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Thread: In search of a mandolin...

  1. #26
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by cmchaney View Post
    Thank you all again so much for being so generous with your knowledge and thoughts! All of these suggestions are really helpful and I am excited to keep trying mandolins!

    I was able to go down to Gryphon's shop on Friday and try their mandolins; here is my take away from that.

    I tried a bunch of A styles, f4's, and f5's, and the two mandolins that stood out to me out of their instruments in stock were a Collings MT2 Carpathian Spruce Mandolin and a Northfield Big Mon F Style Sunburst Mandolin. Both mandolins had a clear rich sound except when it came to the G string the sound got small and twangy (which was my experience with almost all of the mandolins at Gryphon's shop. The D,A, and E were all great on the Northfield and Collings mandolins with ample resonance, good sustain/singing quality to the sound, and easy playability, but again, the G strings were just not good enough.
    An issue often resolved with some string change experimentation.
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    I've never tried one, but the Silver Angels, I've heard, have a darker sound. They're beautiful instruments either way.
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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    How much did you pay for your violin? I have a feeling you will need to be solidly in the $10k range to get what you're looking for.

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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    I would recommend that you get somewhat familiar with the impact of the pick's thickness, material, point shape, and bevel (or lack there of) on the tone and "feel" of a mandolin. To me this impact is huge. If I were shopping, I would probably try three different but favored picks on each instrument.

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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Often a mandolin will sound a good bit different to the listener out front vs to the person playing. Also, an experienced player will get a different range of tones from a mandolin than a less experienced mandolin learner will be able to produce. No put-down for the less experienced player intended, it's just that mandolins are finicky little creatures and experience on other instruments, even other picked ones, doesn't always fully translate across.

    I would suggest you consider bringing along an experienced mandolinist while searching for your mandolin. Have her/him play the instruments you are interested in while you listen out front. Also have that player alter their picking to produce different tones, as experienced players are able to do. You may be surprised to learn which instruments you like once you are out in front of them. Just my suggestion, but if you are going to spend significant money on a mandolin, it might be worth the extra effort to make sure it's the right one.
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Clark View Post
    Often a mandolin will sound a good bit different to the listener out front vs to the person playing. Also, an experienced player will get a different range of tones from a mandolin than a less experienced mandolin learner will be able to produce. No put-down for the less experienced player intended, it's just that mandolins are finicky little creatures and experience on other instruments, even other picked ones, doesn't always fully translate across.

    I would suggest you consider bringing along an experienced mandolinist while searching for your mandolin. Have her/him play the instruments you are interested in while you listen out front. Also have that player alter their picking to produce different tones, as experienced players are able to do. You may be surprised to learn which instruments you like once you are out in front of them. Just my suggestion, but if you are going to spend significant money on a mandolin, it might be worth the extra effort to make sure it's the right one.
    Excellent suggestion!!!

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  13. #32
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    I must have missed this part of the first post:

    Quote Originally Posted by cmchaney View Post
    I grew up playing fiddle tunes and classical music and went to school for violin performance at Oberlin but I have always loved playing my dad’s f5 that was made for him by his late friend, Bob Schneider.
    I think I was recommending mandolins based on your mention of classical music and missed the key part of the latter end of that sentence.

    I would agree with sgarrity that you should target the higher-priced end of your range. Look at these makers, A-5s and, for some, F-5s as well: Gilchrist, Ellis, Kimble, Red Diamond, Dudenbostel, Nugget, etc.

    There are a couple of Ellis A-5s in the classified and even an F-5 that would be at the top end of his range. I guess the Pava from the Ellis shop that was at Gryphon didn't pass muster either?
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    ...
    Last edited by Simon DS; Nov-23-2020 at 4:39pm. Reason: Thread error

  16. #34

    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Hi Everyone and again, thank you for all of this information and advice!

    To answer some of the questions from before:

    1) I'm not totally comfortable talking about how much I payed for my violin but it is an Italian instrument from the 18th century, so I am quite particular and critical when it comes to trying instruments out and evaluating their tonal properties, range of color, playability, etc...

    2) That is a great suggestion to try different picks, I tend to like the heavier picks that bring out a fuller and darker tone, I used a dunlop 207 jazztone when trying out the mandolins at Gryphon and also have a bluechip ct 55 that I have played with.

    3) Also a great suggestion to have someone else in the room to play the instruments I am trying so that I can hear what they sound like on the other side of the instrument. I definitely did a lot of this while finding my violin.

    4) Yes, I love playing classical music especially with my violin, but I think I gravitate towards the maybe more versatile sound and full sounds akin to the f5's/f4's/ and some of the a models that I have tried.

    5) The Pava at the Gryphon shop had a nice sound and was even! It just didn't have the range of colors and that 'special' resonance/tone that I'm looking for in an instrument.

    Thank you again for all of this information and for the recommendations for different makers/models! This is all so so helpful!

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  18. #35
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by cmchaney View Post
    Hi Everyone and again, thank you for all of this information and advice!

    To answer some of the questions from before:

    1) I'm not totally comfortable talking about how much I payed for my violin but it is an Italian instrument from the 18th century, so I am quite particular and critical when it comes to trying instruments out and evaluating their tonal properties, range of color, playability, etc...
    That's enough to tell me what I need to know! LOL I was a violinist before I found the mandolin. Good instruments are expensive for a reason. You're going to need that $10k. People tend to suggest the brands they own and say you can spend less money. But once you're used to a certain quality of build and tone.....it's hard to go backwards. Unfortunately there just aren't many places in CA to try out high end mandolins. Sylvan, Schoenberg, Carmel Music.....not much stock on their websites. Obviously not the best time to be traveling but a trip to Carter's and Gruhn's in Nashville would be an extremely valuable learning experience. Be careful if you try out some $20k mandolins.....the right one is worth every penny!

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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    So, I believe that you will settle in on an A-5 or F-5 depending on the maker. Personally the one maker who makes amazing sounding mandolins to my ears that I think would fill the bill for you is John Monteleone. There are two of his mandolins in the classifieds both at Carter's Vintage and both out of your price range. I own one of his mandolas but have played plenty of his mandolins.

    I do own a Campanella mandolin but those are pretty unique in terms of tone and timbre. I don't know any other maker's mandolins that sound like them but I doubt they sounded like your dad's Schneider either.
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  22. #37
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    I will throw my 2 cents worth in and suggest you have a look at a Duff. Paul is a great Luthier and his mandolins are to die for. Just sayin’ Cheers

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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    If you are drawn to the vintage market I might suggest clicking on the Classified tab and searching Bob Page. He always has a great variety of vintage mandolins for sale on the cafe and has many more for sale than he has listed. He is a great guy and spent a lot of time searching for the mandolin that suited my desires. Just a thought.

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  26. #39
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by cmchaney View Post
    Hi Everyone and again, thank you for all of this information and advice!

    To answer some of the questions from before:

    1) I'm not totally comfortable talking about how much I payed for my violin but it is an Italian instrument from the 18th century, so I am quite particular and critical when it comes to trying instruments out and evaluating their tonal properties, range of color, playability, etc...

    2) That is a great suggestion to try different picks, I tend to like the heavier picks that bring out a fuller and darker tone, I used a dunlop 207 jazztone when trying out the mandolins at Gryphon and also have a bluechip ct 55 that I have played with.

    3) Also a great suggestion to have someone else in the room to play the instruments I am trying so that I can hear what they sound like on the other side of the instrument. I definitely did a lot of this while finding my violin.

    4) Yes, I love playing classical music especially with my violin, but I think I gravitate towards the maybe more versatile sound and full sounds akin to the f5's/f4's/ and some of the a models that I have tried.

    5) The Pava at the Gryphon shop had a nice sound and was even! It just didn't have the range of colors and that 'special' resonance/tone that I'm looking for in an instrument.

    Thank you again for all of this information and for the recommendations for different makers/models! This is all so so helpful!
    I also come from the violin and fiddle background. Like you, I really never found the sound on mandolin until I got into the much better instruments. I think it's really interesting to hear you say you're missing the fullness of the bottom end on the instruments you've tried. That is an area where weaker mandolins tend to be lacking. Most builders can produce an instrument that has a good or stark top end, because it's the nature of the instrument. Finding an instrument that is tonally even and open across the range is quite a bit more difficult, and also why you're likely going to spend a good chunk of your budget. One other thing that hasn't been mentioned, go to Peghead Nation's website and watch and listen to the instrument videos. Joe Walsh in particular demo's two different Gilchrist's and a Nugget. My bet is you would gravitate toward the sound of the black faced A style he plays. Another maker that really hits that mark is Michael Heiden and his A styles can also fit your budget. Last, I would throw in Lawrence Smart. His instruments are not as well known, but have a very Monteleone sound, which I think you'd like.

    https://pegheadnation.com/instrument...gilchrist-f-5/

    https://pegheadnation.com/instrument...-heritage-f-5/

    https://pegheadnation.com/instrument...dard-mandolin/

    https://pegheadnation.com/instrument...el-3-mandolin/

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  28. #40

    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Thank you again to everyone who has contributed to this thread. This information is all so helpful and I am excited to keep searching and trying Mandolins!

  29. #41
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    +1 for the Heiden, I played one against a Gilchrist and a Monteleon and the Heiden made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It haunts me to this day. For 10K you should be able to get an A model.
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by cmchaney View Post
    1) I am quite particular and critical when it comes to trying instruments out and evaluating their tonal properties, range of color, playability, etc...

    5) The Pava at the Gryphon shop had a nice sound and was even! It just didn't have the range of colors and that 'special' resonance/tone that I'm looking for in an instrument.
    These are very helpful comments. With instruments in the top half of your price range and beyond, magnificence is in the ear of the beholder, and you clearly are dialed in to the subtleties of tone.

    Given that, I'll go back to the suggestion of a trip to Nashville once times are safer for travel. Personally, I think that the major instrument stores are now totally set up for the safety of their staff and customers, so the risk will be in the travel involved. The time you put in to trying out dozens of mandolins side-by-side at Carter's and Gruhn's will probably yield the mandolin your ears are dreaming of.

    All of the builders whom people have mentioned here build tremendous mandolins, but some of each builder's mandolins are more tremendous than others from that same builder. Just read comments from people who have played numerous Loars. I heard John Reischman tell a story about playing six Red Diamond F5's that were made at the same time from lumber from the same trees, and although he loved all six, he felt that three were better than the others. With your ear, you'd probably hear a similar difference.

    Agreeing with what Tom Petty said about the waiting, I'd suggest that, in the meantime, you use the list of builders that this thread has reaped, along with the descriptions of their instrument tonal styles, and buy yourself a great used mandolin with the understanding that this will be an instrument to happily tide you over until you can get thee to Nashville. Realistically, you'll probably be able to sell it for close to what you pay for it, assuming that you keep it in the same condition.
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  33. #43

    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    How much did you pay for your violin? I have a feeling you will need to be solidly in the $10k range to get what you're looking for.
    After struggling with the tone on some pretty pricey violins I finally bought a 5 string violin that the guy who does my fiddle work was building (from scratch, not rejoicing a Chinese-made fiddle-in-the-white). It was a fraction of the price of a new Cooper. It's now all I play. So, cost does not always = good sound or contentment.

    There's nothing worse than driving an hour to play a $15k mandolin and playing it against a $3k mandolin next to it that kicks its butt. I believe that that was the day I stopped looking at headstocks and price tags.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    (from scratch, not rejoicing a Chinese-made fiddle-in-the-white)
    Mary: I know it was a typo but I love the concept of "rejoicing" a fiddle. Very poetic!
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  37. #45

    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    LOL. Thanks, Jim, but I think sometimes it's really "re-joisting" in some cases.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    I have stumbled upon a really interesting thread that CMChaney started. I think I understand his pallete of tones he is seeking in a mandolin.

    If you have a really nice Italian-made violin then you are seeking a mandolin that really speaks to you. Maybe you can tell us some more how you obtained your violin and what makes it so special to you. Then we can see what might match your tastes and expectations for a mandolin. I reckon a Gilchrist Model 3 would be something to look at and maybe it is a bit beyond your budget.
    Nic Gellie

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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    After struggling with the tone on some pretty pricey violins I finally bought a 5 string violin that the guy who does my fiddle work was building (from scratch, not rejoicing a Chinese-made fiddle-in-the-white). It was a fraction of the price of a new Cooper. It's now all I play. So, cost does not always = good sound or contentment.

    There's nothing worse than driving an hour to play a $15k mandolin and playing it against a $3k mandolin next to it that kicks its butt. I believe that that was the day I stopped looking at headstocks and price tags.
    I agree 100%. It is subjective for everyone. Ears and fingers will solve the quest, not price tag.

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  43. #48
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Quote Originally Posted by cmchaney View Post

    I don’t love mandolin’s that are really bright or heavy on the treble and am looking for something with balance, good tone/resonance, a lovely lower range, and easy LH playability. What vintage makers should I look into (and which Gibson models/years are known to be the best) and what newer models should I also check out?

    Looking for something at or under 10,000. Thanks so much!
    You should definitely try before you buy!

    While they're not vintage, I'd recommend that you check out Pava, Old Wave and Silverangel. I took a trip to Carter's a while back and these were the ones o found to have that nice dark, warm tone you are probably looking for and all fall way within the price range you're hunting in... truth be told, there are only a few mandolins that fall outside of that range.
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    Two other aspects of the best mandolins I have played are sustain and projection. I think this is similar to violins.
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    Default Re: In search of a mandolin...

    You might post a wanted ad for a Bob Schneider hybrid...based on your original post. Spruce played one on his Mangler of Bluegrass record.

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