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Thread: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

  1. #1
    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    Which it preferable for an octave mandolin, f holes or an oval hole?
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    What is the preferred tonal response? The difference would be the same as with a regular mandolin. I read where John Reischman had a carved top/f-hole octave octave mandolin and found he preferred a flat top/round hole (guitar body) octave. Personal preference...
    too many strings

  3. #3

    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    I played all the OMs that Gryphon had last month. I found that to my ear, the round/oval hole instruments sounded too much like a guitar, and the f-hole instruments (a Northfield and a KR Strings/Mandalindo) sounded more "mandolin-y." I ended up buying an f-hole Artist model (EIR b/s, Engelmann flat top) direct from Kilin Reece. Very happy with it. FWIW I own an Eastman MD615 (f-hole & style) as my comparison.

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    🎶 Play Pretty 🎶 Greg Connor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    I’ve been playing recently with a mandolin player who prefers the sound of Oval Soundhole Mandolins. He has both oval and F hole instruments but consistently reaches for either his old Gibson F4 or his Laplant F4. He has made me a believer too.

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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    I have both (both Webers) and I do prefer the F hole, granted its a somewhat higher end model (Gallatin versus Black Ice -which I think is the same as Yellowstone in construction and materials)
    the F hole - projects, where as the round hole can get a little muddy on the lower end.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    There are such major differences between makes of OM -- scale length, flat vs. arch top, body depth and shape -- that other factors may be more important than the souondhole design. So take this with a grain of salt.

    If you like a "sweet and warm" sound that's rich in harmonics for playing solo at home, then you might prefer an oval hole instrument. If you're playing with others, an F-hole instrument may have a "tighter" sound that projects better for playing in a group setting. It also helps get away from the guitar timbre. I think the closer you are to a "big F-hole mandolin" the easier it is to be heard when you're in a group with guitars playing.

    I play a Weber Yellowstone F-style and I love it, so personal preference enters into it. I know people who are happy with oval hole OMs.

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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    Folded Path makes some great points here, especially all the other factors that go into shaping an instruments sound.

    I don't think that F holes are inherently louder than oval holes. F holes do have more single note punch but most Bouzouki and Cittern players seem to prefer oval holes and they're certainly out playing sessions. You might think of F holes having louder more cutting single notes and oval holes having a louder more harmonically rich strum but as FP points out, there are a lot of different factors.

    If I was playing with a guitarist I might prefer an F hole. If I was backing up a tin whistle I might like an oval hole. But really either could work just fine.

    You might think of an oval hole octave as a smaller bouzouki and an F hole octave as a bigger mandolin. Which one do you like best?

    Check out the octave playing of Eva Holbrook. She makes great use of an F hole octave>
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    I used to own an oval hole that I tuned GDAD to be a short-scale Bouzouki. It worked great for what I was playing with it mostly at the time. Now, I have an F hole one because that also suits what I'm using it for currently. So, I think your choice has to be shaped by what you're using it for and how well each fits that. There is no better/worse. The same reason many of us have one of each for regular mandos.

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    ‘Chung!’ for an F style, ‘Dung!’ for round hole and ‘Dong!’ for oval.

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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    Flat vs Arched top??

    If you want a flat top you'll likely end up with an oval or round hole. I don't see many flat top instruments with f-holes. I do see a lot of flat top OMs and/or Zouks with oval or round holes. Flat top instruments with f-holes seem like a recipe for top sink.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ky Slim View Post
    Flat vs Arched top??

    If you want a flat top you'll likely end up with an oval or round hole. I don't see many flat top instruments with f-holes. I do see a lot of flat top OMs and/or Zouks with oval or round holes. Flat top instruments with f-holes seem like a recipe for top sink.
    My Mandolindo (KR Strings) is flat top f-hole.

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    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    I think archtop vs flattop & body size have a much larger tonal impact than F or oval hole. I agree with others that a flattop sounds more like a guitar which is why I have two as opposed to my Weber which stays in the case
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  15. #13

    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by urobouros View Post
    I think archtop vs flattop & body size have a much larger tonal impact than F or oval hole. I agree with others that a flattop sounds more like a guitar which is why I have two as opposed to my Weber which stays in the case
    Actually, of the two f-hole OM's I tried at Gryphon, the arch-top Northfield (Mahogany b/s) was less like a mandolin than the flat-top KR Strings Mandolindo, IMO. Maybe body size issues contribution too, as I think the Northfield is larger.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    What role do you envision for the instrument? If it's vocal accompaniment, I'd go with a round/oval hole, for longer sustain and, yes, a more "guitar-like" sound (if we're thinking of a round-hole, flat-top guitar). My OM's are both round-hole, and I find them also quite suitable for chording, as in my Celtic band I seldom use them for lead work.

    If I were doing a lot of lead work, I'd probably opt for an f-hole and a more percussive, "cutting" voice. I find, in the few instances where I use the Flatiron for melody playing, that it's a bit "muddy" as a member of a string ensemble.
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?



    Two great players, two great octave mandolins. 1 F hole, one oval.
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  19. #16
    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by M19 View Post
    Actually, of the two f-hole OM's I tried at Gryphon, the arch-top Northfield (Mahogany b/s) was less like a mandolin than the flat-top KR Strings Mandolindo, IMO. Maybe body size issues contribution too, as I think the Northfield is larger.
    For me the body size & scale length make most OMs sounds less mandolin-esque than their smaller counterparts. Vs flattops I think the archtop GBOMs have more a cello tone. I want one but am holding out for a cutaway
    2020 Northfield Big Mon
    2016 Skip Kelley A5
    2011 Weber Gallatin A20
    2013 Collings Mandola
    2021 Northfield Flattop Octave Mandolin
    2019 Pono Flattop Octave
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    And a few electrics

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    Default Re: Octave mandolin - F holes or an oval hole?

    played many OMs. some sound more like guitars, some sound more like mandolins. no correlation with body shape. (i.e. some carved top sounded like guitars, some GBOMs sounded like mandolins). all sounded great, solo. which sound you want depends on with whom/where you play. I play in noisy places and prefer mandolin-type sound, with more "bark".

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