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Thread: Help me understand

  1. #1

    Default Help me understand

    I am just starting to try and play again after my motorcycle accident last year nearly put an end to me. My hands are still stiff and the little finger on my left hand is weak but I am back at it.

    Anyhow, help me understand the differences between traditional A and F style octave mandolins versus flat top guitar body and arch top guitar body octave mandolins.

    I see Eastman and Weber in one camp, and Pono and Northfield in the other. What are the differences and purposes?
    Loar LM-370

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    Default Re: Help me understand

    Can't help you with the UNDERSTANDING instrument differences but, I can help you understand that motorcycles are dangerous ! Even if you are not at fault you will come out on the short end of the stick ! I am speaking from experience !
    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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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help me understand

    Welcome back Doc. In my experience and it hasn't been all that extensive, I have determined (at least for me) that it's a preference like in "I like the way my F style mandola looks better than I would like an A style mandola". For me it's strictly appearance. In the Octave range I'm still out between a carved top and the guitar bodies. I'm sure the sound will be different as the sound between arch top guitars and flat top guitars is different. As far as playing they should be similar. I had to come back from a shoulder injury a few years back and I wasn't able to play the mandolin at first because I couldn't get my arm bent far enough but I could play the guitar. Whatever your choice be prepared to modify your playing style a bit to accommodate the changes in your body.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Help me understand

    I recently took the plunge into the world of octaves and ended up getting a Pono. Essentially, I wanted an instrument that would sound full while accompanying myself or another vocalist, without having to learn guitar. The Pono fits the bill with a very big sound that you can lean into for dynamics that I don't think would sound good on the Eastman. Overall, it reminds me of a 12 string - very "shimmering" on the upper register, yet it has this awesome growl when you lay into the G course. I tend to play open chords as much as possible and capo up just as you would on a guitar.
    On the downside, I'm not sure it's the best instrument for faster tempo songs because of the incredible sustain that starts to sound muddy to me, but the jury is still out on that one.
    I installed a JJB piezo in it and play it through a Tonedexter. My favorite patch was recorded using an SM57.
    Being right is overrated. Doing right is what matters.

    Eastman 815v
    Pono MND-20H

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Help me understand

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Welcome back Doc. In my experience and it hasn't been all that extensive, I have determined (at least for me) that it's a preference like in "I like the way my F style mandola looks better than I would like an A style mandola". For me it's strictly appearance. In the Octave range I'm still out between a carved top and the guitar bodies. I'm sure the sound will be different as the sound between arch top guitars and flat top guitars is different. As far as playing they should be similar. I had to come back from a shoulder injury a few years back and I wasn't able to play the mandolin at first because I couldn't get my arm bent far enough but I could play the guitar. Whatever your choice be prepared to modify your playing style a bit to accommodate the changes in your body.
    Yeah, my body keeps compensating and my physiotherapist keeps working to stop it and get name moving normally. It is a real battle. But, quit was never in my vocabulary.
    Loar LM-370

  9. #6

    Default Re: Help me understand

    Quote Originally Posted by gspiess View Post
    I recently took the plunge into the world of octaves and ended up getting a Pono. Essentially, I wanted an instrument that would sound full while accompanying myself or another vocalist, without having to learn guitar. The Pono fits the bill with a very big sound that you can lean into for dynamics that I don't think would sound good on the Eastman. Overall, it reminds me of a 12 string - very "shimmering" on the upper register, yet it has this awesome growl when you lay into the G course. I tend to play open chords as much as possible and capo up just as you would on a guitar.
    On the downside, I'm not sure it's the best instrument for faster tempo songs because of the incredible sustain that starts to sound muddy to me, but the jury is still out on that one.
    I installed a JJB piezo in it and play it through a Tonedexter. My favorite patch was recorded using an SM57.
    Yeah, the Pono is interesting and the price, for a mandolin, is not too bad. But the sustain could make the sound distorted, but I’m not sure as I’ve not played one.

    My goal is to get back into this and get good enough to justify buying an octave.
    Loar LM-370

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    Default Re: Help me understand

    They all seem to have a cool voice, sort of like a kid who you knew well but haven't seen for like 20 years. No experience playing them myself, only playing with other players and seeing them used live. As a sole accompaniment, or maybe in an acoustic duo they seem to stand up well enough but in anything larger they get buried.

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    Default Re: Help me understand

    When I first picked up my mandola the first thing that struck me was the sustain. It didn't strike me as a bad thing, it changed the way I played certain songs.

    By the way Doc, thanks for triggering a case of MAS in me. Now I'm jonesing for an octave again.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  12. #9

    Default Re: Help me understand

    As discussed elsewhere, I dig my Pono octave mandolin. Guitar-shaped, mine came with a K&K pickup installed by the previous owner. I don't foresee selling it, unless financial times were hard.



    I also am blessed to own an Eastman A-style octave mandolin. The tones are totally different between the two, as one would imagine from the body shapes. I dig them both. I originally thought I'd buy both then decide on which one to keep, and they're different enough that I kept both.

    recorded with the same phone:



    I hope having the videos helps you compare them.

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  14. #10

    Default Re: Help me understand

    Quote Originally Posted by mojocaster View Post
    As discussed elsewhere, I dig my Pono octave mandolin. Guitar-shaped, mine came with a K&K pickup installed by the previous owner. I don't foresee selling it, unless financial times were hard.



    I also am blessed to own an Eastman A-style octave mandolin. The tones are totally different between the two, as one would imagine from the body shapes. I dig them both. I originally thought I'd buy both then decide on which one to keep, and they're different enough that I kept both.

    recorded with the same phone:



    I hope having the videos helps you compare them.
    How does it stack up to Northfields and Webers?
    Loar LM-370

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    Default Re: Help me understand

    [QUOTE=DocT;1757136 hands are still stiff and the little finger on my left hand is weak but I am back at it... flat top guitar body and arch top guitar body octave mandolins.[/QUOTE]

    Not answering your question, but just a thought. If you're having stiffness in your hands, then in terms of getting your hand flexibility back, you might want to think about a mandola or a small scale octave. I think the flat-topped Ponos in particular come with a shorter (20"?) scale. I have an octave that I love, but the stretch is just too much for me for anything other than 3 finger chords. My mandola is just the right size--and I love the rich bass sound--but the chords are kicking my butt because of the difference with mandolin.

    As for guitar body vs A body octave: there's just a form you look at and say, "THAT'S IT!" For me it was a GBOM, but I ended up with an A. Whatchagonnado?
    belbein

    “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

    See my latest blog post: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/en...lay-for-People

  16. #12

    Default Re: Help me understand

    Quote Originally Posted by DocT View Post
    How does it stack up to Northfields and Webers?

    Both the ones I posted are sub $1000 offerings... so what you're asking me is, how does a kia stack up compared to a top of the line Mercedes. The answer is, can we / should we really compare them? I'm sure that a Northfield would be a lot more instrument than either of these two, from the workmanship to the tone to the wood used to the equipment selected. But it's also what $4000 more?

    As always, it's a law of diminishing returns. Is a Northfield $4000 better than my Pono? No. Is it flat out better? Yes, in every way. Bottom line? If you have the dough to acquire a top of the line instrument without placing yourself or your family in a precarious situation, why are we even discussing these? And if you don't, then it's a moot point.

    I'm relatively new to playing the mandolin. While I admire the quality of Northfield and Weber instruments - and I really, really do - it'd be silly for me to acquire one at this stage. The money involved simply can't be legitimized *in my situation*. In the meantime, I get to play these two on songs I record and live, and they're treating me right

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    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help me understand

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    mandola .
    I didn't realize you played a mandola. I'm just falling in love with mine again … but struggling with chords again too. Do you have a resource for mandola chord progression charts? I've decided to try concentrating on that, but can't find a good source.
    belbein

    “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

    See my latest blog post: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/en...lay-for-People

  19. #14

    Default Re: Help me understand

    As for a mandola, I agree that the stretch is obviously not as drastic considering the scale length difference. I went with the Eastman MDA815 after considering the 300 series of the same brand for a while. The upgrade in quality finish and equipment was worth it *to me*


  20. #15
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help me understand

    DocT's clips above (nice playing!) are a pretty good demonstration of the difference in timbre between flat top and carved archtop OMs. You can hear the distinctive midrange punch of the archtop, while the flat top has a more evenly distributed frequency range. Or at least it sounds that way to me.

    I've owned 12-string guitars and baritone acoustic guitars, and still play a 6-string steel string acoustic guitar. So when I got into an octave mandolin, I wanted one that sounded like a Gibson-ish mandolin on steroids; something as far away from a guitar as possible. I was lucky to find a Weber Yellowstone F for sale used, at around half the price of a new one, and jumped on it.

    I like the "dark" and punchy timbre of the archtop, and there is plenty of sustain. It lacks the brightness of tone to blend well with guitars and other instruments in a group setting, but I use it mainly as a solo instrument for playing at home. I don't find the sustain a problem playing faster tunes, because I just avoid those on the OM.


    My mandolin speaks more quickly and is easier to play faster, so I play dance tempo Irish tunes on mandolin and reserve the OM for the slower tunes where I can milk the sustain on airs and "slow reels." YMMV on that, I've heard some great fast OM playing, it's just now how I use it. Here's a Sierra Hull Weber clip that's been around for a while, for a reference on what it sounds like:


  21. #16

    Default Re: Help me understand

    Quote Originally Posted by mojocaster View Post
    Both the ones I posted are sub $1000 offerings... so what you're asking me is, how does a kia stack up compared to a top of the line Mercedes. The answer is, can we / should we really compare them? I'm sure that a Northfield would be a lot more instrument than either of these two, from the workmanship to the tone to the wood used to the equipment selected. But it's also what $4000 more?

    As always, it's a law of diminishing returns. Is a Northfield $4000 better than my Pono? No. Is it flat out better? Yes, in every way. Bottom line? If you have the dough to acquire a top of the line instrument without placing yourself or your family in a precarious situation, why are we even discussing these? And if you don't, then it's a moot point.

    I'm relatively new to playing the mandolin. While I admire the quality of Northfield and Weber instruments - and I really, really do - it'd be silly for me to acquire one at this stage. The money involved simply can't be legitimized *in my situation*. In the meantime, I get to play these two on songs I record and live, and they're treating me right
    Thanks, that helps. I’ve heard only one Northfieldand it was as amazing as it was pricey. So, if the Pono sounds good enough, then that’s a good thing to know. No one here has even heard of a mandolin, so I can’t just go try one and see for myself.
    Loar LM-370

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  23. #17

    Default Re: Help me understand

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    Can't help you with the UNDERSTANDING instrument differences but, I can help you understand that motorcycles are dangerous ! Even if you are not at fault you will come out on the short end of the stick ! I am speaking from experience !
    Good advice, but it looks like that train has already left the station.

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    Default Re: Help me understand

    I’ve owned a Weber Hyalite OM that was carved top/back with an oval hole. It was a rhythm machine but the 22.5 inch scale length was too much for me to cleanly play melodies without a ton of shifting. Through a couple of trades and some cash I irrationally turned it into a Yellowstone mandocello. It, too, was an awesome instrument... OMG that bass thump and growl! I played with it for about 2 years, but eventually came to the realization that I wasn’t willing to put in the work and time on the alternate tuning and scale length to really make it work for me (I play mando, guitar, bass, and a very little bit of banjo, and didn’t want to ignore them).

    Then, last summer, I moved my daughter to Boston for law school and got to visit TME. They had a 22.5 inch Northfield GBOM and a Girouard 20 inch (or maybe 20.5?) GBOM hanging side by side. The Northfield was a very good sounding instrument, but playing the 20 inch Girouard was a revelation for me. I almost bought it, but figured I’d sit on it for a couple of days and if I still wanted it order online to save on some sales tax and not have to worry about dealing with the airline on the way home. I pondered for a couple of days too long and someone else snagged it, but finally knew what I’d been missing. So, the mandocello and a mandolin I wasn’t playing much became a Weber A style f hole Bitteroot OM from TMS, with which I’m very pleased. It sounds great, and I can comfortably play OM fingerings on it, which is really helping my pinky develop.

    I rambled about all that to say, with your injuries, you may want to start with a shorter scale OM. The G string on mine is a little floppier than on the longer scale instruments, but I’m learning how to make it work well, and haven’t yet played with different string gauges. I don’t feel like I’m losing too much in sustain, and suspect that difference would be even less pronounced on a GBOM.

    This has been my journey. There are plenty of folks out there who thrive on longer scale instruments, and Sierra Hull and Sarah Jarosz are tiny compared to me and have no trouble with whatever they pick up, but they’re also super heros, lol.
    Chuck

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  26. #19

    Default Re: Help me understand

    Yes, I do plan to buy a short scale om, when I purchase. You are right about the injuries. Though I’m improving daily, the range of motion in both hand and shoulder is still an issue.

    On another note, I’m leaning towards a GBOM. Based on what can hear on both Mac and iPad I like the sound minutely better. That Pono small body GBOM sounds pretty good and I like the dark sunburst finish, too.

    Saving my pennies.
    Loar LM-370

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