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Thread: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

  1. #1

    Default Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Hello Mandolin Cafe members,

    I just registered with the Cafe and this is my first post. However, Iíve been reading posts on this forum for quite some time and learned a lot from the discussions here. For this reason, I thought I would share my experience in the following topic, and ask other members for theirs.

    Iíve been experimenting a lot lately with the use of effects on acoustic mandolins, inspired by musicians like Jason Bailey and Jamie Masefield. I find the sounds one gets with using acoustic mandolins with effect pedals fascinating and under exploited, leaving a lot of room for one to try new things.

    My gear includes a Collings MT2-O mandolin, a Jimmy Moon A2 mandolin, and a Morgan Lewis octave mandolin. Both mandolins are fitted with internal K&K twin pickups. I am not sure what pickup the octave mandolin has, could be a Fishman.

    For amps, I used a Black Star B.E.A.M. for a while for its versatility, then switched to an Orange Crush amp. Pedals include an L.R. Baggs Venue D.I. preamp, several Electro-Harmonix pedals (Turnips Green for overdrive and reverb, Cock Fight for Fuzz and Wah, Pitch Fork for pitch shifter, Tone Corset for compression, Canyon for delay, Freeze for note sustain), and several Mooer pedals (Funky Monkey for auto wah, Orange 90 for phaser, Elec Lady for flanger, Slow Engine for volume swells). I also have a Boss volume pedal with high impedance.

    Iíve used many pedal combinations and changed the order of pedals on the pedal board many times. Here are the main points I noticed:

    1-What is recommended for electric guitar might not necessarily work for acoustic mandolin. The classic recommendation is to put dirt after pitch shifter or wah, but I placed the overdrive pedals before the pitch shifter and wah and got fantastic sounds. The trick is to adjust the volume and gain levels to minimize feedback. Additionally, dirt pedals will give the signal coming from the mandolin a great boost, which enhances the effect of the following pedal.

    2. If the mandolin signal is going straight into non-dirt effects, a preamp with EQ functions is very helpful, as it boosts the signal and sets the tonal characteristics of the sound that will be manipulated by the effect pedals.

    3-A compression pedal is a must, particularly when using the wah effect, as high notes might result in a very unpleasant shriek. The compressor helps tone these down. Compression might also help fattening the tone when using a phaser or a flanger, and tone down the highs with these effects as well. This is crucial if using an oval hole mandolin (with all its overtones). Compression is also absolutely necessary for the cool volume swells, since the mandolin has very short note sustain.

    4-With auto wah, keeping the range setting low gives a wonderful vocal quality to the mandolin sound.

    5-Sometimes, if compression is unwanted, using the ďnaturalĒ compression of a dirt pedal can result in really nice sounds. For example, turning the tone knob down on a fuzz pedal while turning the gain knob up makes the mandolin sound like a beast. Best if used with a ďcocked wahĒ (one gets a Frank Zappa-ish sound).

    6-If using an F-hole mandolin, one can use simple tricks to minimize feedbacks (I placed socks in the sound hole and pretty much killed all feedback). It might be a bit trickier with an oval hole mandolin. Adjusting the gain level on preamp while isolating frequencies prone to feedback helps. The L.R. Baggs Venue D.I allows to do both of these things; however, the frequency culprits might change depending on the room or venue one is playing at. A simpler trick is to place the amp at an angle where the sound coming out of it does not hit the mandolin in a straight fashion, or even to place the amp behind the playerís body, so the body act as a buffer.

    Iíve included links to an album I recorded at home, where I used some most of the effects I mentioned on a few tracks (#3, 4 , 5, 11, 13). If anyone has any comments and suggestions to make, or some advice to give on this topic I would greatly appreciate it.

    https://samernassif.bandcamp.com/releases
    https://soundcloud.com/samer-nassif-...-well-of-ideas


    Cheers

    Samer

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  3. #2
    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Interesting. So what order are your pedals?

    For your third point are you putting compression after the flanger?

  4. #3

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Hello OneChordTrick.

    The Turnips Greens has a loop option which I use. Both the Turnip Greens and Cock Fight pedals have a switch that enable you to flip the order of the effects (i.e. overdrive before/after reverb, Fuzz before/after wah). My most recent pedal order is the following:

    1- L.R. Baggs Venue D.I.
    2- Pitch Fork
    3- Turnip Greens (overdrive first)

    Then I send a loop out of the Turnip Greens into

    4-Cock Fight
    5-Elec Lady
    6-Funky Monkey
    7- Orange 90
    8- Tone Corset
    9- Slow Engine
    10- Boss Volume pedal

    Then back into the Turnips Greens (return loop)

    11- Turnip Greens (reverb)
    12- Canyon
    13- Freeze

    I used to have the L.R. Baggs at the end and used its E.Q. features to regulate the overall sound (after the effects), but I recently moved it to the front and use its gain feature to boost the original signal. Couple this with very mild overdrive and reverb and you can get a beautiful semi-acoustic sound.

    To answer your question, the compressor pedal is placed after the flanger, but I try to avoid using it with the flanger as I find it kills the effect a bit. I might have it on if I am using the flanger as color rather than a full effect. Otherwise it's mild overdrive with flanger and some E.Q. tweaking.

  5. #4
    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Thanks!

  6. #5

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Listened to your tune, it’s very nice.

    Can’t imagine 13 pedals though. Good job.
    Play it like you mean it.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Thank you Bill. The idea behind those 13 pedals was to try most the basic effects. Most effect pedals out there are some kind of variation on these 13 basic effects. I did not get into stuff like ring modulation, though. Cheers!

  8. #7
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    I don't have a mandolin with any type of pickup. I do have the Pure Western Mini in my 00-18 GE. I also have a Nocturne Mystery Brain. It is an incredible pedal. I have considered putting the Pure twin pickups in my A just to try it with the MB. The MB is based on the Roland re301 Space Echo and its preamp. Might be worth looking into. I don't have the funds to currently put pups in mine to try it but once I do it will be the first pedal I try.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    I may be an old fuddy duddy, and don't get me wrong, I played in rock bands all my life and have spent my share on pedals, but why would you want to take the incredible sound of something like an MT O and process the hell out of it? To my mind you'd be far better off getting a mandostrat as your starting point. Get as loud as you want without feedback issues. Fuzz and modulate to your heart's content.
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  10. #9
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    That is certainly something to think about.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  11. #10
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Have a Y'ha AG stomp multi EFX pedal , it has a collection of reverb processes, making a pickup signal fuller ,

    made for acoustic-electric guitars to sound , as they say, like playing thru a Mic.
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  12. #11

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Hello John.

    I was not familiar with the MB so I checked out some videos of it on Youtube. It certainly is a powerful pedal and I am sure you will get lots of interesting sounds if used with a mandolin. Again, it's all about finding the right E.Q. settings and effect levels.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I may be an old fuddy duddy, and don't get me wrong, I played in rock bands all my life and have spent my share on pedals, but why would you want to take the incredible sound of something like an MT O and process the hell out of it? To my mind you'd be far better off getting a mandostrat as your starting point. Get as loud as you want without feedback issues. Fuzz and modulate to your heart's content.
    Hello Br1ck,

    You make a good point and I can't say that I disagree with you. However, it all started with me when I needed to plug in to play live gigs (I was in a band with guitar, tabla, and saxophone, and we played in pubs and bars). Once I got the K&K pickups installed and saw all the doors that opened in front of me, I started experimenting with sounds. As beautiful as the acoustic sound of the MTO is, you still need to amplify this mandolin when playing live, especially if playing with louder instruments. Additionally, adding effects gave some of the tunes we were playing entirely new dimensions. While it is much easier to buy an electric mandolin and use it with effects, I did not want to constantly switch instruments between songs, so I had to find ways or settings to make all these pedals sound good with my MTO. Besides, I found the sound of the "processed" MTO interesting, new, and unconventional, which drove me to experiment more with it.

    On the other, I recently ordered a Godin A8 mandolin, which is somewhat an electric mandolin but with a sound that has some acoustic properties. This mandolin was recommended to me by the great Don Julin during a Skype lesson I once had with him. Don uses the Godin quite often. I haven't received it yet, so I am not sure if it will become my main "live instrument" or not. Will have to wait and see.

  14. #13

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    Have a Y'ha AG stomp multi EFX pedal , it has a collection of reverb processes, making a pickup signal fuller ,

    made for acoustic-electric guitars to sound , as they say, like playing thru a Mic.
    Hello Mandroid,

    I am not familiar with the pedal you use. When I first started, I used a Zoom multi EFX pedal that worked fine. But as my ears got used to the sound of an amplified mandolin, I started preferring the sound of analog effects to digital ones. I agree with you about the reverb thing. Amplified mandolins need some reverb or they sound too dry and thin.

  15. #14
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by SRNassif View Post
    Hello John.

    I was not familiar with the MB so I checked out some videos of it on Youtube. It certainly is a powerful pedal and I am sure you will get lots of interesting sounds if used with a mandolin. Again, it's all about finding the right E.Q. settings and effect levels.

    I have sold some guitar pedals to fund my Nocture desires over the last couple years. I have never actually thought, until this thread, to put the K&K pups in my mandolin. I am now consdierign it. I have a fine guitar pedal chain that might be a blast to experiment with. But as I mentioned the MB would be first and probably the Big Sky and Nail head close after then the jangle box, which is probably seriously over the top for a mandolin but hey you don't know until you try. I currently have no desire to try and of the other fuzz or preamp boxes I have on a mandolin. But reverb and trem with some compression and the MB could be a very good experimental time. This naturally leads to my next question, just how do you like the pups in your mandolin? I love the K&K in my 000-18, very natural sounding, well until I get silly and add in the boxes.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  16. #15

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    I have sold some guitar pedals to fund my Nocture desires over the last couple years. I have never actually thought, until this thread, to put the K&K pups in my mandolin. I am now consdierign it. I have a fine guitar pedal chain that might be a blast to experiment with. But as I mentioned the MB would be first and probably the Big Sky and Nail head close after then the jangle box, which is probably seriously over the top for a mandolin but hey you don't know until you try. I currently have no desire to try and of the other fuzz or preamp boxes I have on a mandolin. But reverb and trem with some compression and the MB could be a very good experimental time. This naturally leads to my next question, just how do you like the pups in your mandolin? I love the K&K in my 000-18, very natural sounding, well until I get silly and add in the boxes.
    The K&K internal pickup works very well with my MT2-O. I also have one on my MT (f hole ) mandolin and it sounds pretty good. The two things I would recommend is to glue the transducers instead of using the double-sided adhesive tape (way better sound when glued), and to have a luthier install the pickup for you. It is particularly difficult to install the pickup on an oval hole (not much room to maneuver), so it's best to have a pro do it.

  17. #16
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    I have glued all of mine in. I have worked on a few instruments enough that I have no doubt I can install the K&K in my mando. Do you belive there is a better pup for a mandolin? Thanks!
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  18. #17

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    The K&K was recommended to me by couple of great mandolin players I took Skype lessons with, namely Don Julin and Steve Smith. Therefore, I never really considered buying or trying other pickups. Jason Bailey uses a Fishman bridge pickup with his MT. He once told me that while the K&K sounds more acoustic, the Fishman is less prone to feedback. The Jimmy Moon mandolin I bought came with a K&K pickup already installed, so I didn't have to think about what to do with that instrument. I once saw a Youtube video of Sierra Hull playing an L.R. Baggs pickup which she seemed satisfied with. Last, I tried the Myers microphone pickups for a while. These do give you a very nice acoustic sound, but they were very prone to feedback, were pretty quiet, and need batteries to work. I had to put socks in the F-Holes of my MT (to lose the feedback) and crank the volume up when playing live with the Myers. They might work best in small rooms or when recording. Other than these, I don't know other mandolin pickup.

  19. #18

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    I am a multi-pedal guy myself, but never got a 13 pedal effect chain going, I don't think even a Helix can go that far.

    I think it's cool to do this. The versatility of the mandolin never ceases to amaze.

    One of Ozzie's lead guitarists played an acoustic guitar into a full effects chain, amazing player too.
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  20. #19

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Different instrument, but when playing in the open air I like to use some reverb.
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  21. #20
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Interesting thread.

    I've run my Rigel thru a few of the pedals for my electric board, as well as the Crafter. The Baggs Venue is always at the start of my acoustic chain. My experience running the BYOC Ross comp and the DOD 280 comp with the Rigel was unpleasant. I know that the TC BodyRez is well regarded for comp by acoustic guitarists, and had thought to try it out but then didn't.

    I find in general the discontinued Fishman AFX pedals sound great with both of these acoustic instruments. OTOH, the pedals on my electric board were somewhat hit-and-miss with them.

    One important point regarding fx on acoustic instruments is the amp choice. My Fishman Loudbox 100 Pro-LBX-400 would be severely unhappy with any dirt pedals. My sense is the gain would blow the tweeter. The OP's Orange Crush is fine for his chain.
    Axes: Rigel A Natural #1774 w/mods, Andrew Jerman Irwin-style 5 string electric "Stealie", Eastman 515, Crafter M85E, Dillion 335 style, Grandmom's solid-mahogany teens bent-top, Baglamas 002
    Boards: Acoustic Electric
    Amps: Fishman Loudbox 100; Rivera Clubster Royale Recording Head; Laney Cub 10 & Cab, Peavey Studio Pro

  22. #21

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    I am a multi-pedal guy myself, but never got a 13 pedal effect chain going, I don't think even a Helix can go that far.

    I think it's cool to do this. The versatility of the mandolin never ceases to amaze.

    One of Ozzie's lead guitarists played an acoustic guitar into a full effects chain, amazing player too.
    Exactly! I think it was Don Stiernberg who called the mandolin "an all-purpose instrument".

  23. #22

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Greenspoon View Post
    Interesting thread.

    I've run my Rigel thru a few of the pedals for my electric board, as well as the Crafter. The Baggs Venue is always at the start of my acoustic chain. My experience running the BYOC Ross comp and the DOD 280 comp with the Rigel was unpleasant. I know that the TC BodyRez is well regarded for comp by acoustic guitarists, and had thought to try it out but then didn't.

    I find in general the discontinued Fishman AFX pedals sound great with both of these acoustic instruments. OTOH, the pedals on my electric board were somewhat hit-and-miss with them.

    One important point regarding fx on acoustic instruments is the amp choice. My Fishman Loudbox 100 Pro-LBX-400 would be severely unhappy with any dirt pedals. My sense is the gain would blow the tweeter. The OP's Orange Crush is fine for his chain.
    Thank you for this information. It's sometimes challenging to find pedals that work well with an acoustic mandolin, but it is certainly worth the effort.

  24. #23
    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    The mandolinist I saw on Saturday night used a few pedals to great effect: EQ, looper, chorus, octave and reverb IIRC.

    The key is to use them sparingly - although you can get some interesting sounds if you crank all the effects up to 11. But it probably won't sound like a mandolin....

  25. #24
    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    SRNassif

    I just jumped around your band camp recording and really dug what I heard. I maybe hear a bit of Julin influence. I will listen some more. Thanks for posting.

  26. #25

    Default Re: Experience in Using Effects on Acoustic Mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry View Post
    SRNassif

    I just jumped around your band camp recording and really dug what I heard. I maybe hear a bit of Julin influence. I will listen some more. Thanks for posting.
    Thank you Perry. Glad you liked it.

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