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Thread: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

  1. #1
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    Default Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Hi all, I'm looking for recommendations for an A-style mandolin in the $3-4,000 range. There is no place near me that has any that I can try, so I have been doing some YouTube research and I really like what I hear on some videos of Collings and Northfield. I realize that what I'm hearing has everything to do with the player and the recording environment. So that's why I'm reaching out to you guys. Basically I lean towards a sweet mellow sound rather than bright and harsh. I would appreciate any and all recommendations. Thanks, Jim

    As an example, I think that this is beautiful. https://youtu.be/eemOs8LuK3Y

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    I have owned and played many A 5's and ovals but the examples that impressed me the most were the instruments made by Max Girouard ! Check out his website ! Fantastic workmanship and great sounding mandolins. In your price range !
    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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    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    If you're buying from afar, you can't really go wrong with a Collings. And it's easy to find one in a store that will do a set up and take returns for whatever reason (such as The Mandolin Store, which I certainly recommend). I don't play a Collings now, preferring one-person shop mandos, but I owned one in the past, an excellent mandolin. As are all the others I've encountered. Since you already like the sound...
    Cary Fagan

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Lots of choices in your range. I would also consider a used Collings MT2, Pava (from the Ellis workshop) and Girouard. Take a look at the Cafe classifieds, like I said, lots of choices.

    Happy hunting!
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    I am very happy with my A-style Pava player, my Collings MT (I listened to an MT-2, and I liked the MT better YMMV,) and my Weber Bitterroot oval hole (the Pava and Collings are f-hole.) I think you would like any of these.

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    All good recommendations, and will add Skip Kelley to the mix. I have an A5 thatís an exceptional mandolin.

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    There is this Elkhorn A-5 Deluxe in the classifieds...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/159208#159208

    A lot of bang for the buck, 100% small shop American made.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    All good recommendations, and will add Skip Kelley to the mix. I have an A5 that’s an exceptional mandolin.
    This brand new Kelly A-5 just landed in the classifieds....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KLJ9zQxlt8&app=desktop

    NFI
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Nice Girouard Ensemble model in stock at Sylvan Music right now NFI on my part, though I am a big fan of Girouard mandolins!

    https://www.sylvanmusic.com/store/p2..._Mandolin.html
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Have a bias towards Collings, so that would be my first recommendation. Besides the other good recommendations there is also Steve Hinde http://hindecustominstruments.com/index.html

    His instruments are used by a number of the well respected bluegrass pickers around here. Prices for an A style are right in your stated range. There is also a used one at Morgan Music in Missouri. No affiliation although I am friends with folks who play his instruments.
    2008 Weber Gallatin F, 1935 Gibson A50, 2018 Collings MT, 1989 Flatiron Performer A, 1929 Gibson A Jr., 1935 Kalamazoo KM-21, 2018 Eastman MDO-305
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  13. #11

    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    If you like the sound of that Collings MT you might look in that direction. But be aware that a player, strings and pick can dramatically effect/change the sound of a mandolin. I have a Collings MT-2 that fits what you are describing to a T. Here is the same player playing a Pava -
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_0aiN6RotQ

    Jill M. above mentions Girouard mandolins. She did a song a week for a year so you should be able to find plenty of samples to listen to, but she pulls great tone from her Girouard. Here is a sample -
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re2RIS-mNCc

    You have lots of good suggestions above, at $4000 you are a little short of an Ellis. I can't imagine you would be disappointed if you played one. Your description of what you are looking for I would not rule out an oval hole. Here is a nice looking Collings MT-2 (0) - NFI on my part.
    https://seattle.craigslist.org/kit/m...184309510.html

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    This brand new Kelly A-5 just landed in the classifieds....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KLJ9zQxlt8&app=desktop

    NFI
    Winner winner chicken dinner! Checking my slush fund...

  16. #13

    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    I've got a Weber Bitteroot A5, never heard a better sounding mandolin.

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    I have had good luck with some old teens Gibson A's. A lot of them are in your price range. I think they have a great mellow tone and are just neat.

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    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM GIBB View Post
    Hi all, I'm looking for ... an A-style mandolin in the $3-4,000 range. ...I lean towards a sweet mellow sound rather than bright and harsh. ...
    Sweet and mellow basically rules out a f-hole mandolin. A great mandolin with f-holes is musical but muscular. While an oval hole mandolin brings out the harp like quality in the instrument the f-hole variety gives it a cut while sacrificing that harp like tone quality.

    In order to argue my point, here are two f-hole mandolins:
    1. new Duff A-5 (I admit to being biased towards Duff mandolins)


    2. Gilchrist model 3 (A-5 style)



    These are great mandolins by great builders (and a lot more pricey than what you have in mind). But they cut more than being mellow and sweet.

    Because I can only post 3 videos, my next post will continue on the topic.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Look at these oval hole mandolins and find them more mellow and sweet without loosing (much) power:

    1. 1928 Gibson F-2 (4 k and wonderfull sounding)


    2. Gibson A-jr. snakehead (in your proposed price range)


    3. Teens Gibson A-3


    In your price range I would gravitate to a vintage Gibson snakehead (A-jr., A-1 or so) or a post Lloyd Loar A-4 or F-2 as I think they have a stronger sound than the teen Gibsons (even though strong sounding instruments can be found).

    Bernunzio has some interesting instruments (https://bernunzio.com/category/instr...tyle-mandolin/).

    I have not spoken of Martin style 20 or 30 instruments. If you are familiar with Bill Bollick (Blue Sky Boys) then you know the sound I am speaking of.

    It may also be quite beneficial to listen to David Grisman's vintage recordings "Tone Poems" volumes I and II (https://www.amazon.com/Tone-Poems-II...dp/B00000391F; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk76...goK-NgLglHo97m). These are recordings on mostly vintage instruments, mandolin and guitar (on vol. II there are sometimes added mandola, mandocello etc.). The recordings are not limited to Gibson instruments but include Martin, Epiphone, Vega, Lyon & Healy etc. on the mandolin side. So you get your fair share of instruction. Buy the recording at David Grisman's site directly (http://acousticoasis.com/welcome.html).
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    This brand new Kelly A-5 just landed in the classifieds....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KLJ9zQxlt8&app=desktop

    NFI
    Yeah, that thing sounds great!
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    My vote: Collings, no question. I can even make a Collings sound great, and that is saying something!

  23. #19
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    At your price point and not infatuated by a strap hanger, the world is your oyster, especially if you buy used. Even in the dark times of Covid, I'd recommend playing as many different mandolins as you can. Hopefully, you are within a safe driving range of some of the big boys like Carter's, Gruhn's, TME, or Elderly and can audition a variety. If you buy from a dealer, like many that advertise on this site, you will pay more, but can insist on a set up. If you have a > 48 hr approval time and buy online from a store or an advertisement from this site, you can decide whether the mandolin is worth purchasing or only be out the cost of shipping both ways. Lots of really good options out there, including many lifetime mandolins.

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM GIBB View Post
    I lean towards a sweet mellow sound rather than bright and harsh. I would appreciate any and all recommendations.
    Interestingly, my first reaction when reading these words was that you wouldn't want a Collings. My MT was bright and cut to the point where it could be strident for solo play. Then I opened the following link.

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM GIBB View Post
    As an example, I think that this is beautiful. https://youtu.be/eemOs8LuK3Y
    Now, this instrument sounds quite different from my MT, which probably tells us a bit about materials and a lot about technique.

    If I were looking for an A5 in the $4K range, and my tastes leaned to the sweet and mellow, I'd be looking for an independently built mandolin that is darker and more complex. In other words, I'd be shopping for a used Ellis.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
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  26. #21
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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM GIBB View Post
    Hi all, I'm looking for recommendations for an A-style mandolin in the $3-4,000 range... Basically I lean towards a sweet mellow sound rather than bright and harsh. I would appreciate any and all recommendations. Thanks, Jim

    As an example, I think that this is beautiful. https://youtu.be/eemOs8LuK3Y
    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Lots of choices in your range. I would also consider a used Collings MT2, Pava (from the Ellis workshop) and Girouard. Take a look at the Cafe classifieds, like I said, lots of choices.

    Happy hunting!
    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    Nice Girouard Ensemble model in stock at Sylvan Music right now NFI on my part, though I am a big fan of Girouard mandolins!

    https://www.sylvanmusic.com/store/p2..._Mandolin.html
    In your price range, youíre going to do just fine! You might be slightly happier with an Ellis A, but it probably wouldnít be worth the extra $1-2K unless you can easily part with that.

    That video gave a great example of what you want! Yeah, Iíd call that very sweet and mellow. Even though the mando is being played by a great player in a room with phenomenal resonance, it is/was a new mando, so once it opens up, it probably will sound like that in normal circumstances.

    Because I live near Gryphon (in Palo Alto), Iíve gotten to play MTs side-by-side with MT2s, and always like the MT2s better. They have a similar tone, but the MT2s always sound richer. Girouards have a similar tone, but Iíve never played one side-by-side with a Collings because theyíre down at Sylvan (in Santa Cruz).

    Regardless of the builder, youíre probably going to find your tone in a mando with an Englemann top (which the Collings in the video had) rather than Sitka. From what Iíve heard, Englemannís tone is richer, but Sitkaís tone has more punch.

    Happy hunting!!!
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    I wonder if the OP ever checked in on the thread he started? Or chose a mandolin?
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    I've been meaning to reply to you all with my thanks. I found and bought a used Duff A-5. I think it's all I'll ever need. Thanks for everyone's input. It was very helpful. Cheers, Jim

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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    "I think it's all I'll ever need" according to Jim Gibb !! Sorry , but need may be correct but WANT will enter the picture someday as your mandolin collection expands ! Count on it !! Keep the name Girouard in back of your mind !
    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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    Default Re: Need mandolin recommendations a-style

    Quote Originally Posted by JIM GIBB View Post
    I found and bought a used Duff A-5.
    What a GREAT find!

    I think it's all I'll ever need.
    Whenever Stevie Coyle at Mighty Fine Guitars hears someone say that, he always adds, ďFor now.Ē 😃 In my case, I told him that I would prove him wrong. Failed miserably. 🙄😃
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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