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Thread: Tacoma mandolins

  1. #1

    Question Tacoma mandolins

    Just curious about the sound of Tacoma mandolins. With what appears to be a flat top and back AND the odd-shaped, weirdly-positioned sound hole, how do these instruments sound?

    A professional singer I know plays a Tacoma acoustic guitar seven nights a week, and it sounds great. I wonder about the mandolin, and whether it represents anything above the novelty value of the odd shape and appearance plus the 'Made in the USA' factor.


    br

    A link to a Tacoma on the Harry and Jeanie West website is here.

  2. #2
    Registered User jim_n_virginia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I don't like'em. To me that don't even sound like a mandolin to me sounds like a little guitar. Their guitars are OK I have a friend that plays one and it sounds OK but any decent Martin or Collins will blow it outta the water.

    I place the Tacoma mandolin in the same catagory as the Ovation mandolins.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Thanks, Jim. That's interesting and the sort of thing I wanted to know.

    br

  4. #4
    ISO TEKNO delsbrother's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Are they still making those? I thought after Fender bought the company they phased out all mando production.

    If the link you posted was for a used Tacoma, beware - there are serious finish flaws on some of the older ones. Check all pictures carefully!

    BTW, I have both a Tacoma and an Ovation, and I don't think they sound like guitars at all - they LOOK like guitars. I think they sound like what they are: flat-top mandolins. However unlike other flat-tops such as the flatiron pancakes, I think these were always designed with amplification in mind - i.e. neither is very loud acoustically. Amplified or not, neither will ever sound like an archtop f hole mandolin with a Bluegrass bark. If you're looking for those qualities, you should be looking elsewhere.

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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I've heard one or two and there are much better flat tops out there in my opinion.
    Steve

  6. #6

    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Tacoma was a good company. That's why they were bought...along with the various instrument names. When their mandolins got farmed out to Asia, echoing Steve, there are better mandolins out there. I sold mine.......at a tolerable loss.

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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I have M3 sunburst that I bought new back in 2000 and I loved it back when I was playing mandolin. I've been a professional musician and teacher for 30 years so I've played and evaluated a lot of instruments in my time. I'd like to think I'm a pretty good judge of these things by now. I think the Tacomas were a fine instrument, well made and very playable and nice sounding, and I'm sorry that the company was bought by Fender, and essentially gutted. I quit playing mandolin, in part, because I got tired of all the negativity I encountered on this site, and elsewhere, because I liked this instrument and, when asked, told people so. I just wanted to play music, not defend my choice of axe. (If you check old threads, you'll find my comments.) Anyway, I went back to what I know best, the guitar world, where there is a lot less discrimination based on what instrument you play, and am much happier there. I think the musician makes the instrument, not the other way around. I still own the Tacoma, but it stays in its case these days. My main axes these days are my so-called "lawsuit" Ibanez Howard Roberts archtop that I bought new 32 years ago for $600, a Martin 00016-SGT I bought in 2004, and an a Fender MIM Stratocaster I bought last year.

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  9. #8
    David Deacon
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I have a Tacoma M2 (rosewood back and sides) that I picked up used cheap. The wood seems good, and so does the construction. It is quiet, but I play Irish--only melody. The usual complaint is that they sound guitar-like, but I don't know what that means--I have several guitars and they all sound considerably different but not like the mandolin at all. At sessions I play mostly tenor banjo, but use the mandolin at home for learning tunes, and the Tacoma is fine for that--and it's easier to handle in front of the computer when wrangling with iTunes and the instrument at the same time.

    I have recently put light gauge strings (instead of medium) on it and think that improves the sound. My chief complaint is that the sound is tight and thin. That may be what some people want, and it's a matter of taste. The lighter strings help. For melodic playing I want a bit more body and sustain. The tailpiece is frustrating, with only four hooks. Tailpieces can be changed, so that's not horrible.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Adding something like the new Shadow magnetic pickup may be a benefit,
    as I recall the fingerboard is elevated a ways off the top so there should be sufficient space..
    Discussed here, one being imported from Germany as we speak.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by rpolf View Post
    I have M3 sunburst that I bought new back in 2000 and I loved it back when I was playing mandolin. I've been a professional musician and teacher for 30 years so I've played and evaluated a lot of instruments in my time. I'd like to think I'm a pretty good judge of these things by now. I think the Tacomas were a fine instrument, well made and very playable and nice sounding...I quit playing mandolin, in part, because I got tired of all the negativity I encountered on this site, and elsewhere, because I liked this instrument and, when asked, told people so. I just wanted to play music, not defend my choice of axe. ...I went back to...the guitar world, where there is a lot less discrimination based on what instrument you play, and am much happier there.
    Sorry you took others' comments so personally and seriously, that it impacted your choice of instrument and music. Hard to believe that you'd stop playing an instrument you really loved, because some people you don't even know personally didn't respect Tacoma mandolins the way you did. I've only played Tacomas at a dealer's shop a time or two, and they didn't "float my boat," but I'd never put someone down for liking or playing one.

    Also, I've seen a fair amount of "nameplate snobbery" among guitarists as well, since I walked into bluegrass jams with a Guild D-40 "back in the day." See, it wasn't a Martin D-28, so obviously I didn't know squat about bluegrass. People of that ilk can be found in the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and probably bassoon worlds. But if I like the instrument, and it does the job for me, who cares if it's not the Generally Accepted Standard.

    Hope you and your Tacoma will be back playing together again...
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    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Like Daithio, I once had an M2, and my feedback would be similar to Diathio's -- but would add that it had a pretty solid fit and finish, and excellent playability, at least in my hands.
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    Registered User Robert Lane's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I had M1 (pre fender) mandolin. It was a nice mandolin and the fit and finish was really good on the one i had. It sounded okay, but was not very loud. It was the first mandolin i bought. I wanted to get into playing bluegrass and i really did not do my homework when i bought it. I have nothing against this mandolin at all. It just did not sound right for me and and was not very loud. So i sold it to a very happy new owner in seattle. In all of this I learned one thing and that is if the sound of the mandolin you own makes you happy it does not matter what the brand is or the cost of the instrument is. Just my two cents worth.
    To the guy who was cold shouldered based on his choice of instument brand. There are are always going to be people that put others down for any kind of reason. the are just insecure people.
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    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Lane View Post
    So i sold it to a very happy new owner in seattle...
    I should also add that the person I sold my M2 to was very happy with his purchase. He emailed me afterwards to let me know he swapped out the bridge and changed strings (I forget the details of either), and was very happy with it as a Jazz axe.

    One this I forgot to add was it had only a very slight neck angle, so there was little downward pressure to hold the bridge in place, the bridge had a tendency to move perpendicular to the strings (the M2 had a gloss finish) if I inadvertently hit the bridge with my wrist while playing. I used violin rosin to make the bottom of the bridge stick to the top---advice probably received here in the forums---which helped.
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    Registered User jim_n_virginia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by rpolf View Post
    I quit playing mandolin, in part, because I got tired of all the negativity I encountered on this site, and elsewhere, because I liked this instrument and, when asked, told people so.
    Sorry you had that experience but I'm with Allen I don't get dropping an instrument because of what others say. I myself have been accused of Gibson snobbery and really half the time I am just joking around to get under the skin of the Gibson bashers.

    But with 20,000 members it don't matter what kind of instrument you have some will like it, some will not and half don't care.

    Just because I personally don't like Tacoma mandolins don't make them not any good or not enjoyed by someone.

    This is a discussion forum about mandolins and its all just opinions and you know what they say about those?

  17. #15
    its a very very long song Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Just because I personally don't like Tacoma mandolins don't make them not any good or not enjoyed by someone.
    Now thats a negative statement if I ever heard one
    Jim Richmond

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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim View Post
    Now thats a negative statement if I ever heard one
    HOW do you figure that? I am saying DON'T let my opinion (or anybody's) opinion make the decision of whether you want a mandolin or play. Play it and decide for yourself.

    Also when someone posts "What do you think of XX mandolin" be prepared for the answers you want and don't want. That's the way it goes on here.

    And you can try and hide YOUR cheapshot with a smilie but it's still a cheapshop

  19. #17
    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by rpolf View Post
    I quit playing mandolin, in part, because I got tired of all the negativity I encountered on this site, and elsewhere, because I liked this instrument and, when asked, told people so. I just wanted to play music, not defend my choice of axe...
    That sounds like a better reason for changing the people you play with, and perhaps for quitting this site, but not for giving up on an instrument.
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by rpolf View Post
    I have M3 sunburst that I bought new back in 2000 and I loved it back when I was playing mandolin. I've been a professional musician and teacher for 30 years so I've played and evaluated a lot of instruments in my time. I'd like to think I'm a pretty good judge of these things by now. I think the Tacomas were a fine instrument, well made and very playable and nice sounding, and I'm sorry that the company was bought by Fender, and essentially gutted. I quit playing mandolin, in part, because I got tired of all the negativity I encountered on this site, and elsewhere, because I liked this instrument and, when asked, told people so. I just wanted to play music, not defend my choice of axe. (If you check old threads, you'll find my comments.) Anyway, I went back to what I know best, the guitar world, where there is a lot less discrimination based on what instrument you play, and am much happier there. I think the musician makes the instrument, not the other way around. I still own the Tacoma, but it stays in its case these days. My main axes these days are my so-called "lawsuit" Ibanez Howard Roberts archtop that I bought new 32 years ago for $600, a Martin 00016-SGT I bought in 2004, and an a Fender MIM Stratocaster I bought last year.
    Blueron asked for an opinion and he seemed satisfied with honest opinions even if they are negative! You are going to have a wide variety of opinions on any instrument, even on guitars! I have found in life that most people who ask for your opinion are looking for an accomplice !
    Last edited by yankees1; Jun-14-2010 at 12:03pm.

  21. #19
    its a very very long song Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    And you can try and hide YOUR cheapshot with a smilie but it's still a cheapshop
    Sorry, it was the triple negative in your sentence I was referring to, just my weak attempt at humor, sorry i offended you.
    Jim Richmond

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    Registered User gda(v)e's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I have an older M2 that I got as a starter to learn on. The playability is outstanding and the construction is excellent (low action, ebony fretboard, solid wood, made in USA, etc. etc.). It sounds nothing like any guitar I've ever heard, nor like any archtop mando. It's got it's own sound, which is unique (like any flat-top) but not necessarily 'bad'. After 'graduating' to a nice archtop I thought I would put a pickup in the Tacoma but I never did, so it sits in the closet. (It's for sale if anyone's interested.)

  23. #21

    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I asked for opinions, and I got them alright. Thanks for all the replies - I was curious about the Tacomas, but I don't think I'd travel far to get a proper look at one now. I would rather hang onto my limited funds and wait for a chance to grab maybe a nice Eastman or Kentucky or The Loar LM400.

    Thanks again.

    br

  24. #22
    Registered User jim_n_virginia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I'm kinda partial to Eastmans as far as imports but man I keep hearing good things about those Loars. I wanted to hate them bad when they came out I mean come on man LOAR for a name. But too many people are saying they love theirs.

    Hey br another alternative is to get a smaller custom builder (many are on here) to build you a econo model without all the frills. I have seen a few show up on here and they look good and VERY affordable!

  25. #23
    David Deacon
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    I certainly don't regret getting the Tacoma. I'm pretty sure it's the best mandolin I could get for $300. And it's nice for the way I use it. Right now I have to like it, since I can't afford anything else . If I were in the market for something new I'd probably drive over to Bernunzio's and look at his Eastmans.
    David

  26. #24
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    http://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/msg/1720848841.html
    This one seems priced pretty reasonably but it seems no one wants it. Hardshell cases included is a plus.

    I got to try a Giacomel Eastman at the Columbus, Ohio guitar show. It had plenty of volume and was priced under $2000.
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  27. #25

    Default Re: Tacoma mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by jim_n_virginia View Post
    I'm kinda partial to Eastmans as far as imports but man I keep hearing good things about those Loars. I wanted to hate them bad when they came out I mean come on man LOAR for a name. But too many people are saying they love theirs.

    Hey br another alternative is to get a smaller custom builder (many are on here) to build you a econo model without all the frills. I have seen a few show up on here and they look good and VERY affordable!
    I agree about the The Loar name - that's just a bit hokey in my opinion, but the reports about the mandolins are so good that I'd overlook that minor point.

    One of these days I hope I will be able to afford a custom-made instrument, but for now, a middle-of-the-pack LM400 or KM900 or Eastman 604 or 605 looks more likely.

    br

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