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Thread: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

  1. #26
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    ...I blame the invention of hybrids on the impulse to enable musicians to vary their sounds without having to learn to actually play other instruments. So a mandolinist can seem like a banjoist without actually becoming one - which would be too much of a sacrifice...
    Doesn't contradict my initial premise about "the element of raucousness." Ya wanta take up the banjo, ergo ya accept a modicum of raucousness. That comes with the banjo.

    Take the opposite, the so-called "banjola," large mandolin body with a banjo neck. (See Pollman or Gold Tone.) You're a banjo player, but you want to avoid the raucous, so you acquire an instrument that you can play like a banjo, but that sounds like a mandolin.

    The short-scale trebly sound of mandolin-banjos -- unavoidable because they're built like mandolins -- accentuates the raucous sound; a large-bodied, long-scale instrument like a cello-banjo reduces it. But my point is, if you didn't want at least some banjo-y raucousness, you'd stick to mandolin and eschew the mandolin-banjo.

    Want a different type of raucousness without the banjo-ism? Get an old National steel-body; "growl" unlimited.
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  2. #27
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Doesn't contradict my initial premise about "the element of raucousness." Ya wanta take up the banjo, ergo ya accept a modicum of raucousness. That comes with the banjo ... if you didn't want at least some banjo-y raucousness, you'd stick to mandolin and eschew the mandolin-banjo.
    Indeed sir, it doesn't. Two sides of the same plugged nickel. I was disagreeing only with the assertion of the main impetus for the bloody thing's invention.

    There are softer-sounding banjos, ones made with gourds and such, with nylon strings more similar to the original gut ones. I heard one at the Clearwater Revival Virtual Festival - forgot about them. If one removes the drum head approach and returns to the original design, one can rediscover a more pleasant sounding experience. Replacing the gourd body with a wooden box increased the instrument's volume and thus its popularity, but the drum head innovation produced such a loud instrument it became so popular, most practitioners never looked back. So yes, raucousness seems an essential quality of these instruments. As I said, one can temper the banjolin's sound, not eliminate it. 'Tis the nature of the beast. Has anyone tried nylon strings on a banjolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by chuck3 View Post
    ...[the luthier] gave it a long look and said that, from a luthier's viewpoint, banjolins "combine the worst things about mandolins with the worst things about banjos..."
    That seems unduly harsh, if humorous. I wonder what she meant by "worst things about mandolins." I wasn't aware there were any such issues with these delightful, glorious, magnificent music makers. I may be biased ...
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  4. #28
    Registered User usqebach's Avatar
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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    Perhaps I can add a little perspective:

    I do have Weymann (not sure the model) much like Jim Garber's one that is pictured. I can tell that the pot on mine is bigger (9"?) I also had a resonator made from a cut-down L&H tenor banjo made from the same yellow bird's eye maple. The primary purpose of the resonator was to keep the pointy middle of that support brace from poking me in the gut. The thing was very heavy, very raucous, and very loud. Could probably be clearly heard at a space shuttle launch!

    Bought a Vega model K in reddish mahogany with no tone ring. That fixed the volume issue immediately. So if you are looking for relatively quiet and sweet sounding MB, I think that's your answer. However, it wasn't really up to "Keeping up with the Joneses" in a three-piece string band.

    So I finally acquired a Gibson MB-4. I also bought the "trap door" resonator to a Gibson TB and found that it fit the MB pot just like new. I can't say enough how much of a quality instrument this thing is, disguised as a MB. I also found the quality of tone improved much with a setup, and this one still has a metal "multi-purpose" (4 slots on one side, 8 on the opposite) bridge.

    Using a t-shirt rag to deaden the sound is a given on all three of these things.

    Hope this helps.
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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    Quote Originally Posted by usqebach View Post

    So I finally acquired a Gibson MB-4. I also bought the "trap door" resonator to a Gibson TB and found that it fit the MB pot just like new. I can't say enough how much of a quality instrument this thing is, disguised as a MB. I also found the quality of tone improved much with a setup, and this one still has a metal "multi-purpose" (4 slots on one side, 8 on the opposite) bridge.

    Using a t-shirt rag to deaden the sound is a given on all three of these things.

    Hope this helps.
    That's what I've been wondering about: besides the pot size, the dampening (put-a-sock-in-it, or a towel, or foam, or, T-short, or, as a friend of mine does, a stuffed animal toy), tone ring or no, head tension and material, do better-built banjo-mandos (higher-end gibsons, vega tubaphones, paramounts, etc) have the potential for crisp, balanced sound without the harsh overtones? Apparently that's the case with your Gibson MB-4. What else have you learned about set-up, more specifically?

    Anyone else have experience with these "upper-drawer" manjolins?

    Thanks,
    Michael (originator of this thread)

    PS: Thanks, everyone for the plethora of opinions and lively discussion... I'm deciding if I should start hoarding, and go long on the rising popularity of the banjo-mandolin...

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  8. #30
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    I believe you didn't correctly punctuate your last sentence. The correct method would be to follow that with . Or . Or . Or . Or . Something to make it clear you're being sarcastic. Until we have an eye-roll emoji, I tend to use this: .

    Unless, of course, you're serious, in which case ... Well, not much we can do about that.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    Not to hijack the thread but I have a Weymann model 40 in original case and removable/snap on resonator. Tone is a bit harsh but will try the banjo strings. Could possibly have original strings, sure fo look old.
    Jim, is the metal gizmo on the back of yours used to adjust neck angle. Mine could use adjustment and it appears as though that metal gizmo has something to do with it but not sure, thanks, steve

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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    Correction to my statement above, mine is a model 30 not 40 but question is the same.

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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    I agree with the suggestions to dampen the head by putting something in there. Sock, foam, towel, rag, tshirt etc.. Also, consider using a lighter gauge of pick. I have always thought they were made to be played unamplified with brass bands/big bands and thus needed to be quite loud. I have not researched that thought.

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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    Yes the lighter strings, (banjo strings) will help. It will still be loud, but not obnoxious.
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  13. #35
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: "banjo-mandolin" and "nice sounding": an oxymoron?

    Tenor banjo was used in big bands. Not sure about MB's. Saw some use in jug bands, though.

    Has anyone ever tried nylon strings? I can't help but wonder how that would sound.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    Lucinda Williams and Eric Von Schmidt (who would have turned 90 5/28/21), the night devotee met hero (and both my heroes)

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