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Thread: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

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    Default Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Hi guys,

    I recently bought an Ashbury AM-110 from Hobgoblin in London which is a lovely unassuming mandolin, as my first mandolin having decided to bite the bullet and start learning it.

    I stupidly then went back in a couple weeks later and played some more expensive ones, namely the Kentucky KM-252 and a gorgeous Paul Hathaway, and through some dubious mental gymnastics have managed to justify to myself upgrading to one of these if they'll let me take back the Ashbury and pay the difference, which I'm hoping will be fine as they'd be effectively doubling their sale.

    1) Is the Paul Hathaway a decent choice given that I mainly intend to play Celtic/trad, eg- jigs and reels?

    2) I played the spruce Hathaway in the shop but they apparently also have a cedar. Is my understanding correct that spruce is generally a brighter, livelier tone and cedar a softer, warmer tone? Are either of these generally better for Celtic stuff?

    Many thanks, appreciate any info about the above or any other general advice/suggestions

    Scott

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Personally, I’d go for spruce but I’d stress that that’s purely a personal opinion. Apart from sound, which you seem to know about, the thing I’ve found with cedar, particularly guitars and 40+ years playing them, is that the wood is softer and tends to mark badly. Some people like the sound - many Lowden guitars have cedar tops - but they’re no for me.

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    I've played some Hathways in London Hobgoblin. I think they are probably fine for what you want.
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Try to get a chance to play the instrument before you decide. So much is personal in our choice of instrument. I have a cedar top and a spruce top (both self-builds) and alternate quite happily between them. Strings can make a big difference to the sound, as can your choice of pick and even your own picking style. Celtic music is played on all kinds of mandolins, as you'll see if you browse YouTube.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOldBores

  5. #5

    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Just across the road from Hobgoblin is Ivor Mairants. According to their website, they have an Eastman MD314 for sale for under £600. See https://www.ivormairants.co.uk/folk-.../acoustic.html Although itís f-shaped, I think youíll find the sound quite appealing. Worth a try before you shell out on a Hathaway. Also if you fancy a day out by the seaside, take a trip down to the Acoustic Music Company in Brighton and see what they have on offer. See https://www.theacousticmusicco.co.uk...luithers-.html

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Aidan - I think you’ll find that Ivor Mairants closed the shop at the end of 2019 although they may still have an on- line presence.

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Aidan - I think you’ll find that Ivor Mairants closed the shop at the end of 2019 although they may still have an on- line presence.
    Didn't know that. They had been going for a long time. I bought a Lowden guitar there.
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    As you'll find looking through past threads on this forum, there is no definitive 'Celtic' mandolin. Decide on your budget and choose the instrument you like the sound and feel of.

    Eastman's carved-top mandolins are very popular at the moment... Personally, I prefer playing flat-top instruments and would second Paul Hathway's instruments as an option within your price range. I was going to mention that Oakwood Instruments make nice flat-top mandolins in a similar price bracket - however, I see from their website http://www.oakwoodinstruments.co.uk/four/index.htm that they are no longer making. An used oakwood mandolin would be worth snapping up if you can find one, but you'll probably be paying a bit extra for rarity value now.

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Wow Ray ... didnít know that. Shame. They stocked some very tasty instruments - mainly guitars - and were such a mainstay of the London music scene. Shows how often I get up west these days! Apologies for any misleading...

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Thanks everyone for the input, that's really helpful.

    The Hathway I have my eye on has a wider fretboard (ie - bigger nut width). This is part of the reason it appealed to me when I was in the shop because it was very playable given I'm approaching this as a guitar player. Is it sensible to buy a larger mandolin, or would this hinder my ability to play smaller ones down the line? Is this a daft line of thinking?
    Last edited by ScotiaTheOne; Feb-05-2020 at 9:01am. Reason: spelling

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Quote Originally Posted by ScotiaTheOne View Post
    Is this a daft line of thinking?
    No I wouldn't say so. I have a fairly large bodied 10 string mandolin by Stefan Sobell. It hasn't stopped me playing smaller instruments, or indeed bigger ones like octave mandolin or tenor banjo. Since this mandolin in particular appeals to you, it seems to me that it might be the one for you.

    I just remembered that someone brought a Hathway to a workshop I was teaching in Ullapool about three years ago. I had a look at it, and quite liked it.
    He is one of the cheaper mandolin builders around, but in my (admittedly limited) experience of his stuff, I think he is pretty good.

    By the way, I like cedar instruments. Both my 10 string and octave mandolins by Sobell are cedar topped. But if there is a choice go for the sound YOU like best.

    No financial interest. I don't know Mr Hathway.
    Last edited by Dagger Gordon; Feb-05-2020 at 10:18am.
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    I like the cedar tops too-#mellow and resonant are good features in Celt-land. A Sobell-style large-body mando is all too hard to find in my neck of the Canadian woods, but boy howdy I would like to get ahold of one.

    Basically I would say that a bluegrass-style, f-hole-possessing, carved top is just fine for playing them jigs and strathspeys, but you have to approach them in a different style because it’s hard to get hammer-ons and pull-offs (and other ornamentation you may want to use) to ring out the way you would like. You pretty much have to pick every note you play to get it to sound out clearly. (Being faced with this limitation, though, is a great incentive to learn how to play those bursts of Superfast notes with your right hand, which is a Good Thing to be able to do.)
    An oval-hole flattop (or perhaps a large body carved top)let’s you use the aforementioned hammer-ons etc more like a guitar player. Which is nice, but this after all a different instrument.
    Which leads me to mention that I think you should maybe not over-focus on this common concern about fingerboard width. Again, it’s -not- a guitar, you’ll get used to operating in different parameters, and I suspect if you just try to play every possibly great instrument you can lay your hands on, one will speak to you like no other, and it may not have all the features you think you are looking for. Just go with what it is, and have fun with it. Cheers.

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Interesting post Bill.

    I know what you mean, but perhaps you could clarify?
    As I understand it, bluegrass players do not especially like much sustain or ringing in a mandolin, which is something I did not realise for a long time, but Celtic players generally do, I think.

    By the way, this article by Nigel Forster is interesting:

    https://www.nkforsterguitars.com/blog/celtic-mandolin/
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aidan Crossey View Post
    Wow Ray ... didn’t know that. Shame. They stocked some very tasty instruments - mainly guitars - and were such a mainstay of the London music scene. Shows how often I get up west these days! Apologies for any misleading...
    I think their passing seems to have been missed by many people. It’s not that “I don’t get up the west end”, I live nearly 300 miles away and I’ve not been to the Republic of London for at least 10 years. I’ve only ever bought two things from them - a Martin guitar in 1974 (from the late Ivor himself) and a set of guitar tuners (mail order as they were the cheapest) a couple of years ago.

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    This is what it says on their website:


    "WELCOME TO IVOR MAIRANTS
    The UK's Premier Online Guitar & Musical Instrument Store.

    Sixty-one years ago, in 1958, Ivor and his wife Lily opened The Ivor Mairants Musicentre, Britain's first specialist guitar store, situated in the heart of London's West End. Many of the world's best guitars and guitar accessories were introduced into Britain by Ivor at his store, which became and has remained, a mecca for professional and amateur guitarists at all levels of ability.

    On 31st December 2019, the lease on our iconic Central London storefront ends.

    Sadly, at the close of business on Saturday 14th December the Musicentre storefront in Rathbone Place, London closed for business.

    We are pleased to be able to say however, that the Ivor Mairants Musicentre webstore lives on at www.ivormairants.co.uk "


    I must say that the rent they must have had to pay (the shop was just beside Oxford Street in the centre of London) would have been incredibly high. I'm not sure that a shop like that really needs to be in such a location. Guitar aficionados learn where to go to find high end stuff, and for strings and accessories and indeed cheaper instruments there are other shops and obviously the internet.
    Last edited by Dagger Gordon; Feb-09-2020 at 5:57am.
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Hathway mando can indeed be used for jigs and reels, check out Three Dollar Shoe on youtube e.g.

    Frank Sings But Walt Disney.
    Cook In The Kitchen - guitar tabs etc.

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dagger Gordon View Post
    As I understand it, bluegrass players do not especially like much sustain or ringing in a mandolin, which is something I did not realise for a long time, but Celtic players generally do, I think.

    By the way, this article by Nigel Forster is interesting:

    https://www.nkforsterguitars.com/blog/celtic-mandolin/
    A few design features do dampen sustain and the high-end frequencies of the instrument. This is true both for mandolins and for guitars, and one can note the same dampening profile when comparing archtop and flat-top instruments of the same family. Carved tops, f-holes and floating bridges all contribute to that dampening, embraced by bluegrass mandolin players as "woody tone." Me? I've always embraced sustain and chime.

    I do like how that Forster article makes it sound like just pure sheer luck that my beloved and amazing "coarse"-sounding (according to Forster) pancake instruments from Flatiron, J. Bouvier and others have escaped collapsing over the decades. Maybe luck is inherent in the design.... *laugh*

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Should you perhaps win the lottery, there is the Taran "Springwell" available, similar to the Sobell instruments, that are no longer made, and rare to find. These Trans are wonderful! I stress that I have absolutely no financial interest or otherwise in posting this, simply a huge admiration for the work of Rory Dowling. But it's outwith the stated price range of the thread. But of interest nevertheless, I hope.

    https://www.taranguitars.co.uk/springwell

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    Default Re: Best Celtic Mandolin around ~£500($700)?

    Yeah the Springwell looks lovely kmmando, but when I have to inquire for prices I know I'm in over my head :D

    The thing that drew me to the Hathways in the first place was the unadorned, simple 'chunky' look and feel to it - feels like a really solid instrument. Thanks for everyone's help and the links to videos of others playing one. I think I'm pretty set on a Hathway - as Bill mentioned earlier it's a good idea to find one that 'speaks to you' and the Hathway so far is the only one that just click into place (even though I can't play more than a couple chords yet)! Now to scour the UK eBay and gumtree sites - a second hand one would be ideal, even though the Hobgoblin guys have kindly said they would accept a trade-up.

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