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Thread: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

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    Default Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    As I cruise Youtube, it seems to me that I am seeing more folks playing A style mandolins. Having played this style of mandolin for a long time, I'm just wondering if anyone else has seen this? Not saying anything about F styles, just wondering if there's a trend or if it's been purely coincidental?
    Daniel Kaufman

  2. #2

    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    I can't really comment on the reasons for certain but here are a few thoughts -
    - Gibson started to transition to only making F5 style mandolins about 15 years ago. About that time Collings found a niche and started making style A5 mandolins and they have made a lot of them over the years.
    - Other builders started making A5 style mandolins as well and in the past 10 years or so there are many really good A5's.
    - In my short time playing I the price of mandolins have increased dramatically. I would think that would price some players out of an F5 but possibly still obtain an A5? Along those lines import mandolins have jumped in price to where you may be able to buy a higher quality A5 in stead of say a Kentucky 1050/1500 or Eastman 815/915.
    - I am not sure since I have not been playing an instrument that long, but it appears people are playing more different style of music. Not necessarily the to need to be like Bill?
    - And we see some great players playing A5's.

    I had an opportunity to be a caretaker of a dream mandolin for a couple of years. I got a great deal in it so was able afford it. An F5 by that maker was and will probably always be out of my budget. That mandolin cured any scroll envy I had.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    It could be because people have been listening more with their ears than their eyes, so to speak, and have come to the realization that ... A models sound fuller than the flashy looking F models. I say this not just because I am a confirmed dedicated owner of oval hole A models, but because ... well, it's true.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    I blame the cafe-- 15-20 years ago, the person that knew the most of anyone about mandolin was that guy at the Jam who looked down on anyone who didn't have a Gibson F5 and everyone wanted to be like him. Now, MC has taken over as the best source of info, and there's a consistent messaging here that means you don't get looks like you used to as everyone's heard good instruments from different shape, and the financial difference for a high quality instrument is really significant.

    Plus Tim O'Brien.

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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    You can't judge the world of mandolins by bluegrass alone. F models may reign there but there is no need for the extra expense if all you want is good sound.

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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by KEB View Post
    I blame the cafe ... Plus Tim O'Brien.
    The guy who plays guitar and sings behind Sturgill Simpson? What's he got to do with this?
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    In 1992 I ordered my A3 from Steve Gilchrist. I didn't like the F style and thought it gaudy and cumbersome. At the time Steve's price for the F was exactly twice that of the A. I always suspected the differences were cosmetic and when I asked him about it he emphatically, even loudly responded "YES!"... He said all the various construction aspects determined the sound of any given mandolin not added points, scrolls or asymmetric headstocks.

    I've since developed an appreciation for the F style and am currently wondering what affect, if any, the added weight of the F may have on its sound.

    Billy
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Packard View Post
    In 1992 I ordered my A3 from Steve Gilchrist. I didn't like the F style and thought it gaudy and cumbersome. At the time Steve's price for the F was exactly twice that of the A. I always suspected the differences were cosmetic and when I asked him about it he emphatically, even loudly responded "YES!"... He said all the various construction aspects determined the sound of any given mandolin not added points, scrolls or asymmetric headstocks.

    I've since developed an appreciation for the F style and am currently wondering what affect, if any, the added weight of the F may have on its sound.

    Billy
    The gap is closing. Now, Model 3 is ~ $16k and Model 5 is ~ $22k.
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by ivancook View Post
    The gap is closing. Now, Model 3 is ~ $16k and Model 5 is ~ $22k.
    The gap may be shrinking but still significant. I had a builder tell me that CNC reduced some of the additional build time, but extra time and work remains.
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    On my last trips down to Michael Heiden's I noted it was just about all "A's" under construction. I asked Michael about it and he confirmed most
    orders were for A's and he contributed it mainly to price.
    Dave
    Heiden A, '52 Martin D-18, Taylor 510, Carlson Custom A with Electronics

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Probably a lot of things - like was mentioned above, Collings really has made quite a few A models. And a few years ago, everyone was pretty over the moon with the Kentucky KM-150, a modest A style that seemed to punch well above it's weight.

    Then there are the folks that have used instruments. Have yet to see an F style Strad O Lin. And there seems to be more folks playing the older Flatiron A models. Or maybe because I got one a year ago, have just noticed more of them out there. That's also a possibility.
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    Question Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    What you see, depends on where you look..

    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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  19. #13
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    CNC or not, it takes a lot more time to carve a scroll, sand it, bind it, and finish it. And then there's making the fancy peghead to go along with it.

    Mandolins can sound great in a variety of shapes and configurations. Personally, I've always liked the look of a blonde F-4. We could easily go off into a color discussion . . .

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Possibilities:

    • "A style mandolins = more bang for the buck" quoted in these forums ~1000X?
    • That very reasonably-priced, after-market Scroll-&-Points kit designed and sold by Shmergel (of the Devastator fame)
    Jim

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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Reason #1: Doubtlessly at least a factor, and surely noticed even by many, many owners and prospective owners in addition to those here
    Reason #2: Probably not a factor, given the extremely exorbitant price thereunto appertaining, in which "reasonably-priced" on the Shmergel scale translates to "impossibly expensive" on any other
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    The guy who plays guitar and sings behind Sturgill Simpson? What's he got to do with this?
    JB I am surprised that you are not hip to Tim O'Brian! He was a founding member of Hot Rise and famously played (and still does) a black faced Nugget A-5 mandolin. He was a standout in the bluegrass world when most everyone else was playing F styles.
    Charley

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    I'll take credit for it!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    With the exception of one premium scrolled mandola, all my non-bowlbacks are non-scrolled. Actually even my bowlbacks are non-scroller.

    I did own an F-4 and some small shop modern Fs but they didn’t do it for me, whatever “it” was.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    JB I am surprised that you are not hip to Tim O'Brian! He was a founding member of Hot Rise and famously played (and still does) a black faced Nugget A-5 mandolin. He was a standout in the bluegrass world when most everyone else was playing F styles.
    Charley, Charley, Charles E. I am surprised you didn't pick up on the irony, sarcasm, and tongue-in-cheek nature of my post. Yes, I played it fairly straight, but that was required by the rules of comedy. I wish the Café had an eye-roll emoji; this lack forces substitutions, of varying degrees of accuracy. I'm further surprised you would take this seriously, that you'd think I really wouldn't know who he is!

    Of course I am well aware of and hip to Tim O'Brien. Enough so that I'll note the correct spelling of his name and that of the late, lamented Hot Rize. I'm quite sure I've seen him in person more than any other major mandolinist. And I know I've mentioned him around here at least a couple times during the last month or two - once regarding his approach to live sound production, the best (a mixture of clip-on mic and piezoelectric signal, with a little distortion and reverb), and his inclusion in Sturgill Simpson's band but not on mandolin. That's the joke - that if you don't know who he was and has been, you'd never recognize him in this context. Plus he's being underutilized in this band, IMO.

    With all that said, I wonder if he and Sierra Hull ever throw down live - either as a mandolin duo team or in a cutting contest. I'd love to see and hear that!
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Love a mandolin in any body style! An F5 only looks like it should sound better than an A5, and same for an F2 or F4 vs an A oval hole. I've had my share of them all & I'm down to an excellent A5 and some astonishing twin points. Of course, I'd love to get my Duff F5 back! Or my F2...

  34. #21
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Fascinating discussion. I was toying with starting a thread on the tonal difference between two of my mandolins - the f style oval hole epiphone and the a style oval hole Washburn. Both made of exactly the same material - maple backs sides and neck, spruce top.


    They do sound slightly different. The epiphone is a bit warmer, I think. The Washburn is brighter. I think.

    But I don’t know what it is. They have different hardware, different finishes and different nuts.

    Could be any or all. Could just be a vs f...
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    i'm coming into this recently from a non bluegrass or country background, and from outside USA. So what do I know - BUT, I'm allowed to say this: In my opinion, the F style mandolin looks like something that goes with string ties, big hats, suspenders (US meaning) and trousers halfway up your chest. Not a criticism, just an observation. While I'm sure many Fs have first class workmanship and sound wonderful (even if the body additions are more cosmetic than acoustic) - the F style looks very odd in 2021, - I hate to say it, but yes 'dated', guys. I bought an A style, particularly as the comparable quality F style was 40% more expensive. IF I ever upgrade, I'll probably buy another A, even if it cost the same as the same quality F. The A style looks clean and purposeful, like something you could play any style music on (whether oval or FF hole), and would fit in any group of musicians of any period - like fiddle, (most) acoustic guitars, and so on. I guess many of you won't agree with this, but that's fine, we can disagree, this isn't social media

  36. #23
    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Hahhahahahha! Whatever.

    Enjoy your symmetric instrument and I will imagine how that affects your choice of clothing.

  37. #24
    Registered User Russ Donahue's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Possibilities:

    • "A style mandolins = more bang for the buck" quoted in these forums ~1000X?
    • That very reasonably-priced, after-market Scroll-&-Points kit designed and sold by Shmergel (of the Devastator fame)
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	back-in-my-day-only-millionaires-could-afford-a-shmergel-devastator.jpg 
Views:	9 
Size:	110.1 KB 
ID:	192080
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  38. #25
    Registered User Russ Donahue's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I seeing more A style mandolins?

    However, the cheap Romulan Rim knock-off sold as a "Schmergel" Scroll & Points Kit can often be found advertised late at night on TV for the less discriminating.
    One watch by night, one watch by day...if you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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