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Thread: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-MAS

  1. #26
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    I've played some high end mandolins, and I love some of them. Would love to own one or two or ten of them. I have a Washburn M106SWK that I play every day.

    I've found that I sound equally lousy on any mandolin. BTW, I've heard some pretty good pickers playing my lowly Washburn, and they sound pretty good on it.
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  2. #27
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    The fact that you can hear the difference means you're ready to start comparison playing, whether you buy something or not.

    While technique plays a fairly large part in sound, I think once you get a clean fret/unfuzzy sound, that the instrument itself starts making the difference and the percentage flips or at least the gap between sound and technique narrows.

    I played my Eastman for years since it was perfectly adequate for what I was using it for, but I eventually felt it didn't have exactly the tone I wanted -- and did, indeed, feel thin and tinny to my ears. Once I felt a little dissatisfied, I used to go play whatever mandolin I found around, which meant I was playing stuff way, way worse than the Eastman, and instruments that were great mandolins but didn't deliver exactly what I was looking for. Eventually I found a mandolin that sounded the way I wanted my mandolin to sound and made the leap. It was just a matter of keeping what I wanted at the back of my mind until I played the right mandolin. I still pick up the Eastman when I'm playing plugged in (it has a bridge pickup) and it still runs slightly tinny, but for the occasional gig, it does the job as it ever has. I like the Eastman very well. I just like my snake more.
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  3. #28

    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    It could just be that great players find it much easier to justify the expense to their family than lousy players?
    They would be tax deductible items for pros.

    Btw, Iím not saying donít buy something, just make sure youíre investing in your playing ability. Iím sure CT or many others would sound much better than on my stable playing the same tunes.
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  4. #29

    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    I find it interesting that almost everyone is talking about when it is appropriate to upgrade an instrument.

    I like setting other benchmarks, which are instrument-independent. Scale exercises (both linear and broken), tremolo, string skipping and so on build a body of technique which can be transferred to *any* instrument. To me, that's what the word "technique" in the title encompasses. A metronome and the ability to record your practice sessions give an objective measure for improvement.

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  6. #30
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Opinion sought - opinion provided:

    A brand new and better instrument does not solve any technique problems. It gives you a new and better instrument on which to have those problems.

    With proper set up and all, the mandolin you already have, the Eastman 305, has all the capability of being the mandolin to work out your technique, tone, and other playing improvements you wish to make. What I mean is that the mandolin, assuming it has no issues, is not limiting your forward progress as a player.

    That said, if you want a higher end instrument, go for it I say. Not because it is going to help your playing, (it likely won't), or your sound (doubtful as well), or some other rationalization, but because it is what you want to get. There is no "deserving", there is no "good enough" for which you need to wait before you get a better instrument. You just get the very best you can afford and play the potatoes out of it. Life is short and health is shorter.

    Don't fool yourself that your purchase is justified because it will improve your sound or your playing, because there is nothing in the 305 that is stopping you now. Much easier to get a good mandolin than to get good at the mandolin. And few of us reach anywhere near the potential that our mandolins are capable of.

    The only exception to my logic is that if the new mandolin will inspire you to higher levels of practice and attention, because of the pure joy involved, )or even because of a false notion or two of not letting the instrument down,) well OK.
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  8. #31

    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    One big downside to buying the instrument of your dreams is that you then have nowhere left to hide.

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  10. #32
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post

    As others have written, one philosophy -- and a good rule of thumb if you can manage it financially -- is to spring for an instrument that's a bit "above your level." This may motivate you to play and practice more, which is a good thing, and you will never be left wondering if it's your instrument or your technique that limits the quality of your sound. It's your playing! So no excuses.
    I think of it slightly differently, but the result is the same: I need all the help I can get from my instrument! LOL!! I did this, and I KNOW the problem isn't my mandolins, it's me! Play a variety of instruments, and pick one that "speaks" to you - and if none of them do, keep your Eastman for the time being, and keep looking.

  11. #33
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    [QUOTE=JeffD;1755089]Opinion sought - opinion provided:

    A brand new and better instrument does not solve any technique problems. It gives you a new and better instrument on which to have those problems.

    JeffD - well said! Hence my purpose in starting this thread, to get some informed points of view about what, if any, difference would be "immediate".. and of course, that's about as subjective as it can be since all hear differently. As Explorer said in a couple posts above, it's interesting that most posts are about the upgrade provided by a better instrument rather than better skills. I suppose that one take-away I get from all of these (thanks to all for weighing in, hopefully you find it an interesting dialogue) is that working a bit more on effective practice and focus on goals / achievements is at least as important or likely more satisfying than upgrading an instrument. Guess it depends on whether one is satisfied with owning something or actually being able to really create music on an instrument. I own some really nice guitars and can play them well, not at a true professional musician level, but enough to enjoy the music.....

  12. #34
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    One big downside to buying the instrument of your dreams is that you then have nowhere left to hide.

    and no excuses left...

  13. #35
    Registered User Bill Baldridge's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    If a correlation was demanded, or even expected, between the ability of the owner and the quality of the mandolin, there would be three builders left in the world, because the rest would have starved to death.

    If you are happy with what you have, why are you asking? If you are not, why are you asking?
    After all is said, don't we play a mandolin for the pleasure it brings us. Based on your other instruments, it appears that you could afford a more expensive mandolin, so?

  14. #36

    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Quote Originally Posted by Rgbart View Post
    This is one reason why I love the cafe..People respond quickly and say things that just make sense... there is no way to purchase superior tone if you can't produce it with your own hands first. And yes, I've been willing to purchase some upgrades in the quest for better sound that maybe should be investment in practice time instead. I'm hoping that's what retirement is for...
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    I’d say technique is 90% of the sound, maybe more. If you sound lousy on an Eastman, you’ll sound lousy on a Loar.

    I’ll note you commented on stuff for your instrument but not on stuff in your practice aimed at increasing your tone generation and musicianship. You get results where you practice.

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    This post (#11) leads me to believe I may have a problem with my vision.?.
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  15. #37
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Quote Originally Posted by Rgbart View Post
    What I don't want to do is just succumb to MAS and buy a better instrument (I'm not talking about an Ellis... maybe a weber or Girouard) and have it basically the same experience... Wisdom says learn to play better first .. but I really like the Pavas... help!!!
    Of the 3 possible upgrades you mentioned, I own and have owned both Girouard and Weber mandos, and played many Pavas. Either one of those 3 would definitely give you a better instrument, cure MAS momentarily, and you would not have "basically the same experience" as your Eastman, IMO.

    A drive to Austin to Fiddler's Green would seem to be in order if you can get a day off.
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  16. #38

    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    If you haven’t figured out by now, there is little anti MAS sentiment to be found here. The only true anti MAS solution I have ever found that is truly effective is lack of money, and lack of credit. All other methods are temporary and flawed. But I find the lack of money and the lack of credit can easily be attained by buying a mandolin. You get the best of both worlds that way, with the added benefit, if you spend extravagantly outside your comfort zone, of both your money and credit staying depleted for an extra long while, thus forestalling any ability to indulge in MAS .
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  17. #39

    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    "Indecision may, or may not, be your biggest problem." With all due respect, you need to move up a notch or two towards your taste in guitars and pianos. Good luck!
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  18. #40
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Would definitely look first at how you practice and what. Maybe striking the strings differently, at a different angle, or even with a different pick could help change the tone you produce from the Eastman.

    That said, when you listed the other instruments, I immediately heard a fuller, rounder sound than what you have with a mandolin. Especially an Eastman, which I like as an instrument. It could be you might benefit from a different instrument. But only you can decide that.
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  19. #41

    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    A) I bought a 305 last summer to take camping so I could leave my Northfield M safe at home. I really love that 305, but to be sure the Northfield has a much more complex and richer tone than the Eastman. The Northfield M was an upgrade from a handmade Capek F-style that is a beautiful instrument but had a harsher high end than I was satisfied with. The Northfield - brand new - cost me several hundred dollars *less* than the Capek, which was purchased used. My son now owns the Capek and loves it.

    2) At Walker Creek Music Camp several years ago, I had office hours with John Reischman. I played his Loar for several minutes. He played my handmade Capek F. I sounded like me playing his Loar. He sounded like John Reischman playing my Capek.
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  21. #42
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    It could just be that great players find it much easier to justify the expense to their family than lousy players?

    I went to Wintergrass last weekend - lots of fantastic musicians. There is a band called Appalachian Roadshow who I'd never heard before - all very strong musicians - and probably one of the best bluegrass guitar players I've heard. I got to sit in front for one set, and I noticed that the guitar player was playing a Blueridge guitar, and the mandolin player (who was also very good) was playing a The Loar. It was refreshing to see this caliber of a band playing with more "common person" instruments.
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  22. #43
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    ... like OldSausage said, nowhere to hide ... my other reason for not upgrading to something quite nice is that, when I see a higher end mandolin, I have some expectations that I'm going hear some nice picking. The last thing I need are expectations that I'm going to be a hot picker !!!!!!
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  23. #44
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Each mandolin gives you something different sonically. Getting the right one or tow or three to cover the range of what you want to hear can be done. It is the rare mandolin that is everything to everyone.

  24. #45
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Quote Originally Posted by Rgbart View Post
    One of those hopefully interesting questions that has no correct or definite answer.... I have an Eastman 305, clearly a starter instrument, that I have played for a couple years. Some days it sounds like a great instrument, some days it sounds like I really need to get a new mandolin. Now, for context, I appreciate fine instruments, owning a very fine high end steinway grand piano and a custom olsen guitar amongst several other nice instruments.
    You mention that you have two of the finest instruments of their kind. And yet you are playing a starter instrument on mandolin. From your posts it sounds like you haven't yet tried better mandolins (or did I just miss that post). A few people have suggested that you go to a store, bring your Eastman and do some A&B comparisons. I assume it is not the financial investment that is holding you back. The equivalent in the mandolin world of a Steinway piano or an Olson guitar are the top names in mandolin making. You may not have to go that far but, once again, what is holding you back? At least get out there and try. Diod you tell us how long you are playing mandolin?
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  25. #46
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    A brand new and better instrument does not solve any technique problems. It gives you a new and better instrument on which to have those problems.

    With proper set up and all, the mandolin you already have, the Eastman 305, has all the capability of being the mandolin to work out your technique, tone, and other playing improvements you wish to make. What I mean is that the mandolin, assuming it has no issues, is not limiting your forward progress as a player.
    <snip>
    The only exception to my logic is that if the new mandolin will inspire you to higher levels of practice and attention, because of the pure joy involved, )or even because of a false notion or two of not letting the instrument down,) well OK.
    I am not sure I agree with you, Jeff, except for your last point. If he struggles with his mandolin to get the sounds he wants I think it would be frustrating. If I were him I would much rather play my Steinway and Olson rather than plink away at my Eastman. A higher quality instrument will give you more in tone and responsiveness. There is a feedback loop here: easier and more pleasant to play entices you to play more. A higher end mandolin has more potential perhaps untapped at present but available in the future given also the propensity to work on technique. I honestly do thing that a starter mandolin will hold you back.

    Unless there are some real financial considerations, I would go for the upgrade and it really doesn't have to be in the stratosphere. There are some excellent mandolins for reasonable prices. Pava, Girouard, Collings, Northfield, etc.
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  26. #47
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    I totally agree the player is 90% of quality and tone. I think you need at the least a "good" mandolin. A bad mandolin will get you quitting. Having said that ,there can be great inspiration and feelings of joy when you get that special one, regardless of cost. That will make you play more and "will" make you a better player. We get one chance at this beautiful life, be happy as you can. IMHO

  27. #48
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    Default Re: Sound: opinions sought on technique vs instrument, i.e. anti-

    My two-cents comes in two parts: (1) purchase the best instrument you can afford. (2) be comfortable with that instrument.

    There will always, always, always be another model to lust after just around the corner. It doesn’t mean that you need to chase after that model. It just means that you need to control that wandering eye and look at the music you can play with what’s in your hands.

    I come from a musical family. I’ve been literally playing guitar and other stringed instruments since I could pick one up. I’m now approaching 70. There’s a lot of years with a lot of instruments under my belt.

    My Dad was a carpenter. He told me that the only person who cared what was in your toolbox was another carpenter. The person who hires you only cares about what you can do with the tools you own.

    In 1972, I had the unique privilege of sitting with John Hartford, Vassar Clements, and Earl Scruggs. I had just started exploring the mandolin and, being a college kid with no money, had picked up a very cheap Kay at a junk shop. I told them as much. John Hartford interrupted me with a statement that “any instrument is capable of making great music. It just needs all of your heart and soul to give it heart and soul.” Vassar Clements picked it up, ran a couple of licks, and said “nothing wrong with this; it makes music just fine.” And Earl Scruggs said “son, just remember, the audience doesn’t care what you’re playing, just that you’re playing what they came to hear.”

    Too many times, we allow ‘newer,’ ‘greater,’ ‘better’ influence our opinion. Too many times we don’t allow ourselves the energy, the opportunity, and the years to become comfortable with an instrument. And, as a result, that wandering eye prevents any heart and soul from going into and out of that instrument.

    Over time, as we grow, we may want another mandolin, another guitar, another whatever. If so, let it be the result of experience and not of simple want.

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