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Thread: I need some advice on getting my first big Mandolin:)

  1. #1
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    Default I need some advice on getting my first big Mandolin:)

    I was wondering if anyone had any experience with Richwood's Mandola series?

    They have some quite affordable Mandolas and Bouzoukis, and a really big mandolin has been appearing in my dreams lately, which I suspect is a Mandola, so I figured I should jump at the chance to write it off as "following my dreams" instead of MAS

    There's a Richwood Mandola close to where I live that I could get my hands on now so any thoughts and experiences you might have would as always be much appreciated!

  2. #2

    Default Re: I need some advice on getting my first big Mandolin:)

    Nice to hear from MandoNina!
    Sorry I know nothing of Richwood, but good luck.
    I have an Octave mandolin now, it has a 20 inch scale length and I have to say it’s a lot of hard work once you get beyond say, 17 inches.
    Really love the low tones though, best played a bit slower to get the benefits.
    Update: I just did a whole load of position shifting exercises, slides etc which really help -at that scale length the style of playing has to change.

    My favourite capo position though is fifth fret, that’s 39 cms or 15 and 3/8 inches. It still has the deepness but your fingers can start to really jump around in a more mandolin-like way.
    I have use of a very cheap mandolin that I don't often play. When I do though, Im always surprised at how very different the finger movements have to be. Everything seems REALLY close! And you can actually position your fingers exactly over the notes before playing them without contortions.

    Of course with a mandola you’ll have the different tuning to contend with when you play with others or you can do the capo on the second fret and jump down a string.
    But welcome to big mandolins! And please post photos!

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: I need some advice on getting my first big Mandolin:)

    The only mandola listed on the Richwood site is an all-plywood flat-top "Celtic" model. Its fingerboard is spec-ed as "engineered wood," which may mean some sort of manufactured material. Didn't find a list price on it, but there's apparently a used one for sale in Dublin for 330€ or a little over $350.

    Richwood sells a wide variety of Asian-made instruments in Europe; the mandola specs don't specify country of origin, but they do mention "Korean-made tuners," so one might infer Korean manufacture. I gather you're in Costa Rica, which means you might have access to other brands of instruments; Trinity College, a brand Saga imports from Asia, has a decent all-solid-woods mandola which seems to sell for around $800 US. That's significantly more expensive, so you'd need to balance quality and cost.

    There hasn't been a great deal of activity on the Cafe concerning Richwood instruments, which may reflect the fact that all their dealers are apparently in Europe, and not too many Asian-made instruments come over to North America from European retailers. If you really like the Richwood instrument, and the price is right, you would be getting a student-grade mandola that could well do to learn on. As Simon says above, playing longer-scale instruments requires some rethinking of how you use your fretting hand, and you need to transpose GDAE-based chords to their equivalent in CGDA tuning. Be aware that you're probably getting an all-plywood instrument, which can have its own limitations.
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    Default Re: I need some advice on getting my first big Mandolin:)

    Hey guys, thanks a lot for the input!
    Yes I think its made in China, as most Richwood instruments, but even though this seems to be a decent instrument for a pretty good price ($150), your making some solid points. The CGDA instead of GDAE tuning, didn't necessarily sound like that much of an adaptation, but after giving it some more thought, I'm starting to think that maybe I should hold out to see if an octave mandolin might appear on my horizon in the relative future. I was getting a bit excited about the thought of finally having a big mandolin though...Clearly still on the fence

    What are the "limitations" with all-plywood instruments? And to what extent is is possible to use alternative tunings on a mandola? Is it in theory possible to tune it as a mandolin?

  7. #5
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: I need some advice on getting my first big Mandolin:)

    1. Instruments made of plywood are generally rated as acoustically inferior to those made of "solid" (non-laminated) wood. The difference is more important for the instrument's top, which is the primary vibrating surface; there are lower-priced mandolins with solid tops but laminated back and sides, sort of a compromise. This doesn't have to be a determining factor for a student-grade instrument, since easy playability is more important than sound, but if you intend to keep the mandola for a while, you might want to try to get one with at least a solid top.

    2. The Richwood is being sold at such a low price, that it might well be worth buying just to see if you like having and playing a mandola -- whether you end up keeping it or not. You're not risking a lot of money if it doesn't meet your needs.

    3. You can tune a mandola any way you want, if you obtain the right gauges of strings. However, if you don't tune it like a mandola, it won't really sound like one. A mandola tuned like a mandolin will sound like a mandolin, with perhaps a lower timbre, but the same notes. Playing it will involve more finger "stretches" to deal with the longer scale, and you won't get much of the "big mandolin" sound you're seeking.

    4. Octave mandolin has the GDAE tuning in a lower octave, so the chord shapes are theoretically the same, but the much longer scale (generally 30-40% longer) means that certain chords easily fingered on your mandolin, are difficult to make on the OM. I play all three instruments -- mandolin, mandola and octave mandolin -- and they involve different approaches. Octave mandolin, as I play it, calls for many first-position chords with open strings, and liberal use of the capo. Not that I'm a wiz on the instrument, but I do play it regularly.

    5. Transposing between GDAE mandolin tuning, and CGDA mandola tuning, is not as hard as some might make it. The chord shapes are familiar -- they just result in different chords. E.g., what would be a G chord on the mandolin, becomes a C chord on the mandola. Once you learn that you've "moved over a string," that the 1st string of the mandola is the same as the 2nd string of the mandolin, you can figure out chords and melodies fairly readily.

    I'd take a shot at the Richwood for $150 (unless that means you don't eat for a week), and see what happens. One thing I love about the mandolin family, is how varied the sizes, shapes and sounds are, from "piccolo" mandolin to mando-bass -- and I've got at least one of each...
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: I need some advice on getting my first big Mandolin:)

    I don't know the situation is in Costa Rica (that is where you live) but I do wonder if there are some areas where there are talented quality luthiers who can make you what you are looking for. I would wager that the local woods down there could be excellent for building stringed instruments. When I was in Belize I saw many large mahogany trees. I was just curious about commisioning from a local luthier. ┐Possible?
    Jim

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    Default Re: I need some advice on getting my first big Mandolin:)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I don't know the situation is in Costa Rica (that is where you live) but I do wonder if there are some areas where there are talented quality luthiers who can make you what you are looking for. I would wager that the local woods down there could be excellent for building stringed instruments. When I was in Belize I saw many large mahogany trees. I was just curious about commisioning from a local luthier. ┐Possible?
    like this one ...Click image for larger version. 

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    "THE TREE"
    https://www.stewmac.com/How-To/Online_Resources/Reference/The_Tree_The_Most_Notorious_Tonewood_in_the_World. html

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