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Thread: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

  1. #1
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    Default Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Not having played enough L&H mandolins to know, it seems reasonable to ask here. Generally speaking, what is the difference in tone and volume as a result of their two mandolin scale lengths? The longer scale mandolins seem to command a higher price, but my left hand wouldn't close the case of a short scale model.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    The few L&H mandolins I have played I haven't noticed a difference in tone I could attribute to or correlate with scale length.

    As a general statement for all mandolins, I have a slight preference for the shorter scales. It feels more compact, more a solid unit. I find that a longer scale feels more like a large spoon, with all the weight way out on the end. It feels like I have more under hand. Not a strong preference mind you, never a deal breaker.
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    I have never played a long scale - but the short scale is delightful to play.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    On the most basic level, a longer string of equal diameter and composition, requires more tension to reach the same pitch as a shorter one. One could speculate that a string under greater tension will be "louder" in comparison.
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Jeff and Tim - your posts contain valuable info of real experience, which is the kind of thing I'm looking for. Many thanks and hoping for more....

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    This is ONLY my personal opinion. I own a longer scale '21 Professional A, but I have have also played a number of B and C models with the shorter scale length. The shorter scale reminds me of the Martin Style 20s I have played and owned, clear, precise, sweet. They play well. The longer scale tends to have slightly better bass response, and a bit more drive. Again, just personal experience. Overall, the L and H mandos are extremely well made, and have good articulation. Having played both, I opted for the longer scale length.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    zookster - I'm indeed looking for personal opinion and experiences and your post has a good helping of both. I'm considering a L&H style build with the shorter scale and narrow neck my left hand likes. The mandolin chosen for bluegrass has the ~ 14" scale and more than plenty of tone for that purpose.

    While a snakehead tone is tubbier than I seek and a balanced sweetness, adequate bass and playability is the preferred direction. Thanks for your excellent post.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    I have a long-scale Style B, probably from 1918. The long-scale L&Hs have a 13 5/8" string length, so they are a little shorter than the standard 13 7/8". The neck feels a little wider and flatter than my others, but the shape may influence the perception of width. (I don't know how neck width changed over the years, if it did.) The tone is to die for—rich and complex, with a gorgeous, warm low end. I wouldn't call it loud, although it's strung with TI mittels, which aren't known for their cutting volume.

    If you're looking at buying one, you will likely be delighted with what you get.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Louise - Excellent info. i didn't know the length of the L&H long scale. All this is very helpful -- If the custom build route is taken, the shop is let up for the standard Gibson scale so cutting it short by one fret would be easy and not terribly far from the "long" L&H. The tone descriptions and other details are appreciated.

    Allen - i recognize the theory of string tension and string playing length. The info sought here relates specifically to the Lyon & Healy mandolins, which will likely apply to conventional wisdom anyhow....

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Dan - if you have not read the complete info on L&H replicas from luthier Peter Coombe's website, I highly recommend reading the entire description because it clarifies the difference between a 'cosmetic' reproduction and an 'actual' L&H reproduction. I suspect Peter may be the leading authority on reproducing true L&H replicas. I hope this is helpful and of interest.

    https://www.petercoombe.com/classical-mandolin.htm

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Tim - Thanks very much for the input and link. It's a good read and has been awhile since seeing it, so i'd pretty much forgotten about it. i wish the Coombe mandolins were made here in the CONUS, which is my preference. Now i'm wondering how the L&H mandolins were carved - research so far is coming up empty. Another thing - the videos and audios of the L&H mandolins i've pulled up so far may be lacking in tone quality, and may not be the mandolins themselves.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Quote Originally Posted by dan in va View Post
    Tim - Thanks very much for the input and link. It's a good read and has been awhile since seeing it, so i'd pretty much forgotten about it. i wish the Coombe mandolins were made here in the CONUS, which is my preference. Now i'm wondering how the L&H mandolins were carved - research so far is coming up empty. Another thing - the videos and audios of the L&H mandolins i've pulled up so far may be lacking in tone quality, and may not be the mandolins themselves.
    Before I located my L&H model A (through a surprise stroke of luck), I had one of Peter Coombe's classical mandolins on order. Peter was excellent to work with and a very neat guy. I had no concerns about shipping from Australia - he is used to shipping to the US. Unfortunately I cancelled the order when I discovered my model A. (Also, I had an octave mandolin made and shipped from New Zealand and had absolutely zero problems shipping). So if shipping is a concern, my guess is you would have no issues.

    Here is a video I like of a primo L&H Model A. I do not know what strings are on it.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HXtUG68ivY8#

    The best videos of the L&H are Melissa Carroll's such as:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aLk3UH18vX0

    She has many excellent videos.

    And finally here is a more in depth article oh by Peter Coombe in case you have not seen it:

    https://www.petercoombe.com/publications/jaamim10.htm
    Last edited by Tim Logan; Jun-09-2021 at 8:08am.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Tim - At last, a really nice video of a Washburn/L&H. What a wonderful sounding mandolin! i've seen some of Melissa Carroll's playing, which surpasses the sound quality. But the first video of the L&H model A has the sound i've been hoping to hear for a long time. Now i understand better what the enthusiasm is about with these. i couldn't really appreciate the model C that i heard as it was many years ago.

    This other article by PC is new to me. It explains a good deal more of the differences between the Gibson A and the L&H, which is very enlightening. A great find and much insight is shared there, and your experience with shipping from down under is good to hear.

    i'm going to continue researching these and hope to learn more from helpful posts to this thread.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    On the most basic level, a longer string of equal diameter and composition, requires more tension to reach the same pitch as a shorter one. One could speculate that a string under greater tension will be "louder" in comparison.
    True, I don't disagree, but there could be other factors too. Strings under more tension could restrict movement of the top, or compress the top and change the instrument's intonation, etc... I think there's a range of string gauges to which each instrument respond best.

    I have only played the short scale version, so I really have no idea how they compare. It would be nice to hear a direct comparison.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Before I located my L&H model A (through a surprise stroke of luck), I had one of Peter Coombe's classical mandolins on order. Peter was excellent to work with and a very neat guy. I had no concerns about shipping from Australia - he is used to shipping to the US. Unfortunately I cancelled the order when I discovered my model A. (Also, I had an octave mandolin made and shipped from New Zealand and had absolutely zero problems shipping). So if shipping is a concern, my guess is you would have no issues.

    Here is a video I like of a primo L&H Model A. I do not know what strings are on it.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HXtUG68ivY8#

    The best videos of the L&H are Melissa Carroll's such as:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aLk3UH18vX0

    She has many excellent videos.

    And finally here is a more in depth article oh by Peter Coombe in case you have not seen it:

    https://www.petercoombe.com/publications/jaamim10.htm
    I listen to Frank Solivan on that Style A about monthly. He really does it justice. The strings look like regular phosphor bronze bluegrass gauge, which I guess is possible on the short scale. I wouldn't put them on mine. That instrument definitely does not have the original frets.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    I used the following set on a long scale style B for the entire ten years I owned it with no problems whatsoever: 11 - 14 - 24 - 38. The next owner strung it the same way for the 15 years he owned it, still with no ill effects. I used 80/20 bronze, and he preferred nickel.

    That mandolin was the most mic friendly mando I ever owned. If a sound guy couldn't dial that one in without feedback, he needed to find another line of work.

    I haven't heard any great differences between the long and short scale L & H's. I've found their carved mandolins to be remarkably consistent in tone and projection, especially when compared to the variations I hear in oval hole Gibsons.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Quote Originally Posted by dan in va View Post
    Tim - At last, a really nice video of a Washburn/L&H. What a wonderful sounding mandolin! i've seen some of Melissa Carroll's playing, which surpasses the sound quality. But the first video of the L&H model A has the sound i've been hoping to hear for a long time. Now i understand better what the enthusiasm is about with these. i couldn't really appreciate the model C that i heard as it was many years ago.

    This other article by PC is new to me. It explains a good deal more of the differences between the Gibson A and the L&H, which is very enlightening. A great find and much insight is shared there, and your experience with shipping from down under is good to hear.

    i'm going to continue researching these and hope to learn more from helpful posts to this thread.
    I'm sure I am preaching to the choir but I think my L&H with TI's has remarkably different tones/feel depending on pick types. I enjoy such differences very much. But it tells me videos are better understood if we know the string AND pick.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    lowtone2 - Yes indeed; the more I listen to Frank Solivan's playing the more that world seems to open up. What amazing tone and tremolo.

    rc56 - You've touched on some important issues...string gauges, comparing string scales and consistency among instruments. Thanks.

    Tim - Seems like there's at least one nugget in every post. Strings and picks are easy to forget about and along with who's doing the pickin' adds up to more variables to consider. I recall JD Crowe and Tony Rice both talking about players not being able to get their signature tone when playing their famous instruments. And to my ear, TR playing any other guitar than Clarence White's old Martin was always something different than I wanted to hear.

    Here's where I am right now: I was considering a domestic build, but have yet to find anyone who's serious about what makes L&H mandolins tick...and I hope this notion is proven wrong soon. We're seeing some high vintage asking prices nowadays and there are some things I'd like in this kind of mandolin that are different from the originals...like a narrower and longer neck and moving the bridge toward the sound hole sound hole a little, and a 13" scale. It's good to hear that Peter Coombe's replicas are good, but so far the videos haven't convinced me yet. The good news is that getting more dialed into the L&H sound makes me like my Stanley even more. So I may end up going vintage or going home, which isn't a bad place to be these days.

    And there's some pretty good video of Norman Blake getting some nice tone out of his L&H, albeit in another setting.
    Last edited by dan in va; Jun-10-2021 at 8:40pm.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    I think that for me, and maybe most folks used to the Gibson scale, the longer L&H scale (essentially the same as the Gibson) both feels and sounds closer to what we look for in a mandolin. But if you play a bowlback or a Martin bent top, the shorter scale may be more to your liking. My experience is that the longer scale L&H instruments are scarcer, and probably a bit more valuable.
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    The link to the Marissa Carroll video in post #12 actually shows her playing a bowl back! Must have been before she joined the L&H club?

    Dan, if you are thinking about a modern copy but altering the string length and bridge placement you will lose some of what makes the old L&Hs unique. This thread gets into the design of their compensated tailpieces, with the string after-length carefully calibrated. How much difference the tailpiece actually makes is up for discussion, but any tweaks to a design can have consequences.

    Have you ruled out waiting for an original to come along? There seem to be plenty out there, many in very good shape—on the whole they have held up well if not dropped or sat upon. I had been watching for one for quite a long time before I found mine, a B in great condition at a price I liked. The As seem to have gotten quite expensive, but the Bs and Cs are more reasonable. By all accounts, the Bs and Cs can have just as nice a sound. Whether there is anything for sale any given week or month is another story, but they do show up on the market.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    BradKlein - I do play mandolins with both scale lengths but prefer a shorter scale. So far, most of the L&H's for sale seem to be the longer scale.

    Louise - I think I'm hearing there are some good sounding 13" scale examples out there. As for moving the bridge a little, some good luthiers around here believe that it isn't necessarily significant, so I would at least consider that mod on a custom build. That's a fascinating link to the tail pieces. Thanks for encouraging more patience in my search, and I think you're right about that. Something interesting I've noticed in the used market is some variety in neck widths. I'll keep looking and maybe a short scale with one of the narrower necks in good condition will pop up (for example, the as-is model C at Elderly has a 13 3/4" scale and 1 1/4" nut). I've always appreciated what you have to say. Ultimately, I also agree the best path may be to carefully go the vintage route.

    It would be alright if folks PM'd with good prospects, y'know.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Sorry, the Elderly L&H C is no longer available. Heh-heh-heh.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    HH - I hope it went to somebody with a big left mitt and it's a good one. I've been looking at it for sometime and it wouldn't suit me for a number of reasons.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    I gave everybody a chance to eliminate the temptation but nobody stepped up. <sigh> Anybody know where I can get one of those really neat L&H tailpiece covers?
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    HH - Sorry I let you down on that purchase! I want very much to hear how you like it. Some 11 years ago, Charles Johnson had one of those L&H TP covers, but he spoke highly of its value, and that says a whole lot coming from him.

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