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Thread: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

  1. #1
    We're all mad here elbent's Avatar
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    Smile Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    Hi, all. I have a 1996 Rigel my fiance inherited from his great-uncle. It's a wonderful instrument, sounds beautiful, but the neck was customized to be a bit thicker than a normal mandolin. I have very, very small hands - think child size, even though I am an adult female. Should I learn on this instrument or pick up a modest Kentucky or similar? I don't want this lovely Rigel to go to waste but I'm worried I won't be able to learn as well with the thick neck. Thank you.

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  2. #2
    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    You'll learn with the thick neck. Else, you could have a luthier thin it for you.
    I'd keep this one.
    Bill
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  3. #3
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    I think you should send it to me and I'll happily send you two modest Kentuckys.

    I sold a lovely old Gibson because I couldn't get along with the neck. But if I were in your position, I would try to learn on this and if I just couldn't play it comfortably, look into having someone reshape it. Maybe Pete Langdell, who is still building Rigels as far as I know.

  4. #4
    We're all mad here elbent's Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric F. View Post
    I think you should send it to me and I'll happily send you two modest Kentuckys.
    Ha! Nice try

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric F. View Post
    But if I were in your position, I would try to learn on this and if I just couldn't play it comfortably, look into having someone reshape it. Maybe Pete Langdell, who is still building Rigels as far as I know.
    Do you know if this is an expensive modification, generally speaking?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    If you haven't played a mandolin before I'd try to learn on the Rigel. If you (or your instructor) thinks it's a problem after a while then you can always have the neck shaved down. Here's someoneto inspire you: If the video doesn't show up search Youtube for Duff Octave Mandolin played by Sierra Hull

  6. #6
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    If it is uncomofrtable, get something else. I don't care how good the mando is (that extreme bridge position is questionable) if you have a difficult time learning on it, you will get frustrated and be tempted to quit.

    Eastman necks seem to be pretty narrow; or at least their nut width is small.

    Get something that is easier for you to learn on, and you'll be happier about playing/learning. Learning is supposed to be fun.
    Chris Cravens

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    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by elbent View Post
    Do you know if this is an expensive modification, generally speaking?
    I've seen guitar neck reshaping offered for $135. That ought to give you a ballpark estimate.

  8. #8
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    BTW, about your question about getting the neck thinned, I'd contact luthier Skip Kelley who is a member here on the cafe. He's be a great choice to do the work, and if you contacted him, he'd get back with you to give an idea about the cost to do that job:


    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/m...64-Skip-Kelley


    He makes great mandos and does great repair work. He did some for me not long ago. Great guy as well.
    Chris Cravens

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  9. #9
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by ccravens View Post
    If it is uncomofrtable, get something else. I don't care how good the mando is (that extreme bridge position is questionable) if you have a difficult time learning on it, you will get frustrated and be tempted to quit.

    Eastman necks seem to be pretty narrow; or at least their nut width is small.

    Get something that is easier for you to learn on, and you'll be happier about playing/learning. Learning is supposed to be fun.
    Yeah, I meant to ask about that bridge. It looks seriously out of place. Can you check the intonation and see if it needs to be repositioned? Or take it to someone who can look it over?

  10. #10
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    Quote Originally Posted by elbent View Post
    Should I learn on this instrument or pick up a modest Kentucky or similar? I don't want this lovely Rigel to go to waste but I'm worried I won't be able to learn as well with the thick neck.
    You may learn from the Rigel that you can’t get along with a thick neck, but I’d let it teach you that lesson before parting with it.
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    I have a Rigel as well, more like a 2004-5 model but the neck is certainly not a "speed" neck.
    I would keep the Rigel and do nothing ( other than get it setup properly).
    If you "advance" and want to further explore, then you might consider slimming the neck or a different mando.
    its probably a really nice mandolin, I would be hesitant to modify it.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

  12. #12
    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    I would not rush to thin the neck - a lot of people find slightly thicker necks more comfortable [I did at first]. Hand size should not be a limitation at all, unless coupled with poor technique.

    In terms of mandolins it's not bargain basement but mandolins in general are quite expensive compared to guitars - it's pretty middle of the road IMO, high end mandolins start at about double the cost of that.

    Keep it and use it to learn on. If it's like the Rigel someone local has that I played a number of times it's a lovely instrument and I wouldn't step down to a less fun to play instrument just because you're new.

    I bet if you could talk to the original owner they would be sad to see you sell it to learn on something lesser.

    While people online might make a big deal about small differences in neck/etc, it's far to early in your mandolin career to be worried about anything more than getting that mandolin setup by a good luthier and finding what kind of learning works for you. It's a nice mandolin and should take you a few years before you learn what an even-better-for-you mandolin is. I know I find thin necks [and flat fretboards] a lot less fun to play and I end up sounding a lot slopper - it's not like there's a ton of extra space there already.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    1 keep the rigel, they're great. they DO have slightly thicker necks. I have a Gibson fern and a brentrup. I still love and play the rigel frequently. theres no issue at all going among the necks. I don't find the rigel any more or less to play than the other 2 "standard" shaped necks I have. Respectfully, its hard for me to think that any mando neck would over face even the smallest of hands. Sierra Hull and Chris Thile were both playing like age 9 or so....BUT

    otoh, the answer, really, is to go out and try say a Kentucky, etc, and see if youre hands prefer a slim neck. Understand, even for me, as a guitar player dude, when I started back with mando after forty years, they take a bit more strength and different touch. They are not "soft and easy" until you get some hand strength. Using the pinky is particularly subject to practice use and time to strengthen. And, it takes time.

    2 Rigels, have a wonderfully unique sound, somewhere between an F and something slightly woodier. You have a beautiful mandolin. They are unique, comfortable, and, imho are hugely under appreciated because they are not a traditional shape/style.

    3 It is my experience, as a guy who had a good ear for guitars, fully hearing and understanding the nuances of mandolin tone took me about a year. My first mandolin was a 02 gibby fern. a great mandolin. after a few years with it, working hard, playing a lot, I added others. I bought my rigel primarily for using in a plug and play situation , stage. I have played some pretty large venues with it. It is every bit as good as any other mandolin I own, and sounds and plays great. Its actually one of my favorites, because of the rounded body. IN starting mando, it will take a bit of time to get your hand strength and finesse up to par. The neck may seem like an impediment, but, I suggest its not.

    simply, put a few months into the mandolin, and then re-group. you can always sell it, but, you may find its a bit more difficult to replace. DO NOT thin the neck. imho, youll wreck resale value. That mandolin has significant value , which you could put toward another. IF you decide to thin the neck, id suggest contacting pete langdell (Rigel) , as, imho, a mod by the builder will likely not affect value. BTW, Rigel necks are bolt on, so, its less a project to some degree. (the bolts are under the twelfth fret marker dots.)

    make sure its properly set up and intonated. new strings too, lights are good to start. get some strength, then move to mediums and see which you prefer. My bridge is also at an angle, but not as much.

    fwiw, its stock tuners were perfectly functional. I changed mine out for Rubners, and, I prefer them.

  14. #14
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    1000s of people with hands your size play the upright bass.....you'll be fine with a slightly thicker mandolin neck.

    Once you decide you like the mandolin and want to stick with it, Pete Langdell who built that mandolin lives over in Vermont. 'A perfect excuse to take a little road trip during the fall colors and have the original maker modify the neck for your hands and check out some of his newer work.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    It's not that a thick/wide neck is not playable for some(like me);but,it really does hold me back from any kind of enjoyment on the mandolin.

    Had a Nugget with a thick neck. Sounded great but I would play other lesser-sounding mandos with a better fitting neck for me instead and sold it.

    Teens Gibsons,I love the tone, but WILL not put up with big thick/wide necks.

    All the advice I got when asking about thinning a neck on a mandolin was,"Just get a different mandolin." Depends on the mandolin, maybe,but I think it was solid advice.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    question what is a bit ? child size hands, funny I seen some very young children fly all over the fret board playing guitar, mandolin & banjo. one more thing show a little respect towards that great uncle & keep his mandolin with out cutting it up.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Keep Rigel or learn on different instrument?

    It’s your mandolin now, you can do with it what you want. That great uncle would probably prefer that you modify it and play the snot out of it than stick it in a closet.

    I agree with those suggesting to give it some time before you modify the neck shape. I’ve had a lot of mandolins through the years with all kinds of neck profiles, fret sizes, flat/radius FBs, nut widths, etc, and I’ve been able to adapt to them all. Of course, I’ve developed my preferences now, though I still have some variety in my collection. I agree that you should set up a meeting with Skip Kelley for a set up, however. I have one of his A5s, and the set up on it is better than any I’ve had before. That will make a huge difference in your learning curve, cuz mando does require strength and dexterity, which take time to develop. He could also give you an idea what modifying the neck would entail and the approximate cost if you decide to go that route in 6 months or a year. Bonus for you, he’s recently moved to Ohio, so getting it to him won’t be an ordeal. But, spend some time with this mandolin, and try to get out and play some Eastman and Kentucky mandos as things open back up, just to gain the comparison experience. Or, my Silverangel Econo had a thin V shaped neck that you may like. I didn’t like the neck at first, going from a fuller C shaped Kentucky, but the tone and playability were so much better that I kept playing it. After about a week I was used to it, and didn’t pick the Kentucky up again except in “beater” situations.

    Having the maker do any significant modifications to it is also excellent advice, but that’s a bit more of a commitment for you (or shipping).

    FWIW, I have a Rigel CT 110 that I bought cuz I like different looks/shapes and head up our youth praise band, so wanted the plug and play convenience (lol, got to use it once before things shut down). I really like it, and play it about equal time with the Kelley, even at home. It’s more traditionally voiced than the couple others I’ve played, but still has that Rigel tone, which makes it a very versatile mandolin. IMO, you’re starting out on a professional quality instrument that’s a step up from all but the very best Kentucky and Eastman have to offer. But, if you can’t get to a point where you can comfortably play it, by all means, shop around!
    Chuck

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