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Thread: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    I'm sure you've probably seen this title 1,000, but let me explain! I don't play traditional bluegrass, I've tried, but I think it's a little too late for me to make that transition, I've played metal, rock, blues, folk for 12 years and I've sort of found my little niche. I'm a guitar player that has played bass and mandolin off and on over the years. I recently purchased one of the Breelove Crossover Mandolins off Zzounds because of a significant price drop (and because of 12-month, no interest financing), but the sound is just dreadfully thin, and the way it plays is terrible, so I'm sending it back for a refund.

    This has left me at a bit of a junction. I currently play a darkened hybrid of bluegrass, country, and metal in a couple bands and I want to add a little diversity. I'm the only guitarist in my main group, with a singer, banjo player, and a mandolin player, but in my other group, we're essentially three guitarists and a bassist. Mandolin would certainly be useful for my second group, but not the first. With both groups, we want to incorporate as many different instruments and sounds as possible. Is an octave mandolin worthwhile for such a pursuit?

    I have my eye on a couple used octave mandolins, a Gold Tone OM-800 and a Trinity College TM-325, but one thing that concerns me is that both have a flat top. I'm not opposed to flat tops on mandolins, I think they sound wonderful, but I feel that an OM with a flat top might sound a little too similar to a guitar and offer nothing substantial to the sound. Would this be the case?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    If your band uses electricity you can give the instrument whatever sound pleases you. No problem.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    You could try going for an Eastman MDO-315. This is a carved top octave mandolin. They’re a little hard to find because at 699 they’re hard to beat for value, and they often sell out.
    Don

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  4. #4
    Registered User Steve-o's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    Mandolin would be a better fit. Whether you choose a flat top or an arch top octave mandolin, it’s voicing is similar to guitar and would be lost in the mix. You might want to consider a resonator mandolin such as a National RM-1 for the style of music you described.

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  6. #5
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    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    I’d second what Steve says, I seldom take my octave to sessions as it falls into the same frequency range as a guitar and I can get more sound out of a guitar.

    I too bought a Breedlove (Black Gold) as a beater but have the same impression as you have. Whilst it’s one of the US ones, I have difficulty getting sound out of the thing - I’m used to a Kimble which could strip paint! - but I bought it at auction and it can’t go back.

    An RM-1 would be a good choice but they’re not cheap.

  7. #6
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    I'll third what Steve says -- it won't matter whether it's a flat top or archtop OM, it's not going to mix well with guitar. It's not just the pitch but the typically darker timbre of most OMs. Acoustic guitars typically have a brighter sound, so the OM gets buried.

    In a former band, I played mandolin with an acoustic guitar player as a duo. That's a perfect separation of instruments. I tried several times to incorporate my OM, just to have a little variety, but it didn't work without spending a lot of time on arrangements designed to keep the voices separate. In the end, it wasn't worth it.

    It sounds like the main problem you're trying to solve is in the three guitar band, so a mandolin would be a good choice there.

  8. #7
    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    I got the Eastman MDO-305 simply because I love the sound of the OM and the bouzouki. Currently having a blast playing it in GDAD, playing folk and various styles. When I'm playing with another guitarist I either try to use the drones and suspended chords of the GDAD tuning to enhance what they are doing, or I simply drop down the neck and play regular mando-style licks down among the "little frets." I also use a capo to play in higher voicings. To my strictly amateur ear the Eastman has a nice "regular" mando sound when played in the upper register. YMMV I'm sure depending on the particular kind of music you're playing and whom you're playing with.
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  10. #8

    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    I'll offer a different perspective. Octave or bouzouki work just fine with guitar. Play the instrument you're drawn to.

    If your plan is to mostly strum first position chords, then it's true that they occupy a similar frequency. But both the guitar and Octave can do so much more.
    Don't overthink it. The instrument you like the most will be the one you practice the most, and the one that you draw the best music from, and the one that fits the best.

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  12. #9

    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    Since you are the only guitarist in one group, that is a moot point. I'd get a mandolin for the second, and then convince another guitarist to play something else.

    Don't say you can't play bluegrass. It's ok not to want to, but you can if you do. I picked up my first mandolin at 65.

    I'd strongly suggest you get a mandolin of at least KM 150 quality, or a 315 if you want a scroll.
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  13. #10

    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    I originally had my eye on that Eastman, a local guy is selling one, but he owns a shop, so he's selling it as "new" at $699, and my budget is $400 used. I'm considering a b-stock The Loar LM-400-VS, I had an LM-400 around 8 years ago and it sounded incredible, but I had to sell it to afford a bus ticket home after making the unfortunate decision to try to move to California. However, I remember they discontinued that model for awhile, so I'm unsure if the reboot is the same quality as the original, which was essentially an LM-700 made as an a-model. Where things get really complicated is that the mandolin I truly have my eye on is a flat top, round hole mandolin. It has a beautiful sound, but the lack of chop is definitely concerning. Tonewise, I much prefer it to choppy mandos, but that chop is essential to cut through. How well do "celtic" mandolins hold up in a band setting? The main group where it matters, I'll be playing with two guitarists and a bassist.

    And I suppose I *can* learn traditional stuff, but I don't see the point, I don't think I can put my own spin on it that way, but I can put my own spin on it by forging a new path. I'm more inspired by bands like The Dead South and The Native Howl.

  14. #11

    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    Thank you for posting this. I loved the tones on the instrumental at the end. And the voice of the guitarist - geesh - I would pay a zillion dollars to have that voice!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Leyda View Post
    I'll offer a different perspective. Octave or bouzouki work just fine with guitar. Play the instrument you're drawn to.

    If your plan is to mostly strum first position chords, then it's true that they occupy a similar frequency. But both the guitar and Octave can do so much more.
    Don't overthink it. The instrument you like the most will be the one you practice the most, and the one that you draw the best music from, and the one that fits the best.


  15. #12
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    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    It’s also a fair example of the same sonic space the two instruments inhabit. You could do much the same with two guitars.

    Incidentally, I find that OM and Dobro work quite well together.

  16. #13

    Default Re: Mandolin or Octave Mandolin

    Zouk or 5 course Cittern. You can get the drone.

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