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Thread: What the heck is "woody sound?"

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    Registered User joemcg's Avatar
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    Default What the heck is "woody sound?"

    I've now been seriously trying to learn the mandolin for about 7 months so forgive me if this is obvious to most but WHAT IS A WOODY SOUND? I guess the other side of the coin is heat is NOT a woody sound?
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    A woody sound is the sound everyone likes. The only problem is, each person's idea of woody is different. But no-one knows that, so don't tell anyone.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    People may not agree what "woody" means, but I think they mostly agree that this is "woody"...



    "Woody" tone is usually a characteristic of tone-bar braced mandolins with f-holes. It often means a tone that is strong in the bass and has some kind of tonal complexity. In my experience, "woody" tone is difficult to achieve in conjunction with "bell-like" trebles. Only the best tone-bar braced mandolins have both "woody" G and D courses and "bell-like" A and E courses.

    Whenever a bass-heavy tone profile is found, the term "woody" may be applied by someone. That's why, as David says, it's not very clear what is meant by the term.

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    Registered User joemcg's Avatar
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    A woody sound is the sound everyone likes. The only problem is, each person's idea of woody is different. But no-one knows that, so don't tell anyone.
    Yup that's what I figured. Thanks for confirming it.
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Gee, I always thought it was the sound that cartoon woodpecker used to make.
    Purr more, hiss less.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    ....

    First of all, I don't use the term "woody" to describe mandolin sounds because I don't know what it means, but if I did it would not refer to the sound I hear in this clip. I feel like I'm hearing the recording equipment more than the actual mandolin, but to me the sound of that clip in my computer speakers is more "spongy" than "woody". I hear a somewhat overemphasized low/mid "woof" that I don't associate with the sound of wood. I associate it more with the sound of air, and in this case it sort of sounds like the mandolin is in a bubble trying to project it's sound out from there and the sound is trapped in the bubble. It sounds like it is coming from the air within the mandolin, not from the wood of the mandolin.

    So there you have it. "Woody" means different things to different people, and unless you know what the person using the term means by it, it is hopeless as a descriptor of mandolin sound.

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    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    For my ears, woody is round and rich tone (Grisman Dawg Music audibly describes it for me). I would call David's "Old Ebeneezer" nicely woody. Many cheap mandolins sound very thin, harsh and brassy. This is probably one of the hardest discussions here on the cafe and it really goes back to subjective opinion.

    Looking at your stable of mandolins you probably don't know about harsh and brassy, and dwell in the wonderful world of woody...
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    A woody sound is the sound everyone likes. The only problem is, each person's idea of woody is different. But no-one knows that, so don't tell anyone.
    This is generally true, and humorously stated although it may not be "the sound everyone likes" depending on the type of music you prefer. Bluegrass players generally prefer a more "woody" sound than those who prefer "Irish," for instance.

    Maybe the best way to experience a "woody" sound is to play a Kentucky Master Model next to one of the Eastman 815 or 915 mandolins. Between the two, the Kentucky Master Model will have a more "woody" tone.

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    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    When I think of a "woody" sound I think of every fall when I'm moving my cord wood around stacking it closer to the house for wood burning season and as I'm throwing the pieces of wood and they hit each other there is a distinct and clear tone that resounds across the property. It is a loud clink that has no overtones but is a dry note that rings true with just the fundamental. Not unlike the sound of a bowling ball hitting the wood pins. The problem with assigning an adjective to a sound is that we all hear it differently and associate different words to it to help in communicating something that can not be accurately communicated. Therefore one persons woody may be your buttery, throaty, bell like, crystal or muddy. When I listen to the video referenced above I don't hear what I would consider woody in my mind. I guess I'd have to go with "woofy" on that one. Great playing and tune by the way on the video.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    If you accept that "woody" means anythng you say is woody, then it is a meaningless term. Then is "metalic" a meaningless term? What about "mushy"? What about "brittle"? What about "aggressive" tone? What about "sweet"? What about "loud", what about "soft"? what about "bell like"?

    If "woody" and thousands of other imprecise terms are meaningless than we should all quit talking about instruments beyond the carpentry involved in them. But even carpentry has its own jargon which may seem meaningless to the non-carpenter.
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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Woody may be hard to describe in words, but if you hear (and play) enough mandolins, you'll know exactly what it is when you hear it. It's simply a function of exposure to mandolin music until you get the experience to start hearing the difference. That may seem like a dismissive answer, but it's the truth. With time, you'll start hearing all kinds of differences in tonal character that you never noticed before. Woody is just one of them.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Ones mans take on woodiness is another's woof is yet another's bark. It all subjective conjuncture. I like the adjective 'complex' more than woody to describe this particular tonality which is being referred to, at least to my ears.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    When I started a thread asking this same question a while back I got spanked but good. Here is the thread link:
    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...007-Woody-tone

    The consensus answer seemed to be that you can't define it, you just have to listen to a lot of mandolins and you'll know it when you hear it. Apparently it has something to do with who is playing the mandolin. I got answers such as " just listen to so-and-so play such-and-such a song on his Schmergel Devistator and THEN you'll know what woody is!" If you read the discussion you will see I got pretty frustrated and gave up.
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    When I started a thread asking this same question a while back I got spanked but good. Here is the thread link:
    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...007-Woody-tone

    The consensus answer seemed to be that you can't define it, you just have to listen to a lot of mandolins and you'll know it when you hear it. Apparently it has something to do with who is playing the mandolin. I got answers such as " just listen to so-and-so play such-and-such a song on his Schmergel Devistator and THEN you'll know what woody is!" If you read the discussion you will see I got pretty frustrated and gave up.
    how can I get me one of those Schmergel Devistators?

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    how can I get me one of those Schmergel Devistators?
    They are legendary here on the Cafe' but oh so elusive! More rare than Loars I'm told.
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Woody is the opposite of stringy to me. "Woody" is mostly the sound the wood makes as it resonates and a "stringy" sound is more of the sound of metal strings resonating. Wooden stringed instruments all seem have some combination sound of wood/strings and that can change with age/composition of the strings. That is the best that I can explain what I think "woody" means.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Woody is the sound you get when you strike a hollow log -- now imagine a mandolin making that sound. That's it!

    No? OK then listen to a marimba....it has a woody tone IMO.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Cheryl Watson View Post
    Woody is the opposite of stringy to me. "Woody" is mostly the sound the wood makes as it resonates and a "stringy" sound is more of the sound of metal strings resonating. Wooden stringed instruments all seem have some combination sound of wood/strings and that can change with age/composition of the strings. That is the best that I can explain what I think "woody" means.
    Thanks Cheryl. That's almost understandable!
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Yep, Davids Mando in the above clip does exhibit the admirable quality I would call woody. Rich, thick, deep are terms Ive heard used that may also apply. Despite the artificial accents of recording, mp3 compression, and computer speakers, when you hear thousands of clips you can begin to extrapolate some relative sense of the instrument despite those limitations. That doesnt mean thats what the instrument will sound like exactly but with experience you can infer some features of tone compared to others. Plus or minus a BS factor that allows for a fair amount of error no doubt.
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    Woody is the sound you get when you strike a hollow log -- now imagine a mandolin making that sound. That's it!

    No? OK then listen to a marimba....it has a woody tone IMO.
    It's amazing that so few bluegrass bands feature the marimba.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    It's amazing that so few bluegrass bands feature the marimba.
    Its because miramba straps are so hard to find.
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    No, no, no, no, no.. Jeez, people, we've been over this already. Woody is DRY! A solid piece of dry fire wood hitting another. David's mandolin is made out of wood but has more resonance (and quite a bit of added reverb) that gives it more body. Not tubby... Wait a minute. nevermind. Can of worms.

    I equate a woody chop with dry sound. David's video posted by Marty (Nice response btw) is more resonant that I might call modern and slightly oval sounding or full or dare I say tubby?

    On second thought, or third, it doesn't matter because no one here can agree on a common definition. however, in person there never seems to be a problem. The Gibson Loar mandos F5's are usually dry and "woody". Oval's are fuller and more tubby. Less "woody" God bless. Here we go again.

    Any OP that brings this topic up should serve a minimum 1 year in Mandolin Purgatory surrounded by a banjo symphony that plays non-stop.
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    Woody is the sound you get when you strike a hollow log -- now imagine a mandolin making that sound. That's it!

    No? OK then listen to a marimba....it has a woody tone IMO.
    Once again, my opinion is different. To me, the sound of a hollow log is the sound of the air in the log resonating. The sound of a solid log is what I think of as "woody". Same with the marimba (great player in the video, BTW!). The sound is more of the resonators under the wooden bars; more correctly, the air in the resonators. For a "woody" sound, try a xylophone with it's much smaller resonators. Then we hear the wood predominantly without all the resonance of the air in the marimba's longer metal tubes.

    Once again, "woody", when applied to a mandolin's sound, simply means too many things to different people for it to be a helpful term in trying to describe sound.

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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Once again, "woody", when applied to a mandolin's sound, simply means too many things to different people for it to be a helpful term in trying to describe sound.
    I think that pretty much sums it up.

    "woody", "dry"..... all we need now is "plays like butter" and you have the perfect mandolin.
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    Default Re: What the heck is "woody sound?"

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    It's amazing that so few bluegrass bands feature the marimba.
    Pity. But it wouldn't fit in that barbershop wiindow...
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