New member in a quandry

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New member in a quandry

Postby Mandian » Tue Jan 10, 2017 5:07 pm

Hello, this is my first post and I arrive as principally a guitarist of 51 years playing (the last 12-15 years seriously) and having taken up the mandolin about 3 years ago. I bought a second-hand Japanese "Professional" Ozark 2240 with oval hole and installed a K+K internal twin pick-up (total cost for both about £220). The mandolin is "good" to my untutored ears but I'm sure it can be improved. It is set up with a good action and intonation, and is buzz free. The bridge and nut appear to be bone. However, it can at times seem a little lifeless with not much sustain - is that to be expected from a flat top with oval hole?

I did own a Furch A shape with f holes but the neck seemed narrow and I sold it. Sustain was good and I imagine the domed top helped (probably moulded and not carved).

I would consider selling (how much to ask?) and adding some to get an improvement but what would I need to look at to achieve that? Should I look at carved tops or can I restrict it to flat tops? I do like the oval hole A shape as my interest is folk/Celtic rather than bluegrass.

Your ideas and comments would be much appreciated.

Thanks

Ian
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Re: New member in a quandry

Postby John Kelly » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:19 am

Hi Ian, Mandolins as a breed do not have a lot of sustain. The very short scale and high tension of the tuning give a very quick response but you lose out on sustain - this is one reason I much prefer playing pipe tunes and slower airs, etc on octave mandolin or bouzouki where the lower tension and longer scale give more sustain.

Over the past dozen years i have built around forty flat-topped mandolin family instruments, so I am obviously a wee bit biased here, but for what you want to play I'd say the flat-top is a good choice. Others will no doubt offer other advice!

Does your sound bother you in both plugged and unplugged mode - you say you have a pick-up fitted? Have you tried different strings? Have you heard your instrument played by someone else so hat you are "out front" listening to it? We all have an idea of what our instruments sound like but they will be heard differently by different sets of ears and sound can be a very personal thing.

I hope this rambling is of some help to you in thinking about your next steps.

John
JK Mandolins - handcrafted in Argyll, Scotland
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Re: New member in a quandry

Postby Mandian » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:39 pm

John

Thank you for your good advice. I will enjoy trying out others although my wallet may have to be locked away!

Ian
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Re: New member in a quandry

Postby colirv » Fri Jan 13, 2017 3:01 pm

The need for low cost is what's going to stymie you, I think. I have an old Sobell carved-top oval-hole mandolin on which the notes last forever, but which I couldn't afford nowadays! As John says, try as many mandolins as you can, but if you can find an affordable but well-made carved top (not moulded!) it might just surprise you.
Colin
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Re: New member in a quandry

Postby Beanzy » Sat Jan 14, 2017 9:15 am

Hi Ian,
Many cheaper mandolins will be over-built with woods chosen for cost and ability to be reliably cut on a machine. These instruments will last reasonably well and often give decent results to get you going, but they can rarely deliver a very complex or sustaining sound. There are mandolins that deliver good sustain (in mandolin terms not guitarist terms) but they aren't cheap, mine cost £4k but it was pretty unique & delivered everything I could want. However there is also no one mandolin that is the best for everything, they'll nearly all cope with a wide range of styles, but you'll notice certain ones just sit better in different genres.

Take the sustain issue. With my Davidson I can strum an open chord or pluck a harmonic, put it in the case and it will still be ringing until the felt in the lid closes down on the strings. As an arch top carved instrument it excells in a whole host of genres, but for really 'plucky' Italian pieces, Irish reels and jigs or precice baroque pieces with our trio I still turn to the Calace bowlback for it's comparatively quick decay and tighter brighter sound.

As for the wide neck issue, if you have big fingers like I do then you'll need a wide neck, but often guitar players coming to mandolin can approach the neck with the hand at too perpendicular an angle to the fretboard and let the thumb creep onto the back of the neck. This can be a bit limiting further down the line and also make things feel very cramped and bunched up. I thought I'd mention that just in case that could be limiting your choices when looking to make the next step.

Mandolins are a much smaller market than guitars, the instruments work under much tighter tolerances too, so the prices are higher for equivalent quality levels. I've found at the low to mid-end a ballpark figure of double the equivalent guitar price puts things in some perspective. Higher up the tree there are different repetitional and market factors so the parallel doesn't work as well in the £1200 & up price range.

Happy hunting as you go.
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Re: New member in a quandry

Postby Mandian » Mon Jan 16, 2017 4:02 pm

Thanks all for good advice.
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