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Thread: 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

  1. #1
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

    Old mandola's have in interesting vibe and a good one can add variety and make life more fun. A friend of mine likes to say,

    "Mandolas are cool. I can play fiddle tunes at half speed and the crowd thinks I learned a bunch of Christmas tunes for the holidays..."

    I installed a K & K pickup in this 1938 Gibson for someone earlier this week who wanted a little more volume for delicate gigs. When I first tested it out amplified, the family was home and I kept it very quiet and played a few fiddle tunes. Later on in the day they all took off and I got a little feisty: I plugged it into my pedalboard, a 900 watt head, and a big 4x10 cab........

    HOLEY $#@& was that fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was blown away how interesting and complex and rock solid an instrument it was while I wanked away for a couple of hours unable to put it down at HUGE volume levels!

    Don't be afraid to step it up a little....
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

    Sounds like fun! I'll admit, as much as I like the high-endy world mandolin opens up for me, I like the growl of the lower strings when plugged in. And mandola opens that world up even more.

    So where's the pick-up? These are stick-on, inside, right? Then out through a 1/4" jack, right?
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

    I have a K&K in my 1921 H2, but the most "electric" fun I've experimented with was out of necessity: An Irish Trad gig, only three melody instruments (whistle, pipes, mandolin) available, no guitarist available, no guitar available, so I single-coursed (took off half the strings) the H2 and ran it through an Electro-Harmonix POG (Polyphonic Octave Generator).
    Our trio ended up being whistle, pipes, and CGCDGADA "guitar".

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    Mandol'Aisne Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

    This is precisely why I play a 5 string electric.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

    I believe the few of the 30's Gibson Dolas I've seen are leftover 1924 Tenor Lute bodies, or they made some bodies in that same style as I've never had a 30's Dola in my hands yet to see how close they are to a 24 TL in construction? From photos the carving looks identical, also the F-holes and bridge placement is TL! I've seen a few 30's Gibson Dolas with a more A style body also.

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

    Agreed.

    I also had a 1929 H4 mandola sitting next to it all week for an interesting comparison.

    This one would be even better with a longer modern neck. The body / f hole proportions also work out well if you were to put on a shorter scale mandolin fingerboard so that the bridge would be centered, but you had the larger air volume. The f holes and tonebars give it more balance sound across the whole neck vs. the typical oval hole & transverse brace that have a ton of overtones in first position. These F holes are basic F5 size, not scaled up for the larger body. Grab a standard router temple and make the cut before the lunch bell rings at the old factory, move on to the next, et cetera....

    I didn't run the numbers on the top and back dimensions as I already have a couple of incredible reference instruments in my shop notes. The best mandolas that I've ever played were red spruce & maple that had top and back plate measurements almost identical to a Loar era F5. Unfortunately, there is quite a spread in the paddleheads. Some are great and others with very close dimensions seem to sound like unresponsive wet cardboard.

    This one was surprisingly fun to play and a whole lot more affordable than the 1925 snakehead mandola....
    Last edited by j. condino; Feb-13-2021 at 6:07am.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

    Right on J. Condino "by the way-what a luthier-builder!", now did you ever take graduation measurements of that 1938 Gibson Mandola and a 1924 Gibson Tenor Lute and did a comparison? Well also tone bar placement. I've had 2 basket case TL's converted "as I'm in the camp if real nice leave em alone"-well one was already converted poorly with a busted neck and I heard through the proverbial mando-vine that the 24 TL's were graduated the same as the H-5 Loars? I'm no luthier just a tinkerer but would love it if someone could prove this theory on graduations and tone bar placement. All in curiosity I find rather interesting!

  10. #8
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1938 Gibson H 1 mandola- electrified!

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    ...I'm in the camp "if real nice leave em alone"...
    Agree: my TL stays a TL as long as I've got it, somewhat muted voice and all. Next owner can convert it if they wish.

    Not many of those late-'30's f-hole Gibson mandolas around, are there? I had one once as a "loaner" when my ol' Washburn bowl-back was getting one of its many repairs.
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