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Thread: Controlling Tone on Weber F Body Octave

  1. #1

    Default Controlling Tone on Weber F Body Octave

    Hey All -

    Been doing a lot of work lately with a Weber F-Body Octave (Diamondback) and Iím working through getting in control of the normal things that seem to be fairly typical for players like myself who donít do enough Octave work (I play full time on mandolin, Apitius F5) to keep my skills sharp. Mostly this is the result of instinctively playing the octave like a bluegrass Mandolin (which, again, is my full time pursuit) so I get a lot of buzzing for a while until I adjust my right hand playing to be more delicate.

    The one challenging issue Iím having is with the high E string. Iíve got it tuned down to a D (GDAD) and Iím experimenting with that tuning for the first time. Seems that the high string is VERY prone to left hand pressure that has the effect of ďbendingĒ the note every time I hit it. Notice this mostly on the 1st and 2nd fret, but I havenít played much higher up the neck yet. The issue seems to improve (as does buzzing on any other string) when Iím as far up on the fret as possible. But even then, if I happen to press too hard, the note comes off as sour, and itís a terrible result - especially given the highly melodic tunes Iím playing.

    Question is this: is there anything I can do to lessen this, like use a higher gauge string for the E, or even have wider / smoother / more rounded frets installed? Would love to get any pointers from experienced players. Thank you!!
    Apitius Vanguard F5 Custom Mandolin 2019
    Sumi Sullivan F-5 Mandolin 2003
    Weber Diamondback Octave F-Style Mandolin 2014
    Flatiron Cadet ďArmy-NavyĒ Flat Top Mandolin 1987
    Martin HD-28V Guitar 2004

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Controlling Tone on Weber F Body Octave

    I've had similar experience when switching to instruments with lighter strings, like the tenor banjo or an antique mando with extra lights. I can't really speak to your suggestions about technological fixes like frets or string gauges, but I have found that I have to adjust to that instrument overall; much like what you described with your right hand technique. Especially if I haven't played it in a while, I have to "wake myself up" to that instrument. The first few times I played the tenor banjo, the intonation was all over the place and sounded terrible. For me, spending the time to get to know the instrument and working some of that into muscle memory, made a very noticeable difference.

  3. #3
    flyfishermandolinist Tim F Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Controlling Tone on Weber F Body Octave

    Iíve recently gotten more into Octave Mandolin (back from mandocello) and currently have my Weber mandocello strung with string gauges that make it work as an OM on capo 2 or 3, depending on the amount of tension and resulting sustain/shimmer I want, or if I go go the other way, less tension and less sustain/shimmer but also less stretch for fingering melodies. I canít figure out whether I prefer GDAE or GDAD but I have found a string size for the high strings that supports either the D or E (speaking relative to the capo) for my setup. It would be a different size for yours, but I would say your cheapest and best solution is to just put a slightly heavier pair of strings on the high course. Thereís not much danger in experimenting with heavier or lighter strings so you get the feel and sound you want for each of your courses. If you make major changes to string gauge/tuning there are considerations for the neck and nut of the instrument obviously. Thereís a string tension calculator everyone will recommend that I have used to good effect. I canít remember the name of it right now, but for your purposes itís not enough of a change to have to go to the calculator in my opinion.

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    Default Re: Controlling Tone on Weber F Body Octave

    I've had a Weber Gallatin O hole Octave for many years now and just recently acquired a Weber Black Ice Octave F style, I will say even going from the Gallatin to the Black Ice is requiring some muscle training. They are both 20 inch scale, however the F hole reacts very differently than the O hole. I am finding it requires a lighter touch than I am used to, and is quite a different animal altogether from the mandocello. The Black Ice has a lot less buzzing than the Gallatin but I know what you mean about the first few frets and finding the exact finger position to not "bend" the note (of all the chords who would think Am and D would be challenging?) I do find I have to make the first position F chord 2-3-3-1 ( or 2-3-0-1). I currently have the GHS on the Black Ice, but I was fond of the John Pierce Octave stings on the Gallatin, they are generally heavier. I do have a set of Curt Mangan's I am going to try next on the Black Ice. There isn't a lot of instruction or even demonstration material for Octave Mandolin, but if you haven't checked out Olga Egorova, I highly recommend it!

    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

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  6. #5
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Controlling Tone on Weber F Body Octave

    What is the scale length of your OM, and what strings are you using?

    I play a 22" scale Weber Yellowstone F OM in GDAE tuning. I use D'Addario J80 strings, but I substitute a .013 for the E strings because the stock .012's feel a little wimpy to me, not balanced with the other strings. They're only 18.5 lbs tension compared to the other strings that are 22.5 to 26 lbs tension. Beefing up the top E strings makes for a stronger and more balanced tone on my Weber OM.

    If you're dropping down to a GDAD tuning with a standard set of strings like J80's, you're further compromising the tension and power of the top strings, especially if you're also using a shorter scale 20" instrument.

    There is no such thing as a "standard" set of strings for an OM since the scale lengths and designs can vary so much. Experiment with different gauge strings to get the best results.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Controlling Tone on Weber F Body Octave

    Good info from everyone...as I work with it the intonation becomes increasingly unconscious. I can’t recall the scale of the instrument...but I know it’s considered Weber’s “standard” size. I’m excited about getting some single string sets in higher gauge to see how that affects things.
    Apitius Vanguard F5 Custom Mandolin 2019
    Sumi Sullivan F-5 Mandolin 2003
    Weber Diamondback Octave F-Style Mandolin 2014
    Flatiron Cadet ďArmy-NavyĒ Flat Top Mandolin 1987
    Martin HD-28V Guitar 2004

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