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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 online now
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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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Originally Posted by devellis View Post
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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Old 12-02-2015, 11:03 PM
Matty Boh Matty Boh is offline
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I for one am a guitar player and also love that mandolin sound. I think these mandolin /guitar hybrids are very cool,and offer a new sound. I did find whilst surfing the web a 6 string f style mandolin. Custom job of course,but very cool. If anyone knows a luthier will to try making and f style or two point 6 string mandolin / guitar variant,please let me know. Thank you!
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Old 12-05-2015, 06:20 AM
sam.spoons sam.spoons is offline
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I agree with franchelB, learning to play mandolin to a modest standard is worthwhile endeavour, and not too difficult. And it will sound like a mandolin (which seems to me to be the point).
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Old 12-05-2015, 06:47 AM
Rudy4 Rudy4 is offline
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Instruments that fulfill the desire for casual players to shortcut the learning process pop up intermittently. I've heard this referred to recently as the "Taylor Swift syndrome".

In my experience they almost universally bring out the worst components of the respective combined instruments, but manufacturers are more about convincing folks that there's a need for them to part with some of their hard-earned cash.

On the plus side of the formula, there is always a need for something to fill unused closet space.
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Old 12-10-2015, 08:26 AM
slimey slimey is offline
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Emerald Amicus 12, nice short cut.
https://youtu.be/VrvhXig8H5w
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Old 12-10-2015, 01:46 PM
fuman fuman is offline
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I own one. I bought the basic model, used. It's kind of cool for what I have used it for -- primarily as a complementary instrument in sit-around jam sessions and being able to work on guitar fingerings while travelling. If you want a mandolin, buy one. This ain't it.

Specific limitations include, as Mr. Hampton noted, a lack of sparkle on the bottom strings; hard to find strings for the basic model, except the not-real-great-sounding loop end strings Gold Tone sells, which are expensive ($11 plus shipping). I tried Gypsy Jazz strings and they buzzed terribly. You can buy the deluxe model which has a bridge that accepts ball-end strings or just buy that bridge, but the deluxe model is expensive and, despite having a compensated bridge, MUCH better fit and finish and a decent built-in pickup is probably not worth the extra investment.

On the plus side, playability isn't too bad, though the neck is non-adjustable. The nut is reasonably wide (I haven't measured it, but it's way wider than a typical mando) And the sound of the high strings isn't bad. I was real tempted to buy a Veillette Gryphon, which is tuned to "D" and probably fantastic build quality. They have a down-market Avante import that is still probably a lot better than this Gold Tone, but costs more than a grand new.

Manage your expectations and these can be fun. Mine cost me $225 used, with a couple of dings on it already. It was worth the money.
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Old 12-13-2015, 02:12 AM
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Just for perspective on my response, I've been playing mandolin and mandola for almost as long as I've played guitar, and wound up buying a harmony mandolin from a pawnshop before I even gave back the borrowed guitar and got one of my own.

I've tried one of the Gold Tone GM-6 guitar mandolins, and it has the same low end sound profile as a mandolin of the same body size. In fact, it has the same body size as the Gold Tone GM-55A mandolin, and the same bottom end.

The instrument goes a minor third below mandolin, so there's not really a point of comparison for how a mandolin sounds on the low E3.

It's mostly playing style which determines whether one hears an instrument as more a mandolin, or guitar, or even steel-string uke.





Regarding sparkle on an F mandolin's low end, I don't believe that sparkle is normally a desirable sound. In fact, normally over at the Mandolin Cafe, there is much more emphasis on a woody tone, bark and the all important chop, as demonstrated in that last video I listed.

Regarding loop-end strings for instruments, I'm used to buying ball-end strings when i can't find a loop end, and then carefully crushing the ball end with small channel lock pliers on both sides of the loop while avoiding having the loop itself between the jaws. On this kind of instrument, with the scale length being a little longer than half of a guitar's, that means one can use the same string set as on one's guitar and get much the same tension.

This is just from my own experience. As always, I encourage those interested to do research and not take my word on things.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!
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