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  #1  
Old 09-26-2013, 08:33 AM
Jim_G Jim_G is offline
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Default Upgrading my Mandolin

I've been playing mandolin for about a year now. My first is a Loar VS220 A Style. It's okay, but sometimes I hear shrill and a bit of tin in it.

I went over to the Music Emporium yesterday, hoping to play a few. The used Gibson F style I really wanted to see wasn't there anymore. (Somebody stole it last week! And I mean that literally, somebody walked out without paying for it.). And they didn't have any Colllings MT2's either, they haven't updated their website.

So I was left to play a Pava, several Collings MT's, and a couple of Eastmans. And I have to say, I cannot hear much difference in tone between any of these and the one I have now. Mine cost about $400, and the others were in the $2500 - $2800 range.

There must be something I'm missing. I'm still a little bashful letting it rip in a store, and I'm finding that right hand technique is alot more important when it comes to tone on a mandolin than on guitar. (Especially my tricone. I could cough in the direction of that thing and instant tone). Maybe that's part of the problem, I was holding back too much.

So I think I've decided to put off an upgrade for a while. I'm not ready. Either my ears are off, my right hand is, or I need to spend alot more than $2500 to get a significant upgrade. I'm still adjusting to how much more expensive a mandolin is, compared to a flattop guitar.
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  #2  
Old 09-26-2013, 10:40 AM
rockabilly69 rockabilly69 is offline
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Jim, about a year ago, after much research, I picked up a Breedlove FF mandolin, and I really like it. Like you, I hadn't really been playing the
mando for that long. After I got pretty confident with playing one, I just wanted a nice stage instrument. The Breedlove delivers the goods sound-
wise, and is reasonably priced. You can also have a LR Baggs Radius pickup installed at the factory (which I did). They have them in F hole and Oval
hole models. Check the reviews, they are very favorable. By the way I have a National Tricone, Western D, two National custom artist models, and my
main stage guitar is a Gibson Gospel, so we speak the same language

Here's the F-Hole Breedlove FF that I have, and they can be had for about $1500 street price...

http://breedlovemusic.com/mandolins/...-mandolins/ff1
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:24 AM
Bingoccc Bingoccc is offline
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I understand the mahogany Big Muddy mandos are not as shrill as many others. They are not that expensive either. Check one out if you get the chance. http://bigmuddymandolin.com/product/m-11/
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:25 AM
Jim_G Jim_G is offline
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Thanks Rock, I'll keep an eye out for that brand, I don't I've seen one yet, although I've only just begun searching. I know I'll never buy anything online, without first having it in my hands, no matter how easy a return policy they might have.

Edit: Ditto for the Big Muddy, thanks Bingo!
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:40 AM
rockabilly69 rockabilly69 is offline
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Jim,

Here's my Breedlove mixed with my National Tricone, and a Martin SP0016TR...

https://soundcloud.com/daniel-weldon...-time-complete
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  #6  
Old 09-26-2013, 11:42 AM
K-vegas K-vegas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim_G View Post
So I was left to play a Pava, several Collings MT's, and a couple of Eastmans. And I have to say, I cannot hear much difference in tone between any of these and the one I have now. Mine cost about $400, and the others were in the $2500 - $2800 range.
I've been playing my first mandolin (Kentucky KM171) for a few months and will probably want to upgrade at some point. The Pava and Collins would be among my first choices to audition. Eastmans and Webers as well. It's odd that not one of them caught your fancy tone wise. Go figure.

While I'm fine with the sound from my oval, I've heard better tone in other's recordings. Could be a lot in the players hand. My thought in auditioning an upgrade was to find an experienced player to play them for me as well as my playing them to see how they played and felt. I'm not sure I could finesse proper tone out of a Gilchrist right now. I think I would know if another mandolin played better tho.

I went thru several sets of strings and a load of picks to find a sound more to my liking. Each set of strings seemed to favor a different pick sound-wise. Not a fan of the shrill tinny sound either. I suspect that the oval helps a bit there but not experienced enough to say for sure.

Keep playing. It will find you
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Old 09-26-2013, 11:59 AM
Jim_G Jim_G is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockabilly69 View Post
Jim,

Here's my Breedlove mixed with my National Tricone, and a Martin SP0016TR...

https://soundcloud.com/daniel-weldon...-time-complete
Nice job! Did you go into a studio for that?
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2004 Collings MT2
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Old 09-26-2013, 12:00 PM
rockabilly69 rockabilly69 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K-vegas View Post
I went thru several sets of strings and a load of picks to find a sound more to my liking. Each set of strings seemed to favor a different pick sound-wise.
+1 string selection is critical on mandolins!
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  #9  
Old 09-26-2013, 12:02 PM
Jim_G Jim_G is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K-vegas View Post
While I'm fine with the sound from my oval, I've heard better tone in other's recordings. Could be a lot in the players hand. My thought in auditioning an upgrade was to find an experienced player to play them for me as well as my playing them to see how they played and felt. I'm not sure I could finesse proper tone out of a Gilchrist right now. I think I would know if another mandolin played better tho.
I do like the sound of the oval's, but I like the look of the f holes better. Plus I'm usually playing it with 3 other guys cranked up at the same time, and the oval seemed quieter too.

I did play another guys f style Weber this past summer, and while I was strumming it I didn't care for it at all. But in his hands it sounded really good. So I suspect the problem is as much my poor technique as anything right now. I have a K&K picking installed in my The-Loar, and when I play plugged in it sounds good enough that I'd never need to upgrade. Unplugged is a different story, and most of the time I'm playing it unplugged.
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Old 09-26-2013, 12:02 PM
rockabilly69 rockabilly69 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim_G View Post
Nice job! Did you go into a studio for that?
Jim, I own a project studio with some nice gear (Manley preamps, RME interfaces, etc). I put it together so I could record whenever I wanted
I do over 300 gigs a year so booking a studio would be inconvenient for me!!!
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Old 09-26-2013, 12:03 PM
K-vegas K-vegas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockabilly69 View Post
Jim,

Here's my Breedlove mixed with my National Tricone, and a Martin SP0016TR...

https://soundcloud.com/daniel-weldon...-time-complete
Nice song dood!! Enjoyed that.
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Old 09-26-2013, 12:06 PM
rockabilly69 rockabilly69 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K-vegas View Post
Nice song dood!! Enjoyed that.
Thanks K!

And Jim, I also have an Oval mandolin (Bernard Allen) and I find them very pleasing to my ears too. I think they both have their place!!!
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  #13  
Old 09-26-2013, 04:11 PM
posternutbag posternutbag is offline
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Carved top mandolins are more expensive than flat top mandolins for comparable quality instruments. That being said, you do not have spend a significant amount for an upgrade, but you might have to do a little homework and think outside the box. Have you spent any time at http://www.mandolincafe.com/ yet? It is a great forum with a phenomenal classified section.

My suggestion would be a used Gibson A-9. These are so good that I think Gibson literally stopped making them.

You might could swing an early 20's Gibson A Jr. Snakehead if you wanted to go the vintage route. They are oval hole, but most of them that I have played sound great.

I think that the Rigel A+ and even the A Natural are good values at around $1k. They don't really have a traditional bluegrass sound to them, and that makes them undervalued in the mandolin market.

Finally, you might be able to find a Bozeman made Flatiron A around $1000-$1200 if you are patient.
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Old 09-27-2013, 06:25 AM
Jim_G Jim_G is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by posternutbag View Post
Carved top mandolins are more expensive than flat top mandolins for comparable quality instruments. That being said, you do not have spend a significant amount for an upgrade, but you might have to do a little homework and think outside the box. Have you spent any time at http://www.mandolincafe.com/ yet? It is a great forum with a phenomenal classified section.
Yup. There was actually a tangerine MT2 listed last month, and the seller was local to me. I didn't see the ad until 12 hours after it was listed, and it was already too late. I really don't think I'd buy anything unless it was something I could play first, but I hear that the Collings are very consistent, so I'd have to consider it I guess.

I entered that contest they had for an MT2. I'm sure I'm one of many that said 'THAT was the winning entry???' But congratulations to the guy who got it anyway.
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  #15  
Old 09-27-2013, 08:40 AM
K-vegas K-vegas is offline
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I'm sure I'd be more satisfied with my mandolin now if not for the MC classifieds. There is a 2005 Gibson F4 there now that has me counting up my spare change. If i was buying on looks that would be it.
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