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Thread: "Powerful/Loud!"

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    Registered User JAK's Avatar
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    Default "Powerful/Loud!"

    How important to YOU is it to have your mandolin be powerful and loud? We know people who have powerful and loud voices, but the result is not pleasant or pleasing. If you are in a band or large jam, yes, you need a certain volume to be heard. But what about the mandolin's voice? Can it be too loud/powerful/unpleasant?
    John A. Karsemeyer

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    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    I like my mandolin to be both loud and powerful. But with the caveat that it is first of all responsive.
    If it is responsive by nature, innately, it is possible to get a soft but sweet tone. And, with a little more pick input a louder tone is possible without too much effort.
    Eric Hanson
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Can it be too loud/powerful/unpleasant?
    As owner of a '30's National Triolian mandolin, I'd say that's a distinct possibility. And there are quite a few threads on Asian resonator mandolins (Johnson, et.al.) and mandolin-banjos that decry instruments that are loud, but also raucous and grating in their voices.

    Probably less of a danger with "conventional" mandolins, where the usual complaint is that players can't even hear themselves in jam situations, competing with fiddles and banjos.
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    I'm old to music, new to mandolin so I had a good idea at least what I wanted in tone. The bad thing was I didn't have access to a store less than 400 miles away to see what existed in mandolins. So it was online purchase, trial and hopeful not error. Personally I don't do jams, don't even like the word, I'm a home player and at best 3-4 players would be the most people I'd be interested in. Volume was not a major concern, I was looking for playability and a nice rich tone and having a bite whenever I needed or wanted. I bought one, no problem necessarily but it gave me knowledge to know much more what I was looking for in tone and volume, so I was faced with another buy and try instead of try and buy but I am well satisfied with my recent purchase and it's getting better every day.

  5. #5

    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    If a mandolin is too loud for any given situation, you can back off your attack, if itís too quiet, youíre sunk. Iíve played a few lately, some $5k or more that didnít have close to the volume I want.

    If you play at home for yourself, find a sound you like and donít worry too much about volume. You can have both tone and volume, but those few mandolins that had both in spades came at a price I canít afford.

    The solution is at least two mandolins, ideally more, but not at the cost of base line quality. Or take that leap and to hell with the bank account.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    If you use a sound level meter in front of a bunch of different mandolins, you will be amazed how small the differences in actual sound output level are. As has been said on here many times, perceived volume is very different from actual volume.
    I once made a really quiet (seeming) mandolin which everyone felt was "super quiet", but which recorded really clearly in a single-mic setup while "competing" with other instruments, and did at least as well as another "super loud" mandolin. Possibly because one of the things that made it feel "quiet", clean fundamental tone without a lot of harmonic content, also made it great for recording.
    Complicated stuff.

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  8. #7

    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Interesting.
    Just recently I’ve been playing EXTREMELY slow to sort of learn the flow, getting fast from one string to the next and arrive well before I’m ready to pluck the next one. If I practice faster then the pick sort of just catches strings in passing -without the determination that Sierra has.
    I’ve found like this that I can pluck the strings with a lot more confidence... and LOUD.
    I play an Octave that’s quite loud already.

  9. #8
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Personally, I like my mandolins loud and powerful, especially in jams as I'm a bit hard of hearing. It doesn't matter if I'm home alone, and is much less of a problem with my fiddle.

    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    We know people who have powerful and loud voices, but the result is not pleasant or pleasing.
    I take exception to that statement. Caruso, John MacCormack, Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Bessie Smith, Johnny Cash, and Barbara Sterisand weren't short of fans. Before the development of on-stage microphones, around 1930, if a singer wasn't loud and powerful, they would not be heard in a big hall or auditorium. I'm taken aback today by how many contemporary "singers" are unable to broadcast their voices. Take away the microphone, and their voices fade out. This isn't a problem as long as they have a mike, a decent sound person, and no electrical troubles. At an unplugged gig, they're in trouble. However many who aren't loud and powerful think that everyone can hear them clearly, except for the twenty-five cranks who are yelling at them to speak or sing louder.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    You can always play softer on a loud instrument.

    No amount of hard picking will make a soft instrument heard.

    of course I want a loud instrument!

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    If you put aside mandolin-like instruments from consideration (such as resonator mandolins and banjolins) and just concentrate on regular, wooden mandolins, then yes, volume is a very desired quality of any top-rated instrument. The is particularly true of the carved-back instruments used for various types of folk music, such as A4/A5, F4/F5 models, and ones similar to these. A loud voice is needed to be heard in an acoustic setting. All the great-sounding mandolins that I have heard have also been pretty loud. Conversely, I have not ever heard a loud (carved wooden) mandolin that I would characterize as being "excessively" powerful. Hah! On the contrary: volume and power, along with tone, are desirable characteristics. It's usually the more cheaply made, less desirable 'budget' mandolins that are the quiet ones, because their tops are too thick, they are too heavily braced, or their finish is excessive.

    As the saying goes, you can't ever be too thin or too rich. And your mandolin can't be too loud.

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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    wouldn't want to hunt elephants with a bb gun, just glad I don't hunt elephants

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Unless it's a resonator type, a mandolin is usually the most volume-challenged instrument in the Irish and Scottish sessions I play in. So naturally I'm interested in volume. But I'm equally interested in a timbre that will "cut" through the mix of fiddles, whistles, free reeds, and pipes. It's all about the initial ping of the note attack, because anything after that is immediately drowned out by the sustaining instruments in the group. The ping is the thing when you're playing unison melody lines with a mass of fiddles.

    It's why I don't play a mandolin with a pretty, warm, "Celtic" sound that might be ideal for playing solo at home; something like an old Gibson A. Instead, it's a modern F-style Lebeda with a bright voice, and not much string energy spent on the lower frequencies.

    Edit to add: Note that I'm talking about playing just one specific style of music here. In a different style that wasn't based on unison melody, I might want something different.

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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Unless it's a resonator type, a mandolin is usually the most volume-challenged instrument in the Irish and Scottish sessions I play in. So naturally I'm interested in volume. But I'm equally interested in a timbre that will "cut" through the mix of fiddles, whistles, free reeds, and pipes. It's all about the initial ping of the note attack, because anything after that is immediately drowned out by the sustaining instruments in the group. The ping is the thing when you're playing unison melody lines with a mass of fiddles.

    It's why I don't play a mandolin with a pretty, warm, "Celtic" sound that might be ideal for playing solo at home; something like an old Gibson A. Instead, it's a modern F-style Lebeda with a bright voice, and not much string energy spent on the lower frequencies.

    Edit to add: Note that I'm talking about playing just one specific style of music here. In a different style that wasn't based on unison melody, I might want something different.
    I play a banjo-mandolin at our weekly Irish session so that I can be heard. It cuts through and the lack of sustain is fine for those continuous sixteenth-note tunes.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Volume is important, but not so much for "being heard" as for increased dynamic range. Playing beautifully, using dynamic range to play more expressively, is the goal. I have found that doing this, in many cases (not all of course) others will back down their volume to hear you.

    Being heard is not as important as being appreciated.
    Indulge responsibly!

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Volume is important, but not so much for "being heard" as for increased dynamic range. Playing beautifully, using dynamic range to play more expressively, is the goal. I have found that doing this, in many cases (not all of course) others will back down their volume to hear you.

    Being heard is not as important as being appreciated.
    Huh? As a musician, how can you possibly be appreciated if you cannot be heard?

  21. #16

    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Being heard is not as important as being appreciated.
    That's a fact Jack! (or Jeff as the case may be)

    A few players (and singers) come to mind who can be easily heard; not necessarily to the betterment of the proceedings.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Being heard is necessary but not sufficient. And its half full half empty thing. Are you not loud enough or are the others playing too loud. .. Or, get a resonator and just blast them.


    My RM-1 can kill a fly on the wall with an Fm7 chord!
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Agree. Here's mine, it's a Beltona.Click image for larger version. 

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  26. #19

    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    I avoid jams where there are a whole bunch of players beating on their instruments trying to be heard.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    How important to YOU is it to have your mandolin be powerful and loud?
    There are many reasons to have a powerful and loud mandolin. But playing powerfully and loud is not a big part of it. With extreme power comes extreme responsibility.

    A gentleman is someone who knows he can blow you out of the water, but doesn't.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  29. #21
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    I don't think there is a standard wooden mandolin that is too loud but there are other considerations. One aspect is projection and the other is headroom. I think projection is one of the things that the best of the Loar F-5's are known for. Even play a soft piano note in a room and they can be hear 10-20 feet away. Subtleties can carry, too. The same with a good violin. I always tell friends of mine who are shopping for violins to take a player friend with them to play it when you listen some distance away.

    And the best of the quality mandolins (or any other instrument) have headroom. A lesser instrument when played with greater force or high on the neck may not maintain the quality of tone in the lower reaches. But a high quality mandolin even when pushed to the utmost will still maintain a lovely tone at that volume or high in the upper reaches of the neck.

    As far as truly loud instruments, I have played my modern National RM-1 in old time jam sessions. That thing is loud with pleasing tone (to me) but it is also very directional. A friend of mine was sitting directly opposite from me at one jam and he bore the brunt of the sound coming out of that thing. Actually the first time I played one was at Mandolin Brothers and I was sitting in the back room. I wasn't even beating the thing but Stan came in to tell me to tone it down because you could hear it throughout the store. BTW I prefer the modern ones in terms of tone. I had a beautiful Style 2 single cone from 1929 but it always sounded too tinny to me. I even put heavier strings and tuned it down to key of E like Yank Rachel but it didn't really make it for me.
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  31. #22
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    For me? I like knowing the horsepower is there if I need it.

    My struggle; however, is managing the dynamic range. That's the hard part, for me!

    f-d
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    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Loud can have different meanings. If you think "carrying power"... yes I want loud because I can allways tone down.

    If by loud you mean simple volume... then maybe "not necessarily" is the answer.

    I encounter too many people that just want to crank it up when they are playing with other people. That does not do it. Instruments of lesser quality seem to lack carrying power yet are "loud" in your face, meaning they "scream". I simply cannot like that. Ensemble playing means that you have to give everybody a chance to be heard. This is possible with most instruments. Only the very entry level instruments may have a "volume" shortage.
    Olaf

  33. #24
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Olaf: that is what I was referring to above when I talked about projection and headroom.
    Jim

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  34. #25
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: "Powerful/Loud!"

    Latest researches ov violin "projection" revealed that violins that project well are also loud under ear. If I remember correctly there were no violins that felt quiet but projected well. IMO, among mandolins I think it is the same. Some mandolins can be perceived as loud by person who plays them but will dissolve in larger ensemble.
    Adrian

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