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Nicolas 02-23-2019 01:27 AM

Anyone played one of these?

I need something bigger than a mandolin to carry around while traveling. The scale of this one is 40.2 cm and it kinda fits my need.

I can't try it in a shop, but the thing is made of solid woods, the reviews on that site are positive, and for that price I think I'll take the jump.

Has anyone seen/tried one of these? Impressions?

menhir 02-23-2019 08:43 PM

Sorry, no help.

You and I are in the same boat, trying to track down an uncommon instrument.
In my case, it's a balaika.
If I can't find one locally (so far, no joy) I've also narrowed my selection down to one or two options, both from Thomann.

I had never heard of that dealer before, but it seems to have a decent reputation.

I'm not in a particular hurry as I'm still seeing what turns up nearby, but if you make the transaction with Thomann's I'd like to hear if it worked out well for you.

Nicolas 02-24-2019 03:26 AM

I wouldn't think mandolas are that uncommon - in trad circles at least.

I have a mandolin with a 30 cm scale, way too small to be comfortable. This mandola, although only 40 cm (slightly shorter than what's typical for a mandola), is comparable to my Irish bouzouki capoed on he 8th fret, so I'd be able to get more of it.

I don't expect miracles for that price; it's solid walnut + spruce, so unless there's something fundamentally wrong, it should be OK. Crappy tuners or bridge setup is something I can deal with myself, if necessary.

Indeed, Thomann has a good reputation and a good return policy, so I think I'm gonna jump the train. Will surely post here when I have it.

Good luck with the balalaika. From what I see, the ones sold by Thomann are made in Romania by Hora:

My guess is that the same maker produces the mandola I'm looking at. On the website I see mandolas with exactly the same design, form different woods and minor cosmetic differences.

menhir 02-24-2019 09:03 AM


Originally Posted by Nicolas (Post 5988850)
I wouldn't think mandolas are that uncommon - in trad circles at least.

Traditional circles themselves seem to be uncommon. :)

It's good to hear another person state that Thomann has a good reputation. I've bought online before, but always from dealers I've heard of.

If I don't get any leads on local instruments soon, I'll probably choose one of the Thomann options. After all the time I've tried to find a balalaika around here, I could have learned to play one by now. ;)

ceciltguitar 02-24-2019 09:39 AM

Another reputable resource to consider:

Mandobart 02-24-2019 10:46 AM

If you're looking specifically at uncommon instruments its best to Google that instrument directly. You'll find fora devoted to Hardanger fiddles, nyckleharpa, hurdy gurdy, balalaika, etc. Posting guidelines prevent me from including those links here. There is a mandolin forum that will surely turn up many hits if you Google "Hora mandola."

Sure there are some of us here on AGF that are also into obscure strings, but we know we're not likely to find as much knowledge or info here on this guitar forum as we will on the instrument-specific forum. As far as common vs uncommon instruments, a rule of thumb I follow is there are about 1000 guitar players for every mandolin player. There are 100 mandolin players for every mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello or bouzouki player.

Nicolas 02-24-2019 12:39 PM


Originally Posted by Mandobart (Post 5989124)
there are about 1000 guitar players for every mandolin player. There are 100 mandolin players for every mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello or bouzouki player.

Wow! Being a bouzouki player, I start feeling unique ;)

Yes, I've googled... The fact is, the instrument I'm considering is branded as Gewa:

It is just my guess that it is manufactured by Hora specially for Gewa, judging by the fact that the instruments look exactly the same, up to cosmetic details, with the only exception that this particular wood combination is not listed on the Hora site (obviously this line is produced on special order specially to be marketed by Gewa).

BTW, I see that Gewa lists balalaikas, too:

Nicolas 02-24-2019 12:42 PM


Originally Posted by ceciltguitar (Post 5989072)
Another reputable resource to consider:

Thanks for the link. It seems what they offer is far out of my budget. But I'll bookmark them anyway, and in better times, who knows...

Wade Hampton 02-28-2019 12:56 AM

Nicholas, I’ve owned a couple of mandolas - a “Sumi-era” Kentucky KH-Dawg model (which was a superlative instrument) and a Romanian-made mandola that looked identical to the one in the photo you posted.

It was inexpensive but all-solid wood and sounded remarkably good given how cheap it was (I think I paid $250 for it some 15 or 20 years ago.). The biggest problem I had with it was that the tuners were crappy, but I found a set of Schaller mandolin tuners intended for a slotted headstock mandolin and that solved that problem.

Where I found mandola most useful was when playing solo gigs; mandolin played solo can be too trebly for people who aren’t mandolin fans to listen to, but the mandola is more of a midrange instrument and more folks find it tolerable.

The first performer I ever saw do that was the late, great Steve Goodman. He would break up his set a bit by putting down his guitar and picking up the mandola for a couple of songs.

Anyway, if the mandola you’re considering is the same as the second one I owned, what you’ll discover is that the fit and finish are a little bit rough by North American standards but the instrument itself is worth playing once you get the action dialed in and, perhaps, replace the crappy stock tuners with better ones.

Hope this helps.

Wade Hampton Miller

NotALuth 02-28-2019 12:04 PM

Depending on your budget Hobgoblin Music have a range of Ashbury branded mandola’s.




Nicolas 03-01-2019 02:27 AM

Thanks Wade, that was helpful.

I figure out that range-wise a mandola would sound like an Irish bouzouki capoed at the 5th fret (which is how I play the zouk half of the time). Would fit very well at Irish trad sessions.

@NotALuth: Indeed, I was looking at the Ashbury Rathlin, which is approximately in the same price category (the more expensive models are out of my budget). Also solid woods, and seems to get positive reviews.

So I'll have to choose between those two.

Silly Moustache 03-01-2019 03:58 AM

Nicholas, whist you get what you pay for with string instruments, I have to say that my experience of buying from the large German retailer which you have mentioned has not been positive.

If I had to buy low budget gear, I'd opt for Hobgoblin.

Nicolas 03-01-2019 04:31 AM

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Indeed, although having had positive experience (for other stuff, not instruments), I have my reservations about buying a low-budget instrument sight-unseen from them.

I was inclining more towards the Ashbury Rathlin anyway. However, from what I see, at Hobgoblin they expect it back in stock in May. As nobody knows what will happen after March 29, I think I'd probably look for a reputable EU-based dealer.

catt 03-01-2019 09:03 AM

I had a hora zouk. For $200 or whatever, the horas are solid wood and if set up well are great especially in Latin, Balkan, et al styles where a little twang is cool.

*Oh, btw - David Lindley's been playing hora bouzoukis for years...he re-frets them for various temperaments.

hyenik 04-14-2019 04:17 PM

I have two of Hora bouzoukis.
solid wood, average quality for beginer/intermediate level
Mandola is not so sensitive to quality (in case its very short scale)

sound example of my Thomann (Hora) Irish Concert Bouzouki

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