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Thread: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

  1. #1
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    On Friday I took a day trip to a music store that might have a bigger selection of higher-end mandolins than any other music store in Missouri (that store is Morgan Music in Lebanon, MO) and definitely more good mandolins than I've found in any stores that are a day trip away from Kansas City. I got to play a Northfield F5S and Big Mon, a Gibson F5G, a 1924 Gibson A4, a 70's Gibson F12 (shockingly bad, even after what I've read over the years, lol), an assortment of Collings from MT to MF5, and some miscellaneous Chinese and American brands. (My favorite mandolins this time were the two Northfields. On my last visit last summer, my favorite was a Ratliff R5F - wish there had been one this time.)

    While at the store, I talked to Bobby about fiddles and how I had dabbled on my son's fiddle some years ago and had kept wanting to buy a lower-priced fiddle just for the fun of it. Bobby gave quick demos of a wide range of new and old fiddles, from $100 and up to about $2500. Bobby then left me to my own devices. I played one particularly rough looking old German fiddle and was shocked by the resonance from that fiddle's body (even with my rusty playing). These days I'm mainly a mandolin player, but even after playing some very nice mandolins that day, the rich reverberation of that relatively cheap fiddle was a revelation!

    I will still buy a step-up mandolin one of these days (hopefully this spring), but I walked away with that beat-up old German fiddle. I probably overpaid because it IS so rough and is just a trade violin from a time and place that generated a lot of junk violins (and Morgan Music's Reverb entry called the condition "fair," lol), but I was going by my ear and that $500 fiddle just sounded so rich.
    Doug Brock
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    Mandolin Player trodgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Glad to hear about your visit to Morgan Music. I think they are one of the real 'hidden gems' of music stores. I've made the trek down to Lebanon several times under the cover of a family spring-break trout fishing adventure. Little does my family know, I'm not much of a fisherman. Once the obligatory morning trip to the stream is over, it's off to town to get 'supplies.'

    I've always found the Morgan Music staff very helpful with a very friendly stay-and-play attitude. The other thing I really appreciate is that staff I've dealt with are very non-judgemental about the customer's skill level or present instrument. I traded in a rather crude $60 Johnson A model there, and there was no attitude whatsoever. The clerk picked it up and strummed it, noted that I had obviously done some set-up work, and commented that he was happy to get a really good beginners instrument into the store. He could have as easily turned up his nose and said, "Oh, one of those..."

    Good store, good folks!
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  5. #3

    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Most good stores have stayed in business by treating customers well. They tend to come back when it's time to spend several thousand dollars on a better instrument because they were respected when their budget was $500. I had a nice experience at The Mandolin Store when I stated that my reason for going there was to educate myself as to what I might have to spend on an upgrade. Their attitude? I'd already bought an Eastman from them, so was already a valued customer.
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  6. #4

    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    If it sounds good, it is good. Doesn't matter what the bling is.

    Refreshing to here someone bought an instrument irregardless of the looks, just for the sound.
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    I had a brief chance to strum John Reichmanns L. Loar...it had a stunning amount of neck resonances!
    Fiddles are much more finely carved vs mando.
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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Violins have a different sound production mechanism, for all the effort of Loar to emulate them. The first difference is the continuous energy input from the bow, as opposed to a transient from a pick. The second difference is the bridge action, with the much taller bridge efficiently pumping the bass side by its rocking motion, which is enabled by the soundpost. A violin top can be thinner, also, due to carrying less tension load from the strings.
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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wright View Post
    Violins have a different sound production mechanism, for all the effort of Loar to emulate them. The first difference is the continuous energy input from the bow, as opposed to a transient from a pick. The second difference is the bridge action, with the much taller bridge efficiently pumping the bass side by its rocking motion, which is enabled by the soundpost. A violin top can be thinner, also, due to carrying less tension load from the strings.
    Yes, I'm aware of those differences. I was still amazed at the richness and volume of a low-end fiddle (even if it seems to be a nicer-than-average-sounding low-end fiddle) compared to some very nice mandolins.
    Doug Brock
    2018 Kimble 2 point (#259), 2019 Silverangel Econo A, Eastman MD315, Eastman MDA315
    Pisgah Wonder open back banjo, cheap old German fiddle, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

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    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Right! I just started violin lessons a month and a half ago and have this week graduated from the E and A strings to the D and G strings. The instrument, an old no-name in my bro's closet for decades, has come alive alive in a way I've never experienced on a mando. Quite a revelation! At this point I'd be afraid to touch a cello ...

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  15. #9

    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    I have an oil can that is more resonant than a fiddle.

  16. #10

    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    I have an oil can that is more resonant than a fiddle.
    I see your oil can and raise you one pie plate.

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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bartl View Post
    Right! I just started violin lessons a month and a half ago and have this week graduated from the E and A strings to the D and G strings. The instrument, an old no-name in my bro's closet for decades, has come alive alive in a way I've never experienced on a mando. Quite a revelation! At this point I'd be afraid to touch a cello ...

    Joe
    So a bass is entirely out of the question...

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    Yes, I'm aware of those differences. I was still amazed at the richness and volume of a low-end fiddle (even if it seems to be a nicer-than-average-sounding low-end fiddle) compared to some very nice mandolins.
    Maybe this is also very obvious but one advantage I find playing fiddle vs. mandolin in a jam session is that the fiddle is played much closer to the ears than a mandolin. So add that to the mix along with the structural differences as Tom mentioned. I can play mandolin in a small session but in a huge roomful of instruments—forget it! I always end up playing fiddle.
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  21. #13

    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    The great thing about fiddles is that cost isn't necessarily reflective of quality in fiddling terms. Sometimes the trade violins make perfect fiddles, better than a higher end instrument that might be a wonderful classical violin. Classical violinists generally tend to (emphasis on "generally" prefer very focused and, perhaps, brighter instruments. Especially since they play in higher positions, and with different techniques than us fiddlers. A somewhat lower end instrument CAN have plenty of good tone and resonance in the areas a fiddle player wants. If that makes any sense.
    Also, cosmetic condition can depreciate any instrument, so that $500 beat-up German trade fiddle could have been priced far higher in different condition, irrespective of build and playing quality.

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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    I played one particularly rough looking old German fiddle and was shocked by the resonance from that fiddle's body (even with my rusty playing). These days I'm mainly a mandolin player, but even after playing some very nice mandolins that day, the rich reverberation of that relatively cheap fiddle was a revelation!

    I will still buy a step-up mandolin one of these days (hopefully this spring), but I walked away with that beat-up old German fiddle. I probably overpaid because it IS so rough and is just a trade violin from a time and place that generated a lot of junk violins (and Morgan Music's Reverb entry called the condition "fair," lol), but I was going by my ear and that $500 fiddle just sounded so rich.
    Yep, you can get some nice surprises with the old German trade violins. Back when I used to know a lot more teachers, I regularly focused on buying just those types of violins on eBay, which I did minor setup work on and turned around and sold to their students. I would keep the best one for myself, and occasionally would regret selling one. Very recently I got really lucky - I had my eye on one for the first time in years, as the bidding was still so low near the end of the auction. I couldn't be there at the end, so I put in a bid just to get it higher, 1/2 hour before it ended. I was shocked to come back in and find the message "you won this auction!". It needed a new bridge, but once I did that, the instrument just sings and vibrates in my hands and runs circles around the "keeper" I had on hand all the intervening years since I used to be a regular buyer/seller. It even looks good, with a lovely figured one-piece back. The seller was surprised it didn't go higher too, as most of his instruments do, but I guess the snipers were all asleep at the switch; it cost me all of $260 shipped, and I'm all set now, with my new, old 'occasional player' violin!

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    Default Re: Resonance of a fiddle vs mandolins (wow)

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    Yes, I'm aware of those differences. I was still amazed at the richness and volume of a low-end fiddle (even if it seems to be a nicer-than-average-sounding low-end fiddle) compared to some very nice mandolins.
    Try playing them with a pick instead of a bow & then report back.

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