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Thread: First Bandolim

  1. #1

    Default First Bandolim

    Hey all, this is my first post, but I've been reading MandolinCafe for the past 6 months or so and I love the discussions you all have here. I'm reposting this from a Facebook group some of you may be a part of; like many newbies here, I could use some help finding an instrument.

    I've played guitar since I was a little kid, but I've recently gotten into mandolin. I got started learning the classic intro bluegrass tunes on a 1970's Japanese f5 copycat from Lyle that I found on craigslist for a fair price, and it's actually a pretty decent instrument. However, I've started taking choro lessons, and I'm pretty into it. I think it would be cool to get a mando that fits the style better.

    I would love your recommendations! I've looked all over the cafe for ideas, and for price point I've been eying the Giannini GBSM series, thinking I could find one used in the $200-$500 range, depending on the model. Ideally, I'd love a GBSM5 as I feel like the hand-made solid wood instrument will give me something that I won't want to upgrade for a while. However, I haven't been able to find one for sale yet, and their US operation seems to be in a state of flux at the moment. Other than that, I'm not sure what else to look at.

    I'd like to stay under $1k. While I'm willing to spend more to jump on good deal (I'd love a luthier built bandolim), I'm more than happy buying something similar to the GBSM 3 and saving up for a really nice one when I have more experience. A used GBSM3 just sold for ~$400 on Ebay, but that felt a bit high, so I decided to wait. I like my chances, but would love your input.

    Other considerations:
    - No need for electronics- I'd rather have a nicer instrument.
    - Modern or vintage works, but I'd really like it to be ready to play. For a screaming deal, I'd be open to taking it somewhere to get it work done, but I don't even know a luthier near me so this might be a gamble without a good recommendation (I'm in Oakland, CA)
    - Maybe this is a side effect of being a guitarist, but I can't help but feel like I would benefit from a wider fretboard. My mando is super narrow at the nut, which seems to be typical of these style. I believe the Gianninis are 1 3/16" at the nut, which I think I'd prefer, but it's not super important if the thing plays great.
    - Must immediately make me as good as Danilo Brito.

    Thanks all for reading, and for your help! Happy plucking!

    - Nick

  2. #2

    Default Re: First Bandolim

    Welcome to the café! I had a Giannini GBSM-something... its larger dimensions were appreciated. The extra resonance of the larger body is an asset in Brazilian music. I eventually traded it for a saxophone, which is too bad because now 10 years later I play a lot of Brazilian music ..

  3. #3
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Connecticut, USA

    Default Re: First Bandolim

    I own two bandolims, one i picked up from a small independent music store for under $500 and the other from what amounted to a second-hand store for $85, so they are out there. The younger Giannini is my avatar. It's the less expensive one of the Giannini family (my ABSM is long discontinued) but it has a lovely ring, so I wouldn't count that out.
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

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  5. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Norfolk, VA

    Default Re: First Bandolim

    Just curious but what exactly is a bandolim,? I Goggled it and Wikipedia says it's a 15 stringed instrument, three strings per course tuned like a guitar from Ecuador. Some youtube videos show a 10 string instrument and some show an eight string version yet all use the spelling Bandolim. The spell check on my computer says it must be some other word I'm trying to spell. So anyway I like the 15 string one. Thanks

  6. #5

    Default Re: First Bandolim

    Quote Originally Posted by Hudmister View Post
    Just curious but what exactly is a bandolim
    Bandolim is just the Portuguese word for mandolin. It's my understanding that in the US market the word is specifically used to refer to a mandolin made in the Brazilian style. (like the one in Randi Gormley's avatar above).

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  8. #6
    Registered User Chris W.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    New Smyrna Beach, Fla

    Default Re: First Bandolim

    I’m into the Choro thing as well. I love the sound that my Northfield F5S makes, but like you I wanted something that sounds more like the recordings I’m listening to. After searching the web and investigating threads here I concluded that it is very difficult to find a decent Bandolim right now. So I decided to get a good quality flat top mandolin. I ended up with a Canadian built Sawchyn Beaver Tail. I’ve never played a Bandolim, so I really can’t compare, but I think it sounds great for choro. It has a nice punchy attack on the high end and a decent low end tone. The main difference I hear from recordings of bandolims is that the bandolim is much more resonant.
    Northfield NF-5S
    Sawchyn Beaver Tail
    Eastman MD 605
    Eastwood Mandocaster
    Hora Irish Bouzouki

  9. #7

    Default Re: First Bandolim

    Thanks Chris! That's interesting, I have also had a hard time tracking them down, and have expanded the search in a similar way.

    I can see the similarities between the Beaver Tail and a Brazilian mandolin, so I'll keep my eyes out for one of those too! I was also looking at the Northfield Calhoun, which a lot of people on this site rave about. Plus I think they seem like a really cool company. For multiple reasons, however, I am pretty strict about buying used (everything, not just instruments). Sadly not many of the Calhouns seem to hit the used market, which I suppose is a good indicator of quality!

    I have read good things about Flatiron pancake models, and they have a cool history. There was recently a 1N from 1982 on my local Craigslist, but at $650 it didn't make me want to give up on finding a proper bandolim. Checking the forums, people love them, bust most of the discussions are older and suggested that price was a little high. It sold pretty quick, so perhaps that's incorrect!

    While not a dealbreaker, I've also found that most of these mandos have a standard nut width, but that doesn't sound like it's been an issue for you!

  10. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: First Bandolim

    Bandolims are different in tone, usually are strung fairly light and low action. If you find one without a case good luck on finding a case that fits. Their bodies are wider than North American style mandolins. I have a used maple one built by a small shop Brazilian maker who has since passed away. I bought it from a prominent American choro player. And I have another one I can determine the maker of and one built by Del Vecchio, a Brazilian company that is more know for their resonator instruments. I have a cavaquinho by Giannini (all solid wood) and another by Rozini which is a competitor of Giannini selling in the same price range.

    Frankly, these days when I want to play a choro tune, I am just as happy to play it on my regular day-to-day mandolins. As an alternative to getting a cheaper laminated instrument I would work on your choro chops, save your money and if you are still enamored of the music, then get yourself a quality instrument. I do enjoy the subtle differences in mandolins that are specific to a genre but they are subtle and there is no reason you can't play choro on any mandolin. Just my dois centavos.

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