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Old 10-14-2021, 10:47 AM
generalliamsayn generalliamsayn is offline
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Default Attn: any of you who also play Mandolin

I know I could ask this in a mandolin forum but I'd rather hear from my guitar playing brethren - especially those who've started on mandolin as an experienced guitarist.

I'm itching to learn mandolin to play Celtic pub rock (think the Pogues) so I'd appreciate any and all advice concerning:

BODY SHAPE/STYLE? Since it seems like there's little standard among Celtic players - and I've always liked the look of and tone of old Gibson A's with round sound-holes - I'm leaning towards A-shaped. But what about flat top vs. carved top though? Opinions?

RECOMMENDED BRANDS? I'd like to stay well under $1k, if possible; bang for the buck is what I'm seeking. I've peered at Gold Tone, Kentucky and Big Muddy so far. FWIW I always buy used guitars so buying used is no issue, but for someone starting out, looking at the gazillions of mandos on Reverb is pretty overwhelming.

NECK WIDTH? I've read many guitarist switching over prefer mandos with a wider neck...thoughts? If so, any suggestion on makes? I know Big Muddy makes 'em. Any others? Or do you eventually get used to the standard width?

PICKUP? I'd be plugging in so do you think I'm better off getting instrument with a pickup installed or installing a K&K like I've done on my guitars?

Many thanks to those who offer guidance...
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Old 10-14-2021, 11:07 AM
rokdog49 rokdog49 is offline
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Hopefully youíll hear from my playing partner leew3.
He fits the bill for a person who has this very experience.
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Old 10-14-2021, 01:50 PM
K20C K20C is offline
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After playing guitar for almost 50 years, I just bought my first mandolin. Like you, I wasnít knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision so I just jumped in and bought an F style. Hoping to to get a lot of input from more experienced players in this thread.
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Old 10-14-2021, 02:19 PM
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I just went down this path myself.

From what I've been able to find out, the only real difference between an F and A style is the appearance. You'll pay more for an F style for that reason.

I reached out to The Mandolin Store for a recommendation for a sub $1000 mando and they came back with the Eastman MD 505. Got one and could not be happier with it. Came in at around $800 if recall, and was advertised with a pro setup.

And if you have to have a F, their recommendation was the Eastman MD 315 for the same price.


Good luck with your quest.

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Old 10-14-2021, 02:23 PM
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One more thing. I have not had any problems with standard neck widths on these things. I asked about wide necks and was told you don't really see too many of those until you get into the higher priced offerings

D
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Old 10-14-2021, 02:29 PM
rdeane rdeane is offline
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I fit the description. 60+ years on guitar and 4 on mandolin. I first learned mandolin on a standard 1-1/8 inch neck but moved up after a year to a much better mandolin (Collings) with a wider neck (1- 3/16). It's not a huge difference but I noticed it was certainly easier to play. Some folks don't notice much difference. I makes a difference to me, though. And I think going from a wide nut to a standard width could be problematic.

I learned on an A style and bought another A style. You just get more mandolin for your money in an A style. Also, for primarily Celtic/old time music the oval hole mandolin will give you a tone that works better for those styles. Of course, you can play any style of music on a mandolin with F holes. But the oval hole mandolins I've heard do lend themselves to Celtic and old time music IMO.

You really can't go wrong with a Kentucky or Eastman. There are others, of course, such as Big Muddy and Morris and some I don't remember right now within your budget. Old Gibsons, Vegas and Lyon & Healy don't fit your budget. But they would certainly be appropriate for the kind of music you're looking at.

I can't address pickups. I never had or wanted one. There are others here who can advise on that. Good luck on your search.
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Old 10-14-2021, 03:32 PM
K20C K20C is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rdeane View Post
I fit the description. 60+ years on guitar and 4 on mandolin. I first learned mandolin on a standard 1-1/8 inch neck but moved up after a year to a much better mandolin (Collings) with a wider neck (1- 3/16). It's not a huge difference but I noticed it was certainly easier to play. Some folks don't notice much difference. I makes a difference to me, though. And I think going from a wide nut to a standard width could be problematic.

I learned on an A style and bought another A style. You just get more mandolin for your money in an A style. Also, for primarily Celtic/old time music the oval hole mandolin will give you a tone that works better for those styles. Of course, you can play any style of music on a mandolin with F holes. But the oval hole mandolins I've heard do lend themselves to Celtic and old time music IMO.

You really can't go wrong with a Kentucky or Eastman. There are others, of course, such as Big Muddy and Morris and some I don't remember right now within your budget. Old Gibsons, Vegas and Lyon & Healy don't fit your budget. But they would certainly be appropriate for the kind of music you're looking at.

I can't address pickups. I never had or wanted one. There are others here who can advise on that. Good luck on your search.
Youíre making me wish Iíd bought one with the wider nut. I wasnít sure such a tiny width increase would be noticeable. Iím definitely struggling with a standard width nut on mine.
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Old 10-14-2021, 03:33 PM
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As someone who is principally a mandolinist, I have been accused of recommending instruments that are far too expensive. In this case, there is no need. The Pogues, Dropkick Murphy, The Levellers, Celtic punk bands like that arenít looking for sparkling mandolin tone, so a relatively inexpensive instrument with a pickup will work fine.

I would suggest an Eastman 305 (or 304 if you like the oval hole look) and a K&K pickup. Again, if you were interested in acoustic tone, I might go in another direction, but really, an Eastman 305 (or 304) has fine acoustic tone. My best friend has one, I would gig it without a second thought.

You will need a pickup. I played mandolin in a trio with an acoustic/electric guitar and an EBG, both played through amps. I tried to play through a mic in our first show and was all but inaudible. I switched to an old Breedlove Quartz with an internal pickup to solve the volume problem.

And thatís the thing, once you start amplifying a mandolin (especially through a pickup), a lot of the tonal nuances are lost; itís just a trade off you have to be willing to accept.
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Old 10-14-2021, 04:01 PM
Br1ck Br1ck is offline
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I've five years on mandolin, started at 65. I have three mandolins, a 1917 Gibson A 1, a Silverangel A style, and an F style I built. I play my home made F style the most due to a very unexpected bluegrass desire. It is loud and bright and can be heard. My Silverangel was my first really good mandolin. I started on an MD 505, but found the G string lacking. Silverangels are very warm and lush and as mandolins go, not terribly expensive. He has an Econo A model he sells for $1400-1500. Qualitatively it will rock your world. This is as far toward an oval hole arch top as you can get. Just the ticket for what you want to do.

My Gibson is a different animal. People often play them in celtic settings. I use it for old timey when I harken back to the 1800s. A rough example can be had for $1000, but buyer beware, they are 100 tears old.

I'd buy a Silverangel in a heartbeat if I were not looking for a primarily bluegrass tone, but they will do BG. I've played them side by side with Collings MTs. Equal but different. The arch top f hole design will project. The flat tops can sound good but won't project like an arch top instrument.

Bottom line, the Eastman is good enough to get you hooked, after that, God help you. Don't, I repeat don't, ever play an Ellis, or a Gillchrist, or a Master model Gibson. You're better off not knowing.

Don't think of a mandolin as a guitar in any way shape or form. Much more in common with a violin. More arched fingers and finger tips. Different angle. Lots of good videos for beginners. You can learn basic chords and be playing along in no time. Getting good takes as long as youve got, and probably more. Don't watch Sierra Hull's 12 year old videos.
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Old 10-14-2021, 04:37 PM
Dave Hicks Dave Hicks is offline
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I've been playing mando for close to 40 years, but never took it seriously enough, so maybe I could comment here?

For Celtic I think an oval-hole mando sounds good. A's are cheaper than F's and don't sound different to my ear. (Both my mandos are A's; a teens Gibson oval and a Flatiron A5-Jr with f-holes.) Kentucky has some oval-hole models, both A and F, but I haven't tried them so can't recommend or disrecommend them.

Flat-top mandos have a good sound for Celtic and old-time, and there are several builders out there, e.g. Big Muddy, or Northfield's Calhoun model.

I've liked wider fretboards when I've tried them, but neither of my mandos has one, and it's not really a problem. (At least, not a problem compared to stretching your little finger to get some high notes.)

If you want amplification, that probably means retro-fitting a pickup.

I've met a number of people who were intrigued by the tuning being "the reverse of a guitar", but that never helped me much.

It might be helpful to get yourself a book of fiddle tunes - I like the Fiddler's Fakebook, which has tunes from a variety of styles, including Celtic. (It's in standard notation, but the Mandolin Fakebook has tab.)

D.H.
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Old 10-14-2021, 04:57 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by generalliamsayn View Post
I know I could ask this in a mandolin forum but I'd rather hear from my guitar playing brethren - especially those who've started on mandolin as an experienced guitarist.

I'm itching to learn mandolin to play Celtic pub rock (think the Pogues) so I'd appreciate any and all advice concerning:

BODY SHAPE/STYLE? Since it seems like there's little standard among Celtic players - and I've always liked the look of and tone of old Gibson A's with round sound-holes - I'm leaning towards A-shaped. But what about flat top vs. carved top though? Opinions?

RECOMMENDED BRANDS? I'd like to stay well under $1k, if possible; bang for the buck is what I'm seeking. I've peered at Gold Tone, Kentucky and Big Muddy so far. FWIW I always buy used guitars so buying used is no issue, but for someone starting out, looking at the gazillions of mandos on Reverb is pretty overwhelming.

NECK WIDTH? I've read many guitarist switching over prefer mandos with a wider neck...thoughts? If so, any suggestion on makes? I know Big Muddy makes 'em. Any others? Or do you eventually get used to the standard width?

PICKUP? I'd be plugging in so do you think I'm better off getting instrument with a pickup installed or installing a K&K like I've done on my guitars?

Many thanks to those who offer guidance...
Hi, I've played mando since the '70s and have a Czech built F5 which I wouldn't trade fot far more expensive brands ...but ... it mostly lives in its case unseen/unplayed for some years.

Can't really talk about flat top mandos, and rarely care for their sound.

Let's talk about carved tops, as per Gibson original designs.

BODY SHAPES:

Firstly there are two basic designs - "A" (teardrop) and "F" (scrolled body)
I love the look, asnd balance of my my scrolled "F" mando but it does nothing for the sound.

The we have the second part - round hole (X4) or f holes (x5).

So an F5 is scrolled with f holes and an F4 has a scroll bit a round hole.

F holes give a sharper more projecting sound, round holes give a warmer rounder (sic) tone.

PICK UPS?

Amplification. mmm,I do have a bug in my mando - a MacIntyre feather. I used it in one band for a while , poretty good, but I don't like bugging instruments - period.

Nut width?

Mine is a little wider than normal, wich suits me fine!

Brands :

For good quality and budget price :

I simply can't think of any other name but Eastman.
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Old 10-14-2021, 05:15 PM
JMFingerstyle JMFingerstyle is offline
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I've been an acoustic guitar player for close to 50 years. My journey to the mandolin was a little convoluted. I've had a crummy old fiddle forever, but could never play the darn thing without the neighborhood dogs starting to howl in anguish. I got it into my head that maybe I would be better off with a viola to take my high pitched screeches down a notch, so I rented one from a local orchestral supply place.

Well, I didn't sound any better, and it hurt my shoulder to boot, so I somehow started obsessing over an octave mandolin instead. I eventually settled on an Eastman MDO-305, and started having a lot of fun with it. So much so that I bought an Eastman MD-305 a short time later. I installed a K&K Mandolin Twin in the Octave, and a cheaper JJB in the Mando.

I really like the Eastman's, particularly the Octave Mandolin (which benefits from using a thicker string gauge designed for a mandola).

In general there is no difference between an F-style and an A-style mandolin other than the ornamentation. The fancy scroll is a solid wood block, and doesn't affect the sound. There IS a difference between an oval hole and an F-hole mandolin though. Within a given quality level, the F-hole will have a little more cutting power, the oval will have a rounder tone with more sustain and overtones, but may be more prone to feedback in an amplified setting.

I think both pickup systems, which are glued under the sound board, provide nice, natural sound, but they are sensitive to you brushing or tapping the top of the mando, so if you're a player who likes to anchor your pinky on the top, you'll want to break out of that habit. They both benefit from a touch of reverb.

Baron Collins-Hill runs an excellent learning site, mandolessons.com, which is entirely free and runs completely on donations. It's worth checking out, he has tons of fiddle tunes with video lessons and tabs.
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Last edited by JMFingerstyle; 10-14-2021 at 09:28 PM. Reason: Deleted a link to an unlisted YouTube video.
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Old 10-14-2021, 05:36 PM
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KitKat1 KitKat1 is offline
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So glad you are venturing into the mandolin, such a WONDERFUL instrument! I like what Northfield has going on and their flat top, oval hole, beginner mandolin, the Calhoun, is a really fun mandolin if you are into folk, blues, celtic, rock - but not bluegrass. I think most guitar players would immediately "get" this instrument. They are just under $1000 now, started out around $700. It has a kind of jug-like sound, in a good way. This will give you an idea of the sounds.
https://youtu.be/pFHBq6c1IJ0
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Old 10-14-2021, 05:55 PM
H165 H165 is offline
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Quote:
and an F style I built. I play my home made F style the most due to a very unexpected bluegrass desire. It is loud and bright and can be heard.
It sounds like you are happy with your mando build. I'm thinking of making one. What are your basics.... kit? scratch? woods? neck width?....ANY recommendations? PM sent...
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Old 10-14-2021, 07:02 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by generalliamsayn View Post
I know I could ask this in a mandolin forum but I'd rather hear from my guitar playing brethren - especially those who've started on mandolin as an experienced guitarist.
I came to mandolin after starting on and playing violin (which is tuned the same as mandolin) for over 35 years, and self-taught guitar for over 30 years. I got reasonably proficient on mandolin in just a few months. I've been playing all mandolin-family instruments for about 13 years now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by generalliamsayn View Post
I'd appreciate any and all advice concerning:

BODY SHAPE/STYLE? Since it seems like there's little standard among Celtic players - and I've always liked the look of and tone of old Gibson A's with round sound-holes - I'm leaning towards A-shaped. But what about flat top vs. carved top though? Opinions?
You'll definitely get more bang for your buck with an A style vs an F. You'll get more yet with flat top and back vs carved. Round or oval hole is generally better suited to Irish trade than f holes, but there aren't really hard and fast rules. When I play Irish, English trad/folk or Nordic I play my 16-1/2" scale 10 string carved top and back redwood/maple A4 mandola.

Quote:
Originally Posted by generalliamsayn View Post
RECOMMENDED BRANDS? I'd like to stay well under $1k, if possible; bang for the buck is what I'm seeking. I've peered at Gold Tone, Kentucky and Big Muddy so far. FWIW I always buy used guitars so buying used is no issue, but for someone starting out, looking at the gazillions of mandos on Reverb is pretty overwhelming.
First off - mandolins cost more than guitars. There are 1,000 - 10,000 guitar players for every mandolin player. And carved construction (vs flat or pressed arch) is more labor intensive. To get the same quality as a $500 guitar you have to spend $1000 or more on a mandolin. I'd stay clear of Michael Kelly, Ibanez, Rogue, Saga brands. Kentucky, The Loar, Eastman are all good carved tops. Big Muddy and Redline are great flattops. Sonny Morris builds very good sounding, highly playable carved or flat Mandis. You're best bet is a used Big Muddy, Redline or Morris flattop A4.

Quote:
Originally Posted by generalliamsayn View Post
NECK WIDTH? I've read many guitarist switching over prefer mandos with a wider neck...thoughts? If so, any suggestion on makes? I know Big Muddy makes 'em. Any others? Or do you eventually get used to the standard width?
I'm the wrong guy to ask. I play everything from violin, viola, ukulele, mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin, banjo, guitar (flattop, archtop, resonator) and I just adjust. I just don't get the "magic neck width" that so many here advocate.


Quote:
Originally Posted by generalliamsayn View Post
PICKUP? I'd be plugging in so do you think I'm better off getting instrument with a pickup installed or installing a K&K like I've done on my guitars?
Except for a K&K I installed on my first cheapo Ibanez mandolin I've used JJB twin head SBT's on all my mando family instruments. This includes my resonator mandolin and banjolin. They all work fine for indoor/outdoor gigs without affecting the acoustic sound. They're easy to install, even on an f-hole mando. Little trickier on a fiddle though. You're always better off getting a good sounding acoustic and retrofitting a pickup vs buying an AE that doesn't sound as good unplugged.

Last edited by Mandobart; 10-14-2021 at 07:08 PM.
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