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Thread: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

  1. #1

    Default thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    I ve decided to sell my Buchanan octave mandola and get a fairly good mandolin. I would be really grateful to hear thoughts about Flyde, Buchanan, Shippey, Moon and any other makers/brand that fall in the 500-1500 pound category. I know that I must play as many as poss and see which one feel right, but any thoughts about how these different brands compare, the relative positives/negatives and whether a 1400 quid shippey is comparable to a 700 pound fylde etc. I basically am trying to get as much info as poss to decide which direction to go in. I also realise this is a highly subjective question. I play mainly British/Irish folk and classical, with some modern stuff and occassionally bluegrass.

    Cheers

  2. #2
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    I love the sound of every Fylde I have tried. The Touchstone would be, for me, the go to mandolin for traditional Scottish and Irish. At least for sound I like.

    My only complaint is the darn position marker on the ninth fret. I use the tenth fret marker, typical of a mandolin, a lot. No, a lot a lot. That ninth fret marker just goofs me up.
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    I have a rosewood Shippey mandolin with a carved top and flat back and I love it. In the five years that I've had it, I haven't played a mandolin I like better. I find it quite versatile tone-wise, with a nice rich tone and good sustain. The only downside is that the short neck makes it harder to play up the neck. Paul Shippey's f-hole mandolins are also supposed to be very good and may be the most versatile choice if you play bluegrass, though slightly outside your budget.

    I like Fylde instruments - I have a Fylde bouzouki and tenor guitar and I used to have an Octavius mandolin. I've played quite a few Fylde Touchstone mandolins, at least two of each model. They're all good, but I particularly like the cedar/walnut Touchstone. I'd previously played a couple of cedar/sapele Touchstones that were also really nice. The rosewood Signature models look very nice, but I didn't find that the sound was that much improved over the standard model to justify the price increase. Most of the Touchstones I tried were new, so I can't say how they might improve (or not) with playing.

    The one standard Moon mandolin I tried was nice, quite plain looking, but with good tone. The Moon A+ mandolins I've heard/played were very loud, perhaps a little harsher/brighter sound than something like a Fylde - might be good for cutting through the racket if you play in sessions.

    Richard Osborne makes a carved top/flat back that is a similar price to a Shippey. I haven't seen his mandolins, but I tried the bouzouki shown on his website and it's probably the best bouzouki I've played.

    I like Buchanan OMs and bouzoukis, but I haven't liked the mandolins I've played as much. I've tried a few, but never thought I got a good sound out of them. Other people seem to manage it, so it's probably just me, or the difference between being in front of or behind an instrument.

    I would say that something like a Fylde and a Shippey are of comparable quality. Just depends whether you want the sound of a flattop or carved top.

    Patrick

  4. #4

    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Thanks JeffD and Patrick, that is really useful

    Mike

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Cafe member Tosh has two Shippey mandolins and they sound the absolute business - I've also heard several really lovely Phil Davidson mandolins - while his carved top instruments would be out of your price range, a second hand one might fall well within it:

    http://www.davidsoninstruments.com/

    Cheers,
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  6. #6

    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Thanks Jill, I will certainly check out the link and thanks for the comments about Shippey mandolins. Hearing alot of good thíngs about the Shippeys, I think I could do with playing a Fylde and a Shippey one straight after the other.

    Flat tops and carved tops? This is something I ve spent some time trying to read about and understand. Any comments, opinions or suggestions for someone that wants a tone good for celtic and classical and isnt too worried about cutting through a session would be very gratefully received.

    Cheers

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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Quote Originally Posted by mike30 View Post
    Flat tops and carved tops? This is something I ve spent some time trying to read about and understand. Any comments, opinions or suggestions for someone that wants a tone good for celtic and classical and isnt too worried about cutting through a session would be very gratefully received.

    Cheers
    Just curious - does the Buchanan have a flat of carved top? And how did you like the sound? I think you'll be able to narrow down the choice once you have a chance to play some of the aforementioned instruments. To me, the sound of a Sobell is so ingrained in my mind as to be representative of the celtic music sound, that I'd probably go for a carved top, oval hole instrument. They tend to have a more ringing sound to them, with a longer sustain. The flat-top instruments I've tried tend to have a sharp attack to them and less sustain. If built right, either one should provide plenty of volume in a session.

  8. #8

    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Some excellent ideas above. Freshwater is another worth looking at, and a stretch of the budget would include Vanden, as played by Simon Mayor. If you are not restricted to British builders, a Rigel A+ would be in the price range. These are really good all rounders, and very loud. Have you thought about an old Gibson A model?

  9. #9

    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Thanks for the comments Barrangatan, I will certainly bear in mind the suggestions about a carved top and oval hole, that is really useful. I do like the sound of my Buchannan OM, it is definately of good quality. It is a flat top. You mention that flat tops tend to have a sharp attack with less sustain, this is definately true of my OM. The sharp attack made it very good for choppy chords and breaks. In a mandolin I m looking for a rich, sweet tone with sustain, mainly for solo playing.

  10. #10

    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Thank you mandotim1955 for the Freshwater suggestion. This is a brand I have seen on websites but never actually tried....any opinions or comments from anyone? I am not necessarily restricted to British makers, the only consideration is that it is possible for me to visit their showrooms and try they re whole range. Also I thought (maybe wrongly, comments please) that the British and Irish makers were more geared towards celtic music and American makers focus more on bluegrass and old time style (maybe this is a complete miscomprehension!). But I would definately consider American or European makers. Actually, in a local store in Manchester, they had a couple of old Gibsons and a mandolin they said was (almost certainly Martin) but the label had come off and they could nt prove it. These older mandolins were nice and sounded great, but I was worried they might be a bit of a labour of love for an antique instrument enthusiast. I have no real skill in maintainance etc. Maybe my worries are unfounded, thoughts about a Gibson A model for Classical and Celtic? Will certainly check out Vanden and rigel, thanks.

    Cheers guys

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    I certainly see a fair few vintage Gibson F's and A's in the hands of some folks in mandolin orchestras. As regards the vintage Gibsons and trad/celtic playing, Mick Moloney played a vintage Gibson A on his excellent "Strings Attached" album, and Marla Fibish is a great trad mandolin player here in the Bay Area who plays an old Gibson A and it really sounds the business.

    As regards flat top vs. carved, there's certainly personal preference involved in that decision - I started out on a few flat top mandolins ( a Flatiron 2M and a Weber Aspen #2) but then moved to carved top (and back) instruments and prefer them. That said, I was listening to some old recordings I'd done with the Weber Aspen and that was a really sweet sounding mandolin!

    Cheers,
    Jill

    Cheers,
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    Mandolin Botherer Shelagh Moore's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    All of the makes mentioned above would be worth trying (I have played nearly all of them at one time or another and owned some of them). Some like the Fylde Touchstone, Freshwater or Hathway will be well within your budget, others like Vanden or Sobell probably well above it, even second-hand. I have a Gary Nava 2-point which has unbelieveable build quality and a beautiful sound (probably won't suit bluegrass but OK for everything else you mention) and which might be within the upper end of your budget for a fully custom made instrument (your choice of woods and appointments) but you should go for what really speaks to you in terms of sound. I could probably record a sound sample of the Nava if you want as I'm in Scotland (when I'm not somewhere else 6000 miles away like now!).

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    If you wouldn't mind an instrument from an 'independant' builder,contact Ged Green in Cheadle -www.gedgreen.co.uk/.
    Ged's one of the finest UK luthiers & does build very high quality Mandolins to order,
    Ivan
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    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Quote Originally Posted by mike30 View Post
    Actually, in a local store in Manchester, they had a couple of old Gibsons and a mandolin they said was (almost certainly Martin) but the label had come off and they could nt prove it. These older mandolins were nice and sounded great, but I was worried they might be a bit of a labour of love for an antique instrument enthusiast.
    Hi Mike, is that Forsyth Brothers or Johnny Roadhouse or another store? occasionally I go into Forsyth's at lunchtime if I've had a bad morning to let off steam! Haven't been in there for a while but they usually have reasonable collection of mandolins (as you probably know)...

    If you want a carved top mandolin there are some reputable makers in the Czech republic such as lebeda which may be worth considering.

    Ivan, thanks for the Ged Green link, I hadn't heard of him but his instruments look great..

    cheers,
    Paul

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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    +1 for Fylde Touchstone. I play a Touchstone OM and had the opportunity to swap instruments with a Touchstone mandolin owner in a session. So much room on that extra-wide fretboard - though that might be something the players of other mandolins would have to get used to. I often get nice comments on the sound of my OM, and a recording of Eddie Sheehy's Single Malt Mandolin proved to me that this is a feature common to all of Fylde's instruments.
    Now, of course, Fylde are primarily guitar makers, so there is that dot on the 9th fret, which I never had any problems with though.
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    I'm not a massive fan of flat top mandolins but I tried a Fylde Touchstone Signature a few months ago and it was stunning. If I ever have the need (or budget) for a second mandolin it would be one of these
    Rigel A Natural

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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    I have a used Vanden in stock.
    Trevor
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    www.theacousticmusicco.co.uk.

  18. #18
    plectrist
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    I got to the end of this thread and found Trevor's posting. Were i to want to sample a variety of mandolins in the Sceptred Isle ... his would be the first shop's door i would darken.

    Ryk
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  19. #19

    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Hi Paul, yes the Gibsons and probable Martin were in Jonny Roadhouse (hobgoblin) but that was just before xmas and since then the Gibson that I was looking at has been sold, if my memory serves me right it was labelled about a grand. Thanks to everyone for the recommendations/advice, I will check out all the suggestions.

    Thanks Richard, I would really appreciate a sound sample of your Nava.

    Any thoughts or opinions about brands such as Eastman, Breedlove, Martin, Gibson etc for a folky and classical player? Also any comments about specs such as flat/radiused finger boards, neck ect and how they effect the playability would be very interesting.

    Cheers

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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    The Martins I've played have not been very loud, sweet sounding though I must say. I've played one Breedlove, and while the wider neck was comfortable and easy to get around, the sound of it didn't really do it for me. I've played a bunch of Eastman's and they're great value for money - I've got an 805 arriving in the post tomorrow I think, part of the cash/trade deal I did on my sadly departed Weber Vintage A. Delighted to be getting an Eastman in trade though because I know it'll be a good solid instrument that will amply meet my needs until I'm back up on my financial feet again (fingers crossed that will be sooner rather than later...)

    Checking The TAMCO website I see that Trevor has some new Weber Gallatins (A4 and A5) in the 1300 quid range. Also the Capek basic A4 at about that price point as well. I had a Gallatin and wish I'd never sold it - had lend of it the other day so I could go busking and it just served to remind what a lovely mandolin it was!

    Cheers,
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    That said, I was listening to some old recordings I'd done with the Weber Aspen and that was a really sweet sounding mandolin!
    Mine is still a head turner.
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Quote Originally Posted by mike30 View Post
    Hi Paul, yes the Gibsons and probable Martin were in Jonny Roadhouse (hobgoblin) but that was just before xmas and since then the Gibson that I was looking at has been sold, if my memory serves me right it was labelled about a grand
    If you are after a mando trying out as many as you can before buying is a wise thing to do. Forsyths on Deansgate usually have a reasonable selection in your price range, some made by British luthiers..

    A trip to Trevor's shop is well worth it and I assume you have seen the excellent website? Other more local shops which may be worth checking out are the music room in Cleckeaton and frets old and new in Liverpool (which I think specialises in bluegrass instruments) although I would check with both of these shops what stock of mandolins they have in before visiting.

    this place also looks good (towards the bottom there are quite a few nice looking mandos):
    http://www.eaglemusicshop.com/produc.../mandolins.htm
    Good luck, cheers,
    Paul
    Last edited by Paul Cowham; Feb-25-2011 at 10:10am.

  23. #23

    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Thanks Jill, Eddie and Paul for those suggestions. I am actaully living in Slovakia at the moment (been here 18 months for work, but will be back in the UK this year). Last time I was home I was in Hobgoblin in Manchester, but really excited on moving back to the UK and having a few Mandolin weekends. Some trips to all the places that have been suggested and I ll try and play all the great recommendations and make some kind of list that I can keep narrowing down. There are really not many mandolins in Slovakia from what I can see, I live in the 3rd biggest city in the country and there are 4 music shops with lots of guitars, pianos and classical instruments, and only one shop has a single, solitary mandolin! One owner told me in the last five years he has only had one mandolin in stock! I think Paul recommended a Czech maker, well that actually isnt too far a drive, so I ll try to get to see Lebeda. Looking forward to moving back home to NW England, see family and friends and try those mandolins!

    Cheers everyone

    Mike

  24. #24
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Here's a pic of one of Ged's Mandolins. It's obviously (?) a 'Celtic' style instrument.If the build quality is as good as everything else he makes,it'll be superb,
    Ivan Click image for larger version. 

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    PS - Mike,if you do contact Jiri Lebeda,let us know.There was a thread re. 'where' he is a few months ago.He seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth.
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    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
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    Default Re: thoughts about some British mandolin makers

    Ivan, that looks like a lovely mando Ivan and may have reignited some MAS

    Will try and make it to th'oddfellows soon...

    Mike, my understanding is that there are a number of mandolin luthiers in the Czech Republic so that may be a worthwhile trip (someone else probably knows more about the different makers). If you are ever back in Manchester do "pm" me if you want a second opinion on any mandos or a pick

    cheers,
    Paul

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