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Thread: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    I have my heart set on an oval hole A mandolin. Based on your experience which instruments work well vs. those that do not - in an orchestra setting - for no more than $3000? I currently have a 1920 A2 on loan I'm trying out. It might end up being "the one," but I hope to play at least several more before I decide.

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quite a number of orchestra players seem to favor the Lyon and Healy mandolins from the 20's.
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    How about a Sobell ? Whoops ! Out of your price range !
    Last edited by yankees1; Feb-14-2021 at 4:39pm. Reason: Added information

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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Try an Eastman 404 bk. It has a wonderful tone.
    Nic Gellie

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    I would look for a used Phoenix Neoclassical. Not an oval hole but it will hold it's own with ovals.
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    If you are referring to a mandolin orchestra, which you mentioned in your other thread, many brands were used in the old days. Gibson was perhaps the most common, but we see many old photos with Larson, Vega, and Martin instruments.

    If you are referring to work with a symphony orchestra, Lyon & Healy is often preferred, but I have used either a Gibson F-4 and a rosewood Martin on the few occasions that I have done symphony work. With a big orchestra, it will be necessary to mike the instrument no matter who built it.

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    If you are referring to a mandolin orchestra, which you mentioned in your other thread, many brands were used in the old days. Gibson was perhaps the most common, but we see many old photos with Larson, Vega, and Martin instruments.

    If you are referring to work with a symphony orchestra, Lyon & Healy is often preferred, but I have used either a Gibson F-4 and a rosewood Martin on the few occasions that I have done symphony work. With a big orchestra, it will be necessary to mike the instrument no matter who built it.
    Mandolin orchestra

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Any of the brands I mentioned earlier should work, although a Martin will not project as well as a Gibson or Lyon & Healy. A Vega cylinder back would probably be somewhere in between. The Larson made flatbacks can put out a surprising level of sound.

    But most important thing is what sort of tone is the most pleasing to you.

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    I really love my Lyon & Healy Model A for classical. But honestly the mandolin that sounds the best to you; that has the greatest playability for you; that appearance wise really grabs you - that's the one you want. So if there is anyway possible travel to a store with a great selection and you will likely very quickly know which one is truly for you.

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    I really love my Lyon & Healy Model A for classical. But honestly the mandolin that sounds the best to you; that has the greatest playability for you; that appearance wise really grabs you - that's the one you want. So if there is anyway possible travel to a store with a great selection and you will likely very quickly know which one is truly for you.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Great advice !

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    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    A lot of good suggestions already. Keep in mind that generalizations are real for each manufacturer and style, but every instrument is a unique individual with varying characteristics.

    I suggest finding a store that carries Kentucky mandolins and try one of the newer mid or upper priced Kentuckys to compare the "modern" oval hole sound to the older sound. I'm not knocking the older sound, just saying get a comparison if possible. There is likely a Kentucky dealer near your area.

    If traveling to stores is a problem, there is the Guitar Center option for trying used instruments - if it still exists. You can search their on-line site and if you see a used instrument that really interests you, you can buy it and they will ship it to your local store at no charge. They do occasionally have some goodies.The policy was that you have 60 days in which to return it for no reason and a full refund. I would call and confirm the current policy. You can ask for someone to play it for you over the phone to help decide. The purchase price is marked up a little bit, but there may be room to negotiate some on some instruments.

    Bob Knysz is the head of the Atlanta Mandolin Society and Orchestra, which has been around since 1994. Brad Laird just posted an interview with Bob on his blog which you can find through the cafe. Bob is a tremendous mandolinist in a variety of styles and a great guy. I'm sure if you contact him, he would be glad to advise you based on his experience.
    Tom

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    I really love my Lyon & Healy Model A for classical. But honestly the mandolin that sounds the best to you; that has the greatest playability for you; that appearance wise really grabs you - that's the one you want. So if there is anyway possible travel to a store with a great selection and you will likely very quickly know which one is truly for you.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    That one's a beauty!

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    What brand of instrument s prevail in the orchestra you plan to join? Commonality of tonal quality might be a consideration. (For that reason I'd shy away from a Vega cylinderback; noting else sounds quite like it, IMO.)

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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    During the 1920s, Lyon & Healy also produced Style Bs and Cs. All were excellent instruments. Steve Hartz’s main instrument is a Style B from that period. His instrument has possibly the best treble IMO I’ve ever heard in a mandolin.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    I am also a fan of L&H mandolins for classical and strung with Thomastik strings. But I have also played the Phoenix Neo-Classicals which were purposely voiced for those same strings.

    Sherry, are you actually playing in a mandolin orchestra right now or planning to do so with a local one? If so, talk to the members there and see what they are playing. In most cases it will be a mixture of various brands, both vintage and new and all sorts of configurations so may not really give you much to go on.

    There don't seem to be too many L&H mandolins out there in the market right now. This style C at Sylvan Music in the classifieds (also on Reverb) might be possibility but it is unfortunately missing the tailpiece cover. Otherwise, it is in good shape but IMHO the price is a bit high for a style C missing that piece. You might be able to negotiate a bit on this one (I would ask). Consider that assuming you find a L&H tailpiece cover it can cost $200-300, possibly more. If you just care about the instrument it might be a good one for what you want. Do ask if it is strung with Thomastiks. I resisted stringing mine with those since I hated them on other mandolins but they sound great on L&H mandolins in my opinion.

    Also, one reason that some classical folks play L&H is that in the later years they had shorter violin-like scales ~13" vs. this one with the longer (13-5/8") more Gibson-like scale. This one has the longer scales but I would guess that your Alvarez has a longer scale and you are used to it.
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob A View Post
    What brand of instrument s prevail in the orchestra you plan to join? Commonality of tonal quality might be a consideration. (For that reason I'd shy away from a Vega cylinderback; noting else sounds quite like it, IMO.)
    The orchestra doesn't exist yet, so I have no idea about the instruments.

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Hall View Post
    During the 1920s, Lyon & Healy also produced Style Bs and Cs. All were excellent instruments. Steve Hartz’s main instrument is a Style B from that period. His instrument has possibly the best treble IMO I’ve ever heard in a mandolin.
    This brand is new to me. Hopefully, I can try one.

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    In these times you may need to set aside some cash for paying return shipping but buying from reputable dealers will save you setup costs after purchase. Sylvan is reputable.

    Marissa Carroll is an excellent classical player whose main instrument is a L&H style B:

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Also, one reason that some classical folks play L&H is that in the later years they had shorter violin-like scales ~13" vs. this one with the longer (13-5/8") more Gibson-like scale. This one has the longer scales but I would guess that your Alvarez has a longer scale and you are used to it.
    I was surprised to see that my Alvarez was too long for the Gibson case when I tried to switch them to take the Gibson to my lesson.

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Jon Hall, maybe you know Gerald has considered starting a mandolin orchestra. He's probably too busy to actually do it.

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    I was surprised to see that my Alvarez was too long for the Gibson case when I tried to switch them to take the Gibson to my lesson.
    Scale length is the same but the neck join is shorter for the Gibson meaning the neck joins on old Gibsons around the 10th fret but at the 12th for many modern mandolins.
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    The orchestra doesn't exist yet, so I have no idea about the instruments.
    If my experience with the Bloomfield (NJ) Mandolin Orchestra is any help, what brand/model/style/age of instrument is about the least of considerations.

    First, you need players. Then, players who are willing to show up. Then, players who are willing to work & learn in a possibly new-to-many -me included- environment (says the '60s rocker!). If you get that far, then things like talent and cohesion will come with time - specific instruments be hanged!

    FWIW, we have an array ranging from typical teens/20s Gibson As, an early F5 Loar copy or two, some Martins, a classic-era Kalamazoo, couple of Kays, Kentuckys, Breedlove, some nondescript but descent bowlbacks, a nice custom German (?) flatback, even a home-grown (some decades ago) "lump-scroll" mandocello. Plus more than one Carlo Robelli (Sam Ash import house brand). Varied indeed! Maybe most noteworthy is that the old(er!)-timers say that the group has never sounded better. (O/T covid, this would have been year #6 for me.)
    Last edited by EdHanrahan; Feb-15-2021 at 9:30pm. Reason: English!
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Pittsburgh is very fortunate to have a dedicated orchestra with a very capable conductor to grace our city.
    https://www.pittsburghmandolinorchestra.com
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    I was in the NY Mandolin Orchestra for quite a few years decades ago and sat in with them for their 90th anniversary concert. They started in 1924. A definite mix of various brands and old and new instruments when I played with them.

    At one point in their past the conductor encouraged players to play L&H instruments for some sort of consistency of sound so there were quite a few of those there owned by some of the older players. I am not entirely sure that made a big difference. It might be comparable to a modern symphony orchestra asking all their players to play genuine Stradivari instruments.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Oval Hole A Mandolins for Orchestra Playing?

    Lyon & Healy Style B or C is within your price range and does well in an orchestra setting. But a vintage Gibson also works just fine. I did a handful of symphony gigs over the past 3 years with a snakehead Gibson A4. I'm usually on the low end in the mandolin orchestra setting, playing either an Andersen mandocello with F holes or a Lyon & Healy Style A mandola.
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