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Thread: Soundholes

  1. #1

    Default Soundholes

    I'm just about to trade up from the Tanglewood mandolin I started on to something more decent, and there's an Eastman dealer near me, so I'll probably go for one of those. I play English/Irish folk as part of a trio with fiddle and banjo, and I want to know what's going to cut through better between f-holes/oval soundhole. I'd rather not plug in if I can avoid it.

    Secondly, I'm accompanying more than half of the time on guitar, so I did think about going for an Eastman MDO-305 octave mandolin and capoing on the 12th Fret for tunes. Does that work? Or does the heavier guage make it harder to play tunes?

    Obviously I'll try before I buy, but it would be good to know others' experience.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Central Illinois

    Default Re: Soundholes

    You are correct in trying before you buy ! Most people who respond will probably tell you that a F hole mandolin will cut through and project to the audience more than an oval hole mandolin. Know nothing about guitars ! Eastman mandolins would be a good choice to begin with ! With the type of music you want to play you will probably at some point want an oval and a F hole mandolin !

  3. #3

    Default Re: Soundholes

    Yes, F hole instruments generally cut through the mix better. There are some powerful oval hole instruments being made, but they lie more in the $2-3k range. RE: an octave mando, they have a nice growl for celtic music, but I'm not sure how they respond capo'd up to mandolin pitch. I think I'd stick with a separate guitar for chording and mandolin for melody (much more versatility). Save up for the luxury of an octave down the road. BTW, a decent condenser microphone will allow you to switch back and forth at will.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    High Peak - UK

    Default Re: Soundholes

    An octave mandolin is designed to sound it’s best .... as an octave mandolin. The further up the neck you go with a capo, the worse they sound. I did have the idea that if I capoed up It would save taking out the mandola but it just doesn’t cut it (it isn’t a cheapo OM either). It’s likely to sound even worse at the 12th fret even if it’s playable.

  5. #5
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Pacific Northwest, USA

    Default Re: Soundholes

    I played in a trio for a couple of years with myself on mandolin melody along with a very good fiddler, backed by acoustic guitar. I used an F-hole mandolin with a clear and punchy fundamental note, not as many "warm" harmonics as a typical oval hole mandolin, so it could be heard reasonably well along with the fiddle. That's what I'd recommend for playing along with a fiddler: a mandolin with a very clear and reasonably loud note, not too complex a tone.

    I wouldn't recommend an octave mandolin if there is a banjo player in the trio. An OM sounds best with no other instruments like guitar or banjo competing in the same general pitch range, otherwise the timbre is easily buried in the mix. I once tried to incorporate a little OM playing in a duo where I was playing mandolin along with an acoustic guitar player and it just didn't work. Too much overlap with the guitar.

    Along with other comments here, I don't think it would substitute for a mandolin if you capo an OM at the 12th fret. The body and internal airmass is too large to support that pitch range, so it will sound muddy. The heavier strings also won't "speak" as quickly or clearly as the much shorter scale mandolin at that pitch.

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  7. #6
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.

    Exclamation Re: Soundholes

    Fiddle & ITB both kind of loud … how about a Banjo Mandolin ? fight fire with fire..

    or a National RM-1 ?

    Heavier strings resist you picking harder & it's the added force, that makes the top project more loudness..
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