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Thread: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

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    Default How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Why do so many mandolins have that silly looking and useless curl on the body?

    I find it ugly and it must make a mandolin a lot more expensive, to make it.

    It would be much more practical, to make some extrusion that makes it easier to sit with the mandolin, so it doesn't slide down your thigh f.x.

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    Registered User pit lenz's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Oh, you‘re ralking about the thousand-dollar-strapholder?

    http://www.vintagemandolin.com/mandohistory.html
    Here you will find a brief history about it.
    The scroll is said to make a (aesthetic) difference between the A (artist) and the F (florentine) models around 1900, when Gibson came up with it.
    Be prepared to have opened a can of worms if your question about the scroll' history will eventually evolve into a discussion about its functionality ...

    I have to say that at first I didn‘t dig the scroll (especially with the headstock) but always appreciated the projecting points at the bottom to help the instrument stay in position. Now I got used to it and even learned to like the look.

    Even though most builders will pretty much stick close to the "A" and "F" models, there are some interesting other shapes out there: Most common might be the "two-point" shape (look for Don Steirnbergs two-point "Nugget") and make sure to check out Sorensen or Breedlove mandolins for some interesting ideas.
    Last edited by pit lenz; Jul-22-2020 at 6:25am.

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    Registered User Murphy Slaw's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    High humidity....

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    Why do so many mandolins have that silly looking and useless curl on the body?
    The modern mandolin as developed by Orville Gibson borrowed heavily from the violin tradition at the end of the Victorian Period in which ornamentation was an important aesthetic consideration. It was later popularized by Bill Monroe and widely associated with bluegrass by generations of players.

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    I find it ugly and it must make a mandolin a lot more expensive, to make it.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the asymmetry of an F5 was an acquired taste for me. Either way, ornament takes time to produce which does generally increase its cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    It would be much more practical, to make some extrusion that makes it easier to sit with the mandolin, so it doesn't slide down your thigh f.x.
    The F-style you are disparaging has such an extrusion, two in fact: they’re called points. Although one can occasionally be found on the rare A-style as well.

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    Last edited by pheffernan; Jul-22-2020 at 8:55am.
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    While you're waiting for the definitive answer that is sure to surface take a look through these past discussions of the subject. Some are quite educational, well perhaps a better description would be entertaining.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...nd-f-headstock

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...-of-the-scroll

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...e-first-scroll
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    I think the F model design came about because of the time period in which it was developed..it was the late Victorian era,,where people like Gibson and Fairbanks were heavily influenced by the style back then,in which everything had ornate scrolls,leaves and vines all over them..

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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    So again old Gibsons bad taste in design is at fault, just like the yellowed "white" plastic they chose to their Les Paul guitars in the 50'es, that has been used on most LP guitars since.

    Luckily there are exceptions to those designs for me to buy.

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    Registered User Russ Donahue's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    One watch by night, one watch by day...if you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    So again old Gibsons bad taste in design is at fault
    Yes, old Gibson’s bad taste in design is at fault for creating some of the most iconic mandolins, banjos, and guitars (acoustic and electric) over the last 120 years. Gibson has had (and continues to have) its issues (and critics), but bad taste in design is rarely cited as one of them.
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Google "tamburitza orchestra" and look at the older images of Balkan musicians. (Many of these bands would have been around when Orville G. was young.)
    Some of the scrolls on those Balkan instruments look kinda familiar, don't they...?

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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    Why do so many mandolins have that silly looking and useless curl on the body?

    I find it ugly and it must make a mandolin a lot more expensive, to make it.

    .
    While I fall into your camp of thinking about the "curl", keep in mind that it is obvious that not everyone feels the same way. I am glad choices exist and especially glad that the style I prefer is the least expensive.
    I once owned F styles (as I think most newbies prefer) but quickly found their looks non appealing.
    In Europe, especially the UK, Ireland, e.t.c. builders seem to prefer a rounder A style that is less pear shaped (I once asked builders to explain if a tonal difference exists for this round style). Personally, I do not care for the rounder A style look. But, again, obviously some people do.
    I think the world of mandolins would be less exciting without the variety of choices we face when purchasing a new instrument.
    And most of all, be glad that the style you prefer is the least labor intense to build and thusly the least expensive.
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    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    I like F style mandolins, but I don't go around talking trash about how "Silly" of a "bad taste" in design the A style is, because for some people it is exactly what they want. It's OK to have a personal preference but you don't have to trash the other options.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Quote Originally Posted by pit lenz View Post
    ...The scroll is said to make a (aesthetic) difference between the A (artist) and the F (florentine) models around 1900, when Gibson came up with it...
    Quote above continues a misunderstanding of Gibson's model designations, that "A" and "F" were initials for words like "Artist" and "Florentine." Gibson assigned letters to different model series, "L" to guitars, "H" to mandolas, "K" to mandocelli, "J" to mando-basses, "U" to harp-guitars. With regard to their banjo lines, the letters did stand for descriptions: "RB" for "regular [or 5-string] banjo," "TB" for tenor banjo, "MB" for mandolin-banjo, etc.

    As far as we can tell, the letters were for manufacturing batching and cataloging purposes, though it would be fun to come up with possibilities: "L" = "Legendary," "H" = "Heavenly," "K" = "King-size," "J" = "Jumbo," "U" = "Unusual," maybe?

    Gibson didn't make a mandolin they called "Florentine" until the 1950's, and then it was the electric EM-150, which was a two-point model with no scroll. Their Florentine models from the 1920's/30's were banjos, with fingerboards decorated with Italian scenes. Oddly, the scenes were of Venice, but Gibson didn't call the banjos "Venetian." (Oh well, you know Gibson...)

    Usage has made the "Florentine" meaning for "F" pretty much accepted, and I think (?) Gibson has even used it now, but its origins are not, apparently, in Gibson's early-20th-century literature.

    As for the origins of the scroll, Orville Gibson made a scrolled mandolin as early as 1899 (article), probably just to incorporate the somewhat florid ornamentation of the Gilded Age. It became a feature of Gibson's more expensive models -- as pointed out, carving the ornamental features added significantly to production costs -- and when Lloyd Loar famously developed the F-5 design, his innovations were applied to the "top of the line" scrolled mandolins, rather than the lower priced "A" models.

    Some like the scroll (I do), some don't, but there's no doubt that Orville's taste for mandolin body silhouette has persisted and spread to many, many later mandolin designers and builders. Some have introduced shapes that pay hommage to the scroll, while shortening it, squaring it off, turning it into a "hook," even just adding a solid, vaguely scroll-shaped bulge to the body line -- Gibson did that with their "lump scroll" models. Like it, hate it, it's here to stay, IMHO.
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    Registered User GeoMandoAlex's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Well said, Allen
    I can only play half as much as I want, because I only play half as much as I would like.

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Gibson has always been known for practical design and function.
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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Yes, old Gibson’s bad taste in design is at fault for creating some of the most iconic mandolins, banjos, and guitars (acoustic and electric) over the last 120 years. Gibson has had (and continues to have) its issues (and critics), but bad taste in design is rarely cited as one of them.
    As a guitarist I am really a fender guy preferring telecasters. I can’t get a good sound out of a Gibson. (This is my flaw not theirs). However the LES Paul is a beautiful instrument. It really is.

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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Yes, old Gibson’s bad taste in design is at fault for creating some of the most iconic mandolins, banjos, and guitars (acoustic and electric) over the last 120 years. Gibson has had (and continues to have) its issues (and critics), but bad taste in design is rarely cited as one of them.
    True, the good has been emulated, while the rest--let's just say sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Then there's all the bizarre stuff they delved into in the past 25 years that got them in the huge financial mess they're in right now and still trying to find their way out of. After you've listened to people saying, "Gibson right now is making some of their best mandolins since the 20s..." with every new manager that comes along it gets a bit hard to believe. I maintain the company pretty much peaked at Lloyd Loar's departure for mandolins and has struggled to come close since. Great, even iconic guitars after that, but plenty of the rest to make up for them. No one is in business that long without their share of clams.


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  30. #18

    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    Why do so many mandolins have that silly looking and useless curl on the body?

    I find it ugly and it must make a mandolin a lot more expensive, to make it.
    I am with you on this. Big hunk of wood getting in the way of viewing the higher registers. Thus, I will answer your question: How did the "curl" evolve? Poorly.

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Big fan of pre Loar oval holes (A and F), Loar era instruments (oval or FF holes) - and have owned a few (but not the Holy Grail). Despite the management over the past 20 + years, the mandolin division at Gibson has put out a good product and David Harvey is a great guy and great luthier. Several other luthiers hit a tonality that is "NOT GIBSON" and I prefer.

    As for the "curl" or strap holder, I've always listened to a mandolin before I decided to keep it. I've found that A models get between 99 - 101% of the tone of a comparable F-style, if the builder and woods are the same. However, I do like me a sexy F5 mandolin!

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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    So again old Gibsons bad taste in design is at fault, just like the yellowed "white" plastic they chose to their Les Paul guitars in the 50'es, that has been used on most LP guitars since.

    Luckily there are exceptions to those designs for me to buy.
    Oh, c'mon!! This is just Internet trolling. Shame on you. You seem to be trying to get a rise. Folks on the MC really shouldn't take the bait. Of course, you're welcome to dislike the aesthetics of the scroll on the F5 model. De gustibus non est disptutandum. You can like or dislike whatever you wish. But you ought to realize that many others don't necessarily share your jaded opinions. Some of the very best mandolin players out there play F5 models, and we certainly don't hear them complaining much about the F5 aesthetics. Not like you. The look is true to its age, namely, the late Victorian era. Historically, Gibson has been responsible for producing some of the most iconic stringed instrument designs, ever! YOU might happen to think these are all in "bad taste." I certainly don't. Gibson has also had its share of spectacular failures of aesthetic design, as well -- like the Mickey Mouse ear solid scroll on the '60's A12. Ugh! But on balance, Gibson designs, and simple variations on these pursued by others, remain the dominant designs in the area of mandolins to this day. Unless you happen to play a bowlback or a flattop, you probably have Orville Gibson to thank for the design of your modern mandolin, whether it carries a scroll or not. I'd urge you to lay off the cheap shots and learn some of the history of the modern mandolin; it's fascinating.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    I thought wishing to inflame a situation further, do we think the curl adds or the sound? I’ve seen somewhere that it may add a bit of what might be termed compression, with that extra 10cm of air.

    While I have both F and A styles, they’re all different, so I can’t do an a b test.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    We are all divided on this.
    Personally, I like the scroll because it uses misplaced stylistic elements to mock the violin, which I was forced to learn to play in my youth and have hated ever since. However, I wouldn't spend the extra $$ for it, so I have no instrument with one.
    Then, there are those who are secretly ashamed of their irrational love with inaudible appendage and therefore frantically try to construct an acoustic benefit from it in a kind of a-posteriori rationalization.

    What's your Freudian reason? The good news is: it's all optional. Nobody is obliged to follow anybody else in this, and nobody is obliged to have a good reason for having no reason at all.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    Makes a great strap holder, and it sure is fun to play with variations on the theme --

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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    I’ve always had much the same opinion about neck ties - a totally superfluous accessory which I pretty much avoided throughout my professional life. Ties are pretty much compulsory in certain circles but I suppose the same applies to scrolls with some of the bluegrass community.

    Serious mandolin players aren’t so much bothered whether an instrument has a scroll though. Logic should dictate that it should be down to the sound it produces.

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    Default Re: How did the "curl" on the mandolin body evolve?

    I don't know how the curl came about nor am I a "Huge", fan. But thank goodness it exists or we would have only 2 choices, A or Bowlback.

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