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Thread: New mandolin for an old man

  1. #26

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by Potosimando View Post
    Man, I just now jumped onto the Mandolin-Cafe website before heading to bed, as I often do, and saw: “New mandolin for an old man”. My first thought was that this was a “want ad” (someone wanting to trade, WTT, their new mandolin for an old man)…my immediate reaction being, “I’m history if my wife sees that ad”.

    Then I wondered for a second, if maybe the trade was the other-way-around, thinking that my wife might propose to trade my new mandolin for another old man. My thought then was, "Well maybe if the new old man played the guitar or something, or maybe if he played pinochle, then the three of us…"

    Once I realized that I was on the “Forum” tab and not on the “Classifieds” tab, I breathed a sigh of relief. A trade either way just seemed too complicated as to how that all might work out.
    Like all good Swede boys, I do play pinochle and will throw in an AARP membership to sweeten the deal... ��

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  3. #27

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    I've been all over string tension, sustain, ease of play, and have gone farther than most down that road, meaning explored to unreasonable (to some) levels of excess. Taller fets, veery very light strings, all these help.

    My hands aren't huge either. 2 7/8 is a bit shorter than mine depending on how you measure. It's the pinky that matters though.

    I find string spacing makes more difference than neck width, that said I don't like necks wider than 1 1/4 or less than 1 1/8, and generally cut new nuts when I have a playability issue. I have made eastman 1 3/32 necks work well with a new nut. I made the courses narrower so there was more space between the courses. I was having issues with muting adjacent strings when playing classical music.

    I like low string tensions 12-15 lbs, instruments need a setup for strings that light.

    Oval holes will have more sustain and bass than f holes, but only a little. Om's are great for that.

    Om's for the same string tenson are slightly easier to play IMHO. But converting to a tenor guitar (4 string) but with similar tension strings really made a bigger difference.

    For melodic work I don`t like scale lengths greater than 18", and recently restrung an 18" electric mandola to be an OM with great success. It's still a reach for some things though, everything is faster on the shorter scale of a mando.

    The longest sustain will be found on electrics, and the purest tone will be on a 4 string, but they will sound like a high pitched electric guitar. 2 strings per course is necessary to get the sound of a mandolin.

    I can't play guitar very well, so having guitar-like sounds in my mando collection is important to me, but likely not to guitar players. I can claim to be a tenor guitar player...

    I find 2 strings per course makes less sense as you go lower, the bass gets thin and muddy at the same time, but that sound is used in many types of music.

    Of the two cheap but good acoustic OM's out there (trinity college and eastman) the TC is much more bassy, and still has a nice short scale length. It will not play in tune untill you restring it with plain steels on the A course, or get a new saddle. I simply restrung mine, and found it sounded more guitar-like with flats, while still retaining some of the mando character. Ultimately it became a 4 string tenor guitar with a new bridge.

    Pono makes some nice guitar-bodied oms too, but scale length goes up a bit.

    Personally I think if you are going to learn mando, you should qet a mando, or maybe a mandola. An OM wont lend itself well to mando literature, but if you want something for rhythm accompaniment it will do well.
    I’m in awe of the amount of research you’ve done and all the specifics, which are really helpful and transcend generalities. I’m going to take my time digesting this. Thank you.

  4. #28

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Quoted for truth. Thank you for sharing your story!

    My simple advice would be to buy the instrument which inspires you to achieve that mastery.

    If it is the mandolin, I would suggest that a flattop makes a wonderful starter. Because they are less time consuming to produce, it is possible to buy an instrument built entirely of solid woods by an independent luthier or small shop right here in the U.S. I started on a Mid-Missouri (now Big Muddy), and a beautiful one hit the classifieds here recently:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/141809#141809

    I also owned a Flatiron pancake (which Br1ck recommended upthread) that sounded great:

    https://reverb.com/item/25240141-flatiron-1n

    If it is the octave mandolin that speaks to you, then the best choice in your price range is probably the Eastman:

    https://reverb.com/item/26086049-eas...-tobacco-burst

    His asking price ($660 shipped) seems a little high considering that you can get one new for $699, so I’d recommend an offer (as four others have apparently done). Or, if budget is not truly a limiting factor, there is always this one apparently looking for a good home:

    https://www.guitarcenter.com/Used/In...AR-Mandolin.gc

    They do offer special 6 month financing, after all. Life is short. Use the fine china.

    Yeah, that vintage $2k Bayard is a beauty! But I think I find myself leaning back toward starting with a mandolin and mastering some basics and then graduate to a fine OM instrument like that if I’ve been diligent. Then I’d be willing to spend those kinds of bucks. You’ve listed links for a couple of excellent candidates - I appreciate the time you spent digging them out. The Loar LM 590 also looks possible - it’s the 520, but without that protruding Florida peninsula. I’m really grateful for your help and interest. (Of course I may waffle back to the fine china of that 2k OM by tomorrow on impulse ����)

  5. #29

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Scott View Post
    OK, I’m an old man (72), but I have been playing a while. I’m going to recommend (although it’s totally your-the OP-decision) a mandolin vs an octave to start. More learning resources, better selection and to me at least portability. As to a recommendation as to which to buy, that’s a totally personal decision. Flat tops do offer a good bang for the buck (Big Muddy, Flatiron, Morris, etc) or Kentucky or Eastman as entry level instruments are also a great place to start (NFI on any of these). Just this old hack’s worthless $.02!

    Thanks. My thinking has also headed in the direction you recommend. I just posted same to pheffernan.

  6. #30

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Don't forget the benefits of a good brain workout, and nothing stimulates more areas of the brain than playing an instrument. As we age it is important to keep mentally active.

    Absolutely! I’m a shrink by profession, albeit retired, and I’m taking that advice I used to dispense for a fee... ��

  7. #31

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Who's aging? I refuse!

    Seriously though it also does a good job of soothing the soul.
    It always has for me. I can’t imagine a day without some music listened to or played.

  8. #32
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by glaxelson View Post
    It always has for me. I can’t imagine a day without some music listened to or played.
    For me it has always been a good book on the most stressful days or even a good RPG, no I'm no kid, but a nice round of demon-slaying calms me down, maybe it's just how we Jarheads are wired. Music also helps but not nearly as well. I have to be in a mood to receive it for it to work. Perhaps because I am still learning a lot and the mistakes I make when playing can make a bad day worse but if I'm on the day becomes golden!
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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

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  10. #33

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    I would buy the Savannah SA 120 and get new machine heads. Over the last 10 years I've had a good dozen of these through my hands and with maybe just a couple of exceptions, they have all sounded as good as mandolins 4 times the price. Loud and have a lovely quality tone. I've owned literally hundreds of mandolins in last 50 years (currently Northfield Big Mon) so this is not beginner enthusiasm. I can speak from experience. The SA 120 is a great mandolin and I carry one as a spare when our mandolin band is playing, just in case anyone breaks a string during performance. I wouldn't carry a poor mandolin.

    I put a set of Schallers on my SA 120 because the mandolin is worth it. Honestly it is. The other Savannahs are pretty poor but I have found the SA 120 to be a really good mandolin for beginner and certainly intermediate.

  11. #34
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by glaxelson View Post
    Iím 75 and taking up mandolin as a total beginner.
    Nothing to add except to say bravo on this. 75 and still learning. You're an inspiration.
    "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility." -Longfellow

  12. #35

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    When I hear hair cutters talk about old people cancellations on a rainy day, I vow to not do that. I vow not to go home by nine o'clock either. I have friends who don't pick up anything over twenty pounds too. They say they can't. They have trained their bodies not to. Now at 68 most everything physical is harder, including playing mandolin. And of course some have arthritis, but so many just decide it's too hard.

    So it is that much more commendable to undertake learning mandolin at 75.

    Gives me inspiration to go build that little wooden sailboat.
    Silverangel A
    Michael Kelly LSFTB
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  13. #36
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    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    I'm getting older (64) but refuse to grow up. I just started mandolin 4 years ago, but progress is slow as I am still working full-time. You can do this! Find a nice instrument and give it a go!

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  15. #37
    Mando Training Wheels kegcrowe's Avatar
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    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    I have a morris flattop that was my first (really good) mandolin (still have,still love). There's a used A in the classifieds that I really want, even though I have an awesome SilverAngel. So please buy it so that I won't

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/141936#141936

    geez 450 HELP

  16. #38

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    Nothing to add except to say bravo on this. 75 and still learning. You're an inspiration.
    Thank you for your kind words.

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  18. #39

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by kegcrowe View Post
    I have a morris flattop that was my first (really good) mandolin (still have,still love). There's a used A in the classifieds that I really want, even though I have an awesome SilverAngel. So please buy it so that I won't

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/141936#141936

    geez 450 HELP
    LOL - I would but I finally settled on a mandolin today. I'll post particulars below

  19. #40

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    I'm getting older (64) but refuse to grow up. I just started mandolin 4 years ago, but progress is slow as I am still working full-time. You can do this! Find a nice instrument and give it a go!
    Thanks for the encouragement. And I did find a nice instrument today after obsessing the hell out of the decision. I'll post below. What a great bunch of people on this forum!

  20. #41

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    When I hear hair cutters talk about old people cancellations on a rainy day, I vow to not do that. I vow not to go home by nine o'clock either. I have friends who don't pick up anything over twenty pounds too. They say they can't. They have trained their bodies not to. Now at 68 most everything physical is harder, including playing mandolin. And of course some have arthritis, but so many just decide it's too hard.

    So it is that much more commendable to undertake learning mandolin at 75.

    Gives me inspiration to go build that little wooden sailboat.
    https://www.instructables.com/id/How...Wood-Sailboat/

    I want a ride when you're done! :-)

  21. #42

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Thanks to all of you for your very helpful specific suggestions and all the warm encouragement you've offered me in this forum chain. I have felt welcomed by new friends and am glad to be among you.

    I bought a mandolin on Thursday. (Yessssss!)

    I seriously considered good counsel about starting with a flat top, as well as moving directly to an octave mandolin which captured my my early interest. But finally I narrowed my choices to four traditional instruments - the Loar LM-520 and three Eastman instruments - the MD-315, the MD-504 and the MD-505. I pretty much then eliminated the Loar LM-520 because I was concerned that its very long but impractical (for me) Florida peninsula, would be a hassle for a an old guitar finger picker like me just beginning to be initiated into the mysteries of flat picking! I envisioned collisions. I could have opted for the "no peninsula" 590, but didn't like the finish.

    Then, with the very fine and expert help of Brian at The Mandolin Store, I reviewed the three Eastmans I just mentioned. The 315 is a honey and I liked the demo videos I watched, but decided that the 500 series instruments were a better fit for me. In addition to the fine sound, I was attracted to the finer body work on the 500 series and the upgrade Schaller tuners. I'm a little anxious about navigating the slightly narrower 1 and 3/32" Eastman fretboards, but my fingers seem to be getting more comfortable with the 1 and 1/8" rental instrument every day, with the start of new callouses and I'm feeling confident I'll adapt to the 1/32" difference for an instrument that speaks to me. :-)

    So then it was 504 and 505. Jeez, I loved the inlay on the 504 and its sweet sound! But the 505 wasn't chopped liver and But Brian made a good point. You can take an f-hole instrument like the 505 and mellow it some by changing strings and making adjustments, but you can't make an instrument with a center hole rise to the projection of an f-hole. It only works one way.

    So I bought the 505 and, also, a set of D'Addario Monel wound strings in case I want to experiment with a mellower sound after really getting a feel for the phosphor bronze strings the 505 comes with. I can't say enough about the responsive customer service from Brian at TMS. In a string of e-mails and phone calls I initiated he never tried to push an instrument, but simply gave me enough information about the pros and cons of each for me to come to my ultimate choice understanding, as I do, that there is no perfect choice. It's what gives you the most of what you want.

    As for my infatuation with the sound of an octave mandolin, I decided I need to work and develop some mastery of the standard instrument. And maybe come back in a year. And buy one of those hand made OMs for big bucks!

    Again, thanks to each of you. And now I can't wait for the package to arrive from Arizona early next week. Fedex lists it as on its way.

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  23. #43

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    If it hasn't shipped yet ask Brian to add a String Winder. It would really help with changing the strings. Glad you went with The Mandolin Store and Brian has always been a great resource.
    https://themandolinstore.com/product...-for-mandolin/

    I am not 75 buy at 67 I have been learning for a year now with no previous instrument experience~~~None! No regrets and sometimes I can even keep up with other in a jam session.
    Best!
    Last edited by prairieschooner; Jul-19-2019 at 10:52am.

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  25. #44
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    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Welcome to the club! I started playing at 70. Unless I am unique, which I doubt, you will go through an evolution of instruments as you learn and play. The most important guidance I received was to get a good teacher and start playing with others. Surprisingly, it was hard to find a good instructor in the beginning. Once I connected to the bluegrass community I found teachers everywhere. The really good ones don’t need to advertise.

    I am in my first year of playing with others. For me, it is hard(!). There are players younger than me who have been at it fifty years and have an encyclopedic collection of songs in their brain. Many of the songs are just that, they require singing. I have a handful of tunes committed to memory. The songs are yet to come. Often my contribution is the I, IV, V chords. Sometimes in the right places. For this sort of music, any decent mandolin will do. Over time you will develop your own preferences so just start.

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  27. #45

    Default Re: New mandolin for an old man

    Quote Originally Posted by Dukesdad View Post
    Welcome to the club! I started playing at 70. Unless I am unique, which I doubt, you will go through an evolution of instruments as you learn and play. The most important guidance I received was to get a good teacher and start playing with others. Surprisingly, it was hard to find a good instructor in the beginning. Once I connected to the bluegrass community I found teachers everywhere. The really good ones don’t need to advertise.

    I am in my first year of playing with others. For me, it is hard(!). There are players younger than me who have been at it fifty years and have an encyclopedic collection of songs in their brain. Many of the songs are just that, they require singing. I have a handful of tunes committed to memory. The songs are yet to come. Often my contribution is the I, IV, V chords. Sometimes in the right places. For this sort of music, any decent mandolin will do. Over time you will develop your own preferences so just start.
    yep!

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