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Thread: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

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    Default A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    I'm clear on the difference between an A-style and an F-style mandolin. But I don't know the significance of the numbers that follow the letters. Please educate me.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Someone else might have a better answer, but to my knowledge the short answer is... 4 = oval hole & 5 = f-holes

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    The numbers refer to the appointments.

    A styles Junior, [plain] A, A-1, A-2, A-3, and A-4 all have oval holes, and the amount of trim increases in order from Junior [no trim to speak of] to A-4 [the most trim]. Numbers 5 and above are usually F-hole mandolins.

    F-2's and F-4's are oval hole mandolins, with style 4 having more trim. F styles 5 and above are F-hole mandolins. The F-5 is Gibson's uppermost mandolin model, even though there are other models with higher numbers.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    There are also Gibson "A" mandolins with f-holes, the A-40 and A-50 being the most common. The A-50 had a solid, carved back; the A-40's back was laminated. There were also A-0 and A-00 mandolins in the 1930's and '40's; the A-0 had an oval hole, the A-00 started out with an oval hole, changed to f-hole in 1934.

    The A-5 (other than the single f-hole example produced in the '20's Loar era) was, schizophrenically, two unrelated models. Starting in 1957, for over a decade it was a two-point, oval-hole model. It then changed to a quasi-F-model "lump scroll" also with an oval hole.

    Those looking for consistency and logic in Gibson's model designations, may find themselves confused. I often am.
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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Gibson Serial Numbers

    What do the Gibson model numbers stand for?

    This information originally appeared on CoMando Listserv.

    A - ovoid mandolins
    B - banjo - also RB - resonator banjo
    C - classical guitar
    E - electric instruments ES= electric Spanish guitar
    F - florentine mandolins
    G - guitar (steel string)
    H - mandola
    J - jumbo guitar
    K - mandocello
    L - guitars
    J = mandobass
    O= (orchestra?) guitar
    U = harp guitar
    TL = tenor lute (4 or 8 string tenor neck on f- hole pear shaped mandola body)
    RB - Regular (5-string) banjo
    MB- mandolin banjo
    TB = tenor banjo
    PB= plectrum banjo
    CB = cello banjo
    UB = ukulele banjo
    J = jumbo guitar
    C=classical guitar
    B = guitar (B-25)
    TG= tenor guitar
    EB= electric bass guitar
    EH = electric hawaiian guitar
    ES = Electric Spanish guitar

    Now part of an old and largely non-maintained area of the Cafe most people don't even know exists, The Mandolin Glossary.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Sometimes if you can see the instruments you can see the difference. Dan Beimborn's mandolinarchive.com gives you an opportunity to search not only for instruments by serial number but you can also look at models and such by year.

    Look for the listings where there are images available.

    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/perl/...ndolins.pl?all
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Confusing isn't it. Not really the more familiar you become the more it makes sense.
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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by bradeasley View Post
    Someone else might have a better answer, but to my knowledge the short answer is... 4 = oval hole & 5 = f-holes
    Also A (and F) designation is reserved for arch top/back mandolins?

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    Also A (and F) designation is reserved for arch top/back mandolins?
    Yes that is my understanding.
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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    At least some of the A-Century mandolins had flat backs, and also some of the early A-00's.
    Last edited by rcc56; Oct-12-2020 at 10:13pm.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    In the early days of Gibson they numbered whichever instrument, A or F with an ascending number order where 1 was the plainest and 4 was the most ornate. When they decided to make the 5 series which would be the top of the line, they boxed themselves in. They couldn't make a 6 and say now this is better than the 5 after saying the 5 was the best, so that's why F-7's, 10's and 12's are less well appointed than the 5.
    After watching Steve Earle's Guitar Town on Youtube I learned Martin got into a similar situation over the sizing of their guitars. I had never paid much attention to any Martin other than Dreadnaughts and had never realized their numerical system. But it turns out that a Model 1 was the biggest guitar they made and the higher the number the smaller the guitar. They must have thought they would never make larger guitars but when the size began to go up they had nowhere to go but down. Thus you got the 0,00, and 000 until they saw how ridiculous that was and began with the letter prefixes like the D.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    To me the big difference in Gibson is the neck joint and elevated fretboard. The A and F models - 4 and below all have 12 fret neck joints and fretboards that rest on the top. I don't have a problem with that at all!

    In the last 20 or so years, folks started building hybrid a-models with oval holes with the 15-fret neck joint. These are odd ducks to me and I don't like them. Others do.

    If you want the oval hole sound, get the 12-fret neck joint. If you want the bluegrass sound, get a 15-fret neck joint.

    Others differ.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Gibson listing above omits "LG," which was assigned to some smaller acoustic guitar models. I once heard it was for "ladies' guitar," but that might be just a rationalization by those crazed rationalists who insist that model designation initials must stand for something.

    I own a Gibson LG-3/4, which looks like a shrunken J-200 with the rounded bouts. From the late '40's/early '50's, I believe.
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    Exclamation Semi confusing the A4, A5, F4, F5 numbers issue..

    Non Gibson Builders mix it up with necks and bridge locations of 5's, but an Oval sound hole of a 4//
    Gibson made (& Jethro Burns owned) an oval hole 2 point with an F5 neck ..
    12th fret out, on neck , not over the body ..

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    In the early days of Gibson they numbered whichever instrument, A or F with an ascending number order where 1 was the plainest and 4 was the most ornate. When they decided to make the 5 series which would be the top of the line, they boxed themselves in. They couldn't make a 6 and say now this is better than the 5 after saying the 5 was the best, so that's why F-7's, 10's and 12's are less well appointed than the 5.
    After watching Steve Earle's Guitar Town on Youtube I learned Martin got into a similar situation over the sizing of their guitars. I had never paid much attention to any Martin other than Dreadnaughts and had never realized their numerical system. But it turns out that a Model 1 was the biggest guitar they made and the higher the number the smaller the guitar. They must have thought they would never make larger guitars but when the size began to go up they had nowhere to go but down. Thus you got the 0,00, and 000 until they saw how ridiculous that was and began with the letter prefixes like the D.
    Then in the 60's they made the A5 and A12 mandolins that weren't A shaped at all but were F shaped with a lump scroll. Nobody can say they were better than anything.
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Gibson listing above omits "LG," which was assigned to some smaller acoustic guitar models. I once heard it was for "ladies' guitar," but that might be just a rationalization by those crazed rationalists who insist that model designation initials must stand for something.
    Well, yeah. Like U for Harp Guitar. The others must mean something, right? The banjo naming system was a gift. The rest are up for grabs. The only thing Gibson ever called Florentine was a banjo with images of Venice on it.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    ...The only thing Gibson ever called Florentine was a banjo with images of Venice on it.
    Mike, right about the banjo, but wrong that it was "the only thing" called "Florentine." For no apparent reason Gibson called its EM-200 electric solid-body mandolin, introduced in 1954, "Florentine." Two-point body, F-model headstock; here's an explanatory OldFrets article about it.
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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    The author said Florentine, do you have any Gibson advertising material that calls it that? That would seal it, without it just people using a name.

    I sit corrected, I just found reference to that name in a Gibson price list. That really puts the F=Florentine argument to rest. A Florentine mandolin apparently is a two-pointer solid electric. Who knew?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    And the Florentine Controversy marches on!

    1928 Gibson Florentine tenor guitar, with all the Venetian fretboard inlays, rhinestones all over the headstock, etc., etc.

    Gibson Florentine Les Paul, in Caribbean Blue; appears from the description that G considers the sharp-pointed body cutaway a "Florentine" feature.

    Regarding "Florentine":

    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

    -- Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland
    Allen Hopkins
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    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Default Re: A4, A5, F4, F5--what do the numbers mean?

    The tenor is just a case of banjo envy but the Les Paul? Now the cutaway defines a Florentine? My head is spinning. It's still not an F style though.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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