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Thread: Advice on a Mandola?

  1. #1

    Default Advice on a Mandola?

    Greetings! I have been kicking around the idea of getting a mandola for a while now, and i think I'm going to take it. Now I have been looking at getting the Eastman Mandola mda315 since I've heard good things about it, but frankly I wasn't the most sold on the feel of Eastman Mandolins and Octave Mandolins I've played in the past. I've been playing mandolin for about 6 years now and I just love the deeper tone of a mandola just not as deep as an Octave. Does anyone have any advice on getting a mandola, any good builders or models (preferably under $1000) that'd you'd recommend, or just any advice in general about mandolas?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    If you want a carved-top F-style mandola there is really no alternative in your price range to the Eastman 315, which represent outstanding value for money. If you are happy with a flat-top mandola there is more choice, such as Trinity College and Ashbury, but many top mandolin makers don't bother offering mandolas because of low demand. This means there is a low supply of second-hand mandolas also. I was lucky and imported a used Girouard carved-top model. You could wait a long time to spot a used carved-top for sale and you will be lucky to get one within your price range. If I were you I would get a new Eastman. You might find you fall in love with it and if you want to trade up you will not lose much money on it.
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  3. #3
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    I previously owned a Trinity College Mandola that now resides with our youngest son. I liked it quite alot and sometimes wish I hadn't given it up. It gave my Weber a good run and for less than half the cost was a lot of mandola for the money.
    The Eastmans may be more available and sometimes show up used here in the classifieds. I have previously owned two Eastman mandolins and found them to provide a decent bang for the buck.
    I sometimes see vintage mandolas in your price range here in the classifieds but would assume they would not come without issues.

    I found a mandola makes a good addition to my arsenal of instruments.
    I also found that I prefer oval hole mandolas vs. f hole mandolins. The mandolas don't need the extra volume and projection of a mandolin and I think the oval hole softens the tone and adds sustain. Just my humble opinion.

    Good luck
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
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    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    OK who sells a quality mandola case! It seems that these things are very elusive! I seen on Amazon they had one but for an Octave Mandolin? I need a nice modern one for a 1924 Gibson Tenor Lute that was turned into a Mandola? Any help would be great!

  6. #5
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    OK who sells a quality mandola case! It seems that these things are very elusive! I seen on Amazon they had one but for an Octave Mandolin? I need a nice modern one for a 1924 Gibson Tenor Lute that was turned into a Mandola? Any help would be great!
    As you know mandola cases are rarer than mandolas. I placed a wanted ad here in the classifieds and came up with a very nice Collings mandola case for my Coleman. It didn't come cheap. Supply and demand!
    I had previously tried buying one directly from both Collings and Weber. Neither were selling. Not sure why as to my way of thinking they could always buy more cases than mandolas they were building. But, perhaps, there was a hidden reason I could not be aware of.
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

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  8. #6
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Yep mandola cases are difficult to find. I get mine from Cedar Creek custom shop. Perfect fit every time, but not cheap. I can do a flat top mandola for around $1000 USD but then you need to add on the cost of the case so goes over the budget.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  9. #7
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    There is this used Weber Hyalite on Reverb for just a bit above your stated price range...

    https://reverb.com/item/35501448-web...RoCYiwQAvD_BwE

    NFI
    Last edited by Charles E.; Sep-01-2020 at 7:40pm.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  10. #8

    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    I have a 2-year-old Eastman Mandola in my shop for a setup and I put it up against a Weber hyalite Mandola that I just got in. There is no comparison in tone. Admittedly the Eastman hasn't been played much and it's been sitting in its case for a while and the Weber hyalite has been extensively played going by the wear on the top and the frets.

    I agree with the other comment that you don't need an F style when it comes to Mandola because you're not chasing volume, you're chasing that deeper tone.

  11. #9

    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Thanks everyone on the advice! It gives me more things to think about; I think for the moment I'll go with the eastman and see if I truly love the feel of a mandola and if so, upgrade. Otherwise I'd think I'd rather upgrade my mandolin if we're talking multiple thousands range...

  12. #10

    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    You could try an Eastman dealer for case.

    As for getting a mandola I've lost count of the number of people who buy one and it never gets played. May be an idea to take a cheap mandolin, get rid of the E strings, put the G<D and A all one up to be 3rd, 2nd and 1st and get a thick low string and tune it to C for the bottom.

    Play that for a while to see if a mandola is going to be used before buying an expensive one. Yes you won't get the actual mandola sound but it may define whether or not the mandola will ever be used.

    Just a thought from someone who has had the mandola thought a couple of times, acted upon it and then realised I was never going to play it and had difficulty selling it. I did have a very good Eastman. I also had four Sunburst 16" scale ones custom made in China and they were brilliant. I ended up selling them all.

  13. #11
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    I had an Eastman Mandola.....didn't bond with it in any way so it went away. Too "celtic" sounding to my ear....and that is being kind. If you can get one of Coombes mandolas for 1k.....even without a case. That sounds like a real deal!

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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Got a great Flatiron 3MW mandola from Stan Jay at Mandolin Brothers. Sometimes Flatiron mandolas appear on the Mandolin Cafe classifieds. But I am still pining for a Gibson mandola.
    David Herman

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Having a bunch of mandolas, I'm not the typical owner Jimmy P apparently runs into (Post #10). Right now, my most-played mandolin family instrument seems to be a Stahl mandola from around the 1920's, built by the Larson brothers. I also have a Sobell medium-scale-length instrument I've strung CGDA as a mandola, and a 125-year-old Washburn bowl-back mandola that I use for historical programs.

    Having said that, I owned an Eastman MDA-615 for several years, but let it go in trade because I wasn't playing it much. I guess the music for which I play mandola, didn't sit well with the carved-top f-hole sound. The Eastman was a very nice instrument, but sorta reminded me of a too-low-voiced bluegrass machine, and I couldn't find a place where it fit into my musical needs.

    I concur in the recommendation of a Flatiron "pancake" mandola, if you can find one on the used market (they were made in the 1980's). I have a Flatiron "bouzouki" octave mandolin, bought new around 1985, and it's been extremely satisfactory over the years.
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    A new Big Muddy mandola would be in the OP's price range.

    Not a carved top, but the sound and playability of these is very nice from my limited experience.

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    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    I have a custom-built arch top oval hole Weber that sits right between an OM and a mandola and can be strung/tuned either way. I love it either way but especially as a mandola. I will, at some point, build myself a flat-top 16" mandola because I am a real fan of flat-top mandolin family instruments in general and like building them as well as playing them. I agree with the recommendations that you pursue a flat-top mandola both for the savings and for the sound. It would be a lot of fun and quite versatile.
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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    I bought an Eastman OM. I love it capoed at the fifth fret (mandola scale). I might buy a higher end OM and do the same thing. Seems like the perfect solution to me.

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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    A new Big Muddy mandola would be in the OP's price range.

    Not a carved top, but the sound and playability of these is very nice from my limited experience.

    Mick
    I agree - I've played a couple of used Big Muddy's at a local store and found them to be quite nice. They were in a room with some much fancier mandos, so I was not initially inclined to be impressed by them but they changed my mind! I got to play one of them numerous times over a couple of months and it played well and sounded very nice. I was very pleasantly surprised.

  21. #18

    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    My primary interest is playing Irish music on mandolin and GDAE tenor banjo. I really like where the mandola sits sonically. I mostly learn by ear. Is it reasonable to play mandola solo with the same fingerings and fret positions as the banjo and mandolin, accepting whatever key that is? Obviously playing with others I'd need to learn the fretboard. OM is an option, but they don't really call to me.

  22. #19
    Registered User Rickker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Sorry to drift off the topic a bit, but maybe a good time to clear up just what is the difference between a mandola and an ocatave mandolin.

    Am I correct with the following?

    A Mandola is tuned like a viola, CGDA, and has a longer neck and scale length than a mandolin. The notes on the G,D and A strings have the same pitch as those on a mandolin.

    The Octave Madolin is tuned just the same as a regular mandolin, but all strings are tuned one octave lower. Scale length is about 20". The standard bluegrass G chop chord (D-G-B-G) is almost impossible to fret with standard length fingers.

    So, here is my question: If the objective is to get an instrument with lower-pitched notes and more sustain than a mandolin, why would you pick one over the other? Both are tuned in 5ths and use regular mandolin chord shapes. Is there an inherent difference in sound quality or playability?

    I am asking because I am curious and have never had either one in my hands. Thanks.

    ....Rickker

  23. #20

    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    I have similar interests and curiosities about the mandola. You might check out Pomeroy Instrument's website. He's posted lots of sound files of completed instruments and you can hear the difference. I really like the tone of the mandola, which is generally lower than the more piercing mandolin. Octave mandolin, for me, takes that too far and results in huge sustain. At that point, I'd rather play the banjo (thinking Irish music in my case).

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Interesting question, Rikker, would be a great topic maybe for its own thread. In a recent Mandolins & Beer episode with Walter Carter, Walter had some interesting insights about his preference for playing mandola. Id highly recommend having a listen.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    And just to mention, we do have a CBOM Forum devoted to larger mandolin-family instruments, including mandolas.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    OK who sells a quality mandola case! It seems that these things are very elusive! I seen on Amazon they had one but for an Octave Mandolin? I need a nice modern one for a 1924 Gibson Tenor Lute that was turned into a Mandola? Any help would be great!
    Hobgoblin lists a few. Nowhere near $1K.

    Has anyone used them?

  27. #24
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    H scale is a reasonable reach (.4M )
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
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  28. #25

    Default Re: Advice on a Mandola?

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    Hobgoblin lists a few. Nowhere near $1K.

    Has anyone used them?
    I play the Ashbury Style E32 Octave Mandolin, scale length about 20 inches. I love it. Check some of my vids.

    I did play the Rathlin 415 mm scale length while I was deciding on what to buy at a museum-like shop here in Lyon, France. The Rathlin is quite a bit cheaper, but I think looks a lot better than in the photo, https://www.hobgoblin-usa.com/local/...tenor-mandola/
    -a sort of bare wood finish, really nice. Reminded me of the finish on some of the new Martin guitars.

    Unfortunately though I played the Octave about 5 minutes before playing the Rathlin... huge difference in tone (on this particular one). The Octave when played at the fourth fret (so same scale length) is so much richer and deeper, the pick has a nice bounce on the strings.

    So in the end I bought that and often use a capo.

    I think the problem for me was that I couldn’t find a large/huge bodied and short necked A style mandola. Well, they had a lot of Eastern European instruments but these had a lot of sympathetic resonance, I think it’s called, from the other strings vibrating at the same time high pitch ringing rather than woody hum tone, and v low string tension. I was looking for an instrument that plays one (rich) note at a time.
    But it depends what you’re looking for.

    Good luck.

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