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Thread: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowl back mandolin

  1. #1
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    Default Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowl back mandolin

    Hey all,

    I'm new to MandolinCafe, I joined to get some thoughts and opinions on a bowel back Mandolin I saw for sale on Etsy. I wouldn't normally buy instruments from Etsy, however this seems like a good deal so I'm strongly considering it. The maker of the mandolin appears to be the Bouzouki Shop, which is based out of Greece.

    Here's a link to the listing: https://www.etsy.com/listing/8027802...de-traditional

    I currently have an A style mandolin from the Loar, which I've had for two years. It doesn't seem to hold tune too well, also the higher frets are incredibly out of tune. I am interested in playing Italian Mandolin songs (I'm not familiar with the correct terminology for that music, but basically like Finiculi, Finicula). I also play Irish/ Celtic styles. I feel like the tone of an A style is not cut out to do complete justice to those two styles, but maybe I'm just ignorant. One thing I know for sure is that the Loar I have certainly is not going to cut it.

    So ultimately I'm asking does this mandolin seem like a good option? And if not, what else would you suggest in the same price range?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    I think that, as long as the top is flush with the bowel back, it'll be OK. Watch out for it in case it starts to sink, though. And remember to wipe it down after every use.

    OK, now that I've got that out of my system - and hopefully most others' too - I think it's a bit pricey. I don't see anything terribly special about this. You might find a better deal on a better mandolin with a few years on it if you keep looking. Folks with know-how will be ringing in. My best piece of advice is to take their advice.

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    I've never owned a bowel back, but they must be very hard to keep clean.

    Apparently it will take something more direct to satisfy me.

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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    Welcome to the Cafe. I can't speak to the bowlback as i have no experience with that company. I would say you would be better off getting a good setup on your The Loar. They are solid instruments with a good reputation. However, unless you got it from a mandolin specialist or higher end store will have had a little or no setup work done on it. All of the problems you describe would be fixed with a setup.

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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    If The Loar you have is out of tune in the upper frets, it’s because the bridge is not in the right place. A proper “setup” will correct that.

    I’m of the impression that oval-hole A-style mandolins are pretty well suited for Celtic, but probably not first choice for the Italian stuff.

    As far as BOWL-back types go, someone here, or perhaps a teacher of that style, should be able to guide you in that purchase. Not to put too fine a point on it, but buying solely based on price is how some folks end up disappointed.

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  10. #6
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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    Thanks for the advice, and yeah it sounds like your probably right about the set up issue. I'll be sure to do that and then reevaluate later.

    I thought I had heard some questionable things about the Loar, but so far people on this tread have had positive impressions, so I guess I was mistaken.

    Thanks again!

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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    Welcome to the Cafe. I can't speak to the bowlback as i have no experience with that company. I would say you would be better off getting a good setup on your The Loar. They are solid instruments with a good reputation. However, unless you got it from a mandolin specialist or higher end store will have had a little or no setup work done on it. All of the problems you describe would be fixed with a setup.
    Thanks for the advice. Sounds like your probably right, I got it from Guitarcenter, which is basically like getting the opposite of a setup.

    I'll be sure to get it properly setup and then reevaluate.

    I thought I had heard the Loar didn't have a great reputation, I guess I was wrong. Thanks for letting me know.

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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    Calling Jim Garber, calling Jim Garber! Do you read . Over!
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  13. #9

    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by mdwyer View Post
    Thanks for the advice. Sounds like your probably right, I got it from Guitarcenter, which is basically like getting the opposite of a setup.

    I'll be sure to get it properly setup and then reevaluate.
    ....
    Our son got a base model The Loar from GC and when he came to visit he left it and I set it up with the guide I found on this site. After that, along with a new bridge, it was pleasing enough to play that, after a month (lessons on ArtistWorks) I decided to get a mandolin for myself. I aimed a bit higher, and was lucky enough to have a used one from a friend kind of fall in my lap at a good price.

    Getting something that plays well enough that you can actually learn on is probably the most important thing, but you do want it to have a sound that is at least pleasing to your ear. If you get yours set up, patience and time can be the best way to find the right mandolin for what you want to do. Just and old guy's $.02....
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  14. #10
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    1. Bowl-backs are somewhat harder to hold, though there are ways to circumvent this.

    2. The specs on the Bouzouki Shop instrument are a bit vague. Is the wood solid or laminated (solid's better)? I'd guess solid, since it's European-made, but it'd be nice to know.

    3. Bowl-backs take extra-light strings, while your Loar will handle lights or mediums. Different feel, different volume.

    4. The main difference in sound between mandolin designs, is between those with f-holes and those with oval soundholes, IMHO anyway. You can play any kind of music on either design, but an oval-hole instrument, in general, will sound more like what I think you want to hear.

    5. If you're dissatisfied with your Loar, other than problems that can be addressed with a better set-up, think about getting a good-quality flat-top instrument, like a Big Muddy, a Redline Traveler, or a used Flatiron "pancake" or Martin (technically a "canted-top," but similar). Might well be suitable for the styles of music you want to play.
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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    The bowlback in question is Greek, or at least made according to the Greek style. There is no cant; the top is not bent to provide more tension on the bridge, as is traditional with the Italian-style instruments.

    I have a Greek bowlback of recent vintage - maybe 15 years old - which is similarly constructed. It's interesting to note that the top is thicker than one would find in the Italianate mandolins; importantly, the top thins at the edges of the bowl, reminiscent of the attachment of a speaker cone. Such cones are stiff, but mounted in a far more flexible medium where they are attached to the rim of the speaker, to allow the cone to vibrate freely, while remaining sufficiently stiff to produce a powerful sound. The combination of a thicker top and freer vibration presumably affects the nature of the sounds projected, and suppressed, by the mandolin.

    I believe I paid about $400 US for my mandolin; quality construction and finish, at a price point available to the man(dolinist) in the street. Whether the construction of the mandolin posted above is of the same level is not easily discerned by photos; having it in hand is essential to determine its actual quality. The devil is, as always, in the details.

    Be aware that the Greek-style mandolins are under-represented in the bowlback market; I've never seen one outside of my own in the flesh.

  17. #12
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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    The bowlback in question is Greek, or at least made according to the Greek style. There is no cant; the top is not bent to provide more tension on the bridge, as is traditional with the Italian-style instruments.

    I have a Greek bowlback of recent vintage - maybe 15 years old - which is similarly constructed. It's interesting to note that the top is thicker than one would find in the Italianate mandolins; importantly, the top thins at the edges of the bowl, reminiscent of the attachment of a speaker cone. Such cones are stiff, but mounted in a far more flexible medium where they are attached to the rim of the speaker, to allow the cone to vibrate freely, while remaining sufficiently stiff to produce a powerful sound. The combination of a thicker top and freer vibration presumably affects the nature of the sounds projected, and suppressed, by the mandolin.

    I believe I paid about $400 US for my mandolin; quality construction and finish, at a price point available to the man(dolinist) in the street. Whether the construction of the mandolin posted above is of the same level is not easily discerned by photos; having it in hand is essential to determine its actual quality. The devil is, as always, in the details.

    Be aware that the Greek-style mandolins are under-represented in the bowlback market; I've never seen one outside of my own in the flesh.

    While I'm certain that I've posted about this mandolin in past, the search function failed to locate any posts on the subject. The maker was a fellow named Kevorkian, which would have been mentioned in the posts, if anyone cares to try their luck; we're talking around 2005 or earlier.

    Edit: The instrument is discussed in a thread entitled "Post a picture of your Bowlback" from August 2003. (I printed out a copy of the thread at the time). Apparently the earliest posts in the thread were not archived.
    Last edited by Bob A; Jul-31-2021 at 12:24pm.

  18. #13
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowel back mandolin

    I have seen that Etsy shop and they have good reviews for many of their instruments. OTOH I agree with all those who say get your The Loar mandolin set up properly with new strings, etc. and then figure if you need another mandolin.

    Just a note to Allen's excellent bulleted post. Modern bowlbacks are capable of handling heavier strings. It is mostly the antique ones that need the very light gauges. I played a modern Pandini bowlback for many years and always used medium strings on it. I would think the Greek Etsy one would be in that same class.
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  20. #14

    Default Re: Looking for thoughts and opinions about a bowl back mandolin

    I have some doubts about that mandolin. The way the tuners are way off center, to the point where they look like they overlap the edge on one side, is a major warning to me. If they allow that kind of sloppiness in one place, I wouldn't trust them to do things right elsewhere.

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