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  #1  
Old 10-05-2016, 07:34 PM
gmr gmr is offline
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Default Guitar to mandocello or octave mandolin

I am an average joe guitar player. I really find Sarah Jarod and her OM to be such an incredible combination. Unfortunately the market for octave mandolin and mandcellos are a bit past my desire price wise. I just bought one of the new Epiphone Olympic arch tops and I am wondering if this little guitar might be a reasonable candidate for a mandocello or OM conversion project? Which is the better choice for a guitar player to easily adapt?
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:38 PM
HHP HHP is offline
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Cost aside, the guitar scale will be a bit long for an octave mandolin and I doubt the structure could handle the tension of mandocello strings. There are some decent import octave mandolins available at pretty moderate costs, certainly far less than the cost of converting another instrument.
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:44 PM
gmr gmr is offline
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Kinda figured as much but I had to ask.... do you know of an economical import brand octave mandolin with an arch top body. All I find are custom builds or Webern and such which are out of my realm.
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:51 PM
HHP HHP is offline
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You might look at Trinity College brand. They are flat top, not carved or arched. Had one for a while and it was quite good. Often available used at very low cost.

http://www.elderly.com/instruments/m...dolin-case.htm
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Old 10-05-2016, 11:38 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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Whoa don't give up so easy - you're just asking the wrong people. Head over to mandolincafe to find where LOTS of folks have done similar conversions:

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?98825-My-new-mandocello-(conversion
)&highlight=Conversion

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...ght=Conversion

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...ght=Conversion

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?105414-The-Loar-guitar-to-cittern-conversion



http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?82921-Martin-J-15-conversion-thoughts&highlight=Conversion


Lots more can be found. Also the Eastman MDC-805 mandocello is a real good instrument. Goldtone is also soon offering an archtop guitar based 'cello if you don't want to convert.

Last edited by Mandobart; 10-06-2016 at 07:20 AM.
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Old 10-06-2016, 08:16 AM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Yes and no.

The body would make a great conversion, but the scale length is too long. I did this conversion using an old Kay body and used a take-off Taylor GS Mini neck to make what turned out to be a superb octave. The Olympic body is very similar in size to my Kay body.

https://youtu.be/fXlbFMIsDgA
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Old 10-07-2016, 12:24 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudy4 View Post
Yes and no.

The body would make a great conversion, but the scale length is too long....
I gotta call B.S. The OP asked about mandocello or octave mando conversions. I have a custom built 26" scale 10 string mandocello (C-G-D-A-E; covers the range of both octave mandolin and mandocello). It sounds and plays awesome. The Eastman MD 805C is a great playing and sounding mandocello - I've had mine since 2009. It has a 25" scale. I've strung it up both as an OM and 'cello. The new Epi's are 25.5". Perfect for mandocello conversion.

Last edited by Mandobart; 10-07-2016 at 12:30 AM.
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Old 10-07-2016, 05:03 AM
philjs philjs is online now
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I have to agree with Mandobart. I had a local luthier re-purpose a cheap old Seagull Entourage Rustic Mini-Jumbo to an octave mandolin and it worked wonderfully. Scale is a bit shy of 25" and it plays wonderfully. It's a good match for my 23" scale Crosby custom-made "bouzar" (unison-strung octave mandolin based on a tenor guitar) but the longer scale of the converted Seagull -- and, let's face it, the Seagull headstock just cries out to be converted to an 8-string! -- allows it be tuned a 4th lower (so D instead of G).

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  #9  
Old 10-07-2016, 05:36 AM
HHP HHP is offline
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Mandocello strings are generally like 22-74 in unison pairs. That would seem to be a lot of tension for an instrument designed for 12-53 single strings.
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Old 10-07-2016, 09:13 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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There's two parts to calculating tension; string gage and pitch. Here's a classic example that I use all the time - octave pairs. On my Eastman 'cello I use octave pairs of strings on the C, G and D courses. So one of my D strings is .034. Its partner is .017 and is tuned one octave higher. Guess what the tension in each string is the same. You can't compare just string gages and know anything about the comparable tension.


http://stringtensionpro.com



Graham MacDonald


There are many other free string tension calculators out there.
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Old 10-07-2016, 09:53 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
I gotta call B.S. The OP asked about mandocello or octave mando conversions. I have a custom built 26" scale 10 string mandocello (C-G-D-A-E; covers the range of both octave mandolin and mandocello). It sounds and plays awesome. The Eastman MD 805C is a great playing and sounding mandocello - I've had mine since 2009. It has a 25" scale. I've strung it up both as an OM and 'cello. The new Epi's are 25.5". Perfect for mandocello conversion.
You're entitled to call B.S. all day long if you want. I'm going to have to add "IMHO" because I've been a mando family player for a long time and my personal opinion is the scale length is too long. Not because it's not possible to tune a 25-1/2" as octave (or otherwise), but because it's plain uncomfortable to play.

There's a very good reason why some of the top makers (and players) use much shorter scales than 25-1/2" for octaves. Gee, I wonder why they do that?

The OP specifically cited Sarah Jarosz and the Brock she's most often associated with is sub-22".
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Old 10-07-2016, 10:08 PM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
There's two parts to calculating tension; string gage and pitch. Here's a classic example that I use all the time - octave pairs. On my Eastman 'cello I use octave pairs of strings on the C, G and D courses. So one of my D strings is .034. Its partner is .017 and is tuned one octave higher. Guess what the tension in each string is the same. You can't compare just string gages and know anything about the comparable tension.


http://stringtensionpro.com



Graham MacDonald


There are many other free string tension calculators out there.
Mandobart, Would you not like to include vibrating string length (i.e. scale length) in what's needed to calculate string tension?

I can't figure out how to do it without using length, guage, and pitch. Maybe there's something I'm not understanding about how you find tension without factoring in the vibrating length of the string?
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Old 10-08-2016, 09:23 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rudy4 View Post
Mandobart, Would you not like to include vibrating string length (i.e. scale length) in what's needed to calculate string tension?

I can't figure out how to do it without using length, guage, and pitch. Maybe there's something I'm not understanding about how you find tension without factoring in the vibrating length of the string?
Yes the scale length is an input - if you look at the link to Graham Macdonald's page that is one of the inputs. But its not a variable - when restringing a given instrument you can vary the gage and pitch of each string but not the length. I neglected to mention it since HHP's post and my example both compared changing to different gage strings on the same instrument.
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  #14  
Old 10-08-2016, 09:08 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmr View Post
I am an average joe guitar player. I really find Sarah Jarod and her OM to be such an incredible combination. Unfortunately the market for octave mandolin and mandcellos are a bit past my desire price wise. I just bought one of the new Epiphone Olympic arch tops and I am wondering if this little guitar might be a reasonable candidate for a mandocello or OM conversion project? Which is the better choice for a guitar player to easily adapt?
gmr, I'm not going to comment on whether the scale length of a guitar is too long for an octave mandolin. What I will mention is that the scale length on the mandocellos I've either gigged with or owned - all two of them - is identical to that of a guitar.

The first mandocello I ever had my hands on and got to use onstage was a 1916 Gibson mandocello owned by my former musical partner in an Irish duo. We played in the Irish bars of Chicago and the Midwest, and were always switching off on instruments - my partner was primarily a mandolin player (and a really good one,) but he also played guitar, bodhran drum, mandocello and mandolin-banjo. I played mountain dulcimer, guitar, mandocello and mandolin-banjo. So we kept the musical textures changing all the time.

Decades later, I got a custom-made Weber mandocello and used it for a while, but in the interim I'd commissioned and received a beautiful acoustic baritone guitar, built for me by Roy McAlister. I found that anything I could play on the mandocello I could play more easily on the baritone, with less racing around the fingerboard to reach the notes I needed.

That said, converting archtop guitars to mandocellos is easily done. When I met Todd Phillips, the original bass player for the David Grisman Quintet, I talked about mandocellos with him and he said he'd often converted old archtop guitars to 'cellos. "Did you fill in the holes for the guitar tuners and redrill the headstock to accept mandolin tuners?" I asked him.

He said: "No, the only thing you have to do is replace the nut and re-notch the bridge saddle; I only used single strings for the C and G strings, instead of double courses. Those low strings are pretty "crashy," anyway." When I asked him what he meant by "crashy," Phillips said that they tend to "crash into each other a lot. By using six strings instead of eight on a mandocello you get a cleaner sound."

So that's a fairly inexpensive way to experiment with a mandocello: get a set of mandocello strings, and get a new nut that accepts two double courses for the D and A strings, and single courses for the C and G,

So your string set would look like this:

C G DD AA

Hang onto the original nut and bridge saddle, so if you decide you don't like the mandocello as much as you'd hoped, you can easily return the instrument to its original guitar configuration.

Hope that makes sense.


Wade Hampton Miller
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  #15  
Old 10-08-2016, 09:42 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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After I wrote and posted about Todd Phillips' archtop guitar to mandocello conversions, I remembered that Frank Ford described converting a Martin 000-15 to an octave mandolin on his Frets.com website.

Here's the guitar before it was converted:



1999 Martin 000-15

Here are a few photos he took after he finished the job:










1999 Martin 000-15 Octave Mandolin Conversion

Here's the full article for those who'd like to read it for themselves:

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luth...stconvert.html

Here's the index page for Frets.com, which is a labor of love by Frank Ford and really an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the technical aspects of fretted stringed instruments:

http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/pagelist.html

Hope this helps.


Wade Hampton Miller
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