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Mandolin Mondays - Builders by the Numbers

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Mandolin Mondays

303 Episodes into Mandolin Mondays and we had a question with no known answer: what builders and companies appeared most often?

With that goal in mind we set out with an Excel spreadsheet and visited every episode, the results listed below.

Left out of the mix were one-off instruments built by the musician or non-commercial builder (less than a handful), a couple of antique no-name models, and the individual participants of Mike Marshall's Artistworks video with 32 students in tow. The information for those folks just didn't exist. Also left out of the mix, Sir Paul McCartney's epic Mandolin Mondays with his Antony Dixon mandolin because, well, it's in class of its own.

We assumed Gibson, with its century of mandolin building would lead the pack, and that turned out to be true. Not so fortunate, Martin or Lyon & Healey who returned not a single appearance.

The numbers aren't particularly intended to demonstrate brand strength or prove any kind of point. One could even argue the fact that there were SO many brands that only appeared once or twice that much of this isn't important. An interesting exercise that provided the answer to the question we had, and does appear to give us a clue about what a lot of musicians chose to play in a series now headed towards six years online.

By The Numbers

*The first year of Mandolin Mondays was David Benedict posting only videos of himself. The series eventually transitioned to guests with David still making regular appearances. For that reason, Flatiron and Apitius — the two brands he owned and played — accounted for 53 appearances of the Flatiron and 33 of the Apitius. To make better sense of the comparison, David's appearances with those two instruments was counted only once each for all episodes.

Gibson          32
Gilchrist 16
Northfield 15
Collings 14
Nugget 8
Ellis 7
Weber 7
Heiden 5
Krishot 5
Sorensen 4
McClanahan 3
Austin Clark 3
Daley 3
Prucha 3
Duff 3
Kentucky 3
Woll 3
Capek 3
Apitius* 3
Flatiron* 3
Pava 2
Rattlesnake 2
Red Diamond 2
Arrow 2
Anderson 2
Brian Dean 2
Girouard 2
Aleyas 2
Giacomel 2
Randy Wood 2
Vanden 2
Eastman 2
Sobell 2
Dowling 2
Kimble 2
Single appearances by the following builders: Lawrence Smart, Stelling, Blue Marlin, Eastwood, Voight, Solivan, Stadler, Bayard Blain, Hinde, Woodley, Buckeye, J Bovier, Wade, Manoel Andrade, Paul Tozer, Wes Archer, Stanley Lorton, Phoenix, Vessel, Sullivan, Jean Marc Perrin, Hugh Hansen, San Juan, Rose, Fredholm, Silverangel, Jade, Kerman, Winteringham, Carey, TKD, Gabriele Pandini, Hamlett, National, Pomeroy, Orser, The Bluegrass Mandolin, The Loar, Calace Raffaele, Webber, Vana, Monteleone, Mintu Biswas, Carl Spann, Lebeda, Kalamazoo, Turkey Creek, JJ Ryan, Doug Clark, Mowry, Fender, Davidson, San Juan, Summit, Ribeiro, Bulas, Thijs van der Harst.

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Updated Oct-26-2023 at 11:59am by Mandolin Cafe



  1. Cary Fagan's Avatar
    Interesting. Thanks for doing all the work. It would be possibly useful if one could look up the videos by builder. Most simply, if there was a list of the builders that showed the names of the players for that builder as well. Just a thought.
  2. GreenMTBoy's Avatar
    They all sounded great !
    But the winner is Gibson !
  3. Drew Egerton's Avatar
    an impressive showing by Northfield in their relatively short time in business!
  4. MontanaMatt's Avatar
    He needs to have me or another Ratliff owner show off the fine work Audey produces
  5. grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
    A true labour of love. Very interesting.

    I have followed this series from day one finding it extremely interesting, entertaining and also educating. Some videos stuck in my mind more than others and for different reasons. You listen closer to people that you know personally (and occasionally pick with). Some videos were (to me) references of the tone of a certain brand of instrument. Other videos clearly showed what musicianship is all about. Other videos appear to reflect a snapshot of a musicians day.

    It looks like I will go and check certain mandolin brands in the series (again). Also Gibson headlines the list, but does not reflect the countless models that were played, thus having the most varied sound of all brands. And Northfield is the brand that obviously gives the most bang for the buck, thus having appeal for many pro musicians.

    All in all, hats off to Mandolin Mondays.
  6. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
    There are likely more Gibson mandolins strung up than all other mandolins in total in the complete list. Many of those in the series are between 90 to 110+ years old. I wouldn't necessarily say that's cause for big celebration of Gibson, but at the same time I don't have any kind of problem with that number. Their strength is clearly teens instruments that are over 100 years old and the F models of the 20s, a few 30s. I could have missed it but no one I saw was playing a 50s to 70s Gibson. A couple F5L models I recall, an expected amount of more modern models. That's another research project but that's my take on Gibson.

    Woll and Brian Dean clearly stand out as the class of bowlback builders but since this is largely an American mandolin crowd that probably goes unnoticed. And there were so few players of those styles that those numbers carry a lot of extra weight. If there were more of those players in the classical arena Kerman would likely move up as a popular choice.

    There could be a lot of different ways to evaluate and present this information. I'm not sure it warrants the effort at this point. Grabbing over 300 links, organizing names and web addresses by builders, etc. might happen some day. Not going to say it won't happen. We'll see if this actually generates any interest.
  7. scotta's Avatar
    Thanks for the efforts on this David, and for Mandolin Mondays overall. An excellent resource I look forward to each week! I agree with Cary - indexing by builder/player would be valuable.
  8. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
    Here are the Gibson entries:

    #34 John Reischman with Loar
    #56 Adam Tanner with 1928 F4
    #60 Jarrod Walker with Doyle Lawson model
    #67 Marla Fibish with 1922 A model
    #80 Alan Bibey with 1923 Loar
    #101 Thomas Cassell with Sam Bush model won in mandolin contest
    #103 Scott Napier with 1939 F5
    #110 Mike Compton with 1923 Loar
    #132 Jacob Means with 1994 F5L
    #134 Dan Beimborn with 1909 F4
    #140 Akira Otsuka with John Duffey F12
    #153 Roland White with 2004 F5
    #155 Roberto Cubero with modern F5-G
    #171 David Harvey with Hall of Fame F5
    #174 Mike Guggino with 20s Loar
    #177 Robin Bullock with 1920 A
    #187 Mike Mullins with 1937 F7
    #203 Sierra Hull with modern F5
    #204 Jesper Rubner-Petersen '96 F5L
    #205 Ekaterina Skliar modern A9
    #214 Daniel Patrick modern F5G
    #229 Adrian Gross early Gibson H1
    #232 Sam Frangos-Rhods 2012 F5L
    #247 Gabriel Wiseman 2004 Alan Bibey model
    #250 Chris Thile with Loar
    #260 Bobby Osborn '25 Fern
    #263 Mike Marshall with Loar
    #264 Wyatt Ellis with new F5
    #273 Flynn Cohen with early A model
    #280 C.E. Jones modern F9
    #284 Joon Laukamp modern F9
    #294 Matt Mundy 80s Fern

    Appears there are just 32 Gibson entries, not 33 on double checking. It's half and half vintage to modern. Doesn't matter but bears mention that at least three of those modern ones were gratis.
  9. Sue Rieter's Avatar
    Huh. No Strad-O-Lins at all
  10. Steve Sorensen's Avatar
    As a little one-man shop that just crossed the 10-year anniversary last month, I'll admit, I'm ridiculously proud have had Mandolin Mondays feature four artists playing Sorensen mandolins!

    Thank you all!

    Updated Oct-27-2021 at 8:47am by Steve Sorensen
  11. j4music's Avatar
    The real winner is the mandolin community, with so many builders represented, all of them producing quality instruments. I'm amazed at the number of builders. Did the spread sheet count them?
    Happy to see Krishot here. I love my '99 A. Eduard Kristofek, the Czech builder, is making supremely beautiful instruments. Thanks for putting together this list. The Café is rich in data among other things!
  13. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by j4music
    The real winner is the mandolin community, with so many builders represented, all of them producing quality instruments. I'm amazed at the number of builders. Did the spread sheet count them?
    All the builders are listed above. Over 90 by our count which is impressive.
  14. Jeroen's Avatar
    Did we miss Thijs van der Harst, who built Olga Egorova's octave mandolin and has a whole line of remarkable mandolin family instruments? A lovely dry and gritty little two-pointer has been my mandolin of choice for years now.
  15. sgarrity's Avatar
    Biggest surprise is Northfield. They have made massive inroads in a relatively short amount of time, especially with the younger generation.
  16. Marcus CA's Avatar
    I think that Northfield has always dialed in their price points really well, which probably adds to their appeal to the young'uns. Weber was the only major builder that had F models at similar prices to the Northfield F models. The lowest Collings F model is a bit more than even Northfield's Big Mon. Of course, that's Pac Rim economics at work, like 'em or not. I find it interesting that Eastman and the other Pac Rim mandolin companies don't seem interested in competing with Northfield at those price points, given that Northfield has clearly established the existence of that market.
  17. EvanElk's Avatar
    Anyone know which episode was the Sullivan?
  18. Dagger Gordon's Avatar
    Czech builders have done well, with significant showings from Krishot, Prucha and Capek, in what is a largely US list.

    On a related subject, I note one appearance each by Dowling and Springwell. I think both of these are made by Scottish luthier Rory Dowling of Taran Guitars. Springwell is named after an album by Kevin MacLeod, who had a hand in the Springwell model design. I would say that Taran should get 2 appearances in the list.

    Again in relation to non-US builders, I am surprised that there was only one by the Israeli builder Kerman, as most Israeli players seem to play his instruments
  19. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by EvanElk
    Anyone know which episode was the Sullivan?
    Caleb Klauder -
  20. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
    Dagger, I've updated to reflect that. Good catch, and also added in Thijs van der Harst which apparently was missed because the builder's name wasn't listed until the very last in a lengthy write-up. It's usually in the first sentence or two.
  21. Dagger Gordon's Avatar
  22. EvanElk's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe
  23. JonDoug's Avatar
    The diversity is amazing, reflecting a 120-year-old mando market and all the terrific modern builders. We also need to thank David for his wide network and inclusiveness of players for the wide variety of instruments they bring!

    But, there is one obvious gap here: not one Rogue mandolin! There are tons out there! I'm not sure if anyone has shown up with a laminate-top instrument. Maybe David needs to "double dare" some terrific player (himself?) to show us what can be done with the humblest of mandolins.
  24. grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
    I was so sucked into this...

    Certain things struck me.

    1. Instruments
    Indeed the variety of instruments was astounding.

    The "flagship" company of this mostly US-centric crowd shows mostly "grassers" with the odd folky (f.ex. Fiibsh). I would have loved to see a classical mandolin player using what´s available on the Gibson market...

    Red Diamond:
    It struck me that this brand that targets the obvious bluegrass market is shown playing entirely non bluegrass material.

    Cz mandolins:
    They need to be represented strongly. Why? The Czech Republic (Slovakia too) is Europe's bluegrass stronghold. From there the musical gospel is being spread. And the czech instruments deliver (for people on a budget).

    That company has done everything right. Having their instruments built by inexpensive experts (low wages due to low costs of living in China). They market their instruments very well. The instruments are great and consistently so. They target people who do not want to dip into the high price segment (Gilchrist, Dudenbostel, Nugget, Red Diamond, Ellis, Duff etc.) but who do not want to search out an individual luthier and try out their builds.

    Woll (etc.):
    There are too few classical mandolin players in Mandolin Monday´s! I would like to see a lot more. They all bring interesting instruments to the table. But what´s more. They also show their interesting playing technique.

    Duff (on a personal note):
    I was astounded to listen to Duff mandolins played so differently. As Duff mandolins are dear to my heart I loved the looks of the three instruments (except the strap button) as well as the sound but was torn between like and dislike of the portrayal of each instrument. Isn´t that funny. I sat there listening and thinking about what I would have done different.

    None??? This has to change!
  25. grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
    The players:
    It was incredible to notice that each player brought an entirely personal approach to presenting their instrument. It was like looking inside a person. Despite the fact that some music that was played did not do anything for me I have to tip my hat to each and every person on the list for presenting an entirely personal, individual emotional and thoughtfull rendition of mandolin music.

    Tim O´Brien (Nugget A-5) for example. He presented his mandolin by showing a practice regimen. Lordy Lord, Mike Compton (Lloyd Loar F-5)... I was a little disappointed because I wanted to see him play his day to day mandolin... Yet it was revealing to listen to the blues on an instrument that back in the day would definetely not have been used for playing the blues. Forrest O´Connor looked like he would just show some little musical thing on a side note (with a very nice Duff A-5, why didn´t he keep it?). Sierra Hull (Gibson MM F-5) came up with a special piece for Mandolin Mondays. Joon Launkamp (Gibson F-9) showed that Germans are usually very top heavy with about everything, even music (Help Me I'm Trapped in a Zoom Meeting). The astounding Emory Lester's (Northfield F-5) rendition of "Eight More Miles To Louisville" was a tour de force and a vivid presentation of what music theory can make you do. Florian Rumpf (Wolle) and Julien Martineau (Brian Dean) gave somewhat mini concerts. Roberto Cubero (Gibson F-5G; by the way haven´t seen him post for a while) showed that mandolin music fits very (!) well with castilian music. And the list could go on and on.
  26. grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
    Each and every episode gave back something to the mandolin community. What a wonderfull resource this is. I would like the pursuit of more musicians presenting their approach to mandolin music. I would also like to see previous musicians revisit Mandolin Mondays with a different take on mandolin Music (like Sierra Hull tackle a polish tango [Polish tango was world famous, no joke], Chris Thile chewing on a German folk song, Carlo Aonzo playing a bluegrass instrumental etc.).

    Like I said: I got sucked into this...
  27. Alfons's Avatar
    Data mining the Cafe! How cool is that? Interesting stuff, including the responses.
    A lot of geeky similarities between musicians and engineers. Of course some of us are both.
    Thanks Scott and David