be an American brand but does not have to be.

    On the other hand, does anybody know of a Brazilian Luthier or good shop on the web that I could safely order a high quality Bandolim from (to the US)? The threads on MandolinCafe about buying bandolims are rather old.

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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    I'm surprised to hear you say that there are no good mandolins in Israel. Avi Avital has a beautiful mandolin that was made by a man in Israel. Are you familiar with Avi? What do you think of the sound of his mandolin?

    As far as recommending any South American luthiers, I don't know any personally. But I'm sure someone else on here will know something helpful.

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    Registered User Jim DeSalvio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    I have a Big Muddy flat top, oval hole, with a cedar top over rosewood (I know, unusual wood combination), that might be what you are looking for. It is a simple design, and sounds wonderful. Here is a link to the website:

    http://www.bigmuddymandolin.com/

    Mike Dulak will build you what you want.

    Otherwise, consider an Eastman.

    Jim D
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    Registered User MoreThanQuinn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Rusty’s thought was my first thought as well. If I were in Israel, I’d be doing everything I could to get my hands on a Kerman mandolin (the kind Avi plays). However, from what I can tell they have a very specific sound - perhaps not for everyone. And I’d imagine they’re quite expensive. Nonetheless, I love what I’ve heard.

    Anyway, I wish I had some insight for you. Good luck, whatever route you choose! Let us know what you get.
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    For an Oval hole check out a Girouard on you tube ! Fantastic oval hole !
    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 !

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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims


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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Kerman is retired from instrument making.

    Giannini bandolims can be affordable versions of what you are looking for.

    Also you could check out Ashbury mandolins, the ones with the “onion shaped” bodies.
    Don

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Yes, most of the virtuosos play Kerman mandolin. His web site is still up but is only one page with an email link.

    I think I may have emailed him many years ago and the prce was around $7000USD.

    Sevelos: you might tell us what price range you are looking at. Also, does your friend play mandolin and where does he live? I would suggest that you contact a dealer near to him that could work with you in advance to get you what you want. You only mention new mandolins. If it were me I would also consider a good Gibson A from the late teens or twenties.

    For instance, Marla Fibish:


    Or (I think) Jill McAuley:

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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Yes, most of the virtuosos play Kerman mandolin. His web site is still up but is only one page with an email link.

    I think I may have emailed him many years ago and the prce was around $7000USD.

    Sevelos: you might tell us what price range you are looking at. Also, does your friend play mandolin and where does he live? I would suggest that you contact a dealer near to him that could work with you in advance to get you what you want. You only mention new mandolins. If it were me I would also consider a good Gibson A from the late teens or twenties.

    For instance, Marla Fibish:


    Or (I think) Jill McAuley:

    That video with the A3 is actually Frederic aka Tergal, a cafe member and AWESOME player!
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Sevelos,
    שלום וברוכים הבאים

    I have many fond memories of my time on Kibbutz Yagur many years ago!

    I do have some idea of what you want -- I'm looking for something similar myself!

    Since you're in Tel Aviv, I'd recommend contacting Boaz Elkayam.
    https://www.facebook.com/boaz.elkayam
    I have not seen him make mandolins -- his background is classical guitar -- but from what I see, he's a skilled luthier, creative and experimental. He often plays a multi-course guitar of his own design.

    another builder who interests me, although I haven't played his instruments is Irish builder Siveen:
    https://www.siveenmandolins.com/
    I don't know how you could work out the logistics, but his instruments seem affordable, and there are lots of videos of his mandolins.

    Good luck with your search!

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  14. #11
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Thanks everybody for the feedback.

    MoreThanQuinn and Multidon - as far as I know Arik Kerman is indeed retired (hope he is still alive and healthy). His mandolins indeed have a unique, very wooden sound, which is not what I am looking for. I played once a mandolin he built and did not like it much.

    Blues Healer - thank you for your welcome! I know Boaz Elkayam personally, and he is a very talented guitar luthier. As far as I know he has built only one mandolin, which I was not lucky enough to try. Regarding Siveen - I was considering him, his instruments seem interesting and there are several demos on Youtube, out of which I liked the sound of one (but not the others).

    Jim Garber - I guess my price range is up to $2000, but for this price the instrument should be really awesome. I'll gladly settle for a cheaper one I think usually oval-hole instruments are cheaper than F holes as most of them have flat-tops and are not hand-carved.
    Unfortunately, my friend is not a musician so he cannot evaluate an instrument in any way. This is also the reason I prefer a new mandolin, as my friend is unable to check an old instrument for problems.
    He lives in Berkeley, California.
    Marla Fibishe's A-Gibson mandolin indeed sounds good. Unfortunately, as I wrote, I am afraid of letting my friend buy a used instrument for me, even if there was one for sale for my price range.

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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    That video with the A3 is actually Frederic aka Tergal, a cafe member and AWESOME player!
    Apologies to you Jill! You are bikemutt. It is hard to keep track of you folks who use aliases.

    All right, then. Here is Jill/Bikemutt playing a sweet sounding reel on a snakehead A-Jr.

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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Quote Originally Posted by Sevelos View Post
    Jim Garber - I guess my price range is up to $2000, but for this price the instrument should be really awesome. I'll gladly settle for a cheaper one I think usually oval-hole instruments are cheaper than F holes as most of them have flat-tops and are not hand-carved.
    Unfortunately, my friend is not a musician so he cannot evaluate an instrument in any way. This is also the reason I prefer a new mandolin, as my friend is unable to check an old instrument for problems.
    He lives in Berkeley, California.
    Marla Fibishe's A-Gibson mandolin indeed sounds good. Unfortunately, as I wrote, I am afraid of letting my friend buy a used instrument for me, even if there was one for sale for my price range.
    Perhaps someone from the Cafe could be near to the seller/dealer of a mandolin in consideration. I am sure there are many Mandolin Cafe folks in the Berkeley and San Francisco area who could possibly help out.

    In addition, I still think if you deal with a reputable dealer it might not matter whether the mandolin is vintage or brand new. Check out dealers on this site and contact ones who have what you want. Even for a brand new instrument it is always better to have set up done by a good shop. I still think you can do very well with an old Gibson A as long as it was checked over and set up by a reputable shop.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Quote Originally Posted by Sevelos View Post
    Unfortunately, my friend is not a musician so he cannot evaluate an instrument in any way. This is also the reason I prefer a new mandolin, as my friend is unable to check an old instrument for problems.
    Remember that with mandolins, new does not guarantee no issues, and used does not necessarily mean "beat up." For instance, if you buy an instrument from one of our Cafe members, such as Folkmusician.com, you are thoroughly notified about the condition of the instrument, new or used. Plus, an expert setup is included in the price of most of their instruments. Many times a player thinks a newly purchased instrument is bad, but with an appropriate setup, it becomes a jewel.

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    Registered User MoreThanQuinn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    I second that.

    My first purchasing experience was a used mandolin set up by Robert at FolkMusicoan. I couldnít have been happier. Especially when I think about all the poorly set up and terribly intonated mandolins I have played (both new and used) in shops. Iím glad I didnít end up with one of those. They are quite literally unplayable.
    Robertís set up was a joy.
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Hi there, I was on a search for an instrument much like you describe for a while and almost bought a bandolim by the German luthier Hermann Grafe (But I went in the opposite direction and bought an F style)
    There are currently three for sale at the New Acoustic Gallery in Germany, if you google it. I think they'll have no problems shipping to Israel. They range in price from 1500-1890 euros.
    I can't recommend from experience but I read somewhere on this forum that another MC user has one and said it was very good.
    Andy

    edit* sorry I didn't read carefully enough about your concerns for postage to Israel, and these bandolims are sold without a case.

  23. #17
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    MichaelThompson and MoreThanQuinn - thanks for recommending folkmusician.com, however it seems almost all of their oval-hole mandolins are marked as "sold-out" (they also don't have any used oval-holes, per your recommendations).
    Frankly, I don't understand why they bother showing so many sold-out instruments in their catalog.

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    Default Re: Needing advice about oval-hole mandolins and bandolims

    Quote Originally Posted by Sevelos View Post
    . . . I listened to some oval-hole mandolins on Youtube . . . .
    The sounds of online recordings tell me nothing. I really have to play an instrument myself to know whether I'll like the sound - and, of course, the feel.

    For instance, my humble Mid-Missouri (the old name for Big Muddy) has a much more open sound than my more expensive A-style mando. And it's loud.

    I love 'em both - and both would sound pretty much the same on Youtube.

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