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Thread: 5 course mandola

  1. #1
    Registered User Geiss's Avatar
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    Hi All:
    I'm new, so go easy....
    I'm a guitar transplant enjoying a Weber Sage 2, octave mando.
    I'm seeking recommendations for a builder in order to commission a
    5 course mandola (scale length shorter than the 23" I have now).
    Likely tuning CDGAE.

    I like nice stuff, good looking and sounding tone woods.
    Suggestions?

    Best,
    David

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    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    David,
    You will need to go for at least 23.5" or no more than 16" (an octave apart) lots of info on my website, 10 string/cittern pages.
    Trevor
    Formerly of The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England now retired.

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    David,

    I have a 16" five-course mandola, and I agree with Trevor that this is the absolute maximum scale length for a working high E course. Indeed, I now tune the top string down to D as it's just too shrill at that scale.

    Martin

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    CGDAE? Brian Dean at bfolk.com builds everything in the mandolin family. I am happy with my instrument from him.

  5. #5
    Registered User Geiss's Avatar
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    Thanks for those incisive and prompt replies!
    I am finding that I can make those 7th fret moves when I capo at the 2nd position on the Weber I like the idea of 5 courses but perhaps what I am seeking is a higher quality shorter scale octave mando.

    On the other hand, if I go in the direction of 5 course, should I be looking at adding a bass string to the ordinary 4 course config as © GDAE, or adding in essence a treble string as GDAE(B)?

    Confused just a tad in NJ....

    Best,
    David

  6. #6
    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    All this is on my website.

    At 16" you are adding an E to a mandola, therefore CGDAE.

    At around 20" GDAEB, octave + B, when capoed at the 5th CGDAE as above.

    At 23.5" plus its octave (or buzouki of you prefer) plus low C, CGDAE. Therefore mandocello/octave.

    There are of course lots of alternatives not tuned in fifths. There are also some chord shape tips on my website.



    Trevor
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    Lawrence Smart is building a 5 string CGDAE for Mike Marshall on a mandola body, with fanned frets for a shorter E string and longer C string. The bridge is lower at the C string, and the nut is higher, and it is very close to combining a normal 'dola C with a normal mando E scale. I'm excited to hear the reports!

    Asheville builder James Condino has made some similar instruments. He wrote a good article about them in the current Mandolin Magazine.



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    Registered User zoukboy's Avatar
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    I often wonder why more folks don't use octave numbers when discussing tunings over a broad range of pitches. For instance, the octave starting at C the low string of the mandocello is C2 and every note above that in that octave is a "2" as well. So the G string on the mandocello/bouzouki/octave mandolin is G2. The D string, since it's in the next octave up is D3. the A string is in that same octave so it's A3. the E is in the next octave up so it's E4.

    A ten string octave mandolin with a low C string would be: C2 G2 D3 A3 E4

    If you're talking about viola/mandola tuning, it's:
    C3 G3 D4 A4.

    A ten string mandola with an added low F string would be:
    F2 C3 G3 D4 A4

    A ten string mandola with an added high E string would be:
    C3 G3 D4 A4 E5

    Just for comparisons sake, standard guitar tuning is:
    E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4




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    I do remember seeing one of those from Rigel -
    I think it might have been at acoustic outfitters - or maybe on the classifieds here

    interesting to see how that one played

    I did have 5 string fiddle (loaned to me) long time ago -
    seemed a bit larger than a violin - but not as big as a viola

    I know that C2 is elusive on my short scale peterson
    didn't realize E3 would be troublesome on a standard mandola

  10. #10
    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    James Condino built a ten string fan fret dola/mandolin for me. There is a discussion of it and photos in another thread. Sorry I don't have time to search for it right now.

    The Rigel was also built for me (there may have been another). Photos on my website. It was originally green, as on the Rigel website, then it was bought by a customer and changed to a brown/grey.



    Trevor
    Formerly of The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England now retired.

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    sorry I meant E5 not E3 on the mandola

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    Looks it was acoustic music company that sold that 10 string rigel -

    perhaps the owner is on this board somewhere ?

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    Registered User Geiss's Avatar
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    WOW, what a group!
    I spoke at length with Brian Dean....very knowledgable and open to ideas.
    I am trying to speak with Phil Crumb.
    From what I am seeing, what talks to me most is an ocatve, G2 D3 A3 E4, approx 20" or a tad longer scale length, with an additional treble course. I see that Trevor proposes a "B", thus a fifth higher and Brian, when speaking earlier today, proposed an "A".

    Having it all tunded to fifths and that 5th fret transposition that Trevor mentions seems like a win all around.
    Thanks to all for making this a very interesting inaugural thread.

    I admit to being a little lost on the fanned frets and shorter "E" and longer "C", but nothing a little more reading will not cure....

    Best,
    David

  14. #14
    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    Quote "Looks it was acoustic music company that sold that 10 string rigel - perhaps the owner is on this board somewhere ?"

    See my posts above.
    Trevor
    Formerly of The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England now retired.

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (Geiss @ Dec. 04 2007, 16:29)
    I see that Trevor proposes a "B", thus a fifth higher and Brian, when speaking earlier today, proposed an "A".
    We've only just discussed this here. The high B makes sense because it preserves the symmetry of the tuning in fifths, and therefore all closed chord shapes and double stops can be shifted around. Tuning down to A is better for the common "Celtic" keys, as having sympathetic open A overtones is more pleasing than having them in B. It also makes for a generally more open, resonant sound picture.

    The two are close enough that you can just tune up and down without changing strings, so you can experiment once you have your own cittern.

    Martin




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    right sorry - well - how was the rigel ?

    bottem end - top end - course spacing ?

    neck ?

    I know it's one of a kind

  17. #17

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    Ironically, there's another "Dean" 6 course mandola to mention here. I went and played this one hanging about in a local luthier's atelier. This one's top is sinking a bit, but the luthier--who has a good repair reputation and does know his stuff--seems convinced that it won't cave as evidenced by its bracing construction.

    Its three top courses are double-strung with three bass single-strings. The lowest is a very thick harp-like string. It's a weird piece, possibly unique and not made for U.S. markets. Doesn't sound bad.

  18. #18
    Registered User Geiss's Avatar
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    To further complicate, what is out there existing that has treble strings in unison and bass strings, be it two or threee course, tuned an octave apart. Most of what I hear about is tuned in unisons across all courses. Single bass strings, as described above, I have not heard of in this family of instruments. Sounds as if there is still a fair amount of experimentation to be had with this family of stringed siblings.....

    Best,
    David

  19. #19
    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    entau,
    Sorry, I can't add to the info on my website, 10 string/cittern gallery page, I haven't seen it for a couple of years now.
    Trevor
    Formerly of The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England now retired.

  20. #20
    Registered User craig.collas's Avatar
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    Hi
    Saw an oud here at a local souk it has a single bass and all the other strings are doubled
    Craig

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    Quote Originally Posted by (catmandu2 @ Dec. 04 2007, 21:13)
    Ironically, there's another "Dean" 6 course mandola to mention here...
    Its three top courses are double-strung with three bass single-strings.#The lowest is a very thick harp-like string.#It's a weird piece, possibly unique and not made for U.S. markets.#Doesn't sound bad.
    Sounds like a "Mondo Mando Mandolin". I haven't seen one of these in person, but it looks like a sort of hybrid, intended for guitar tuning, with a 20" scale.

    Patrick

  22. #22
    Cafe Linux Mommy danb's Avatar
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    I've weighed in on this subject a few times- I've tried quite a few variants of 10-stringers.

    For me it all started in the 80s, when the coincidence of three things hit me. First off, I bought Trimble's "first flight" cd and loved it, secondly I was listening to the Pogues Terry Woods, and thirdly I saw the mandolin bros add for the loar 10-string mando-viola.

    I did some research and discovered Stefan Sobell made Gerald's instrument, so I wrote a letter. I started a correspondence and eventually he steered me to a fairly unusual configuration of his, the 10-string mandola. This beast is a 21" scale instrument with the same large body he puts on his bigger zouks. I tuned GDAEA.

    Sometime after that I tried Roger Landes's 10-string Steve Smith zook, which was very nice. I placed an order with Steve and a while later had a long-neck 10-string. I never really took to that one quite the same way I did the sobell, mostly because of the scale length. I could back on it quite nicely, but there was really nothing like the interesting fluidity I could get on the sobell for lead lines.

    Shortly after my first disk, I really swooned for an F5 and made a sale of my Sobell to finance an F5. Soon after that I sold my Smith zook too.. it didn't take long for me to get the 10-string itch again!

    I bought a 10-string vega mandolin-scale instrument (to tune CGDAE) from ebay. Had that one a while, never could make the low C course work. It either lacked life (gauges too heavy) or was unfrettably loose, similar to droppping your mandolin G course to a low D.

    I traded that one for something else, and visited Trevor's shop in Brighton. He had 3 at the time, a bussman, a rigel, and a mandola-scale vega 10-string. All tuned CGDAE! The vega is a very nice working instrument for that range. I found myself playing it as a mandola with some interesting chord inversions on top. A fun backing instrument at sessions to compliment guitar etc.

    Finally, I very recently bought another short-neck sobell 10-string GDAEA and traded the vega to a friend for some other stuff. The vega 'dola scale one was probably the most successful CGDAE instrument for the same reason the sobell works well as an OM + high A.. the scale length is short for the low course, but the body size is large and compensates for it.

    Where sobell shines with this design (fairly unusual btw, he mostly makes OMs or full-sized zooks, this is the less-commonly found "Cittern" in his arsenal) is that the G frets well, drones wonderfully, and the high A is not in the least bit shrill. The instrument has Stefan's signature cittern tone, which is very well known in Irish and Scottish recordings.. Altan, Silly Wizard, Andy Irvine, Gerald Trimble, etc. It's a shimmering drone sound and has very clean balance.

    I bop between lead and melody on it quite easily, the high A course helps with some of the slightly increased stretches (you can go up to high D in 1st position), the chords are really cool on it (especially playing with a guitarist as well!), and you have lots of interesting places to put drone notes in any common Irish key.

    Amidst all this, I've done some more research on the vintage 10-stringers out there. There were Vega 10-string OMs and mandocellos, but I have yet to see a "live" one. Loar also played a modified H2 that was a 10-string instrument.. that would be an interesting conversion to attempt. Same with a 24 tenor lute -> 10-string, I believe the body on those is a match for the mando-viola that Loar used to carry along with his electric viola and singing saws!

    One more piece of the puzzle- I've worked on a design with my resophonic building friend Patrick here in England to put together a 5-string tenor much like Lowell Levinger's converted National. Patrick's tenor resos are great, I've used one at sessions here for 4 years now. This 5-string is the same scale as the sobell, but has resonator/tenor tone more so than "zook tone". It's quite a fun beast to play, I have barely had it a week now though so still need to take it for a spin in a session!

    Anyway, the overall take-home I have from this is that 5 courses tuned all in 5ths is pushing the envelope a bit past reasonable tone. You'll either get a rubbery low course or a shrill top one. The vega is the only one that I had that "Worked" to my satisfaction in CGDAE. The short-scale OM + high A is a great tuning.

    Once you go 10-string, you're already going into eclectic territory. For many builders it's a first attempt or one of a few. You might look into a resophonic 5 or 10-string too, the resonator cone solves many of the balance issues by not having to be carved to support particular frequencies!

    Quite a bit of blather there really, but I have to admit 10-stringers or 5-course instruments are a long-standing obsession of mine
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  23. #23
    Registered User Geiss's Avatar
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    Dan:
    Thanks for those great insights.
    I placed a call to Stefan Sobell and have yet to hear back.
    Perhaps he will build for me or I can gather enough information to enable Brian Dean to build for me.
    I am leaning towards a short scale OM, GDAE with a high A, as you have described.
    Best,
    David

    Oh, by the way, what's the scale length on your Sobell and what string guages tend to work out best?




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    Cafe Linux Mommy danb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (Geiss @ Dec. 05 2007, 13:53)
    Oh, by the way, what's the scale length on your Sobell and what string guages tend to work out best?
    20 3/4" scale
    I use
    Phos wound:
    G: .052
    D: .034
    A: .025

    plain steel:
    E: .014
    A: .010

    It varies a bit per instrument. This works best on a sobell at this scale IMO
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    Geiss wrote, "I am trying to speak with Phil Crumb."

    Emm.... It's Phil Crump, with a -p- there at the end. # #

    That might help... #

    stv
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