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Thread: Traditionally voiced A-style?

  1. #26

    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    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.
    But Shaun, are we talking un-amplified or not? Playing loud or soft? Old style Kimble before he made the changes or after? Ronnie's Gil or Compton's Gil? How can we have generalities when we need SPECIFICS or we can't figure out what the OP is asking here. I've never heard these terms. We are in totally uncharted territory here.

  2. #27
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Also, bear in mind that the original question was about A-5 mandolins in the $3000 range.
    And A-5's, by nature, are different animals than F-5's.

    I know what '20's F-5's and the truer modern copies sound like. I have played both a few of the originals, quite a few Gils [both "modern" and "traditional"], some Duffs, a few of the Newsons, and some of the others.
    I do not know where to find that kind of sound in a modestly priced A-5.

    Nor do I consider the voice of a '20's F-5 to be in any way similar to the fatter, choppier sound that came to be popular starting in the mid to late 1980's that some of you are calling "traditional."

    20 to 25 years ago, before trends in mandolin building began to change again, I often commented that many modern players would have scratched their heads in confusion the first time that they played a Lloyd Loar, which sounded nothing like most mandolins being built at that time.

    During that time, a well known professional, who owned a Loar and knew Monroe, said several times that the modern factory mandolins being built at that time sounded much more like a recording of Monroe's mandolin with added eq and reverb than like a Loar in hand.

    Perhaps the OP might want to check out a few Collings A models. I don't know if they will deliver the kind of sound he has in mind, but they are well built instruments with a good sound, and a used one can be found in his price range.
    Last edited by rcc56; Dec-02-2020 at 12:30am.

  3. #28
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Perhaps one day the crusty crusty crusty folks will realize that it wasn't the mandolin that made Monroe. Being a great mandolin player is so much more than just your mandolin. If he was alive today, he'd probably have a Collings endorsement....

    I've seen Thile play all kinds of mandolins, including his Loars and never once did I think he sounded like Monroe.

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  5. #29
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Levine View Post
    But Shaun, are we talking un-amplified or not? Playing loud or soft? Old style Kimble before he made the changes or after? Ronnie's Gil or Compton's Gil? How can we have generalities when we need SPECIFICS or we can't figure out what the OP is asking here. I've never heard these terms. We are in totally uncharted territory here.
    You're trying to make this way too difficult. Traditional and Modern are used frequently here as tone descriptors. Use the search function and read some old threads. this is not uncharted territory. You described it in your first post to this thread!

    Look at it as a spectrum. On one end is dry and fundamental and on the other end is bassy with overtones. Builders will tend to fall in a range on the spectrum. Some builders may have multiple spots on the spectrum as their build specs evolve. Gilchrist would have multiple locations on the spectrum. The F5 I owned for awhile was as dry and fundamental of a non-vintage mandolin I've ever played. Around the same time there was an F5 Classical at Carter's that would have been on the opposite end of the spectrum. Both exceptional mandolins. Kimble for me is somewhere in the middle, which is why I really like them and own one. Heiden, my other mando, definitely more modern. Nice to have one of each. A friend has a Heiden Heritage model that is the deepest, bassist mandolin I've ever heard. You could almost confuse it for a mandola it's so deep.

    As for the OP's original question, it was answered in the first two responses. Gibson A5L, earlier Flatiron, or a Stanley. Other suggestions followed. rcc56, you recommended a Flatiron in your first post. We're on the same track here. I will say that there aren't many "traditional" A5s at the lower end of the price spectrum, at least new. Pretty much have to go used for $3k. At $5-7k the options expand.

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  7. #30
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Sim Daley A model in the classifieds....

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/163098#163098

    I believe he worked for Gibson in the early 2000's.

    I would think that a Summit A model would have what you are looking for too.

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  8. #31

    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by mixolydia View Post
    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.
    While I am not familiar with what a traditional voice/voicing actually is on an A model mandolin I’ll suggest you give the PAVA A models a strong look. They have volume that holds it’s own with pre-war flatheads and the sweetness to match up with any other style. Of course they are flawlessly built.

    And no matter what instrument you may play, remind folks to respectively quiet down in a jam of any kind so the soloist or vocalist can hear and play comfortably.
    Steve Smith

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  10. #32

    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Great description, Shaun. And to clarify the earlier question, the answer is always “the sound of Matt Flinner’s Gil” <g>!

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  12. #33
    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    Gilchrist would have multiple locations on the spectrum. The F5 I owned for awhile was as dry and fundamental of a non-vintage mandolin I've ever played.
    Yes it is...

    I'd be curious to play the A style at Carter's that is just a few serial numbers away. The A style I have, built in 2001, is a completely different beast. Thick bass and a roundness to the note, but it doesn't have that paint peeling zing of a mid-range like the more "traditional" instruments that have come out of his shop.

  13. #34

    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    You're trying to make this way too difficult. Traditional and Modern are used frequently here as tone descriptors. Use the search function and read some old threads. this is not uncharted territory. You described it in your first post to this thread!

    Look at it as a spectrum. On one end is dry and fundamental and on the other end is bassy with overtones. Builders will tend to fall in a range on the spectrum. Some builders may have multiple spots on the spectrum as their build specs evolve. Gilchrist would have multiple locations on the spectrum. The F5 I owned for awhile was as dry and fundamental of a non-vintage mandolin I've ever played. Around the same time there was an F5 Classical at Carter's that would have been on the opposite end of the spectrum. Both exceptional mandolins. Kimble for me is somewhere in the middle, which is why I really like them and own one. Heiden, my other mando, definitely more modern. Nice to have one of each. A friend has a Heiden Heritage model that is the deepest, bassist mandolin I've ever heard. You could almost confuse it for a mandola it's so deep.

    As for the OP's original question, it was answered in the first two responses. Gibson A5L, earlier Flatiron, or a Stanley. Other suggestions followed. rcc56, you recommended a Flatiron in your first post. We're on the same track here. I will say that there aren't many "traditional" A5s at the lower end of the price spectrum, at least new. Pretty much have to go used for $3k. At $5-7k the options expand.
    I forget that sarcasm is hard to read on the internet. I was being facetious. To my ear there are instruments that are cheaper that we can call traditionally voiced and most people know exactly what that means even if they are showing how knowledgable they are by claiming to the contrary in this thread. No they will not sound just like a Loar F5, but there are plenty of instruments that sound like what you would expect a mandolin to traditionally sound like in a bluegrass band. Gulp, even a Kentucky KM950 may fit the bill.

  14. #35
    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Levine View Post
    I forget that sarcasm is hard to read on the internet. I was being facetious. To my ear there are instruments that are cheaper that we can call traditionally voiced and most people know exactly what that means even if they are showing how knowledgable they are by claiming to the contrary in this thread. No they will not sound just like a Loar F5, but there are plenty of instruments that sound like what you would expect a mandolin to traditionally sound like in a bluegrass band. Gulp, even a Kentucky KM950 may fit the bill.
    Actually, if you can find one of the varnished Kentucky KM900's, you're 90% of the way to the top of the heap. Unreasonably good for the money.

  15. #36
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Levine View Post
    I forget that sarcasm is hard to read on the internet. I was being facetious. To my ear there are instruments that are cheaper that we can call traditionally voiced and most people know exactly what that means even if they are showing how knowledgable they are by claiming to the contrary in this thread. No they will not sound just like a Loar F5, but there are plenty of instruments that sound like what you would expect a mandolin to traditionally sound like in a bluegrass band. Gulp, even a Kentucky KM950 may fit the bill.
    Hahaha.....it all makes sense now. all in good fun. These convos are best had over an adult beverage at a late night jam.

  16. #37
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by mixolydia View Post
    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.
    This one just hit the classifieds and probably won't last long:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/163772#163772
    "Keep your hat on, we may end up miles from here..." - Kurt Vonnegut

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  18. #38
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Which Tradition?
    writing about music
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  20. #39
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Like usual, late to the party. As others have mentioned, look for a Gibson A-9 or similar. While I like the Flatiron and have one similar to the one listed above, not sure I would argue they are the most traditional sounding. The Performer series has a rosewood fingerboard that is attached to the top, neck is mahogany and they use a mortise and tenon joint. So not as traditional as the Gibson models.

    And as mentioned earlier, the Gibson A-50 from around 1935 with the elevated fingerboard is also another good choice. Mine has a traditional, 1930's Gibson sound.

    That said, in my larger band, the fiddler can hear my Flatiron cut through better than the Collings. We're not sure why, but it's what works in that group. (Finnish-American music. Not bluegrass).
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Nor do I consider the voice of a '20's F-5 to be in any way similar to the fatter, choppier sound that came to be popular starting in the mid to late 1980's that some of you are calling "traditional."

    20 to 25 years ago, before trends in mandolin building began to change again, I often commented that many modern players would have scratched their heads in confusion the first time that they played a Lloyd Loar, which sounded nothing like most mandolins being built at that time.

    During that time, a well known professional, who owned a Loar and knew Monroe, said several times that the modern factory mandolins being built at that time sounded much more like a recording of Monroe's mandolin with added eq and reverb than like a Loar in hand.
    Bob, can you elaborate on this point please? I don’t think that I have previously heard anyone attribute the difference between “traditional” and “modern” mandolins to the contrast between a Loar played acoustically and Monroe’s F5 in a processed recording.
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  22. #41
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Well, I still don't know what many of the contributors to this thread call "traditional tone."
    My reference to the "traditional" term would be early 20th century Gibson mandolins whether I was applying the term to F-5's or to carved oval hole mandolins.

    To understand my earlier statements, you would have to play a few '20's F-5's, and then play some modern factory made mandolins; preferably within a short span of time.

    If you play a Loar, and then play a typical factory F model made between 1980 and 2000 [choose whatever brand you like], you will find there is a huge difference in tone. To me, a Loar sounds more similar to an old F-4 than it does to something like a '90's Weber or Gibson. Or, for that matter, like a Dearstone made in the early 2000's. The fatter, choppier sound of those modern mandolins is very different from the brighter and lighter [but not necessarily softer] sound of an old Gibson. I don't know why some folks are describing Loars as having a lot of mid-range response. My perception is different.

    Anyway, there was a tendency in many of the old studio recordings to roll off the high end, accentuate the mid-range, and add reverb. Later, as technology allowed, compression was also added. If you go into a studio with an old F-5 and mix it like that, it won't sound like itself, it will instead sound like one of thicker-toned modern instruments.

    I hope that helps to answer your question. But my opinion doesn't matter much-- we all hear things differently. If I've learned anything from this thread, it's that the thing we call "tone" is something we judge according to our individual experience.

    The only other thing that I will add is that, in deference to the OP's original question, I do not remember ever playing an A-5 mandolin that sounded anything like a '20's F-5.

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  24. #42
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    I have made a few A5s and F5s according to the Loar graduations specs in mandolin building plans. I would say that I pay attention to detail. For some reason I don't get the fatter rounder and deeper modern Gibson tone. I get a brighter louder more mid and upper range tone. I still get a decent bluegrass chop though.

    So a traditionally voiced mandolin is more akin to the 1920s Loar F5 mandolins. I will be interested how my slightly modified A5 in the works will sound when I get it strung up.
    Nic Gellie

  25. #43
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    "......And A-5's, by nature, are different animals than F-5's......"

    Play the Griffith Loar one time and you will never make this statement again! And yes, I have...

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  27. #44
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    Perhaps you will take the trouble to describe the tonal qualities, and comment on whether or not you have played other A-5's that have the some of the same characteristics.

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  29. #45
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Traditionally voiced A-style?

    I have a feeling that the OP forgot that he posted here. He has not posted anything on this site since his original post here on 11/29. I just set him a PM that his thresd is into its second page. He should get a msg in his email and maybe he will show up again.
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