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Thread: An Observation...

  1. #1
    Registered User AnneFlies's Avatar
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    Default An Observation...

    Since I started learning the mandolin, I've acquired six. The first was a gift, the rest I bought looking for an instrument I could play (I am musically-challenged, according to any captive audience I may have).

    I also bought an Irish tenor banjo and a fiddle. Somehow, all banjos look alike (and sound alike) to me, and all fiddles look alike (and sound alike), so there's no desire to acquire any more of either of those. I'm happy with what I have.

    What is it about the mandolin that inspires MAS, whereas not so much with some other type of instruments? Why can't I stay off the Classifieds? Why can't I stay away from Elderly's?
    A "Not Ready for Prime Time" player

  2. #2
    Registered User chasray's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    I'm there.
    Some of MAS I think is the search for a mandolin you can play easier or cleaner, and sound better, louder or richer. I don't want to admit my talent level has a lot to do with it.

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    Anne; I agree completely! Though I have no clear cut explanation for the difference.
    I've owned the same guitars for many years (my acoustic guitar for 34 years), and have never considered "upgrading" those instruments. On the other hand, I've been playing mandolin for two years, and I've plowed through instruments like nobody's business! (Though I do feel I've finally reached equilibrium when it comes to my acoustic mandolins...wishful thinking? )
    c.1965 Harmony Monterey H410 Mandolin
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    With their arched top & back, mandolins are built similar to violins yet mandolins are at a fraction of the price of violins.
    Violins require a lot of practice with a bow before becoming as useful as a mandolin. And even at two digits, the cost of a pick is much less than a bow!
    Mandolins also have a wider varietal range of excellence. I've never seen an oval-holed violin.
    Wye Knot

  5. #5

    Default Re: An Observation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Goist View Post
    I've plowed through instruments like nobody's business! (Though I do feel I've finally reached equilibrium when it comes to my acoustic mandolins...wishful thinking? )
    Ed, you've made your plunge into the murky depths of mando-coholism (much to our enjoyment) everyones business.
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  6. #6
    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    I think modernity with its brown trucks and online shopping factors into it, as it is so much easier to do now.

    I will say that after playing with open tunings this weekend I found a reason to get a second mandolin. I have always wanted an old oval hole, now I figured out what to do with it.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: An Observation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    With their arched top & back, mandolins are built similar to violins yet mandolins are at a fraction of the price of violins.
    Violins require a lot of practice with a bow before becoming as useful as a mandolin. And even at two digits, the cost of a pick is much less than a bow!
    Mandolins also have a wider varietal range of excellence. I've never seen an oval-holed violin.
    Nice points from Lee, except there are lots of low-grade violins (viz., fiddles) from cigar boxes on up...

    I always thought mandolins are the ultimate dilettante instrument: they're cute, charming, have a nice bright ringing sound when strummed casually with a few basic chords or a simple single-note melody. And, they are easily shipped!

  8. #8
    Registered User pefjr's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    My Observation: We have excess disposable income today that was not so wide spread as in the day of the "Plow". Interesting Ed uses that word as a verb , but it shines upon the difference in material possessions of this generation compared to the "Plow" generations. My grandparents were given a $100.00 Piano by their children in about 1940, their first and only musical instrument.
    I have the world in a jug, and the stopper in my hand.

  9. #9

    Default Re: An Observation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Lee View Post
    .....I've never seen an oval-holed violin.....
    If you do a Google search for 'Oval Hole Violin' you get pages of Mandolin images!

  10. #10
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    I think its a matter of what you play most on. I know folks with six or seven fiddles, and I know a guy with 5 complete banjos and bits and pieces of maybe 10 more. In my case I just don't play my tenor banjo enough to appreciate all that I have and then to find out all that I could have.
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  11. #11
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    Size: you can put a dozen mandolins in your closet. Not true of grand pianos, bass fiddles, or even guitars (unless you have a really big closet).

    Variety: there are a great number of mandolin types, with different looks and sounds. Bowl-back, carved-top-f-hole, carved-top-oval-hole, "pancake," resonator, mandolin-banjo, flat-back canted-top, electric solid-body, etc. And, of course, mandolas, OM's, mandocelli, bouzoukis -- so many options, and some of us feel we need at least one of each. If you love, say, flat-top steel-string guitars, you may accumulate several, but they're not as distinctively different as an F-4 is from a National Triolian.

    Availability: not since the mandolin craze of a century ago, have there been so many makers, models, and price ranges from which to choose. When I got started on the mandolin (and dinosaurs roamed the Earth), you had student-grade Harmony instruments, and high-priced Gibsons, and a bunch of "vintage" dust-catchers in the back of the dealer's store. Just beginning to get a few Japanese imports then. It's an "all-you-can-eat" smorgasbord now.

    The instrument that I hear generating a similar level of "...AS" is the ukulele. And uke variation, while definitely there, isn't as broad as mandolin.

    Of course, I'm an extreme case of instrument accumulation, with many guitars, banjos, Autoharps, concertinas, and other misc. instruments. But I can see why mandolinists often feel that "just one won't do."
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  12. #12

    Default Re: An Observation...

    Well I'll have to take exception to some of Allen's points:

    Even if we extend "mandolin" to include -- all double-course 5ths-tuned (predominantly) instruments (viz., CBOM and the like), I'm thinking there are actually far more variations of uke-like instruments (small, guitar-like instruments) all around the world and tuned in all manner of variety, evincing in actually one of the most ubiquitous and prolific stringed instruments in history

    Also, there really are as many variations of guitars (banjos too...granted, likely not in current mass production) in as many scale lengths, string configurations, etc. Actually, probably more so than mandolins. Certainly concerning tuning, there's far more variety in guitars and banjos especially, really making these exceptionally versatile instruments (compared generally with mandolin)

    But yes, one can fit more mandos in the closet

  13. #13
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    I think the mandolin can sound nearly good in many people's hands, but getting it to sound excellent or totally engaging can be a tough call for many. So we experiment with the tonal qualities of particular instruments until we 'find our voice'. I think once that voice has been found, then many move on and focus on taking that sound and developing it over quite a long period.

    With other string instruments you don't get so much bang for your buck, so the search tends to be cut short pretty quickly unless you can justify the serious money involved.

    The one I know most about is the cello where in the UK you kick off with the student instruments in the mid-hundreds, get the next level student kit around 1,200 which will do fine for most adult amateur players, but uni level instruments are between 6-11k with pro instruments being 11-33 or so. Soloist will be looking at 30 -100k and the rest goes to the moon.

    For the price of a mid-level student instrument I could be playing a Loar era oval hole A4. The equivalent Cello would be roughly 12-15 times the price and out of the question for most amateurs and many professionals, for many working up through the sounds or having multiple instruments for particular styles is just not possible.

    As well as the price accessibility of MAS another large factor would be how many styles our instrument gets played across, each sounding better with a slightly different emphasis in tone.

    Then there's the versatility of the players. How many violinists would be 'fiddlers' at a professional level or play the viola or cello, or blues and jazz while being a classical player. Essentially we mandolin players are ludicrously eclectic nutters with the luxury of an instrument family that encourages experimentation. It's a disgraceful little instrument that lures is into all sorts of musical dens of iniquity...... I love it!
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

  14. #14

    Default Re: An Observation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    I think the mandolin can sound nearly good in many people's hands...)
    I think this is really it: the mandolin really is a very easy instrument to get a nice sound from -- this explains the "M-" part of the acronym...the explanation for the remaining "-AS" we can attribute to all manner of human events.

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    I think a lot depends on ear and eye. I can hear the difference between my different types of mandolins and they look different. My husband, who owns four guitars, can hear the difference between them. A guy I know who plays fiddle, mandolin and banjo (Irish tenor banjo, that is) has probably two dozen banjos that he bought because they're all Bacon and Day and therefore were once made locally. So he buys them for their history. And they're pretty snazzy looking banjos. He must have three dozen mandolins, from bowlbacks to his 1920's Gibson. I think he owns one fiddle.
    I never set out to collect mandolins. One working model was fine for years, and it was replaced when it went bad. Once I found myself with two working mandolins, though, it seemed pretty logical to get another for a different sound/look. And then pick up one I could leave at my mother's house ... maybe it depends on whatever instrument you like to play, though. I know a bunch of people with whole stables of pennywhistles, Irish flutes and bodhrans ...
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    Quote Originally Posted by AnneFlies View Post
    What is it about the mandolin that inspires MAS, whereas not so much with some other type of instruments? Why can't I stay off the Classifieds? Why can't I stay away from Elderly's?
    Wow...folks are killing a whole bunch of brain cells over this...

    It's simple, really; they are magic and you have been smitten.

  17. #17

    Default Re: An Observation...

    Well Randi is of course correct; there is such a "*AS " phenomenon on every instrument forum ... (this is merely the mandolin corner of the universe )

  18. #18
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    To kill a couple more brain cells (), I'll throw out there that it tends to be much easier to find an inexpensive guitar, for example, that will sound great, play in tune, and may even be suitable for stage work, than it is to find a similar quality/price mandolin. There's a local solo act who's playing a < 500 dollar Ibanez acoustic guitar that he runs through decent electronics with outstanding results (of course, he puts some serious talent into the monitors, which helps). It's tougher, I think, to do that with mandolins. You can get something servicable for < 500 bucks, but there's a huge jump in tone and quality from that range to the 500-2000 dollar range that lends itself to a desire to upgrade, at least to a degree. This is even more true for < 300 dollar starter mandos. And, with the bay and internet availability offering convenient shopping, it's also easier to convince yourself that the next 400 dollar mando will be much better because its setup will be better (or whatever). While I'd someday like to have a pre-war D-18, I really have no need to upgrade from the 2 guitars I have now (one of which cost me 500 bucks with the case), because they do all I need them to. That wasn't the case with either of the 2 inexpensive mandos I tried before I moved up the chain a little to my Silverangel Econo. I've been "mando-neutral" now for almost 2 years!

    And I'm not even getting into the "need" for an A/E, oval vs f hole, A style vs F style vs flattop vs bowlback, solidbody electrics, and the rest of the mandolin family...

    And, I'll agree that they're magical and just make you want to buy them!
    Chuck

  19. #19
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    I think the mandolin can sound nearly good in many people's hands, but getting it to sound excellent or totally engaging can be a tough call for many. So we experiment with the tonal qualities of particular instruments until we 'find our voice'. I think once that voice has been found, then many move on and focus on taking that sound and developing it over quite a long period.
    I wonder. Is it a search for "our voice", which when found, we stick with, or is it a search for "diversity of voice", which will never end?
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  20. #20
    Registered User MandoSquirrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Goist View Post
    A.. (Though I do feel I've finally reached equilibrium when it comes to my acoustic mandolins...wishful thinking? )
    You've said that a time or two before!
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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    I resemble that remark!
    c.1965 Harmony Monterey H410 Mandolin
    "What a long, strange trip it's been..." - Robert Hunter
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
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  22. #22
    Registered User pefjr's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    As long as we are killing brain cells , then.... another way to look at this phenomenon or MAS, MIAS, or ?, is to look at this as a Scientist would, an Anthropologist say. This is a present look at a 4 billion year evolutionary result of genes at work. The genome after 4b yrs. has produced a robot like machine, lets call it Homo sapien, that expresses his/herself musically/linguistically with an instrument called a mandolin. That mandolin hasn't been around but a second of geologic time, yet here we are discussing the beauty of it on a means of communication that ain't a tenth the age of mandolins. Ok, that enough brain cells for one day, back to playing the mandolin.
    I have the world in a jug, and the stopper in my hand.

  23. #23
    Registered User AnneFlies's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    Thanks for all your thoughts on this question. "Finding my voice" and "magic" explain it for me.

    Ed, I *almost* bought that Weber octave from you, but didn't see it in time. Maybe it'll make the rounds here?
    A "Not Ready for Prime Time" player

  24. #24
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    I know why I have MAS.

    I love beautiful things and want to own them. Pure and simple. Thats it. Nothing more uplifting. I don't know what it says about my character. I am not sure I care much though.
    Indulge responsibly!

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  25. #25
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    Default Re: An Observation...

    How about people that collect cars? I find that a good many of us hear someone that is a great picker play a certain brand of mandolin and we think it is the mandolin that creats that sound and we just have to buy one like it....

    I found that there is a certain sound that I like in a mandolin and when I try out different mandolins in a store if it has that sound then it is a good bet I will buy it....If my wife will let me, that is...

    One other thing that causes MAS is that it seems that after we own a mandolin for a year or so it changes it`s sound and we start searching for a better one and also some of us like to collect one of each kind, an oval hole A, an oval hole F etc., I did that for a while but have unloaded some of them.....

    Hope you find your Holy Grail soon....

    Willie

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