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Thread: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

  1. #26
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by mandos&turtles View Post
    I don’t get the point of electric mandolins. They don’t sound like mandolins to me. If I didn’t know someone was playing one I’d just assume I’m hearing an electric guitar. I’d like to hear others thoughts on the subject
    Agree.

  2. #27
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Hey! I have a likely contentious opinion about your opinion! If you don't understand electric mandolins.... (wait for it)..... then don't get one!
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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  4. #28
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    The emando is a whole other set of tools for expression, and part of the great variety of mandolins in general in regards to shapes, build styles, woods, etc.

    Beyond my acoustics (Rigel A and Eastman 515), I currently enjoy playing on a custom Jerman 5 string solid body (crazy amazing jazzy and rock sounds!), eight string Dillion 335 style (blues, roots), and a Crafter a/e 8 string (folky alert!) with a pre-amp system built in. Each has its own tonal palette and expression. This serves me well for playing in a wide range of settings. Good luck mic'ing your F-5 to be heard with that Hammond, or those horns, or the drums. Besides the mic's limited range (and therefore yours!), its no fun fighting feedback.

    Clearly, it's possible to amplify a "straight" acoustic instrument and (mostly) preserve the acoustic sound of the instrument. My Rigel does not sound like any of my "electric" instruments when I plug it in.

    If you're only playing acoustic bluegrass, by all means, don't waste your time or money. I'm more focused in other musical directions, and having a rounded tool kit works for me.
    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
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  6. #29
    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Love that Jason Anick video. I play a similar beast made by the same luthier, Paul Lestock, but I only aspire to that level of musicianship.

    Why I play emando...
    (15 years of gigging, recording, jamming, and playing music collapsed for brevity's sake) I struggled with guitar for a decade or more before stumbling upon mandolins with the purchase of the Garcia/Grisman CD. Suddenly music opened up to me. The 5ths tuning made sense, scales made sense, chords made sense, melodies flowed much better.

    But I missed the sustain, midrange, and power of the guitar. Flat top octave mandolins were a good compromise, but I missed the articulation and speed of the mandolin.

    Bought an Epi MandoBird as an experiment. Lots of fun, but not quite. Had it set up for and tuned to CGDA. Better, but still not quite.
    Bought a Fender FM988 (8 string emando). Cool, but still not quite where I wanted to be.
    Bought a JBovier EMC-5. ahhh. So close! I didn't quite bond with it until I had Luthier Jamie Swann in Cambridge, England set it up for me. Now it's brilliant, but the scale length is just a little short. [On a side note, it's a shame Jeff Cowherd of JBovier is not making these anymore. They are brilliant instruments!]

    Bought the Arrow G5 last year. Done! 15" scale length, 5 strings, hollow body. Yes it really needs to be plugged in to sing properly, but that's just another aspect of tone I can control. So it's cool with me. I run it through a bit of compression on a 2 channel preamp unit, occasionally an octave pedal (makes "Wish You Were Here" a bit more full), and sometimes an overdrive pedal. Both set to some subtlety rather than full blast.

    I'm carting gear these days: the mando, a small amp, a pedal board, and a gig bag. But I control my tone, not some half deaf rock n roll refugee behind the desk who has never heard a proper mandolin and wouldn't know how to mix it. [This is a species of engineer plentiful in northern France, where ROCK is still king and Americana is "c'est quoi Áa?" ... "Je m'explique."]

    You could say I play a short scale 5 string guitar tuned in 5ths. I don't care. I play mandolin. If you, as the listening audience, hear a guitar I'm really OK with that.

    I play an electric mandolin because that's how I make music these days.

    Daniel

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  8. #30
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    What is wrong with sounding like a guitar? May I point out it is the post popular sound out there? Could there be a reason?

    Actually, no emando will sound exactly like a guitar except for a few notes here and there. It will, however, have the increased expressive power electric guitars have over acoustic guitars, with a wider range of color and dynamics, and the capability to fit with instruments with a bigger (louder) sound, like pianos, horns, and drums. Just like guitar players, I use an acoustic instrument for folk music and an electric one for jazz.

    Just like guitar, what does not work is to simply play an electric like an acoustic. The technical approach is different, but more importantly, the role is different, so one plays different notes, different riffs, different chords. Certainly, banging away on an electric, chopping and motoring along on fiddle tunes is not the best use for the instrument. The way to learn the value of electric mandolins is to study guitar playing, as the (hugely) more explored territory of styles and sounds will encourage breaking away from old picking habits.
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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    I wonder if you can make an electric mandolin sound like an acoustic mandolin?
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  10. #32
    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    I wonder if you can make an electric mandolin sound like an acoustic mandolin?
    There’s probably a pedal of some sort that will do that. They seem to do most things these days.

    And it would complete the circle

  11. #33
    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    I wonder if you can make an electric mandolin sound like an acoustic mandolin?
    The whole idea of electrifying instruments was to amplify the acoustic sound. It follows on from other efforts: Archtops, Resonators, reverberation boxes, etc. Our own patron saint of the mandolin, Lloyd Loar, designed electrics under the name ViviTone after leaving Gibson.


    Most of the time people who ask for advice here about electrifying a mandolin is because they need to be loud enough to be heard in a full band (incl. a drummer) situation, rather than to add sustain, distortion/overdrive, pitch modulation, reverb, delay, etc.

    Answer: Yep.

    Daniel

  12. #34
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by OneChordTrick View Post
    Thereís probably a pedal of some sort that will do that. They seem to do most things these days.

    And it would complete the circle
    Sure.
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  14. #35
    Registered User mandolinstew's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Too bad Paul Bigsby,Leo Fender and Adolf Rickenbacher are not here.But I guess they are.

  15. #36

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    I think it's also pretty personal.

    The mandolin tone on this track from Jazz Mandolin Project sounds, frankly, pretty awful to me, though I can respect the musicianship which was necessary to create it:


    While this tone sounds pretty good. To me. :-) YMMV.


  16. #37

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    I've been thinking about the whole "doesn't sound like a mandolin to me" idea. I've been amused when, on occasion, some member here on the Cafe has argued that only sound characteristics like the dampening of the upper frequencies, as happens on a bluegrass instrument, represent an ideal mandolin, and not something which more accurately reproduces the full string response like mandolins which came before and after bluegrass.

    I'm okay with someone not embracing a particular genre or instrument, but it's pretty funny when someone in a creative venture starts dogmatically ruling stuff out.
    Last edited by Explorer; Aug-14-2019 at 8:16pm.

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  18. #38
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    I've been listening to quite a bit of Ashley Broder, and I love what she does with electric mandolin. She does everything from solo pieces to the electric combined with her amazing Apitius mandolin. I agree the electric doesn't sound anything like an acoustic, but it sounds good to my ears when used in the right musical setting.

  19. #39

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    & electric can be easier on the fingers.

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  21. #40
    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Electric mandolin? I never knew there was such a thing. I was, however, at a bluegrass jam a month ago and a guy plugged his Gibson F5 in. My D-18GE had no chance after that btw.

  22. #41

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Thumbler View Post
    & electric can be easier on the fingers.
    Yep. Electric anything is great for my aged arthritic fingers (after many decades of playing strictly acoustic-only everything).

    Super-light-gauge electric single strings that respond easily to a light touch, and I have the action set super low too - no need to have high action, I don't have to thrash the strings to get volume.

    Plus, I'm not stuck with just *one* sound per instrument, like I used to be with all those dozens of various acoustic instruments I had. With electric, you can get so much variety of sound in even just one instrument, that you never get bored with it.

    Although, that said, I do still prefer the octave-lower GDAE stuff like I used to always play on acoustic (tenor guitars, tenor banjos etc). The higher pitched mandolin range is useful for melody stuff but I like the octave lower (but still fifths-tuned) range better, always have. Electric now.

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  24. #42

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Sound in any amplified instrument is as much controlled/altered by the amplification used as by the construction of the instrument. Damning an entire class of instrument because you haven't heard it properly amplified seems silly to me. Better to condemn the amplifier used or the musical taste of the musician playing the e-mando at the time than to condemn the instrument itself.

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  26. #43

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Aside from the fingering, I also think they sound like a capoed electric guitar.....

    But, they look a lot cooler than a capoed electric guitar....

    And the fingering somewhat dictates the approach and choice of music that would tend to make us think "mandolin" rather than guitar...

  27. #44
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by dhbailey View Post
    Sound in any amplified instrument is as much controlled/altered by the amplification used as by the construction of the instrument. Damning an entire class of instrument because you haven't heard it properly amplified seems silly to me. Better to condemn the amplifier used or the musical taste of the musician playing the e-mando at the time than to condemn the instrument itself.
    Haven't heard that many electric mandolins but have heard many, many electric guitars,played thru many different amps and various other enhancers. Never heard one that sounded like a real guitar played into a mic. Yes I'm including "acoustic electric". I can appreciate what Chet Adkins did for years on his Gretch, as well as other players, but in his later years he played an acoustic and when he played it minus the pick-up is when he sounded best to me.

  28. #45
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by mandos&turtles View Post
    I donít get the point of electric mandolins. They donít sound like mandolins to me. If I didnít know someone was playing one Iíd just assume Iím hearing an electric guitar. Iíd like to hear others thoughts on the subject
    If one were picking up the electric mandolin in order to be a loud mandolin and be heard better in the jams where one finds mandolin, I would strongly advise getting a good resonator mandolin instead. The electric mandolin does not fit in the musical contexts in which most mandolins play.

    Approaching the emando as its own specific instrument is an inevitable decision, but I have found that is full of its own set of problems. My thoughts.
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  29. #46

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    I came from bass to guitar to mando and find they all have their place.

    While some say a single-course electric mandolin sounds like an electric guitar, I argue nuance. There are sounds you can get with a 5th tuned instrument that you can't get with one tuned in 4ths just because of the tuning.

    I've electrified a couple of my acoustic mandolin and find I can get a pretty good acoustic tone out of them. The one pictured in my avatar has a Lace magnetic pickup, which you can see, plus piezos mounted under the soundboard ala K&K. Neither sounds authentic by themselves but mixing the piezo and magnetic through a proper EQ is about as close as you're going to get with today's technology. I've done the same treatment to my resonator mandolin with great results.
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  31. #47

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    So you can do this......





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  33. #48

    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Experience has taught me that the electric 4- or 5-string mandolin has a rightful place in open mic/blues- rock-jam situations Ė two electric guitars and an electric mandolin often sounds better than three electric guitars do. Executed tastefully, the band can even get a nice Byrds-y sound.

  34. #49
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by mandos&turtles View Post
    I don’t get the point of electric mandolins. They don’t sound like mandolins to me. If I didn’t know someone was playing one I’d just assume I’m hearing an electric guitar. I’d like to hear others thoughts on the subject
    I play 5 string electric mandolin BECAUSE it has an "electric guitar-like" sound. Its useful to be able to play that sound, [and it has its own tradition of fantastic playing: Tiny Moore, Johnny Gimble, Paul Glasse, Mike Lampert etc.] It fits my music. I'm not looking for a "mandolin" tone from electric mandolin, and am happy it doesn't deliver it. You might assume you're hearing an electric guitar, but I hear my music with an electric mandolin sound.

  35. #50
    Registered User Toni Schula's Avatar
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    Default Re: A likely contentious opinion on electric mandolins

    Thanks for this interesting thread!

    To me these are different still similar instruments:
    Electric mandolins, electric mandolas etc, F-style acoustics, Neapolitan mandolins,... - we need an excuse for MAS, I guess.
    And electric guitars, flat top acoustic guitars, Spanish acoustic guitars, as well.

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