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Thread: Mystery of the Magical Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Mystery of the Magical Mandolin

    Killing some time at Crossroads Music in Port Townsend while waiting for my daughter I tried out #165 from a local builder, James Curtis. This is an A style body with f holes like quarter note rests and both sides and back are Koa.

    Two features immediately stood out. This was the lightest mandolin I had ever picked up and the loudest. Louder than Gibsons, Webers, everything on the wall at Dusty Strings. Among the mandolins at Dusty Strings was #156 from James Curtis seemingly identical to #165 but not as light and not as loud. The main physical difference was that the back of #156 had vertical grain which matched the spruce top while the koa on the back of#165 had grain which was twenty degrees off vertical.

    Back at Crossroads I now saw an explanation which made sense to me but which more experienced forum members might have deeper insight into. While loudest overall playing open and chop chords, the lowest octave played as single notes was very low volume. It would seem that this particular mandolin was optimized in frequencies which the human ear is most sensitive to and hears the loudest.

    In a drum (I have much more experience with drums) with a less rigid shell the energy of the vibrating head is dissipated and lower volume results. So my theory is that the greater energy of the heavier G and D strings overwhelms the light body and dissipates the energy whereas the lighter A and E strings have the optimal synergy with the light body and produce extraordinarily high volume.

    I should add that both instruments were beautiful fine instruments from a builder who loves to experiment with different ideas. Priced used at $1000, #165 and $1200, #156 they seem to me to be good values. My interest in this is in no way meant to diminish the builder or his instruments.

  2. The following members say thank you to Greg P. Stone for this post:

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