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Thread: Vega roundback mandolins

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    Here are some photos of my Vega Pettine :


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    Registered User Plamen Ivanov's Avatar
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    I like the back shot! Those fine ribs... And the aesthetics as a whole.
    This is the Vega that you play in the "Golden Era Treasures" CD, right?

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    Yes, and here are a couple more pictures. The quality of the workmanship is outstanding. I've retired this instrument just after the recording was made in order to preserve it's condition. My Larson mandolin is inspired by this Vega. Unfortunately, the Vega didn't have the top A (29th fret) and in the recording there is one instance where this note was required. I played it anyway but without the fret.


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    Here, just for fun, is Giuseppe Pettine's last 'Pettine Special' from Vega. Oddly enough, it only has 24 frets. Notice the glued on rubber bath matt (aiieee!). Pettine played standing, and this sort of helped keep the mandolin from slipping about.


    [I]




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    Registered User Plamen Ivanov's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting these pics, Richard! Really interesting to see a piece of history like this and a common problem (even by sitting position) solved by Mr. Pettine in such ah... radical way.


    What's the approximate width at the nut of a Vega mandolin? Have they followed a certain italian bowlback model or developped their own?




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    The nut is about 28mm in width. Compare this to the 23mm width of many Emberghers. Personally, I find the Vega necks the most comfortable to play on of all the mandolins that I have tried to date (many). The Vega is very much influenced by Vinaccia instruments of the late 1800's and the sound is quite similar. The unusual aspect of the Vega design is that the bridge is on the other side of the top bend or cant.

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    Registered User Plamen Ivanov's Avatar
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    Did i say Embergher?! No, but that's exactly what i had in mind! Thank you! Yesterday evening i had the chance to play two Emberghers and i was surprised how really narrow the neck is! I couldn't play even a simplest tune. Obviously it's a matter of getting used to it, but still not for me. Besides they were both strung with Thomastik strings and the sound was quite different than the sound produced by Ralf, Sebastiaan, Ali, etc. Anyway...

    Do i remember well that it's the only (or if not the only, one of the few) bowlback mandolins with such unusual bridge position? (I mean Vega)




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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Douglas Gifford has a Pettine model pictured on his site. It looks like the fretboard extension was lopped off altogether. I am not sure if the bridge is original either.





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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Here is my style 3 Vega. It was in amazing condition and currently strung with Dogal Calace dolce strings and it is a wonderful instrument.
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    Jim

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (plami @ Jan. 29 2008, 05:07)
    Did i say Embergher?! No, but that's exactly what i had in mind!
    I don't see where the Vega copied Emberghers more than any other Italian maker. Possibly more Vinaccia than Embergher, if any. I think they put their own design elements into their mandolins as did Martin or Washburn for that matter.

    Emberghers are less like any of the vintage American mandolins than any other Italian ones: narrow radiused fretboard; bridge tilted thicker on the bass side; and different curvature on the bowl-neck join.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    There are three Artist models in one of my vega catalog reprints: Pettine, Abt and Gregorio Scalzo. Has anyone ever seen a Scalzo model? Has anyone any further info on him as a player? Vega just mentions that Sr. Scalzo toured the Americas and Europe and his tours caused "great furore". He is not listed in my copy of Bone.



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    Registered User Plamen Ivanov's Avatar
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    Hi Jim,

    I don't see any recemblance too. I just wanted to compare the nut width of the Vega with the nut width (nut narrowness) of the Embergher mandolins which i played yesterday. And although i didn't ask explicitly about that, i was happy for the telepatic answer of Richard providing the comparison between both. That's all. Of course, it's not telepathy though, the Embergher nut width is just the extreme limit to which one would compare the width of the nut of other types of mandolins.




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    Thanks for posting the pictures of your Pettine Special Richard, and especially for those of Guiseppe Pettine's own instrument. These instruments are as lovely as I remember them. I will be taking some better photos of the Abt special and will post them here later... probably later in the weekend or next week (work has me buried just now).

    Eric
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    Thanks, Richard for posting such great, clear photos. Plami, you are right, the craft is exceptional and the wood selection beautiful. It appears to be in mint condition.

    I enjoy the curved detail at the rear headstock/neck joint. Is this a Vega feature, or is it employed by others as well?

    Mick
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    Quote Originally Posted by (plami @ Jan. 29 2008, 05:07)
    Yesterday evening i had the chance to play two Emberghers and i was surprised how really narrow the neck is! I couldn't play even a simplest tune. Obviously it's a matter of getting used to it, but still not for me. Besides they were both strung with Thomastik strings and the sound was quite different than the sound produced by Ralf, Sebastiaan, Ali, etc. Anyway...
    Perhaps surprisingly, I've always felt playing my Embergher with its super-narrow nut to be most comfortable. I also have several mandolins with much wider nuts, including a Mid-Mo M-0W (wide nut option), and switch between them pretty easily. Maybe that's a reflection of my rather lowly technical standard in the first place -- my fingering technique isn't so fine-honed as to be overly sensitive to nut width changes.

    One notable difference between the Embergher and the Mid-Mo is the approach to adjacent fifths. On the Embergher, I can stop two courses with one fingertip, whereas on the Mid-Mo I use two fingers.

    It's a pity that the Emberghers you have played were strung with Thomastiks. It will rob them of their defining tonal characteristics. One thing that I find very striking with my Embergher is that even though it's a lowly Tipo A, and even though it's played by poor little me, there is an immediately obvious tonal resemblance to the much grander Emberghers. I have noticed this in person with the 5bis played by Ali and by Frances Taylor, and in Ralf's recordings.

    Martin

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    Quote Originally Posted by (jgarber @ Jan. 29 2008, 08:46)
    Has anyone ever seen a Scalzo model? Has anyone any further info on him as a player?
    I've run across either sheet music or recordings by him, but I don't remember which off the top of my head. Will report back later.

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    Great instruments, guys. The Vega Special with the fluer-de-leis inlays in the FB are very nice.

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    It almost takes a magnifying glass to see the detail in the lyre inlay. Tiny bits of pearl, with even tinier engraving.

    While the fleurs-de-lys are attractive, they lack the variety and surprise factor inherent in the regular Vega deco style inlays.

    But that's just cosmetic. These mandolins are super players' instruments, with a sound that has to be experienced to be believed.

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    This is cool. Thanks Richard.

    I will try and get a better pic of my style 3 to post.

    Does anyone have a serial number list, so I can tell what year mine was made?

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    It is interesting that of all the pics I have of Pettine Specials the fretboard extension does not reach across to the other side of the soundhole, whereas in the catalog cut I have the Pettine model is the only one where that happens and which the fretboard has up to 29 frets. Was there a variation of the GP special that did that or was it only a Vega fantasy?
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    Haven't a clue, it would be nice to know if the companies business records exist somewhere... we have so much info on Gibson co. but the american bowlback manufacturers have left us really in the dark. I started this topic if only to unearth as many surviving examples as possible, perhaps we'll hit on one of these 'catalogue' gems.

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    I've heard the Larson mandolin, a fine instrument, how did it's tone compare to the Vega?
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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    I'm keen to add a little to this, but don't know when I'll find the time for a few new photos and writing. It will be a 2- to 3-concert weekend for me depending upon my stamina.

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    Quote Originally Posted by (reesaber @ Jan. 30 2008, 20:47)
    I've heard the #Larson mandolin, a fine instrument, how did it's tone compare to the Vega?
    The Larson is a tad brighter and more forceful than the Vega. A bit like comparing a Vinaccia to a vintage Calace mandolin (the Vega more closely akin to the Vinaccia). I like them both but find the Larson more complete, more variety in tone production. Both are very desirable instruments and the workmanship for either instrument is as good as it gets.

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    Default Re: Vega roundback mandolins

    Hi folks,
    bit late to the party - I changed my email address and lost my password etc (muppetry) so haven't been contributing here for a couple of years.... anyway, fwiw
    here is a link to a little vid of me playing my Pettine special. It's almost identical to Richard's though not in such good condition. I really need to have an expert do some work on it....

    Cheers all,
    Marc

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