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Thread: Education

  1. #1

    Default Education

    In an ongoing quest to educate myself I try to play as many mandolins as I can. In my area that is pretty much relegated to a few brands. Collings, Weber, Northfield, Eastman, and Kentucky. I have a very good grasp of what these makes are all about, what I like or dislike about each.

    But I've played exactly four f hole Gibsons, two of which were F 9s. I made a trip to Gryphon this week just to play a used F 5 they had. So I'd know pretty much what I was getting if I bought a Collings online, but a Gibson would be a crapshoot. How many would you play to feel like you had a handle on a brand? I must say, the only Ellis I've played had me thinking I'd want any of them.

    Do I need to go to a festival to broaden my horizons? Maybe just go to Nashville?
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  2. #2
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    You might or might not get a chance to play a good variety of mandolins at a festival..
    In Nashville, it's guaranteed!
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

  3. #3
    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    Hi Br1ck, I think your approach is a good one. I also think that playing each instrument is always best, though I don't think I am telling you anything you don't already know because that is what I believe you are saying in this post . I would like to think that the Gibsons made in the last three decades are of very consistent quality, as you have indicated is also true with Collings and Ellis. I am with you: I have great trust and respect for Collings and Ellis to be sure, as well. I have owned a 2006 F9 and a Gibson A5G (mid-90's). Both were superb, but I was still buying selling. I also owned and enjoyed an additional Collings as well as a Weber in my time. I wish I had held on to the F-9. However, I am very happy with my Ratliff (F-5) and Collings (A5) and plan to remain content. Contentment is something you and I have discussed many times. I wish I could drive to such a store as Gryphon! Not much in that way in Southern CA! Nashville is a dream vacation and plenty of great ones to play there! Let us know what you decide to do.
    2017 Collings MT (Gloss Top, Ivory Top Binding, Wide Nut)
    1999 Ratliff R-5 (F-5 Model)
    Two Old Gibson A Mandolins passed down through my wife's family. These are the mandolins that got me started on mandolin in 1982. Then I didn't touch it again until 2013.

  4. #4
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Education

    HARD QUESTION
    I find a great deal of difference in mandolins of the same maker. Some I like and some I don't. I have come to expect certain qualities in tone to each of the makers you named, but again I think each mandolin to have it's own personality. Of the ones you named I expect all to be of impeccable build. Saying that I do have favorites. I really like Weber Mandolas but not so much Collings mandolas. I have liked every Nugget, Ellis, and Stiver mandolin I have played provided they feature specs that I personally like such as a radius fret board. I have found a great deal of variety in modern Gibsons I have played. Some I have found wonderful while others I felt were inferior at their price point. Please, no offense to Gibson fans, just my personal observation. But, nothing I have stated is engraved in stone due to factors such as tone I was accustomed to at the the time I took the test drive. Perhaps, I would have a very different opinion if I were to revisit those same mandolins. Nor can I attest to what they would have sounded like with different strings. Also, lining up two or three mandolins from each of the makers and getting to compare may yield a very different opinion.
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Stiver A style (eagerly awaiting spring 2020 arrival)
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Kentucky KM-950
    Harley Benton A style (Spare canoe paddle)
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Education

    I know from other posts that you seem to lust for a Gibson, but would like to find the 'right' one. I'm sure folks share that. Education usually costs money, so a trip to Nashville might be the tuition. Or a trip to the Mandolin Store, as they also have a great inventory, although not as broad as you would find in Nashville.

    Brands don't really matter any more to me, its just the sound, although lots of folks have a certain pride in owning an 'xxxxxxx'. I bought a Gibson F5 thinking that. But I typically jam with my Ratliff CountryBoy A. Its great.

    And when you hear Adam Steffey, you probably don't care what brand he's playing, just that he's playing.

    Think about that.

    Good luck however you go.
    Play it like you mean it.

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  8. #6
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    Default Re: Education

    A pilgrimage to Nashville is fun for so many reasons! For an education about mandolins over $5K, it will be hard to beat Carter’s and Gruhn’s. You’ll get to play mandolins —- often more than one —- by builders who constantly get mentioned here, but never need to sell their instruments in stores. Below that price point, I found more small-builder variety at Carter’s than at Gruhn’s the one time I was in Nashville.
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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  10. #7

    Default Re: Education

    I do lust after Gibson..........and Ellis and Gilchrist and Dudenbostel, and Heiden.......but I’m just curious to know at this point. And individual instruments can be so different. Case in point. I gave up on rosewood dreadnaught guitars ten years ago. Too muddy in the low end, especially the Martin D 35. Hated them. Sold my last rosewood guitar to a friend, and thought a Bryan Kimsey modded D 18 would be perfect. He steered me to a custom D 35 a friend was selling. Said it was so good he barely touched it. I got it yesterday, and it is the loudest, punchiest, clearest powerhouse I’ve had my mitts on.

    I’m thinking of music camp that would also be a road trip, so maybe I’ll hit music stores and open mics along the way. The other half wants to be rid of me for a while next summer.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  11. #8

    Default Re: Education

    Good education is always expensive in both money and time.

    "Never make your move too soon." (B.B.King)

    Br1ck,I think separate vacations can be very good things.

  12. #9
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    Default Re: Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I do lust after Gibson..........and Ellis and Gilchrist and Dudenbostel, and Heiden.......but I’m just curious to know at this point. And individual instruments can be so different.
    I too would like to have a Gibson, but specifically a Gibson A-style, 1918 to early 1920s. I just can't pay what most of them are going for, so I am sympathetic to your desires. But I have no need, just a "want." It is true that all instruments are different. You may find your perfect Gibson some day.

  13. #10

    Default Re: Education

    I must confess to owning a 1913 A1, but that seems to me a entirely different category from a modern F style.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  14. #11
    Registered User Denman John's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    I think you’re going about it in the right way with trying as many mandolins as you can locally. No matter what you read, or see and hear on your computer can compare to hands on experience. Does it intrigue and inspire you to play it? Does it check all the boxes that you want in the mandolin? You can usually tell pretty quickly in my experience.

    I’m happy with what I have and have no intentions of buying another mandolin, but I would love to go to Nashville and play a wall full of top tier mandolins just for the experience and knowledge... From my humble experience I’d say that the name of the headstock will give you a good idea, but each mandolin has it’s own personality, especially when you get into luthier built mandolins. I’m in the play before you pay camp now.

    Enjoy the journey!
    ... not all those who wander are lost ...

  15. #12

    Default Re: Education

    Boy, I could be renting out my studio........one stop, see and play them all.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

  16. #13
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post

    Do I need to go to a festival to broaden my horizons? Maybe just go to Nashville?
    Or Austin.

    I went to Fiddlers Green last spring and was able to play, Ellis, Collings, Pava (all made right up the road), Northfield, Weber, Gibson, Flatiron, Eastman and some others I can't quite remember.

    Nashville is still on my list of music towns to visit (probably next September for a Mandolin Orange show at the Ryman), but Austin holds its own.

  17. #14
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    ...Do I need to go to a festival to broaden my horizons?
    Yes, you need to go to a festival to check out builders you may not be familiar with, bands you may not have heard yet, make new friends, learn new songs, have a great time. If that's not expanding your horizons nothing is.

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  19. #15
    Registered User Tom Hart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    Monroe Mandolin Camp is located 80 miles east of Nashville, and the pre camp instructor's concert was blocks away from Carter's. Two birds, one stone.
    The campers are more than willing to let you play their Duff, Kimble, Gilchrist etc. as well.

  20. #16
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    Boy, I could be renting out my studio........one stop, see and play them all.
    Lol. I can only imagine what that looks like.

  21. #17
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    Default Re: Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    In an ongoing quest to educate myself I try to play as many mandolins as I can. In my area that is pretty much relegated to a few brands. Collings, Weber, Northfield, Eastman, and Kentucky. I have a very good grasp of what these makes are all about, what I like or dislike about each.

    But I've played exactly four f hole Gibsons, two of which were F 9s. I made a trip to Gryphon this week just to play a used F 5 they had. So I'd know pretty much what I was getting if I bought a Collings online, but a Gibson would be a crapshoot. How many would you play to feel like you had a handle on a brand? I must say, the only Ellis I've played had me thinking I'd want any of them.

    Do I need to go to a festival to broaden my horizons? Maybe just go to Nashville?
    Ellis are great !! But, don't rule out a Girouard ! Fantastic !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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  23. #18
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    Default Re: Education

    [QUOTE=Br1ck;1747088]In an ongoing quest to educate myself I try to play as many mandolins as I can. In my area that is pretty much relegated to a few brands. Collings, Weber, Northfield, Eastman, and Kentucky. I have a very good grasp of what these makes are all about, what I like or dislike about each.

    With all the research you've done on the above models it would be very interesting reading to hear what you have found or what your likes / dislikes are.
    On another note...was in Nashville 2 years ago for a week.....would go back in a heartbeat...Fun city with lots and lots of live music going on. Seems you can't walk for more then 2 ~ 3 minutes without hearing great live music.
    Eastman MD-305 Left Handed Version
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    67.4 % of all statistics are made up !

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  25. #19
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    I completely agree with Pittsburgh Bill!
    These are incredibly complicated pieces of engineering, as much art as science. Every mandolin I have played has been different from the previous one. Your education may be very long and time consuming, but, the knowledge you will acquire will be extremely valuable. When you find “the one” you will know it. Don’t get too caught up in the name in the peghead. Use all your senses about it, the feel under hand will tell you a lot. The way it reacts to touch, how does it smell? I know, that’s silly but, I’m serious. It’s something you will have an intimate relationship with for years to come, that aroma will change over time. The way it sounds is critical but all the rest will give you more education. One of my pet things is how are the lines! The shape has got to be appealing to my eye, so many designs are slightly “off” look at the differences in Gibson “A” styles over the years, some look inviting, others just, don’t.
    Take the time to have some real education.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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  27. #20

    Default Re: Education

    Here is a happy complication. The mandolin I built is a cannon. Most mandolins I play in stores are not, while I confess most resonate better, but I’m not going to spend six grand on one, hence my unhappy lust for an Ellis, which while not quite as loud, is just a jewel in every way. Out of my league though.

    But least you all are crying over my sorry lot, the most remarkable D 35 showed up last week, at a mere $2100.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  28. #21

    Default Re: Education

    I like to think that all of them, even from the same brand or builder have a certain individual character. With some it is more or less noticeable. Nearly every Collings I have played was very consistant. I will agree that with Gibson's, I have found more diversity. I have not had a chance to play any of the premium builders like Ellis, Gil, Nugget, but I would imagine that there isn't a "bad" one in the bunch. At that level, they are all good just with minor differences. On my search for a quality F model I, for lack of a better word, settled on a Stiver. I have played 4 Stivers so far. All were extraordinary but each were slightly different. Even with precision level consistancy, individual pieces of wood still play a part.
    Stiver F5 #366
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  29. #22
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Winn View Post
    Or Austin.

    I went to Fiddlers Green last spring and was able to play, Ellis, Collings, Pava (all made right up the road), Northfield, Weber, Gibson, Flatiron, Eastman and some others I can't quite remember.

    Nashville is still on my list of music towns to visit (probably next September for a Mandolin Orange show at the Ryman), but Austin holds its own.
    +1

    I made three trips to Fiddlers Green recently and had a field day each time playing numerous mandolins and a few guitars. Definitely found some I'd like to own. Didn't play a mandolin there that I didn't like, but some were way more appealing to me than others, and I had my sights on one of the guitars as well, but I was able to restrain myself and refrain from buying any of them. I did get K&K's installed in my current players though, and bought a Fishman amp there.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
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    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
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  31. #23
    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    +1

    I made three trips to Fiddlers Green recently and had a field day each time playing numerous mandolins and a few guitars. Definitely found some I'd like to own. Didn't play a mandolin there that I didn't like, but some were way more appealing to me than others, and I had my sights on one of the guitars as well, but I was able to restrain myself and refrain from buying any of them. I did get K&K's installed in my current players though, and bought a Fishman amp there.
    Which Fishman amp did you get? I've been thinking about the Loudbox Artist vs QSC CP8 vs new JBL Eon One Compact. Thoughts on instruments through a mic on it?

    As far as educating myself regarding brands and even models of instruments, I'm slow to judge and draw firm conclusions on tone. Old strings, over humidified wood, poor action, others banging away nearby ... there are a lot of factors that can contribute to an initial negative perception that isn't necessarily accurate. I just wonder how many "dogs" people have played were actually great guitars or mandolins if they were matched with the best strings and set up good, including at the right humidity.

  32. #24

    Default Re: Education

    A QSC powered speaker is a joy to behold. Two of them are better. Not quite as convenient, but if you had two and a small mixer, you’d be happy. If you are never going to need flexibility, an acoustic amp is more convenient for sure. I’ve heard many small combos sound great with QSCs.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  33. #25
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Education

    Which Fishman amp did you get?
    I played through both the artist and the mini, both sounded very, very good. I bought the mini merely to save cash, as I had tried (and owned) other amps and also watched numerous online demos and shootouts, and I felt the Fishman would suit me best. I can mic the mini or use the DI output from it to run through PA at larger venues, and the mini sounds great in smaller, quieter venues just as it is, so I'm happy with my choice.

    Ive played with the mini at home with numerous setups:

    - Mandolin & guitar with K&K pickups directly into instrument port on amp
    - Mandolin with AT PRO35 through TubePre pre-amp into XLR mic channel, also tested this through the instrument jack panel (TubePre offers both outputs).
    - Sure SM58 straight into XLR jack for vocals, guitar, and mandolin

    I've been playing with various combinations and settings, and have to say I am really liking the Loudbox Mini. In live performance, I've only used the mandolin with K&K plugged directly into amp thus far, and it has been great.

    Biggest downside to it for me is no phantom power. But I like using the TubePre with the condenser mic anyway, so no real problem for me there.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

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