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Thread: Ocatjo

  1. #1

    Default Ocatjo

    I just got an Octajo used from Craigslist. It's like a combination octave mandolin and banjo. It has metal strings, but apparently you can also put nylon strings on. It also has a resonator.

    It's really super loud! I have never played a banjo or an octave mandolin before. I have some questions, some of which are not that serious, just sort of wondering.

    1. How do you make the banjo part of it not hurt your legs?
    2. When you play something this big, do you use one fret per finger (instead of two like regular mandolin)? Do you get confused by such fingerings switching back and forth with a regular mandolin?
    3. If you have anything like this, do you think nylon strings are better than metal?
    4. It has a lot of sustain and overtones. I'm sure people far away wouldn't hear it, but I can hear all the strings ringing just from the vibrations of one string being played. Is there anything to do about that or does it matter?
    5. Resonator yeah or nay?
    6. There's a slight depression under the bridge. I tried tightening the head but it doesn't seem loose and I accidentally broke one of the metal things that you screw. The depression is barely visible. Is that normal for banjos?
    7. I'm thinking I might tune it down and then capo it up so it's not such a big reach.
    8. It's really big and super heavy. I only have a bicycle and a vespa. Any thoughts on how to get it around town?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    I just got an Octajo used from Craigslist. It's like a combination octave mandolin and banjo. It has metal strings, but apparently you can also put nylon strings on. It also has a resonator.

    1. How do you make the banjo part of it not hurt your legs?

    Use a strap.

    2. When you play something this big, do you use one fret per finger (instead of two like regular mandolin)? Do you get confused by such fingerings switching back and forth with a regular mandolin?

    Generally, one fret per finger. I play banjo, mandolin, octave mandolin, mandocello, and guitar. One gets used to using different chord. Takes a little time, but not much to make the mental adjustment.

    3. If you have anything like this, do you think nylon strings are better than metal?

    I have always wanted to try nylon stings with a banjo, I am sure you will lose considerable volume. But, in my mind, i think such and instrument would be great for "old-time" music.

    4. It has a lot of sustain and overtones. I'm sure people far away wouldn't hear it, but I can hear all the strings ringing just from the vibrations of one string being played. Is there anything to do about that or does it matter?

    That is sort of the nature of a banjo. You can use fingers on the left hand to dampen them, or the palm of your right hand, assuming you are playing right-handed.

    5. Resonator yeah or nay?

    I removed the resonator from my banjo for a more "old-time" sound. If you go with nylon strings, you might like the sound with the resonator. Should be fun finding out.'

    6. There's a slight depression under the bridge. I tried tightening the head but it doesn't seem loose and I accidentally broke one of the metal things that you screw. The depression is barely visible. Is that normal for banjos?

    Yep.

    7. I'm thinking I might tune it down and then capo it up so it's not such a big reach.

    That will work. You will lose a little volume and sustain, which you may or may not like.

    8. It's really big and super heavy. I only have a bicycle and a vespa. Any thoughts on how to get it around town?


    Yeah, I had a full-on custom made, 1930's Gibson-style 5-string flathead copy. They are very heavy. You might try a soft case and carry it on your back while riding. I did that a time or two when I used to ride motorcycles. It was not fun.
    Good luck and keep us posted, Post a sound clip if you get the chance

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Ocatjo

    !!!

    1. Use a shorter strap!
    .
    .
    .
    8. Let your roadie carry it!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    It doesn't have a strap at all (yet--I have a strap somewhere), but even with a strap, if you are sitting down to play it, it's going to be on your lap. I kind of like it without the resonator but with the resonator removed, the metal attachment points for it are pretty pokey on my legs and so are all the other hardware.

    I bought this thing on my way to go visit my dad who lives a couple hours from me. He is in a nursing home recovering from a stroke. He has dementia. He was having a real bad day so I got it out and played some tunes and that really cheered him up. He was clapping and exclaiming "whee!" and a small crowd of people in wheelchairs suddenly appeared outside his room. Then afterward he didn't seem so dementia-riddled, a little clearer and happier.

    It's such a weird instrument but it seems to serve every possibility. It's an octave mandolin and really does sound like one. It's a tenor banjo and sounds like one, although to me it sounds closer to an octave mandolin than a real tenor banjo because it has so much sustain. It's a mandolin AND a banjo and since I don't know how to play a real banjo (that clawhammer stuff looks like witchcraft to me), I can finally play a banjo.

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  6. #5
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    Default Re: Ocatjo

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post

    I bought this thing on my way to go visit my dad who lives a couple hours from me. He is in a nursing home recovering from a stroke. He has dementia. He was having a real bad day so I got it out and played some tunes and that really cheered him up. He was clapping and exclaiming "whee!" and a small crowd of people in wheelchairs suddenly appeared outside his room. Then afterward he didn't seem so dementia-riddled, a little clearer and happier.
    That alone was worth the price paid.

    I have to wonder, how did you get it from the buyer then back and forth from the nursing home? I'm thinking you're in a large urban area.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    I borrowed a car to go see my dad and in a town half way there I bought it.

    I am really concerned the only way to move this thing around my own town is going to be by borrowing the car every time. It's too big for my bicycle and I haven't tried to figure out a way to carry it on my scooter but I have doubts it can be done. I guess the instrument itself is 7.4lbs and then there's the case.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Ocatjo

    I did know a chap many years ago who bought a Martin D45. He carried it around on the rear carrier of his motorbike - sideways. If you try it, be careful to avoid parked cars.

  9. #8

  10. #9

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    There is absolutely no way to carry it on my scooter. I put my fiddle in a backpack but this thing has a 12" wide body and doesn't even fit in my biggest backpacking backpack. Jeez, one more goddam thing I have to buy.

    Edit: I have a suitcase that has backpack straps and if I take it out of the case it will fit in there. Now I can carry it, although without protection.
    Last edited by sbhikes; Sep-20-2020 at 1:01pm.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Ocatjo

    Trailer?

  12. #11

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Trailer?
    Double-axle, 2400 lb capacity?

  13. #12

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    And my ukulele capo just barely fits. Now I can tune it down and put the capo on so it's just a bit easier to play. I put it on the third fret.

    Now to figure out should I take the resonator off? Should I just stuff a towel in there?

  14. #13

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    And my ukulele capo just barely fits. Now I can tune it down and put the capo on so it's just a bit easier to play. I put it on the third fret.

    Now to figure out should I take the resonator off? Should I just stuff a towel in there?
    Stuffing a hand-towel is what I used to do when I lived in an apartment and didn't want to scare the neighbors. You can also get a mute, a metal device which clamps on the bridge (I never liked those, however: they change the tone too much).

  15. #14

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    It's not so much I want to mute it for quietness, I just want it to have that plunky sound.

    With the capo on the third fret it doesn't feel too big anymore.

    I recorded myself. I'm not a musical genius, but here's the difference between resonnator on/off and with a towel stuffed inside.

    My banjo with resonator.mp3

    My banjo without resonator.mp3

    My banjo with rags.mp3

  16. #15

    Default Re: Ocatjo

    "It's not so much I want to mute it for quietness, I just want it to have that plunky sound. With the capo on the third fret it doesn't feel too big anymore.

    I recorded myself. I'm not a musical genius, but here's the difference between resonnator on/off and with a towel stuffed inside."

    Very nice. All three configurations sound pretty nice.

    All else being equal, the "rag" sound is closer to what I want in a banjo these days. I utilize a simplified 3-finger style for old-timey music. With that in mind, i bought a cheap banjo, with a rather pathetic tone ring, and took the resonator off and got a decent "plunky" sound. You, my friend, have a very versatile instrument. Even my wife likes the sound of it. I wish you lots of fun!!

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