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Thread: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

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    Registered User JHumphrey's Avatar
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    Smile German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    Hello! I am a frequent visitor but this is my first thread.

    I am a builder currently developing a German-style concert mandolin design. I am particularly inspired by the work of Seiffert, and the many European makers who have developed his ideas.

    My question is, would anyone with such an instrument be willing to post sound files, photos, and suggestions/recommendations regarding playability and tone?

    I have just completed an instrument using the approximate size and shape I would like to use, but for nylon strings (and fretless! for middle eastern music; like a mini oud). I will post some photos to give you an idea of my style.

    Any suggestions help- thanks in advance!

    -Josh Humphrey
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  2. #2
    Registered User Clicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    If you'd appreciate the impressions of an oil painter gone rogue, I can state that it's like painting a picture from a photo. One must make sure that the photo is worthy of whatever designs YOU would have for its use. I'm curious though. What good would someone posting a sound file do you? I'd be interested in hearing a sound file of THIS ONE and I'm guessing it would make for a major headache to have to be consistently tweaking pegs in an attempt to keep it tuned. Other than that, it's a beautiful design. -h

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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    Hi Josh,

    Very nice work, judging by the photos!

    There are not many Seifferts (or recent German equivalents) in the US. Neil Gladd (google him) has had one for many years, and you should be able to find examples of him playing it on youtube. Chris Acquavella, in San Diego, plays a Brian Dean version of a modern German mandolin that is beautifully made and has the characteristic sound (I have heard it up close and personal). Chris has videos on youtube and you shoulld be able to contact him through his website. Chris is a most knowledgeable player and I am sure could give you the advice you are seeking. Another possibility is Caterina Lichtenberg, who is on the west coast with some frequency (she is married to Mike Marshall).
    Robert A. Margo

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    Registered User JHumphrey's Avatar
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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    Thanks a lot Robert- that is very helpful information!

    And thanks clicker for the opinion- it is helping guide my process- I realize I wasn't very clear about what I'm after.

    The concert mandolin style often has a canted flat-top ("bent-top") and I want to know what it sounds like so that I can, in my bracing scheme, attempt to meet the tonal requirements of the instrument, and produce one with exceptional tone. Since I have none to compare it with, any sound files would be a huge help in determining the tonal response of the soundboard. Playing notes on each string, and anywhere up and down the fretboard (really just as many single notes as possible) as well as some chords would be super helpful.

    Also, if there are professional recordings featuring this instrument style that anyone could recommend, I'd love to know it.

    I am more interested in players' thoughts describing what sound they want in these instruments- of course, the hardest to put into words!

    (The tuning pegs in the picture are actually geared planetary pegs- they tune easily and stay in tune! The concert mandolin would be steel string, so I would be using metal geared tuners on a slotted peghead.)

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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    "Also, if there are professional recordings featuring this instrument style that anyone could recommend, I'd love to know it."

    There are many. One that is readily available in the US (from, say, Elderly Instruments) is Chris Acquavella's "Praeludium". Otherwise, go to www.trekel.de, and look for the available CDs for solo mandolin by German players (e.g. Annika Luckerbergfeld is a fine example of what you are seeking).

    The sound of a German bowlback is more lute like and balanced than the traditional Italian bowlback instrument, sort of like a classical guitar version of a mandolin. It is especially well-suited for the modern German mandolin ensemble repertoire. I also think it works well for baroque music, and certainly for contemporary music. It is perhaps not as well suited to, say, Calace, although still perfectly fine.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by JHumphrey View Post
    !

    (The tuning pegs in the picture are actually geared planetary pegs- they tune easily and stay in tune! The concert mandolin would be steel string, so I would be using metal geared tuners on a slotted peghead.)
    That's something I didn't even know about. How awesome! The old fiddle just might get a work over. -h

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    Those are likely Perfection pegs made by Knilling.

    Quote Originally Posted by margora View Post
    The sound of a German bowlback is more lute like and balanced than the traditional Italian bowlback instrument, sort of like a classical guitar version of a mandolin. It is especially well-suited for the modern German mandolin ensemble repertoire. I also think it works well for baroque music, and certainly for contemporary music. It is perhaps not as well suited to, say, Calace, although still perfectly fine.
    An excellent description. Aside from Brian Dean (mentioned above) there are a few makers located on the Eye Candy page. I would check out:
    • Knorr
    • Albert & Müller
    • Woll
    • Dotzauer

    I played a Knorr a few years ago. Very nicely made but not my taste in terms of tone. The Germans prefer a mellow tone with little string noise (a plus there) and for the most part use Thomastik strings. I like the contrast between mellower classical guitar and the brighter, more Italian sound of the Italian style mandolins.
    Jim

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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Clicker View Post
    That's something I didn't even know about. How awesome! The old fiddle just might get a work over. -h

    Yeah Clicker - the only planetary tuners I'd ever heard of are banjo 5th string tuners. You learn something new every day around here. Thankfully.
    The more I learn, the less I know.

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    Registered User JHumphrey's Avatar
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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    Thanks very much for these tonal descriptions. I am a classical guitarist primarily, so I can relate to the crispness and mellow sound there. Also, the added width of the German style (as compared to the Italian style) surely contributes to the more mellow, less bright tone. I have also studied the construction of ouds, which are similar in several ways to lute, so I think I can use that to my advantage in acquiring a sound right in that pocket.

    Yes- those are perfection pegs. I've used them on ouds, ukes and other projects- I highly recommend them. Unless you are an absolute purist and need ebony pegs in your violin, lute or oud, the perfection pegs eliminate any friction problems (they have adjustable friction) and increase your tuning precision times 4.

    Thanks!

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    I'm very much looking forward to following this thread.
    Here is the link to the page for Brian Dean's "The German".
    Good luck on this project J.
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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    This looks amazing!
    How is the bracing setup?
    I am building a german mandoline and i had a longer discussion with an oud - builder from tunesia last week. In the end we both knew that we are building totally different instruments. Inside the oud, the bracing has to have space to the bridgeposition min 2 centimeters ( 1 7/8-Inch?) and the bracing-sticks are not shaped and in parallel and on the other hand, the mandolin has only 3 very shaped bracing-sticks and in the german one, - they are not in parallel. The last one has only a spacing og around 1-1.5cm towards the bridge (the last bracing is sitting between the buckling and the bridge).
    Is it possible to get a photo of the bracing? How thick is the sprucetop?
    Regards
    Erich

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    Registered User JHumphrey's Avatar
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    Default Re: German Concert Mandolin- design ideas etc.

    Thanks Erich,
    The top is cedar. Yes, the bracing is totally different for oud style instrument. I will check if I took photos of the bracing- I can't remember just now. The cedar top ended up around 1.8 mm.
    Thanks also for the info about bracing of the German mandolin!

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