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Thread: What is the story behind the "scroll"

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    Likes quaint instruments poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default What is the story behind the "scroll"

    I always wonder how the strange looking and expensive to make scroll was introduced in the first place but also how such an anacronistic fad can continue to be attractive to buyers even today.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    I always wonder how the strange looking and expensive to make scroll was introduced in the first place but also how such an anachronistic fad can continue to be attractive to buyers even today.
    We all have different tastes and I do prefer the clean lines of those on an A Style. But, anachronistic may be a little strong for an opinion that is different mine, yours's, and like thinkers.
    I also think of the scroll as being subject to breakage and I'm probably just too cheap to pay for bling.
    Last edited by Pittsburgh Bill; Oct-20-2022 at 9:31am.
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    We all have different tastes and I do prefer the clean lines of those on an A Style. But, anachronistic may be a little strong for an opinion that is different from ours.
    Well, you can only express your own opinion, so I expressed mine

    I have one with a scroll but it cost 1/10 of normal price so I let it pass
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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    What if all mandolins came with scrolls until something happened that builders started leaving them off? What if the A style was the innovation?

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    I think Orville Gibson really went in for the elaborate designs. I don't know if he invented the scroll, though.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    I kind of wonder if the scroll started with the harp guitar and carried over to the mandolin.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantoj View Post
    I think Orville Gibson really went in for the elaborate designs. I don't know if he invented the scroll, though.
    Orville was heavily influenced by Victorian times, though he was working somewhat later. Ornamentation was the order of the day, and his personal aesthetic led him to heavily ornament things; thus the scroll. Of course Orville did not invent the scroll, (discussions can be found here and elsewhere about nature, the golden mean, scrolls forming naturally and so forth) scrolls were used as ornamentation in lots of designs, but he may well have been the originator of using it on stringed instruments. The Gibson corporation continued it's use, Bill Monroe played a scroll-bearing mandolin rather prominently, and the design took hold. That is my brief half-paragraph history of the scroll-bearing mandolin design.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    I believe the precursor of the scroll on mandolins at least in the US appeared on German concert zithers. No doubt Orville wanted a certain look to his instruments. After his departure post-three point era it was modernized and the scroll reduced a bit.

    Parallels to these design features are in furniture design catering to the look not necessarily any function.
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Orville... may well have been the originator of using it on stringed instruments.
    Of course the viol and violin families had scrolls on the peghead. Gibson, and Lloyd Loar, were borrowing classical design themes with f-holes and the scroll. The innovation of relocating a scroll to a shoulder is the surprisingly effective design look. Hard to explain why it succeeds, but it adds up to a coherent look worth emulating.
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    In the un-lamented century of Victorian heavy brown furniture, tacked-on ornamentation was a crude key to price range: more added detail, better quality. It was a sad departure from earlier styles, but was abetted by machine cutting and carving which allowed superfluous excess to invade the mass market. Scrolls, lyres and scroll saw panels were used to tart up everything. Most of it lost an audience as the 20th century began, and the public developed a liking for something ‘modern’, cleaner, lighter, and much less brown. I think the violin scroll is an entirely separate evolution, like the waist on a guitar.
    Of course, then, as now, added ornament was mostly used to identify higher-priced instruments, with an interesting detour through the Asian inlay explosion, and an F will cost more and be more likely to have more mutant wood content and elaborate finishing patterns. Sans the Gibson and Monroe cachet, I doubt that many musicians would be attracted to the design.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    The reasons I see for them still being popular:

    1. They look nice
    2. They are a nice place to hang a strap
    3. Many of the best bluegrass players play/played one
    4. I don't know if it's just my instrument or F-styles in general, but they seem to me to have a little more low end punch than A-styles

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Kind of a silly and troll-y question, that might have been phrased better to provide for a more thoughtful conversation.

    But an odd provocation of 'anachronism' from someone collecting toneless (pointless?) pochette mandolins.

    I've always thought the F-5 design has too much going on for my design eye, but is far more harmoniously composed than, say, the iconic Embergher bowlback with 'bottle opener headstock' and the awkwardly drawn dragon scratchplate.

    But a lot of Euro-mando players love that design.

    There are far more elegant versions of Embergher's work in my view.

    While not carrying the Monroe baggage, I've found the pumpkin F-4s to be the epitome of the Gibson mandolin design sensibility.

    For whatever my opinion is worth. Which is nothing, really.


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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    I believe the F-style look, with the scroll and points, is actually much more futuristic in appearance, not anachronistic. Unless one determines that this look is fixed in its time of introduction, over 100 years ago. So, then, would be the A style body, which Gibson introduced at the same same time. This renders the consideration moot.

    Quote Originally Posted by milli857 View Post
    I don't know if it's just my instrument or F-styles in general, but they seem to me to have a little more low end punch than A-styles
    I believe this flies in the face of convention. Most players contend F-styles have more a crisp, high-end punch, while A styles are more often considered to have a more low-end punch, even being described as "tubby." This may be more due to soundhoile design, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    I've found the pumpkin F-4s to be the epitome of the Gibson mandolin design sensibility.
    Indeed-a-rooni! An oval hole with a strap-hanger, and a delicious finish color. The best of all possible worlds!

    Though I must say, the scroll shouldn't affect the sound at all. It doesn't contribute to the acoustics of the instrument, just the aesthetics (and the utility of its strap-hanging capability). If scrolls were hollow, one could make a case otherwise, but as I understand it, they are not. The difference in sound between f-holes and oval holes is much more material, but that doesn't seem to be the point here ...
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I believe this flies in the face of convention; most players contend F-styles have more a crisp, high-end punch, while A styles are more often considered to have a more low-end punch, even being described as "tubby."
    I guess I just found one with nice bass then, it sounded deeper than the A-styles I tried from the same builder. I do kind of hear that "tubbiness" from my flat-top, the bass in my F-style sounds "tighter" to me.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Several pages of discussion from 2013 here
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wright View Post
    Of course the viol and violin families had scrolls on the peghead...
    Correct. I should have said fretted instruments. I believe lyres and other older instruments with strings but no frets had scrolls.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by milli857 View Post
    I guess I just found one with nice bass then, it sounded deeper than the A-styles I tried from the same builder. I do kind of hear that "tubbiness" from my flat-top, the bass in my F-style sounds "tighter" to me.
    That sounds like a real keeper - everything in one instrument.
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    That sounds like a real keeper - everything in one instrument.
    Definitely. I love everything about it and plan to keep it for life.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    I didn't major in art history, but my art history friends, knowing nothing about musical instruments, correctly identified the time frame that scrolls and point came into being. Based on them fitting into the latter part of the Art Nouveau period.

    Why are they still popular today has more to do with mandolin specific history, I believe, than anything else - that Bill Monroe played an F-5 as an awful lot to do with it.
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    I am going to mention the harp guitar again... I think the scroll helped make the extended upper bout on the bass side look less like an ungainly bulbous protrusion and more like part of the design.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    I still have issues with saying a scroll on a mandolin doesn't affect sound at all. It definitely affects the amount of vibrating mass, and in doing so it also has to have some affect on sound.

    To add more fuel to this fire, I'd say that ToneGards similarly affect sound by adding vibrating mass.

    For that matter, if you glue a toothpick to the bridge, it'll do something to sound. Technically, it has to.

    Whether or not the human ear, or the brain behind it, can recognize any of these differences is a good question.
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I believe the F-style look, with the scroll and points, is actually much more futuristic in appearance, not anachronistic.

    Decades ago, when I was working up to the purchase of my Stratocaster, a great pal encouraged me,

    "they sound great, feel great and it looks like a spaceship!"

    Properly or not I feel affectionately like this about F-styles.

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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    I still have issues with saying a scroll on a mandolin doesn't affect sound at all. It definitely affects the amount of vibrating mass, and in doing so it also has to have some affect on sound.

    To add more fuel to this fire, I'd say that ToneGards similarly affect sound by adding vibrating mass.

    For that matter, if you glue a toothpick to the bridge, it'll do something to sound. Technically, it has to.

    Whether or not the human ear, or the brain behind it, can recognize any of these differences is a good question.
    I for one would agree with your opinion until proven wrong, adding a scroll would logically seem to have an effect, though what it might be, and how audible, Ive not a clue. The scroll is formed over a solid block of wood, so it would have little or no resonance of its own. The vibrating plates, especially the front plate, and the resonance of the sound chamber are the important acoustic sound conveyors, of magnitudes more important than a vibrating neck or a vibrating scroll block IMO.

    But the scroll block is attached to an extension of both the main vibrating plates - so logic tells me it must have some effect on the sound. Dampening? Aiding in sustain? Ive no idea, but its far from the more important considerations of construction in my perception.
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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    But the scroll block is attached to an extension of both the main vibrating plates
    It seems like it would hinder vibration - which is how the sound is made. Therefore, it should dampen the sound...but doesn't seem to...

    I like A-styles and F-styles and feel fortunate to have both.



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    Default Re: What is the story behind the "scroll"

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    ... the scroll shouldn't affect the sound at all. It doesn't contribute to the acoustics of the instrument, just the aesthetics ... If scrolls were hollow, one could make a case otherwise ...
    When I said this, I was thinking only of the volume of the resonating chamber (the hollow place), not the mass of the scroll block, the extra wood of the top and back and also the points - am I forgetting anything else, like the extra wood on the headstock and its shape? Perhaps I was remiss in failing to include every possible contributing factor. I dunno. I'll leave further discussion of such considerations to those who don't believe they ain't no part of nothing. I believe scrolls are mainly decorative, not functional. Their utility as straphangers is ex post facto.

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