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Old 12-12-2009, 02:09 PM
Steve Christens Steve Christens is offline
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Default Six String Mandolin?

I was going through the Elderly catalog (always a dangerous thing to do.....) and came across a Gold Tone Six String Mandolin. I had never heard of this type of instrument, but apparently it uses a mandolin body with six single guitar type strings, but is tuned an octave above a guitar. The idea is that you get sort of a mandolin tone, but no learning curve switching from guitar.

Anybody try one of these? Sounds as if it might be fun to add to your tool kit for an occasional song without learning a whole new instrument.




You can hear one being played here:


[flash=950,600]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmqRY4J0sPg[/flash]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmqRY4J0sPg

Last edited by Steve Christens; 12-12-2009 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 12-12-2009, 02:42 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Originally Posted by Steve Christens View Post
I was going through the Elderly catalog (always a dangerous thing to do.....) and came across a Gold Tone Six String Mandolin. I had never heard of this type of instrument, but apparently it uses a mandolin body with six single guitar type strings, but is tuned an octave above a guitar. The idea is that you get sort of a mandolin tone, but no learning curve switching from guitar.

Anybody try one of these? Sounds as if it might be fun to add to your tool kit for an occasional song without learning a whole new instrument.
Oh, yeah. Gibson made them for a while a few years ago, and I played a couple of those, and I've also tried one Gold Tone version.

I was playing mandolin before I ever started on guitar, so clearly I'm not an unbiased source. But the ones I tried seemed like a "worst of both worlds" sort of hybrid.

They function well enough, and I can see where they might be useful for guitarists with home studios who want to layer on a bright-sounding mandolin sound when multi-tracking, but they didn't strike me as particularly useful or practical instruments for everyday use.

Instead, they struck me as the sort of instrument that you'd work up three or four songs on in an initial burst of enthusiasm before the novelty wore off, but then mostly leave alone after that.

Again, I get my high string needs taken care of by the mandolins I have here, so I'm not impartial. I would be interested to hear from anyone who's made one of these high octave guitar neck mandolins a viable part of their musical arsenal.


Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 12-12-2009, 02:48 PM
mellowman mellowman is offline
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I've never tried one of these but it actually sounds pretty interesting to me. As a guitar-only player, I've always like the mando sound but have never been able to get up the nerve (and time) to learn a new instrument. I'd definitely be interested if the instrument sounded OK. Of course, I could end up being one of those guys that tries it for a few months then puts it away after the novelty wears off.
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Old 12-12-2009, 03:04 PM
HHP HHP is offline
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If you want to save money, I have two words for you. "Capo Twelve".
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Old 12-12-2009, 03:19 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Well, I'm not trying to put anyone off of the instrument. I was just stating my own impressions based on the two Gibsons and one Gold Tone I've had a chance to play.

My basic problem with it as a musical instrument is that, even though it's tuned an octave above standard tuning, the two lowest strings just didn't work very well. The tone on the D, G, B and high E strings was fine, but the low E and A strings were kind of muffled and thuddy.

And this was on all the examples I tried, which indicates to me that it's a characteristic of the instrument, not just an instance of running across a bad example or a clunker.

Something that's quite commonly done with standard mandolins, especially among some of the Italian-American guitarists who double on mandolin that I've met, is to tune the four pairs of strings as though they were the first four strings of the guitar: D, G, B, E.

Personally, I'm not wild about this variation, because a great deal of the characteristic sound of a mandolin comes from its traditional fifth interval tuning. But that approach still works better (and sounds better) than these 6 string guitar-mandolins I've had a chance to play. And its immediate hands-on appeal to guitar players who don't know mandolin tuning is obvious.

But I've used my hands and my ears as well as my musical background to judge their effectiveness, and they might well work a lot better for some of you than they do for me. But I'd suggest you make an effort to find one locally to try before buying, or barring that, purchasing one only from a store with a fairly generous return policy.

But it might make more financial sense to pick up an inexpensive mandolin locally first, and tune it like the first four strings of a guitar to see how you like that tuning, before buying a dedicated 6 string guitar-mandolin.

Hope that makes sense.


Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 12-12-2009, 06:04 PM
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devellis devellis is offline
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When these were first a gleam in Gibson's eye, there was a fair amount of excited anticipation. The idea of being able to cross over to mandolin if you were a guitar player was very appealing. Once they actually showed up, the enthusiasm flagged, to put it mildly. I believe, in fact, that Gibson has discontinued them.

They really wouldn't sound like a mandolin because they don't have the double strings, which give a mando part of its characteristic sound. I'm reminded of the mandolin-banjo, of which I had three. They, too seemed like a good idea -- the volume of a banjo with the configuration of a mandolin. Two fo the three I owned were pretty much the best of the bunch: a 1921 Vega Tubaphone and a 1921 Vega Whyte Laydie. They were very disappointing, although perhaps the coolest looking instruments I ever owned. Wade's description of the "novelty instrument" fit those perfectly. It might also be the case with the 6-string mandolin. But I've never tried one.

A guitar is such a versatile instrument largely because its tuning works so well with its compass from the low E on the 6th string all the way up to the top notes on the high e string. The 6-string mandolin largely loses that advantage, because the low range is gone.

I've pretty much migrated from mandolin to guitar but I still own mandolins and play them. When I want a guitar-like experience, I reach for a guitar and when I want a mandolin-like experience, I reach for a mandolin. Even my very nice tenor guitar, tuned Chicago-style (D G B E, like the top 4 on a guitar) doesn't get picked up all that much, despite having a wonderful and distinctive voice (it's an all-mahogany Martin from 1945 that plays like a dream).

This doesn't mean a 6-string mandolin wouldn't work well for you. Only you can judge that. I'm just trying to share the experience of others who had some initial enthusiasm and found that it evaporated rather quickly. Offhand, I can't think of anyone who has made the 6-string mandolin their primary instrument, although there must be some out there. I think there may be a reason for that.

I wonder if the Gibsons floating around out there can be had cheap these days.

Some comments: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...ad.php?t=48093

Earlier question answered:http://cgi.ebay.com/Gibson-M6-Six-St...QQcmdZViewItem
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Last edited by devellis; 12-12-2009 at 06:15 PM.
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Old 12-12-2009, 06:55 PM
walternewton walternewton is offline
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I don't think it will give you a very "mandolin-like" sound or experience - which, as others have said, has much to do with the doubled strings and the tuning. See the comments from "Big Joe" in the above thread - and note he's a former Gibson employee, who managed retail/repair operations at Opry Mills.
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Old 12-12-2009, 07:49 PM
franchelB franchelB is offline
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Trust me, learning to play mandolin "basics" is not hard. Mastering the instrument is another subject matter.
Anyway, the idea of a 6-string mandolin intrigued me at one time, but the practical side of me wondered about its maintenance of it, i.e. finding the strings, neck tension, etc., etc. The same thing applies to a "banjitar"...which I DID get try out, but I just wasn't impressed with the sound.
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