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Thread: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

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    Default Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Hi all,
    I'm very new to the mandolin scene and have a couple of questions.

    What is the difference between Kentucky and Indiana mandolins? What is the history behind them? (my mom lives on the Kentucky/Indiana border, so I'm intrigued by this!)

    Besides aesthetics, are there differences between A and F style mandolins? I've seen threads that address whether there are differences regarding frets, sound, etc... I guess I'm looking for an overview (if possible) of what (if any) differences there are besides their look.

    Thank you for the help!!

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    Registered User Jordan Mong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    As for the A-F style mandolins:

    A-style's have a fuller tone due to their tear drop shape, and no extra space in the instrument like there is with the F-style. The sound in an A-style resonates much more than that of the sound in an F-style. Also note worthy are the types of holes. While F and A style mandolins could have any type of sound-hole (F, oval, D, etc), the sound holes do make quite a difference in sound. Oval and D sound-holes are going to have a fuller sound, while F-holes are better for making a more clear sound, as well being better at being heard over other instruments.

    EDIT: From my research here and else where, the Kentucky mandolins are superior to the Indiana mandolins. Indiana mandolins are low-end productions, and will not play as well as a Kentucky. As far as history goes on each, I really can't say.

    There are other styles of mandolin, such as the two-point and Bacon styles. I am pretty sure the two-point is just for aesthetics and looks. I'm not sure what sound the Bacon style carries, or it's significance outside of its appearance, though I'm sure there are some.

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    Constantly In Search Of.. Michael Bridges's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    I think Kentucky will have a strong front court, but Indiana will have them on big-game experience, and a better point guard.
    With mandolins, however, I have no experience with Indiana. Can't offer an opinion. Kentucky, however produces some very good mandos. Several of their models are highly regarded around here, especially their higher-end models. Also some very good beginner mandos. Edit: Looking back at your post, I'm not sure if you're asking about specific builders, or mandos from those states. Location really won't make a difference, the expertise of the builder is the real key.
    Regarding the eternal "A" vs. "F" discussion, the general consensus around the Cafe among the more experienced members, is, there's no appreciable difference between the two, all other things being equal. You will get the most bang for your buck with an A style, simply because you aren't paying extra for the extra scrolly do-dads. That being said, I LIKE the scrolly do-dads! It's simply a matter of taste, and what you like. Things like bracing, sound-hole, tone woods, etc. make much more difference in sound.
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    Registered User Marc Berman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    The brand names, Kentucky and Indiana, are just that - brand names. The Kentucky brand is made in China and the Indiana is also probably made there too.
    There is very little difference between an A and F mandolins if they are similarly made - same sound holes, f or round/oval, and wood ... Most of the added bits of an F - the scroll and points are actually solid wood internally.
    Marc B.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    As has been stated there really is no real difference sound wise between a well made F and a well made A style. They both have their fans and followers. Kentucky is a brand name owned by Saga Music (www.sagamusic.com). They have been selling mandolins under this brand name for years. To my knowledge they have always been imported instruments. I've seen Indiana as a brand name on a few different imported instruments over the years. Can't nail that one down as well as Kentucky. I can guess why Saga chose Kentucky as a brand name for one of their lines of mandolins, the same way I could guess why they chose Gitane for their gypsy guitars, Gold Star for their Banjos and the other brand names they use but it would just be a guess. There's no magic here regarding the name brands.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User joemcg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    As long as sound holes are the same and the mando is of the same quality (I.e. Kentucky km900 "A" & km1000 "F") the sound and playability will be similar. There will probably be more difference between each unique instrument than between models. That's why there are so many threads here that suggest try before you buy if that's possible. The other major difference is setup.

    If you go to your local music store and they know nothing about mandolins, then you can expect problems with playability. If its your first mandolin, buy from an expert in the mandolin community. There are plenty that advertise and are referenced in other posts here on the Cafe.

    Good luck!
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Indiana instruments are the lower level brand owned by the company that owns Morgan Monroe. They happen to be based out of Indiana, but the instruments are Chinese.
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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    as stated, there is no discernable sound difference between an a-model and an f-model mandolin. I think the earlier post misses the mark. There is a big difference between f-hole mandolins and oval hole mandolins. There is also a discernable difference between mandolins made from solid (versus laminated) wood and also between carved top and pressed top mandolins. You see some of the entry level arched top mandolins get their shape from heat pressing the wood to that shape. Carved top instruments perform better.

    Never heard of "Indiana" mandolins and I'm a Hoosier. I think Kentucky makes good instruments though. I've owned a few and never thought ill of the brand. I particularly like the KM-250 or KM-254, but the mandolins higher up the line are great too, just more expensive (and maybe worth it too).

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    Indiana instruments are the lower level brand owned by the company that owns Morgan Monroe. They happen to be based out of Indiana, but the instruments are Chinese.
    I actually suspected that but wasn't sure. I should have just asked Jasper.

    The Indiana name has been used off and on over the years by other companies, some outside the US, always on Asian products.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    Indiana instruments are the lower level brand owned by the company that owns Morgan Monroe. They happen to be based out of Indiana, but the instruments are Chinese.
    Best answer! This gentleman knows his musical instruments because he sells them for a living. He knows a great deal about the different Asian imports. If you are looking to purchase a Kentucky mandolin, I would definitely give him a call. He will only sell you a good one and will do an expert set up. That is definitely not the case for most of the people selling instruments on eBay.

    As others have said, you will get more bang for the buck purchasing an A style. The scroll on the F style is purely decorative, does not really modify the sound, but because of the labor involved in carving it, increases the cost. Choosing one over the other is mostly a matter of aesthetics.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Quote Originally Posted by Sludgehead View Post
    ...A-style's have a fuller tone due to their tear drop shape, and no extra space in the instrument like there is with the F-style. The sound in an A-style resonates much more than that of the sound in an F-style….
    No. The scroll and points that define the F-model are solid wood parts of the mandolin's "rims" or sides. The sound chamber of an F-model and and A-model is just about the same. Most people hear no, or very little, difference between the sound of two similarly-made mandolins, if the only variation is that one has the scroll and points, and the other is the standard A-model shape.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sludgehead View Post
    ...the sound holes do make quite a difference in sound. Oval and D sound-holes are going to have a fuller sound, while F-holes are better for making a more clear sound, as well being better at being heard over other instruments…
    Yes. Oval/round/D-hole mandolins, as a rule, are less percussive, have a longer sustain or "ring"; f-hole mandolins have a percussive, sharp attack, and a quick "decay," so the sound doesn't ring as long. Exceptions can be found, but that's the rule.

    Neither Kentucky nor Indiana mandolins have anything to do with their respective American states; they're both Asian products. Kentucky mandolins have a fairly extensive pedigree, having been made for 40 years or more, in (successively) Japan, Korea and China. Saga Music imports an extensive line of Kentucky mandolins, and they get pretty good reviews here.

    Indiana mandolins are a cheaper line of Asian instruments, and I would compare them with only the low-end Kentucky models.
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    Registered User Jordan Mong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Never mind, I'm wrong about the shapes and sounds. I think I read into the wrong arguments a time ago and stuck with what I heard. Similar arguments are made about tones woods of electric instruments all the time, so I guess that was a similar case.

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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Quote Originally Posted by Sludgehead View Post
    Never mind, I'm wrong about the shapes and sounds. I think I read into the wrong arguments a time ago and stuck with what I heard. Similar arguments are made about tones woods of electric instruments all the time, so I guess that was a similar case.
    not to dog pile, sludge, old buddy,
    but tone woods DO affect the sound of an electric guitar as do the type of pickups-however, it would be comparatively subtle, but, a les paul from all mahogany, versus the typical maple/ mahogany sandwich does have a slightly different sound to it

    the shape of the body, I don think so. but if you put humbuckers into a strat it will sound more like a les paul than a strat, and vice versa (string scale factors apart)

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    Registered User Jordan Mong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Quote Originally Posted by stevedenver View Post
    not to dog pile, sludge, old buddy,
    but tone woods DO affect the sound of an electric guitar as do the type of pickups-however, it would be comparatively subtle, but, a les paul from all mahogany, versus the typical maple/ mahogany sandwich does have a slightly different sound to it

    the shape of the body, I don think so. but if you put humbuckers into a strat it will sound more like a les paul than a strat, and vice versa (string scale factors apart)
    I was talking about the hyper exaggerated marks of "xxxx wood sounds like crap and will never sound as good as yyyyy" or "xxxx sounds nothing like yyyyy, not even the same instrument, its table wood!" The TalkBass forums have had quite a few of these. And of course the electronics make a difference.

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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Hi! Thanks so much for the great info. I was not referring to builders from those states, but it seems like they are different brands?

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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    You all are amazing! Thank you so much for all the great info.

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    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Kentucky vs. Indiana, A vs. F style

    Quote Originally Posted by Jordan Mong View Post
    As for the A-F style mandolins:

    A-style's have a fuller tone due to their tear drop shape, and no extra space in the instrument like there is with the F-style. The sound in an A-style resonates much more than that of the sound in an F-style.
    What are you basing this statement on?



    Edit: just found the middle of the thread.
    NVM
    Hereby & forthwith, any instrument with an odd number of strings shall be considered broken. With regard to mix levels, usually the best approach is treating the mandolin the same as a cowbell.

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