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Thread: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    Hello all, I'm looking into having an OM built and researching different tone woods for the back and sides. I believe I'm going to use torrified spruce for the top wood. I'm leaning towards using rosewood or mahogany for the back and sides. I tend to play more melody and not as much backing so i would prefer to have a clear, clean, loud voicing over the traditional warm strumming tones. Any input is appreciated, thank you!!

  2. #2
    Registered User NotMelloCello's Avatar
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    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    Go with mahogany. It's less expensive, and exhibits a terrific sound.
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    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tbone17 View Post
    I'm leaning towards using rosewood or mahogany for the back and sides. I tend to play more melody and not as much backing so i would prefer to have a clear, clean, loud voicing over the traditional warm strumming tones.
    For clear, clean, and loud, I’d go with maple (or birch) over mahogany (or rosewood).
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    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    Is anyone building OMs, Dolas, or even many builders using torrified wood on f style mandolins due to fear of cracking? I think I would want a red spruce top or something that has proven itself to have good tone quality and durability. I’m not convinced that torrified provides much or any improvement in tone, nor am I convinced it is not prone to cracking.
    Just a thought to consider. I’m neither an expert or a builder. I am a little gun shy after having a mandola built with a red wood top that sounded absolutely wonderful, but self destructed in a year’s time.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    ....I'm neither an expert or a builder. I am a little gun shy after having a mandola built with a red wood top that sounded absolutely wonderful, but self destructed in a year’s time.
    I've had a redwood and maple mandola for several years now. Magical tone. I also have a redwood and maple mandocello that's been with me many years. Overall it's my favorite instrument I've ever played. Western red cedar is also one of my favorites. Mellow tone, incredible sustain. As my mother in law used to say, "sounds like dark chocolate."

  6. #6

    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    Tbone, you're putting the cart before the horse. Pick a maker whose work you like and can afford. Then talk with them about what woods might suit you best.

    I say this having made hundreds of OMs, bouzoukis, mandolins, tenors and guitars. And having worked with hundreds of musicians.

    Pick the maker, then work with them to choose woods.

    Good luck,

    Nigel
    https://www.nkforsterguitars.com/ins...rish-bouzouki/

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  8. #7

    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    To Nigel's point, there is not a "standard" octave mandolin design, so you don't stand a chance of knowing how the woods used might impact tone. In the guitar world, if you were to get a Dread with such-and-such bracing pattern, and such-and-such woods, you might have a chance of knowing approximately what it would sound like. At least in broad strokes.
    But octave mandolins are so idiosyncratic, each maker's work is going to sound more like that maker than the influence of any woods used could overcome.

    Air is the single most important material used in musical instrument construction, and has more impact on the final tone than any other material used in the build process. (That's to say that the instrument's shape, size, and geometry has more impact on tone than the woods used).

    You could also split the difference - do you know for a fact that you always gravitate towards cedar-topped guitars? Find an OM builder who specializes in cedar topped instruments, and that's their specialty. It's not everything, but it's a starting point.

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    So how is the process going? Tbone17 'looking into having an OM built'?

    Step one, like Nigel says is to find a builder.
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    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    I would only have an instrument built by a Luthier I trust. If I trust that person enough to have her/him build me an instrument, I'd also trust that professional to guide me in tone wood selection. By this I mean, I would discuss with the Luthier what tone I desire, my intended venue, genre, my style of play etc, and ask which woods they recommend to achieve that end. The Luthier knows his/her instruments and hence, will know better than me which tone woods will best meet my needs. If I didn't trust the Luthier to that extent, I'd find one I did trust. That's my two cents worth. YMMV.
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    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    Is anyone building OMs, Dolas, or even many builders using torrified wood on f style mandolins due to fear of cracking? I think I would want a red spruce top or something that has proven itself to have good tone quality and durability. I’m not convinced that torrified provides much or any improvement in tone, nor am I convinced it is not prone to cracking.
    Just a thought to consider. I’m neither an expert or a builder. I am a little gun shy after having a mandola built with a red wood top that sounded absolutely wonderful, but self destructed in a year’s time.
    Good advice about picking a builder you trust. My builder built to my request for a red wood top of which he lacked experience. This resulted in him making the red wood top too thin which resulted in disaster.
    I had a good luthier whom, as per my request, built beyond his experience.
    Last edited by Pittsburgh Bill; Feb-09-2020 at 1:20pm.
    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)

  12. #11

    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    Thanks guys for your input. I am talking with a luthier right now, he's given me a few options and understands what I'm looking to get out of the OM. The top tonewood and the back and sides were his suggestions per our convo. I was just looking for anyone's input or experience is all. This will be my 1st build so I'm super excited and nervous all the same, lol. I am leaning towards rosewood for the back and sides but wanted to check comparisons if there were any. Ultimately its a personal taste and i get that. Thanks again!

  13. #12
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    Default Re: tone woods for Octave Mandolin

    I’ll second the recommendations for maple back and sides. I have a Petersen with a spruce top and maple behind it, which I absolutely love for its “clear, clean, loud voicing.” I love rosewood on guitars, but I wonder how much it would overload the tone on instruments with doubled strings.
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