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Thread: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

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    Default What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    I often see mandolins classified as celtic, bluegrass, classical or good or not for irish etc.

    What, if any, are the characteristics of those different kind of mandolins?
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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    I would say it's more of a personal preference. Bare in mind that Gibson mandolins arose when classical music was popular and Bluegrass was not yet defined. In Europe people seem to prefer German, Roman, or Neopolitan bowlbacks. In North America the preference seems to be for arch tops ranging from Gibson to Phoenix Neoclassical to Lyon & Healy models A-C. Examples of the various preferences include Caterina Lichtenburg on a German style bowlback; Sebastiaan de Grebber on an Embergher bowlback; and Chris Thile on a Gibson etc. Those mandolins all have different characteristics which speak to the performers individual preference. The same applies to string and pick choice by classical players.

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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    You can play any style of music on any type of mandolin. That said, there are certain tones that are generally thought of as more appropriate for certain styles. F-hole mandolins generally have more "punch" and projection. Bluegrass players usually like that. Oval hole mandolins have a fuller, rounder tone which is often desired for classical and celtic music. Bowl backs have a lighter, brighter tone which classical and Italian musicians often prefer.

    Scale length can also make a difference. Flat tops and bowl backs have shorter scale length, which can make some things easier, like playing first position fiddle tunes.

    Banjo mandolins are loud and have a very short scale and little sustain, which makes them perfect for Irish traditional music.

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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    I often associate wet tuning with classical mandolins.
    -the string pairs are not exactly the same pitch, but have a precise difference.
    It can sound beautiful.

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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    I often associate wet tuning with classical mandolins.
    -the string pairs are not exactly the same pitch, but have a precise difference.
    It can sound beautiful.
    What? Can you post an example of something played in this tuning?

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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?



    From "dry" to "wet(ter)"

    Obviously the mndln's palette is more limited.
    Last edited by catmandu2; Oct-29-2020 at 9:38pm.

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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    I dig blues, and my oval mando sounds bluesier than my f-hole mando does.

    But both sound good for any style I might play.

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    Also, some genres like specific techniques -- bluegrass likes the chop; celtic uses a lot of open strings and as much sustain as can be acquired so it sounds more like other typical ITM instruments like box or flute or fiddle, choro likes a lighter, ringier sound than some other genres. And each musician tries to get as close as s/he can to the preferred technique for the music being played so they gravitate to instruments that provide that sound. That's not to say you can't play choro on a bowlback or ITM on a carved top f-hole barkmaster, just that some musicians prefer specific types of instruments for the sounds they want to hear.
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    Thanks for this, the last three times someone said it sounded too 'celtic' for them I had no idea what was being said. :-)
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    I often see mandolins classified as celtic, bluegrass, classical or good or not for irish etc.

    What, if any, are the characteristics of those different kind of mandolins?
    The only type of mandolin clearly genre specific is the F5 style for bluegrass. That is the only more or less cast in concrete. Classical folks tend to like bowlbacks, but not exclusively - with the super elites playing Kermans. As far as "not good for" I would say that is a myth. Mandolin can do it all.
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    In 100 years time this will probably be a classical instrument:

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    Classical or high end Folk:
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    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    Directionality is a significant factor. What the audience (or other players) out front are hearing may not be the same as what the person playing hears. When playing in a jam with other mucicians, being able (or unable) to hear one's own instrument can make or break the situation. Some mandolins allow the player to hear much better than others.

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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    True enough that any mandolin will do, but to me old music like “Celtic” tunes sounds way better on a flattop, oval-hole mandolin. The thuddy, airy tone just lends itself to the older music IMO.
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    True enough that any mandolin will do, but to me old music like “Celtic” tunes sounds way better on a flattop, oval-hole mandolin. The thuddy, airy tone just lends itself to the older music IMO.
    I entirely agree. But I don't attribute that to the mandolin. I think the characteristic creamy tone of the F5, and many Loar Era Gibsons, that bluegrass sound, is so ingrained in my head that it sticks out in any other context. Just from familiarity, it always sounds like a bluegrasser playing traditional Irish.

    I am not sure I would feel the same way if I was not saturated with that Gibsony sound.

    In a workshop I attended, one of the premier classical mandolinners tried my bluegrasser mandolin, and his reaction was to ask where all the high brilliance had gone. I said it was turned into high lonesome. He just frowned.
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    Put a F5 or A5 in. my hand and before long bluegrass will mostly be played. Put an F4 or oval in my hand, folk, Irish and gypsy will result. Put my Martin in my hands and English folk comes out. My oval octave leads to gypsy and tommy music. What fun to let an instrument lead you.
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    I've been wanting an oval hole, though have never played one. How are those for classic country, which is primarily what I play, along with classical?

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: What are, celtic-, bluegrass-, classical etc. mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    I often associate wet tuning with classical mandolins.
    -the string pairs are not exactly the same pitch, but have a precise difference.
    It can sound beautiful.
    What? Can you post an example of something played in this tuning?
    I do everything in wet tuning. But the OM lends itself to it much easier than the mandolin.
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