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Thread: Traditionally voiced A-style?

  1. #1

    Default Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Does anyone know of a good "traditionally-voiced" A-style mandolin? It seems like there are plenty of superb mandolins in the $3K range with a sweeter, modern-voicing. The only mandolins I run across (or have played) that have a traditional voicing are F-style and cost $10k+. Specifically, I'm looking for something that will really hold its own in a bluegrass jam. If there aren't any traditionally voiced A's at the $3k price range, why not? It seems like a pretty big market opportunity to be missing out on.

  2. #2
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Look for a used Gibson A5L or an older Flatiron. You should be able to find both for $3k or less. Kimble makes a mean A5 in the $5k range. Same for Paul Duff.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Chris Stanley if you can find one.
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    Barn Cat Mandolins Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    How about one of Mike Black's A5 mandolins, starting at $3,200? Good builder and good guy to have do a build. Here's the URL http://www.blackmandolins.com/a5-mandolins.html
    Purr more, hiss less.

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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Heard a Givens at a jam once. It gave me chills.

    I saw Greg Boyds has a Givens kit mandolin in that price range. NFI.

    https://gregboyd.com/product/c-1970s...-mandolin-a-3/

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Not sure how much more traditional you can get than skip Kelley -

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KLJ9zQxlt8

    Matt Ruhland is closer to probably closer to $4500 for an A, but they are very traditional sounding as well.

    I would love to try an Elkhorn they seem like a lot of mandolin for the money. Unfortunately I have not heard any in person and only a few Youtube videos so not sure of the sound?

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/163210#163210

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    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Clark View Post
    How about one of Mike Black's A5 mandolins, starting at $3,200? Good builder and good guy to have do a build. Here's the URL http://www.blackmandolins.com/a5-mandolins.html
    Hi,

    I would also second Mike Black. I have an A5 he made for me based on the Griffith Loar and it is very good. Also had an A4 previously, but it had a virzi that I was never completely convinced of. Pretty much all of his instruments pay homage to the old Gibsons.

    Regards,

  12. #8

    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by Northwest Steve View Post
    Not sure how much more traditional you can get than skip Kelley -

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KLJ9zQxlt8
    I was on the hunt for exactly what OP is seeking, an A5 that had the tone of an old Gibson in the sub 5k price point. After much homework, I bought this Skip Kelley, this exact one from the video #79. Let me tell ya, it hits the mark. You can tell he has studied a few Loars for inspiration, and the 100 year old red spruce top certainly helps. I don't know what else to tell ya other than I haven't stopped playing it since I got it a couple months ago. It continues to open up and punches like a hammer. Would recommend reaching out to Kevin at Mandomutt to see if he's getting another new one any time soon.

  13. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    I have an '83 Flatiron A5-2 that I think fits into that category. That became the A5 Artist but I think many of those carved Flatirons have that tone IMHO.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Forgive me for not knowing, but what is “traditionally voiced”? Compared to oval hole A style? Compared to a 1922-24 F5? How would you characterize the sound? What’s an example of non traditional sound brand? What are the distinguishing characteristics of that?

    I realize that describing tone may be a fool’s errand, but there seems to be some consensus of the trad v non traditional sound characteristics beyond the general differences or similarities of mandolin shaped instruments.
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  16. #11

    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zach Wilson View Post
    Heard a Givens at a jam once. It gave me chills.

    I saw Greg Boyds has a Givens kit mandolin in that price range. NFI.

    https://gregboyd.com/product/c-1970s...-mandolin-a-3/
    Exactly. I own a Givens and it is LOUD. There are a few Givens that will not crack the $3k price, but most of the later ones will sell for $4k-$6k for A models.

    However, I would consider a "traditionally voiced" A to have an oval sound hole and be more suited to Old Time and Irish. Gibson produced only one Loar-voiced A mandolin and it wasn't until later, when Givens and some other luthiers began copying that Loar did we have A models fit for bluegrass.

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    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Tom Ellis is making a few A style "Traditions." I believe there's at least one in the wild now.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Well me personally, I'm not a he fan of oval/round hole mandolins! I've had many from the teens-1920's, they all "that I've played/owned sure don't have the focus and say power of the F-hole models" Be it the shortnecks or the 5 scale necks! Most to me seem that they are on the bass/tubby side of tone. There was one exception and it was a very late 24 early 1925 A-4 with a Virzi! That one seemed to brighten/stiffen up the top! That was a really great sounding A model.

    Still to me the best and most underrated Gibson mandolins are the 1935 elevated board F-hole models! They have the best focus/power and tone out of all of them shortneck Gibson's! They rate with the other shortnecks like the elusive F-12, F-10 and the one that sold more than the others the F-7! I've only seen one 1934 with that configuration and I suspect it was a very late 34!, all the rest were 1935's but I imagine there may be a few leftover 35's that were sold in early 1936 when they changed that model? All of those are great and some sure outshine the others as I've had maybe 10 of these over the years!

    I've talked with one of my favorite builders and we both wonder why Gibson never made say a budget A-50 with a long 5 scale neck? It would've sold in great amounts we thought as an F-5 was very expensive and during the Depression Gibson could've made a longer neck for these and made some serious $ on a dressed down A-5! Well that's my take on the oval Gibson's! I know some people love them but not this picker!

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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    I echo earlier recommendations of Kimble and Givens. Or get on a list for one from one of Matt Ruhland's upcoming A5 batches.

    These fit what to me is the current take of "traditional" voicing.

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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    I'm sure Max Girouard could build what you are looking for !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Registered User Russ Jordan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    I think Kimble or Duff A5’s meet that tonal description but you are unlikely to find one at $3000.
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    Registered User Russ Jordan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    I have a Gerald Anderson A5 that is traditionally voiced. You may be able to find one in $2k range.
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    I have a Givens A and it does have a very traditional tone, and very loud. They sometimes pop up for around $3,000 but usually run higher. You might look into Ratliff. His tone is very traditional and his instruments would be in that range.
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    + 1 on the Givens. The older ones have a very traditional tone, newer ones have a slightly more modern tone.
    Some of the older ones aren't pretty - almost looks like lumber grade wood - but he knew how to find wood that sounded good.

    Kirk

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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Forgive me for not knowing, but what is “traditionally voiced”? Compared to oval hole A style? Compared to a 1922-24 F5? How would you characterize the sound? What’s an example of non traditional sound brand? What are the distinguishing characteristics of that?
    I am equally confused, and I have played mandolin for over 40 years.
    To me, a "traditionally voiced A" would be a Gibson oval hole A model made between 1910 and 1932 or so, and those certainly do not all sound the same.
    Long neck A's with F holes were only just beginning to be made in small numbers when I first strummed a mandolin in 1974 or so.
    So yes, please, what is the current reference for a "traditionally voiced A?"

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  28. #21

    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    When placed in the bluegrass context as OP noted, I take "traditional voiced" to mean sounding more Monroe's Loar. Dry, strong midrange, power and focus.

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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Well, all I know about that is Mr. Monroe's mandolin sounded much different live than it did on studio recordings, where they doctored the tone by adding midrange and reverb. If what you mean is the sound of a Lloyd Loar mandolin played live, I can't help you much there.

    If what you mean is the sound of Monroe's mandolin in the studio, the closest thing in an A model that I can think of would be an early Flatiron, which would be only moderately close to the same neighborhood. I suppose a Givens or another early handmade A-5 model would fit also, but I haven't played an early A-5 model in many years.

  30. #23
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Rigel A. It's ironic: the modern design delivers a classic tone. Otherwise, try and find a used Stiver. Charles Johnson has a blonde(!) Hamlett listed on his site (NFI).
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  32. #24
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Levine View Post
    When placed in the bluegrass context as OP noted, I take "traditional voiced" to mean sounding more Monroe's Loar. Dry, strong midrange, power and focus.
    That’s an interesting concept, given how few people could likely remember how Monroe’s mandolin sounded unamplified, especially compared to another Loar. It would be interesting to me to have someone like David McLaughlin, who’s played many, many Loars, or Mike Compton, discuss ‘traditional’ tone.
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  33. #25
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Traditional vs Modern mandolin tone has been discussed here ad nauseam. I'm stunned to hear people say they have no idea what those words mean.

    Traditional -- dry, fundamental, mid range focus. Call it vintage tone. Call it Gibson tone. Call it Loar tone. (Though there is certainly plenty of variation among Loars). Go play an old F5, a new Gibson Master Model, a Stanley, a lot of Gilchrists lean this direction, Duff, Wiens, Kimble to a degree. Mostly sugar maple and red spruce or sitka. Tone bars. A real "bluegrass" mandolin.

    Modern -- bassier, more overtones. You could say bigger, fatter tone. More bass and treble forward. Collings, Ellis, Monteleone, Sorensen.....and the list goes on and on and on..... Bigger wood variation. Tone bars or x-bracing.

    Keep in mind these are major generalities. There are certainly exceptions. Gilchrist has built extremely fundamental sounding mandolins that a bluegrass monsters and he's built mandolins with more bass and overtones. Ellis has the standard line and now their Traditional line (which I haven't played yet.) It just gives you some guideposts that might make it easier to talk about tone.

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