Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I was considering buying a mandolin (my first) and was hoping to get a more experienced opinion on whether the one I’m looking at is a good choice for Celtic music or not.

https://themandolinstore.com/product/eastman-md505-mandolin-a-style-f-holes/

I’m looking for something that will have that more "Celtic" sound. Hard to describe, but I’m sure that if anyone will understand what I’m talking about, it will be the people on this site.
Also, if this mandolin isn’t a good choice, I’d really appreciate some recommendations within the same price range. Thank you!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Katie - if you have a chance to try them out you should compare this f-hole version to the similarly-priced oval hole ones. Some people prefer an oval or round sound hole for the "Celtic" sound as it is said to be more resonant with a longer sustain. F-hole instruments are liked by Bluegrass players looking for that "bark" - the penetrating chop sound associated with that music - more attack and less sustain. You may get a lot of discussion ensuing. I like both types of mandolin and find that the f-hole version projects well in a noisy environment. You might find that players of the type of music celebrated on this site regard an oval sound hole as more usual. Let the debate commence!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks! Unfortunately, there are literally no music stores where I live that carry anything other than guitars. I’m not kidding. So I really have no way to try and compare. I see what you mean about the bark of the f holes. The oval hole is definitely less sharp and resonates more. I’d love to continue to hear feedback from different people about this.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Hi
It depends (the usual answer to any question)
Bluegrass style mandolins can cut through a bit more, so it depends on your playing situation and what becomes your preferred sound
The mellower timbre is great for slow airs, and good for a more fluid rather than choppy sound
The more dog like (sorry guys) instruments cut through in sessions a bit better, but then there are other options too (as canvassed many times here) including banjo mandolin - do a search
Horse for courses and there are four on a mandolin
Cheers, Greg

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Honestly, it’s fine. Most mandolins won’t be heard in a loud session in any case, and as for sustain, you aren’t playing chords and it won’t be a problem.

I have a Eastman md-615 and consider it a fine instrument. The 500 models are considered to be one of the best bang for the buck mandolins out there.

You won’t regret it. The only people who really care about oval holes vs f-holes or scroll vs A-style/points are often more concerned with traditional looks than the actual sound.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I keep hearing about these "banjo mandolins". Has anyone ever considered calling them a "manjo" or "banjolin"? 🙂
Thanks for the advice. I’m just starting out so I’m not really concerned about how I’d sound in a session just yet. This is probably a stupid question, but does the oval/round hole do well on faster tunes also? I tend to play a lot of jigs and reels and strathspeys and stuff like that.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks Ashkettle! As a Celtic musician it’s really easy to get lost in the world of instruments, especially when you MUST have the "most Celtic" version of everything. I’m definitely feeling lost right now. Out of curiosity, are the f holes or the round ones considered more traditional?

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

You see the legendary guys like Andy Irvine, Paul Brady and Mick Moloney playing oval holed mandolins, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more a matter of what was available at the time rather than a deliberate assessment of what did or didn’t sound ‘celtic’.

I’ve never played an Eastman mandolin but by all accounts they make very nice instruments.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

What people have already said: In the Irish and Scottish traditional music worlds, mandolins with a central soundhole (oval/round etc.) tend to be favoured over those with f-holes. But it is ultimately down to personal taste. I know two people who play Irish music on Eastman f-hole mandolins, and are very happy with them. If you play it in an Irish style, it will sound Irish no matter what.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Hi: Had two Eastman’s, both were oval hole, A and F models. Perhaps lemons but neither with much tonal palette, and neither with much volume. I’ve played a Flatiron A5-1 for years and it’s great. Recently bought a Kentucky KM-172 and was very happy with the sound, volume and overall workmanship, which I’d rate way above Eastman. Similar in appearance to Dave Swarbrick’s venerable Gibson. If you have a little more money the Trinity College instruments are also good. Saga Instruments seems to know how to find the best of the Asian manufacturers.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Just to throw a different hat into the ring, I’ll make a pitch for Mid-Missouri mandolins. I played an Eastman oval-hole for a few years and never really warmed to it. Its voice was brittle and tinny, more like what I think of as a "bluegrass" sound, and it never worked in an Irish setting. I picked up a Mid-Missouri about a year ago, and I was blown away by its full, bell-like tone and its volume, esp. considering it’s a flat-top, and small even as mandolins go.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I prefer F-hole mandolins for the way they usually put more of the picking energy into the fundamental of the note, rather than the harmonics like most oval hole versions built the same way. That can make for a punchier, cleaner sound that’s a little easier to hear in a session. But it’s all down to personal preference in the end. Either type can be a great mandolin for Irish/Scottish trad, if it’s well-made and with a good setup for playing.

Eastman mandolins have a pretty good reputation around my area for build quality, but also take a look at Kentucky mandolins. They seem to be a bit more popular lately for their tone quality in that price range.

WRT the banjo mandolin…. I have one that a friend left here at the house years ago, made probably in the 1920’s-30’s. It’s a horrible little beast. The sound is nasty… no sustain at all, and the "plunk" timbre doesn’t sound good the way it does with a tenor banjo played in Irish music. It might be good for ragtime or Vaudeville revival stuff, but that’s about it.

When mandolin players want a LOT more volume without going down the dark path towards the banjo, they sometimes opt for something called a resonator mandolin. There is really only one good type available since the vintage ones don’t work well, and it’s not inexpensive: the National RM-1. I think about trying one every once in a while, but I’m not 100% convinced by the tone I’ve heard in recorded examples and on YouTube. For now, I’ll stick with the sweet and woodier tone of my F-hole mandolin, and I’ll accept the trade-off in volume.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Banjo mandolins or Banjolins are around and do have the advantage of being a bit louder which has an advantage in a session where a mandolin can easily be swamped by the other instruments. Trouble is I don’t care for the sound with its very short sustain. A better option if your struggling to be heard is the resonator version which is much louder but has a less mellow sound than a standard mandolin but it’s not anywhere near the jarring sound of a Banjolin IMHO. Most mandolinist if they have this problem switch to the tenor banjo - I have, although for a change now and again I will dust off my resonator mandolin.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I have played a couple of Eastman mandolins. I owned one for a while, and it was OK for the price. They’re kind of a hybrid between a mass produced mandolin and a hand made mandolin. I think that they’re actually hand made, but in a mass production kind of way in an Asian factory with many different people doing the work. So you’re not necessarily getting a master craftsman’s hand on each step, and their instruments can vary in tone a bit on the same model. I could be wrong on that, it was many years ago that I had mine.

Not that you can get one in that price range, but a number of makers these days make them with a little sound port in the side, which acts like a personal monitor. Once you try one, it’s pretty difficult to go back. For an example, look at http://www.herbtaylor.com/instruments/mandolin/

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Katie, have you ever tried a Joe Foley mandolin ? I have one for almost 20 years and it’s a great instrument. Even if the price is quite higher, I’m afraid, it is worth considering to buy such a nice instrument. Joe maintains your instrument for free and … for life.
Best wishes.

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Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I wouldn’t worry too much about f-hole vs. oval hole, you can play irish/celtic music on either just fine. An Eastman is a good solid first mandolin and should be fairly easy to move along when the time comes and you want to move up the mandolin food chain. Plus if you’re getting it from The Mandolin Store it will arrive very well set up, they’re great to deal with.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I play irish music on Givens A6 (f holes) and I like the sound. I’ve heard that people say f-hole mandolins make better all-around mandolins, but it’s subjective.
On the other hand, the best mandolin I’ve ever played was old Gibson A4 snakehead (oval hole) i liked it even better than Lloyd Loar F5 🙂
So my advice would be - you have to try it, it’s impossible to say if it’s good for you. It’s not a problem if your first mandolin is not perfect for you, you will get the idea anyway and you can sell it later and buy something else.

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Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Irish music is surely about more than playing as loud and as fast as possible? Certainly it is in Ireland. And what about gentle tunes and slow airs?

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

The banjolin is wonderful…for cakewalks, minstrel, ragtime, dixieland feel. for Irish not so much. IMO pick the mandolin that feels best in your hand. I’d say the sounding Irish has more to do with the player than the instrument. It’s a personal choice so you get to be the one who chooses. Also IMO more people worry about volume than actually have problems being heard. Others may have different ideas about that but in my experience it has to be a pretty large group before the mandolin, in the hands of someone with even modest skill, can’t be heard. As with many instruments the projected sound is better than what the player hears. I’ll second the notion from Reverend about the sound port. You can even have one added to many instruments. There are a lot of mandolins out there in your price range and a decent luthier can improve most of them for better sound and fit.

Oh, and I do really like my one remaining mandolin, a Mid Missouri. I think they’re no longer being made, too bad.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I agree with the positive comments about Mid-Missouri mandolins, and yes, I don’t think new ones are being made any more. I enjoyed playing Flatirons as well, but found them a bit too quiet to play in a session. I currently have a a Tacoma mandolin, found it to be reasonably priced for an American, hand-made instrument and has a a solid tone (admittedly more towards the bluegrass bark) but I can hear myself a bit better when I play it in a session. A few years ago a dabbled with a mando-banjo, and found it to be quite abusive to anyone sitting directly across from me in a session. It’s a very bright, very LOUD little fellow and nearly jarred loose the fillings on a couple of my sessions mates. We all agreed it was not to be brought again to the session, except perhaps in emergency situations to dive away evil spirits or random, drop-in djembe players.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

"As a Celtic musician it’s really easy to get lost in the world of instruments,"

Define "lost"… ;^)

1972 Oscar Schmidt Appalachian 21 chord Autoharp
1988 Jerry Read Smith 18/17 Hammered Dulcimer
1996 Washburn EA-26 Craig Chaquico signature model
1997 Joe Foley Mandolin
2011 Luna Celtic Knot Bouzouki
2012 Ibanez Artcore AG95 w/Lindy Fralin pickups
2012 Michael Kelly Legacy Dragonfly Mandolin
2013 Taylor 414CE
2014 Clareen Celt Banjo
2014 Phil Crump B-1 Bouzouki
2015 Phil Crump Cittern

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Hello Katie,

I am still fairly new to mandolin, so no expert, but I play an Eastman 305, so an instrument nearly the same as what you are looking at. Similarly to you, there were no shops around to try out instruments when I bought it.

I settled for the start for the cheaper instrument, because I still wasn’t sure if I’d stick with the mandolin, or, as ex-guitar player, might prefer the bouzouki.

What I can say about the Eastman: it’s a nice instrument for that price. It’s neck is very nice to play on for my maybe not so small female hands, and the sound is very nice (and even nicer since I started working on tone a lot). However, it is not loud at all and if you try to play loud it is limited. It just doesn’t sound great anymore when you play with a lot of attack ( and that’s not just me, I had good players try it out).

Even though the f-holes might look a bit more "bluegrassey" than celtic, in my opinion the sound is very nice for irish tunes and it doesn’t have the bark of other bluegrass mandolins. As to loudness as well tho: when 2 banjos and the fiddler sit beside me, I can barely hear myself play. On the plus side: my neighbours also don’t hear me play, so I can play even in the middle of the night if I feel like it. ;)

Now that I know I want to stick with Mandolin, I will upgrade to an even better instrument hopefully next year. Thing is though - the next pricerange up we’re talking about 4 times the prize.

Sorry, that was just a lot of my experience, but in short: it is a nice beginners instrument. I’d recommend it, and if you’d spend more money I’d definetely would try the instrument first.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Unfortunately I can’t afford something very expensive, but I would like to get something that I will want to play for years to come. In other words, I don’t just want to buy an instrument that is subpar just to learn on. What would you guys recommend in the less than $800 price range?

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I just did a quick scan of ebay and there are gallons of mid-Missouri, Eastman, and Tacoma mandolins available within your price range. Happy Hunting!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

If you’re buying new for $800 and under then you’re looking at Eastman, Loar or Kentucky most likely, or if you go used a Mid-Missouri flat top or Flatiron pancake. I’ve seen old "player" grade Gibson A’s in the $700 ish range but you’d really want to play one of those first - last thing you’d want is to buy one sight unseen and then have it arrive needing a refret, which would add a couple of hundred $$ to what you end up spending. The Eastman 505 is not what I’d regard as a "subpar" instrument, and I know plenty of great players who use them, and even if they’ve moved up to a better instrument have kept their Eastman as a back up. If you end up buying from a source that doesn’t set the instrument up then make sure you account for the cost of getting it set up somewhere too. If there aren’t good luthiers who are familiar with working on mandolins in your locality then I would recommend buying from a source that does a good in-house set up, such as The Mandolin Store or Folkmusician.com - let us know what you end up getting!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks! I’m thinking of getting the eastman md504 (oval hole) from the mandolin store. I get sort of nervous at the thought of buying a used instrument sight unseen. But I’ll definitely let you know what I get and how it works out! I really appreciate everyone’s help. In case anyone is interested, I found some youtube videos of the 504 and 505 playing more Celtic tunes (rather than bluegrass) if anyone else would like to compare the sound of the f holes versus the round hole in regard to Celtic music.

Eastman md504 (oval hole):
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=i6T2IdEaMVw


Eastman md505 (f holes)
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqSAKQrrHBM


Thanks again!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I think the oval hole sounds sweeter but what do you think?

Fwiw Mid-Missouri is still around, they have just changed their name to Big Muddy.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I think so too. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll check it out.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Being heard on just about any instrument is a function of more than just the inherent volume of the instrument. CLARITY is a huge asset in helping your playing to be perceived by others, and, if you accomplish that, what they do hear will be clean, accurate and precise.

I use an old 1920 Vega cylinder back that I got on eBay; it sounds great for ITM (oval hole FWIW). Good luck in your search.

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Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks dfost!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Apart from your use of Celtic ( I have posted elsewhere on this ) there are a couple of things that you can do to improve volume and tone on your instrument once you have acquired it; Red Henry has developed a couple of designs for a one-piece bridge that utilises some aspects of fiddle bridge design and gives a marked increases in volume and tone to mandolins. Look up his website.
Also consider replacing the tailpiece with a heavier cast bronze or brass one. Look them up on ebay as a starter.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Go for tenor banjo or fiddle instead. You will very rarely see or hear the mandolin in sessions, that is if it is a session playing tunes. In sessions you will normally find fiddles, boxes, tenor banjos, flutes bouzouki, guitar and a bodhran.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

If there were no tenor banjos in the session you could hear the mandolins…..

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Reading through this thread it looks like the Eastman has been well covered. I have been playing a somewhat older (14 years old?) A style Eastman. It is an excellent mandolin: plays well and sounds great with a Fishman bridge pickup. That being said, I was told by a pro that newer Eastmans have gone downhill. A bandmate has a slightly newer F style Eastman, and it plays/sounds relatively similar, so I maybe they turned around again?

Regarding whether to play mandolin, tenor banjo, etc., that’s really up to you. I personally prefer playing my 19 fret tenor banjo, but I played the mandolin primarily for a few years. Not much in sessions, but a handful of gigs (I mostly played octave mandolin at gigs).

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Some strange advice on here that I would like to debunk.

Cast bridges give more volume? Some debate about this on here some time ago so I took one of of my mandolins and a digital sound meter from work and did some tests (it’s the engineer in me!) net result no appreciable difference between a cast bridge and folded metal type. If you can get a bridge that that increases the angle of the strings over the bridge you may get a very small difference but just because the material is different don’t expect any improvement, save your money and put it towards a better mandolin or get used to using heavier strings or thicker picks is my advice.

Not done any experiments on bridges but any solid one piece unit is bound to have better performance than those awful adjustable bridges, if you think about it a properly set up mandolin does not need further ‘adjustment’ that these little screws provide.

I noticed the comment that mandolins can be heard if there were no tenor banjos, however there would also need to be no fiddles or melodeon’s either for that to be true.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

The general opinion here seems to be that mandolins suck, shouldn’t be used in Irish/Scottish music, and I should choose a different instrument.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Certainly wouldn’t go there Katie.. Vacuums suck. So do black holes and tax audits. Mandolins are great additions to sessions. Play your mandolin proudly!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks Ross!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

It’s just a sad truth that it’s hard to make a mandolin work in a medium to large session. But if I recall correctly you said you mostly play solo anyway, no? I play my mandolin a lot, mostly because it can be played very quietly and not wake anyone up. Mandolins have a great sound and work really well in recordings and in ensembles where every one is mixed through a PA system as well.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

"The general opinion here seems to be that mandolins suck, shouldn’t be used in Irish/Scottish music, and I should choose a different instrument."

It’s been my main instrument (and Irish trad my main music) for over 20 years. I have a tenor banjo, but don’t really care much for it (although I very much respect and enjoy the playing of some players). As for mandolin-banjos (banjo-mandolins, banjolins etc.), don’t even go there (IMHO)! Yes, I’ve taken up the fiddle as an additional instrument, and I also play whistle but, as a mandolin player, I don’t recall ever meeting any disapproval of my choice of instrument.

BTW I’ve just had a skim through this thread and only noticed *one* comment discouraging you from playing the mandolin.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Well, to be fair, all the comments about not being able to yourself in a session can seem very discouraging, even if they weren’t mean to put her off. Do I remember you saying that you usually session with a smaller sized group?

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks guys! And yes, I do tend to play solo or with one other person. I’m not really concerned about being heard in large group. There’s not really that many other players in my area anyway.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

"The general opinion here seems to be that mandolins suck, shouldn’t be used in Irish/Scottish music, and I should choose a different instrument."

Nah I wouldn’t say that, its after all where I started from, its a great instrument but you’ve got to work within its limitations. Fine for playing alone, amplified (NOT in a session though), with a few friends and ok for the quieter sessions or indeed slow airs, for the more louder sessions you will find it difficult to hear yourself play which ain’t no fun. Just remember that you’ll learn transferable skills allowing you transfer to other instruments such as fiddle or tenor banjo when you’ve progressed up the learning scale. Enjoy I did.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks Fergus. I actually do plan on picking up the fiddle once I have the money for a nice one. One of reasons I chose the mandolin is so that I can have something that I can play quietly at all hours of the night without waking up my family and neighbors. 🙂 I come from the whistle and flute and unfortunately it’s not really possible to play those quietly. The thought of having transferable skills is also great.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I have to think over this idea that Mandolins can’t be heard. dfost has it pretty much spot on. Clarity (by that I mean precise right and left hand technique) makes all the difference. The two examples I can think of are Marla Finish and Dave Shapiro. I could hear Marla from across the room, playing with a couple of dozen other people and Dave in a smaller session , 8 or 9, when his mandolin was half covered by the table. The difference was that both were playing with precision so that each note could cut through, without dominating or getting lost in, the mix.

As mentioned, an additional sound port goes a long way towards being able to hear yourself. In some sessions I can have a hard time hearing myself play even my banjo, but I believe that has more to do with the overall "muddy" sound that can come from too large a group. (Note: ideal session size has been fought over several times here. Let’s not get sidetracked). The takeaway is to develop the skill to play clean and I believe volume will follow.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I had a few tunes with Dave Shapiro a few years ago at the festival in Drumshanbo and if I remember correctly he was talking about using right hand technique where the right hand/arm doesn’t rest on the instrument and that he reckoned this produced either better tone, volume or both. Either way, you could hear him loud and clear on mandolin and it sounded almost harp-like. It’s a while back though, and I presumably had a few pints on board, so I’m not sure if I’ve remembered his point or reasoning correctly!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I have both tenor banjo and a couple of mandolins…I prefer playing tunes on the mandolins now as the reach is easier and I like the sound they make better in my hands (I love other people playing the banjo however). I have an Eastman 804 (just more trimmings than the 504) which sounds very sweet, sustains but is quite quiet…and a Gibson A9 (f holes) which is louder and more punchy (a bit more like a banjo sound) and which works better in a session environment for me…so I’d say f holes give punch, oval gives sweet sustain with a bit less volume.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Stick to the mandolin!

My main instrument is a round hole, flat back Fylde, my back up is an Eastman.
You will be heard in company: Im not sure its a volume thing, maybe frequency and attack.
Keep playing and a real wood instrument should open up.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks guys! I agree about how the playing technique can affect being heard. I’ve actually decided to reach deep into my pockets and get a much nicer one.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I think you’d do well to check out the mandolincafe.com website, especially the forum. Here’s a section specifically for Celtic (What can you do?)/World folk styles with lots of info. You will find many fine players doing exactly what you want to do. It’s a friendly, supportive place loaded with accumulated wisdom and you might find builders you’ve never heard of who would be perfect for you. Their classified section is about as safe as a thing like that can be and there are always good deals to be had. Don’t be afraid to buy used…you get so much more for your money.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Fergus; your earlier comments about my suggestions for improving volume on a mandolin seem to have mixed up bridge and tailpiece; in the rock/electric world they would not have doubted me so much re the use of a heavy metallic material to improve sustain, and the heavier tailpiece encourages the energy to transfer to the less dense material, i.e. the bridge and then on to the soundboard; most mandolin tailpieces are pretty light bits of stuff and there are companies making and selling replacement mandolin bridges in bronze and brass. I would also recommend a perusal of Red Henry’s site on his mandolin bridge research work - it occupied no small part of his time, working on many design and material variations, and other people have taken his work and run even further with it - it’s not just " a lighter bridge will work better than one of these 2-piece things with brass screws ", it’s some genuinely interesting acoustic research.
As to mandolins being inaudible in sessions - we had a nice one last week, with 2 ( round hole ) mandolins, 3 fiddles, 2 flute/whistle musicians, and my bouzouki. Everything audible - perfection !

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

My Joe Foley mandolin was pretty mellow and not very loud. The original tailpiece was pretty light-weight and had some sharp corners where the original cover disappeared long before I purchased the instrument. I put a TR Allen tailpiece on it and now it’s brighter, louder - and doesn’t dig holes in my hand. When the volume starts to fall off, it’s time to change strings.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Eastman Mandolins are very nice to play but they seem to vary a bit, so it’s better if you can play them first.

However, I don’t think you’ll find a completely bad one, the craftsmanship is very good. The neck is a great shape too. You’d probably be safe with a used one from a good dealer.

I’ve had an oval hole 404 and 504 and they were very nice. I prefer the oval hole sound, a little more piano/harp like to my ears whereas the f hole ones seem a bit more gruff.

The Mandolin is a lovely session instrument.

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Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Here’s another a good word for the Mid Missouri (Big Muddy). I love mine: Round Hole M-4 with a Spruce Top, Rosewood back and African blackwood fretboard. It’s fairly loud, and the tone is very, very sweet. Mike, the builder/owner, is super nice as well. He is very communicative.

If you can find one, Gibson A-jr’s sometimes come in at around $1,000 or less and they are loud! I whined about needing a louder mandolin & my wailing touched the heart of a lovely lad at the Mandolin Cafe

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/

who sold me his at just under $1,000. It’s a 1923 Gibson JR Paddle head (round hole) that was reincarnated by a luthier in 1976. It’s LOUD and clearly very Irish. It can play sweet, pissy, angry, happy …. but never insipid. Make sure there’s a good return policy if you purchase by mail. If there’s a luthier in your area that can check out the instrument; even better. Gibson Jr’s don’t have "truss rods", but I’m not smart enough to know if that’s an issue or not. Happy plucking!

Here’s one in their classified: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/100155#100155

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Guernsey Pete - I re-read your posting and I still think you where trying to imply that fitting a cast bridge to a mandolin will improve its volume and even if that was not your intention others have made that wild claim. Take it from me it’s a myth, I proved it myself. Yes there is a lot of ‘talk’ in the rock world about improving guitars sustain but a lot of that is just ‘talk’ but in any case we are not looking at this are we. The best place to transfer energy to the instrument is at the middle (ish) of the top where it can vibrate to transfer that vibration into sound. The position of the tailpiece on the side is already very stiff and any improvement in tailpiece stiffness is only ever going to have minimal effect.

Regarding bridges, as I said I’ve not done any experiments to assitain the ‘best’ solution but I have in the past looked at ‘Red Henry’s’ site and whilst I’ve not studied it in any great detail it appears to be a) looking at replacing bridges on arch topped instruments, and as I said previously anything that replaces those horrid adjustable ones is going to be an improvement b) rather a bit of hit and miss type experimentation which lacks any quantative analysis (i.e. It says this bridge is louder but has not measured that loudness). Now there is nothing wrong with a bit of playing round with different materials and shapes as after all we are in a subjective area where the ‘colour’ (tone) of the sound is just as important as the ‘loudness’ but to state that this bridge is louder than that without any proper measurement is stretching it a bit. The bridge material used is very important and the physics are very simple the harder the material the more vibrations will be transferred to the body of the instrument. Use of a bone bridge is to my eyes is one of the ‘best’ choices for loudness and is used for example on my Portugese Guitar, and when I wanted to improve the inotation of my resonator mandolin it’s the material I used. Not many bridges are made of ‘soft’ materials and any change from one hard material to a slightly harder material can only ever have a marginal improvement -it’s simple physics. So what’s my conclusion to all this, to pick the instrument that meets your needs weather it’s loudness or tone should be done when buying the instrument in the shop, no amount of tinkering/experimentation will make significant improvements other than shore up any badly installed components etc. that should have been sorted in the first place. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Finally the mandolins place in a session, in a small session without a lot of background noise such as what you described a mandolin (or 2) is ok, however faced as I was last Thursday with 5 fiddles, 2 guitars, 1 accordion, 1 tenor banjo & 2 goat whackers and myself you can easily guess why I reached for the Tenor Banjo as the pub filled up!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Thanks for all of your opinions. Does anyone have any opinions on the big muddy m-11 for Irish trad?

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

hi all, I guess I just don’t get it but one time I went to a session and was practically abused by some woman who didn’t like the look of my mandolin. she shrieked "that’s a bluegrass mandolin" and I thought so what ,I’m playing irish tunes. so now I don’t bother with sessions and play my godin a4 through a roland micro cube. music is music to me whether it be traditional, folk, blues rock or jazz. and to me, people who want to be precious and purist about what they do are usually the kind of people who don’t have the chops to play anything else. no offence intended!

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Haha, harmoniclive - agree entirely! Good choice on the Roland micro cube - they’re great little things.

Re: “that’s a bluegrass mandolin”

Ah the session snobs - you get them they’re best ignored they go away eventually. What’s important on any session is what you play or sing is of interest to your fellow musicians, not what you play it on as after all most will be playing on modern instruments and as such have no real connection to the "tradition". What’s worse in a session is when people constantly play stuff that no one plays/sings along with or even leads to a rapid exit to the bar of your fellow players, trouble is with those type of folk they turn up the following week(s) and do it again and just don’t get it!

Rubbing along with your fellow musicians is what is important and whilst you may want to play different stuff if the rest of the gang are not with your style why bother?

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

Hi Katie, I got an m-4-11, an m-4 with rosewood back and sides, while I’m no great mandolin player, I really like it and I can say it is good for Irish music.

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

I am curious - have you bought a mandolin by now? Which one did you decide on?

Re: Is this mandolin good for Celtic music?

The used Davy Stuart mandolin they have at Fiddlers Green in Austin, Texas would be a great and not expensive choice for Celtic music. I mean, if Andy Irvine plays one of his mandolin family instruments …