new “louder” mandolin

new “louder” mandolin

hi there,
i love to play the mandolin in a session, but sometimes it is very loud and i can hardly hear myself (playing). so, i was looking for buying a new one. maybe a louder one. can anyone guess a mandolinmaker or a company where i could look for it?
thanks a lot.

rollingwaves

Re: new “louder” mandolin

I was recently playing a Vietnam made mandolin, which I was told was based on a French guitar design. The mandolin contained a sound chamber and in addition to the normal sound hole, it had slots cut in the upper body allowing the player to hear himself better.

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Re: new “louder” mandolin

Before you buy a new mandolin, you might try a different bridge. I have no idea what your bridge is like now. It may be absolutely perfect. But you might take a look at Red Henry’s mandolin bridge designs.

http://www.murphymethod.com/redbridge.html

In the best circumstances, they even out the tone, producing deeper bass and brighter highs, and increase the volume. It has to do with a one-piece design, a shorter footprint and two feet instead of one. I’ve built and adapted bridges for two different flat top octave mandolins and they were definitely an improvement over what I already had. Your milage may vary of course, but if you are otherwise happy with your mandolin, maybe you should give it a try.

On the other hand, the Weber Aspen #1 that a friend has is suprisingly loud and very attractive. If you want to spend 1100+ bucks, you should give that one a try.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Arched (carved) top and back, f-holes, and quality in the making
seem to be among the most significant factors.
If you want volume (in mandolin terms) you probably need all three.
I’m sure you know www.mandolincafe.com

Re: new “louder” mandolin

I’d echo Craymola on this - I tried fitting Red-Henry -pattern bridges to my irish bouzouki ( or, as I call it, a long-necked octave mandolIN ) and found the increased response in volume and tone dramatic. My personal preference is for his original pattern, the winged version, although like many of his associates I have modified the design over the time I was experimenting; my advice is to increase the distance between the two central holes, the ones connected by a slot, so that the width of the piece of wood on each side connecting top of bridge to feet is reduced; in my most successful bridge the remaining wood is only 11mm thick. Also to increase the width of the central earch, thus also reducing the size of the feet actually resting on the soundboard. I also tried some Canadian maple ( ex-floorboards ) but did not get as good a response as from Europaen maple ( sycamore ). As Red Henry says, the cost of fashioning a few bridges is not high, mainly your own time, and if you like messing about in the woodshop provides hours of pleasure !
There’s also these resonator mandolins, if you want to be heard, but their tone may not be for everyone !

Re: new “louder” mandolin

There is always Tenor Banjo…

Just kidding, you want to look for some thing with a carved top/backa and a very deep body. You may also want to look for a large sound hole if you go for the oval hole style.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

I have recently bought a resonator mandolin and it has solved the volume problem for me. The tone goes fine with ITM tunes Hammering on/pulling off is much easier for triplets and rolls.
But I am puzzled by the E string. When I play the A note or top B note it plinks rather than rings. Does anyone have any ideas to cure this

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Resonator is the quick fix for audibility in a session.
I don’t play my Johnson (cheap and cheerful National copy) much at home, but it does cut a bloody swath through the average crowd.
If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, look at the new National with wooden back and sides. If you can find a decent one, a banjo mandolin will also give good results, but make sure you are happy with the sound before you buy.
Billabbey: The resonator will not sustain like a woody, the E string least of all.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

I have two inexpensive mandolins and have found that I can hear the A style better than my F style at a jam. I think I read that on the mandolincafe website a couple years ago. I think because the holes are bigger. Not sure if that helps at all.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

If the session’s too loud — why don’t you just find a quieter session?

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Resonators can be wild beasts, hard to control at times. You need to adapt your style of playing to them, and remember it sounds louder out the front than what you hear from above and behind

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Re: new “louder” mandolin

I was intrigued by len’s mention of a vientnamese-mando with an internal sound chamber. I think the addtitional sound chamber was an innovation of Mario Maccaferri, perhaps best remembered as Django Reinhardt’s luthier and developer of the plastic clothespin. (I have a Maccaferri c. 1950 Showtime, a great guitar).

Here’s an interesting device to add resonance to a mandolin. I’ve never tried one myself but it looks plausible:

http://www.elderly.com/accessories/items/TGM1.htm

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to train myself not to touch the back of the mandolin while playing, instead resting the bottom end (close to the strap button) against my body and keeping the strap taut. This necessitates turning sideways slightly, so that the mandolin is facing forward. But it makes a noticeable difference to the tone and volume.

If you have the gadget at the other end of fidkid’s link above, you get the same effect without changing the way yo hold your mandolin.

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Most traditional players I know disdain F-hole mandolins for Celtic music. They have a kind of bark that is great for bluegrass, but not so hot for traditional music.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

I’ve got an old (1930’s) round back mando that my dad passed onto me, made in Italy (Valencia I believe) with the Bakelite around the sound hole, It rings out beautifully and doesn’t have too much trouble matching the volume in a group setting. The action is a little high, but the luthier I spoke to about getting some work done on it said it’s better left alone. I just wish I could play it better!!

Gerry.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

A one-piece, wooden bridge does wonders for even a cheap mandolin’s tone and volume. I don’t know why they are even produced. I can’t imagine any fiddler or violinist playing with a two-piece, adjustable synthetic bridge. How is a mandolin that much different?

Remember the strings — If you’re at a session and playing with old strings, the volume loss is critical. The instrument is so quiet as-is that old strings completely kill the volume amid the din of a noisy pub so make sure they’re brand new each time.

Posture is key for tone and volume — look at the way bluegrass mandolin players hold their instruments, pushed away from the body at the extent of the strap with the butt of the body against the lower torso. If you can imagine a triangle formed by torso, mando neck and strap, then that’s it. The mandolin is very small and needs to vibrate freely. It might seem awkward to learn if you’re not used to it but I learned to play standing up.

Have you recorded the session from opposite your instrument? It might be projecting just fine, but the room might be so loud that you can’t hear from behind it..

Resonators are a whole new ballgame. They’re louder but the tone is very sharp and full of strange, hollow mids. There’s no fudging mistakes, either, because (compared to a session’s "usual suspects") the sound is so odd that it’s hard to miss. It might even irritate some people.

I think that unless you’re playing an intimate room as a duo or trio, the open soundhole mandolins are just too mushy. They have a more mellow sound but the only way you’re going to be heard with all the racket at a pub session is to have the bark of a solid top, F-hole make.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Joe Foley makes a decent sounding loud mandolin, an not an f-hole in sight. It has a curved ( not carved) front and back. Based on a ‘Martin’ design methinks. Just the thing to hear yourself, and not annoy the neighbours.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

I am not sure why there is all this prejudice against F hole mandolins. A good mandolin is a good mandolin and there are plenty of examples of well known mandolinists who play ITM using an F hole instrument.

One reason may be that F hole instruments are not that common in Ireland or GB and the ones that are available are PacRim laminated instruments that lack a lot of the qualities of a carved top instrument.

I have three F hole instruments and they all sound distinctly different from one another. I can change the sound by choice of strings, picks and bridges (I am a huge fan of the Red Henry bridges, BTW) and to some extent by the way I play. If you want volume and not be stuck with the National sound, you could do worse than a good F hole mandolin.

That being said, I have heard loud and gorgeous sounding O/D hole mandolins. But for the most part, older Gibson A models are not all that loud and many do not have the bell like tones that these instruments are famous for. If you have the cash and insist on an Oval hole instrument, the best thing to do is to get one from a luthier (http://www.mandolincafe.net and look at the "Eye Candy") or buy and Eastman oval hole.

Also, there is an excellent set of threads on this subject at the mandolincafe in the Celtic music section.

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Wear a wide brim hat while you are playing to better hear yourself.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Mike, I tried an Eastman F-4 style and thought it was no where near loud enough for a session.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

I am not a huge fan of Eastman mandolins, but they make an instrument that is worth the money they ask. I went to buy one at Spruce Tree Music (http://www.sprucetreemusic.com) in Madison and after A/Bing a bunch of mandolins, ended up with a Weber Bighorn which is a D hole carved top mandolin with great power and voice. It does well in a session although not as well as my F-5 which is VERY LOUD.

I put a Red Henry bridge on an A-5 that I have and it made a lot of difference in the volume and tone also. I have seen a Kentucky 180S that was as loud as any mandolin I know, but in the hands of its owner was merely obnoxious. So the trick is to play any mandolin you want to buy and test drive them for power and tone.

I have only seen a few vintage Gibson A models that had the power that we need in a session (or the tone, for that matter.) F models were designed to project forward and are usually fairly loud, especially if you use a substantial pick in the 1.2-2.0 mm range. This is hard for some to make the triplets typical of ITM, but with a loose grip can be done.

One thing you might try is to have a good mandolin player use your instrument in a session and sit across from him. You might be very surprised as to how loud it really is.

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com

Re: new “louder” mandolin

I’m experimenting with one-piece Red Henry style bridges on my Pavlu A-type - it’s loud enough in smaller sessions but gets swamped in a big session. I don’t think I’ve got it right yet - last night the higher register seemed dulled out - I’ll make another one when I’ve got a few spare days(!) But for loudness without paying a fortune, try flat tops. The loudest mandolin I’ve tried is a Fylde Touchstone - http://www.fyldeguitars.com owned by a friend - you couldn’t ask for a better session mandolin. Nearly as loud is a Buchanan that in a moment of foolish generosity I gave to my son, but I’m having it back when he’s not looking. I also had a go on a Phil Davidson flat top recently, and if I had £750 spare right now, I’d order one of them like a shot. Luthier built F-hole archtops are doubtless fantastic but you pay the price, and you might be somewhat precious about them down the pub.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Try playing louder!

I know it sounds stupid, but Ive seen players take a normal mandolin (like mine) and get this huge sound out of it.

The only problem is when your trashing out tunes it loses all the tone and beauty of the mandolin.

Conclusion; the mandolin is a great instrument and greatly under-rated but it isn’t a great "session" instrument. (some sessions any way unless your playing chords.

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Re: new “louder” mandolin

Otherwise try to play as many kinds as you can, some guy in the north of England makes very loud ones. Sorry can’t remeber his name.

Or get a wee acoustic amp fixed inside the body to boost the sound a little and..

Add echo, wha wha and reverb as the feeling leads!

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Re: new “louder” mandolin

I’ll echo RichardB’s comment… my Fylde Touchstone is as loud or louder than any mando I’ve played.

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Re: new “louder” mandolin

I’m sure there must be mandolin players out there who have the expertise to strum chords without making it sound like a bluegrass jam.

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Re: new “louder” mandolin

No, I’m not "sure", exactly, but I imagine there are…

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Re: new “louder” mandolin

The bluegrass chop is quite distinctive both in timing (off beat) and in chording (inverted, closed) and as a result does not work all the time in ITM (sometimes it does, but not often.) Instead, think of your mandolin as a mini-zouk and play partial open chords such as 100x for the D chord emphasizing the lower two or three strings. (You can play 10xx for D, 00xx for G, and 11xx for A for example.)

This way the percussive/chordal qualities of a mandolin can come out without overwhelming the rest of the music. One of the reasons the bluegrass chop works for bluegrass is that it counteracts the banjo and cuts through the guitar, bass and fiddle to make its point. In ITM, that is not needed so the other style works better.

I should point out that these partial open chords are very popular in bluegrass too, especially in the hands of experts who will use passing notes, alternative chords, and counterpoint at times, just like a bouzouki.

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Whoops!

I always do this when I don’t have a mandolin to reference.

20xx for D, 00xx for G, 22xx for A

mY BAD.

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com

Re: new “louder” mandolin

This is slightly off subject, but Aidan Crossey has put together a set of free mp3s of well known (and some not so well known) mandolinists playing Irish, Scottish and American music that contains a number of very interesting tracks.

Look at http://www.paythereckoning.com/thepage.htm and enjoy.

Mike Keyes
http://www.banjosessions.com

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Several months ago, I had the great treat of playing a tune with Mike Compton. I was really impressed with the way he accompanies old-time tunes on mandolin. When he’s not playing the melody, he does an open strummy thing that incorporates a bit of simple counterpoint. And sometimes, he plays a melody the same way. A very refreshing change from the typical old-time or bluegrass approach to accompaniment.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Hi, I stumbled across your discussion on louder mandolins while searching for the design plans or some images of the inside of one of those French/Vietnamese A style mandolins with round holes and sound chambered sides. Looking to manufacture the f style mandolin with the holes and sound chamber sides. Looking about 8 weeks for the first lot to be done. The Idea is the mandolin will have the same Bluegrass F style look but will have the added volume of the French/Vietnamese A models. Anyone have a picture of the inside of one. I really dont want to take one apart.
veritasviolins@yahoo.com

Re: new “louder” mandolin

We have the same problem in sessions in the US. One your Mandolin probably is louder than you think, Hat trick works, and finally, if you have three or five guitars in the circle, you could be playing a stradivarius violin and get "plowed under" if they are all playing loudly. Consider the volume of one person talking softly, then the volume of a theater after the play is over everyone is talking at normal volume. The collective volume of the individuals gets very loud. It is common sense that this would apply to sessions.

Re: new “louder” mandolin

Hi, I have several mandolins , a A -style B, F holed Bluegrass cheepy , a lovely mellow sounding Tacoma, but for volume I can’t beat my lovely wee Flatiron 2MW . It takes everyone by surprise with its tone and volume. I noticed the same with some older flat backed Eastern Europe mandolins, they too are remarkably loud for a cheaper mandolin.