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Thread: What do the numbers mean???

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default What do the numbers mean???

    A2, A4, F5, 404, 315, etc. I understand A vs F, but what about the numbers?
    Last edited by Sherry Cadenhead; Feb-21-2021 at 10:08am. Reason: Thought of additional numbers.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    I understand them to be model numbers, the higher the number the fancier, sort of. Why they stop at 5 is for others to say. How the numbers jump up to F-12 and the more recent A-9, skipping over all in between, I find mystifying. There are also the numerical indicators for soundholes, oval hole or f holes. Then there are the letters. Where are B-E? Where's the G before you get to the H for mandolas? Some say F stands for "Florentine," though this designation seems dubious. I also would like some answers.

    Gibson's record-keeping hisory is notoriously replete with inconsistencies. I fear that's the real explanation, though it's no help.

    Update:

    I had to poke around a bit to find the link for the following, a fabulously useful compendium, illustrating the evolution of mandolin family instruments, a very useful aid in dating. I believe there are inconsistencies in it, even outright incorrect info, which experts will surely mention. Well, it's Gibson. I see in here the F-7 and F-10, though I've never seen anyone talk about them. There are also the A-40 and A- 50, numbers appearing as if out of the blue. Apparently this was compiled before the introduction of the A-9 and F-9, as they don't appear here. I think that was 2002.

    Have fun looking at this! http://www.guitarhq.com/gibson8.html
    Last edited by journeybear; Feb-21-2021 at 10:18am. Reason: further research
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    sorry, misunderstood

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Man View Post
    sorry, misunderstood
    Huh?

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    The numbers in the Gibson designation generally but don't always mean a trim level. Bling. However, some things transcend even that system, for example the "Lump Scroll" A models of the 70's. That threw the numbering portion of the name out the window. Generally in the early days a plain A model was less ornate as an A2, A3 or A4. Then there is the A2Z and then finally the pinnacle, the A5 (original, only one made Ms. Griffith Loar).

    The letters are a different. story. They don't stand for any word with one exception. The banjos. The A was a body shape. A stood for A. The B through E might have been other shapes that Orville Gibson chose not to use, no way of knowing. There is the famous Lyre mandolin that was seen on the early Gibson labels. No letter designation for that that anyone knows so it might be in that B, C, D, E range. Then we come to F that doesn't stand for Florentine even though some people, us included say it does in some older FAQ's. H for Mandola. Unless someone has uncovered some new printed evidence, the only thing Gibson ever called Florentine was a banjo with images of Venice inlaid on the fretboard. F stood for F. The banjo's came along and you got GB for Guitar Banjo, MB for Mandolin Banjo, RB for Regular Banjo (5-string), TB for Tenor Banjo, etc. Guitar models used the L and the B letter later on. The one that throws all of the names away is the U designation for the Harp Guitar. I'm sure I missed some of the letters but you get the idea. Gibson is a company that has been around for a long time without a continuous single family managing the company. The model designations fall within some logical parameters but simply go out the door elsewhere. One that had all of us scratching our heads was the G designation in F5G. Bruce Weber and Steve Carlson both have confirmed that the G stood for Gibson. So I own a Gibson F5Gibson model. So nice they named it twice.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Feb-21-2021 at 1:35pm.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Thanks for that! I'll bet that's been there for years, and I didn't know - not necessarily news. Is there another list which addresses model numbers as well?

    And as predicted, I'll offer one - only one - correction of an omission - EM for electric mandolin (yes, implied, but not specified).

    [Responding to a ghost post about Gibson model letters here ... ]
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    There is actually a list that was developed in a thread years ago. I just can't find it. I'll keep looking.

    Found it. It's in this thread. This message has a list.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    And I'm sure you'll find it. As often demonstrated - as recently as right here and now - your site search skills are superb.

    Or was that it?

    It's confusing even talking about Gibson's haphazard attempts to introduce some semblance of order into their chaos.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    Huh?
    I typed out a very long answer about sus2 and sus4 chords with a side of power chords, before realizing that was not at all what you were asking about. Apparently too slow to get the delete button, though.

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    I should also note for future readers that the L in F5L stands for Loar not Lacquer as one Cafe member seems to try and interject often. Roger Siminoff answered that question. He was there. Carry on in your quest.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Yes, Gibson’s illogical system. Sorta logical up to the 1920s then in the 1930s they started using the retail price to distinguish some instruments. I believe that is what the A-40 and A-50 meant. In guitars SJ200, l-50, j-100, ES-150 etc. oddly they still kept the older designations and added some similar like L-10 and F-7.
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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Every maker is free to use whatever naming scheme they like. That said, following Gibson, a lot of other makers have more-or-less adopted the convention of using the number "4" to designate a carved-top, oval-hole mandolin, and "5" to designate a carved-top mandolin with f-holes. Also, many also use the letter "F" to designate a body shape with points and scroll, and the letter "A" to designate a simpler. teardrop-shaped body without these features.

    Thus, we get:

    A4 oval hole, teardrop body (also, A2, A3, A2Z)
    A5 f-holes, scroll and points
    F4 oval hole, scroll and points
    F5 f-holes, scroll and points

    for example:

    NF5M, NFAF5S, etc. f-holes, scroll, from Northfield
    but Northfield likes to call their teardrop body with f-holes a "Model M," and not an A5.

    but Eastman likes to use this numbering scheme for its mandolins:

    MD304, MD404, MD504, MD604 oval hole, teardrop body
    MD305, MD405, MD505, MD605, MD805 f-holes, teardrop body
    MD315, MD415, MD515, MD615, MD815 f-holes, scroll and points
    MD514, MD614, MD814 oval hole, scroll and points

    Presumably, "MD" stands for mandolin. Evidently, if the last digit is a 4, it's an oval hole, but if it's a 5, it's got f-holes. If the middle digit is a 0, it's got a teardrop body, but if it's a 1, it's got a scroll. And the first digit tells you how fancy it is (level of appointment), with higher digits costing more. I have no idea why they consistently avoid "7" as a first digit, though. In Chinese culture, the number "4" is the digit to avoid (the Chinese word for "4" sounds like "death"), and "8" brings good fortune. I suspect they went straight to 8 to designate their top-of-the-line instrument, and filled in the other digits later! The Chinese are really big on numerology. A generous wedding gift might be a check for $888.88, and not $1,000, since all the digits are 8's'. For real.

    Since there are no universal conventions, I'd recommend that you just Google the make and model number and bring up a bunch of images! That will quickly let you know what you want to know.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    If you think the Gibson numbering is wild, try Gretsch guitars...
    JBovier ELS; Epiphone MM-50 VN; Epiphone MM-40L; Gretsch New Yorker G9310; Washburn M1SDLB;

    Fender Nashville Deluxe Telecaster; Squier Modified Vintage Cabronita Telecaster; Gretsch 5420T; Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat: Washburn Banjo B9; Ibanez RB 5string; Ibanez RB 4 string bass

    Pedalboard for ELS: Morley Cry baby Miniwah - Tuner - EHX Soul Food Overdrive - EHX Memory Toy analog Delay
    Fender Blues Jr Tweed; Fender Greta;

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    When a maker starts out usually they have a few models either named or numbered. Even post-Orville Gibson had a relatively sensible system for the few models of mandolins and guitars. As time went on makers lines expand and chaos ensues. Lyon & Healy had many lines of instruments but their upper line, Washburn, probably had a few major changes in mode names/numbers and even restarted their serial numbers a few times.

    Take a look at Fender. AFAIK they just had their few models in the early stages. Now, over the last few decades they have maybe hundreds of different Stratocasters & Telecasters, etc. I look in the VG Price Guide and the Stratocaster and Telecaster pages go on for quite a while including reissued of their own classics.

    Even seemingly sensible Martin in more recent times has some alphabet soup models and it takes a glossary to find out what they mean. Plus there are now artist model designations for the standards like D-28, D-18, etc.

    Hey, it keeps us all from getting bored, right?
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    Question Re: What do the numbers mean???

    OP asks, A2, A4, F5, are Gibson's & 404, 315, Are Eastman's Model numbers, right?

    I imagine the Gretsch While made in the US ,

    have little to do with it' nomenclature, after the brand became an Import..

    though Gibson/Epiphone for guitar models are similar..

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Hey, it keeps us all from getting bored, right?
    The French term, ennuyant, has a double meaning: boring and annoying. Sometimes things can be one or the other, or both, in varying degrees. I'm not sure how one would say, in French, that one would rather be bored than annoyed, unless there's another word for one or the other. In writing, that is; in speech, inflection can make the meaning clear.

    What I'm getting at is, the Gibson system is not boring, but annoying. That is to say: Ce n'est pas ennuyant, mais c'est ennuyant.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    The numbers in the Gibson designation generally but don't always mean a trim level. Bling. However, some things transcend even that system, for example the "Lump Scroll" A models of the 70's. That threw the numbering portion of the name out the window. Generally in the early days a plain A model was less ornate as an A2, A3 or A4. Then there is the A2Z and then finally the pinnacle, the A5 (original, only one made Ms. Griffith Loar).

    The letters are a different. story. They don't stand for any word with one exception. The banjos. The A was a body shape. A stood for A. The B through E might have been other shapes that Orville Gibson chose not to use, no way of knowing. There is the famous Lyre mandolin that was seen on the early Gibson labels. No letter designation for that that anyone knows so it might be in that B, C, D, E range. Then we come to F that doesn't stand for Florentine even though some people, us included say it does in some older FAQ's. H for Mandola. Unless someone has uncovered some new printed evidence, the only thing Gibson ever called Florentine was a banjo with images of Venice inlaid on the fretboard. F stood for F. The banjo's came along and you got GB for Guitar Banjo, MB for Mandolin Banjo, RB for Regular Banjo (5-string), TB for Tenor Banjo, etc. Guitar models used the L and the B letter later on. The one that throws all of the names away is the U designation for the Harp Guitar. I'm sure I missed some of the letters but you get the idea. Gibson is a company that has been around for a long time without a continuous single family managing the company. The model designations fall within some logical parameters but simply go out the door elsewhere. One that had all of us scratching our heads was the G designation in F5G. Bruce Weber and Steve Carlson both have confirmed that the G stood for Gibson. So I own a Gibson F5Gibson model. So nice they named it twice.
    I thought RB stood for Real Banjer

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    I thought RB stood for Real Banjer
    Yeah Buddy!
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    ...Unless someone has uncovered some new printed evidence, the only thing Gibson ever called Florentine was a banjo with images of Venice inlaid on the fretboard...
    Well, Gibson did call its EM-200 electric mandolin, made in the 1950's, "Florentine." Some relationship to their semi-hollow "Florentine" model Les Paul guitars -- with what's since been called a "Florentine cutaway" for no apparent reason -- is suspected. Oddly enough for the "F='Florentine'" theorists, the EM-200 has a two-point body looking nothing like an F-5.

    In summary: whothehell knows why any manufacturer selects particular model designations? Even C F Martin, which used to have an easily-understandable system in which model sizes, woods, and ornamentation determined model letters and numbers, has branched out into more directions than I can follow. As the original owner of a Taylor XX-MC guitar ("XX" for 20th anniversary, "MC" for mahogany body, cedar top), I get quarterly issues of Wood and Steel, the company's magazine. Every now and then they showcase the entire Taylor guitar line, and always include an explanation of what the various numerical and letter designations represent. My reaction is, if you need a glossary to explain your designation system, that system's too complicated.

    But I'm an elderly grouch, watching the world slowly go to hell. Pay no attention...
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Man View Post
    I typed out a very long answer about sus2 and sus4 chords with a side of power chords, before realizing that was not at all what you were asking about. Apparently too slow to get the delete button, though.
    Ha ha ha! Almost went there myself. That was my first instinct, until I saw A4, and thought that would actually be an Asus chord. Then I got to thinking about whipping up a whole long shaggy-dog-style song and dance about chords and all, followed by a slow-burn type realization, ending with a video clip of Emily Litella saying, "Never mind." It would have been fun, all right.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    My first thought was that they were octave numbers for notes: A4 is the A in the treble clef, A=440. A2 is two octaves lower.

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Well, Gibson did call its EM-200 electric mandolin, made in the 1950's, "Florentine." Some relationship to their semi-hollow "Florentine" model Les Paul guitars -- with what's since been called a "Florentine cutaway" for no apparent reason -- is suspected. Oddly enough for the "F='Florentine'" theorists, the EM-200 has a two-point body looking nothing like an F-5.

    In summary: whothehell knows why any manufacturer selects particular model designations? Even C F Martin, which used to have an easily-understandable system in which model sizes, woods, and ornamentation determined model letters and numbers, has branched out into more directions than I can follow. As the original owner of a Taylor XX-MC guitar ("XX" for 20th anniversary, "MC" for mahogany body, cedar top), I get quarterly issues of Wood and Steel, the company's magazine. Every now and then they showcase the entire Taylor guitar line, and always include an explanation of what the various numerical and letter designations represent. My reaction is, if you need a glossary to explain your designation system, that system's too complicated.

    But I'm an elderly grouch, watching the world slowly go to hell. Pay no attention...
    I keep forgetting about the EM and the Les Paul.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Well, Gibson did call its EM-200 electric mandolin, made in the 1950's, "Florentine." Some relationship to their semi-hollow "Florentine" model Les Paul guitars -- with what's since been called a "Florentine cutaway" for no apparent reason -- is suspected. Oddly enough for the "F='Florentine'" theorists, the EM-200 has a two-point body looking nothing like an F-5.
    Indeed, the term "Florentine" applied to the EM-200 seems quite arbitrary. What could it refer to? Something in the art, music, or architecture of Florence? What, pray tell? It seems to have arrived out of the blue. It is the only Gibson mandolin model with that shape - right? There are other two-point mandolins - the majority of F models - but not with its distinctive symmetrical outline.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Oh wait - what did Jethro Burns play? If memory serves, that was an A-5, right? So those are the two "Florentine" shape models.

    Seems to me the EM-200 was like the mandolin equivalent of the Gibson SG electric guitar, in its symmetrical shape with two points or cutaways. The SG's points are more pronounced, more like horns.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: What do the numbers mean???

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    ...Thus, we get:

    A4 oval hole, teardrop body (also, A2, A3, A2Z)
    A5 f-holes, scroll and points
    F4 oval hole, scroll and points
    F5 f-holes, scroll and points

    ...
    Absolutely correct, but don't forget the "other" numbers: 7, 9, 10, 12, etc.

    (Yes, my F-9 bias is showing )
    Last edited by dhergert; Feb-22-2021 at 9:02pm.
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