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Thread: Getting into Mandocello

  1. #1
    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
    Omaha, NE

    Default Getting into Mandocello

    I have been dreaming of a mandocello for a little while now, I have a few places I think it could be useful in my band and some fun side stuff...

    So here are my questions, in no particular order, feedback appreciated, let me know if I am dreaming or not:

    Are the Eastman Mandocellos not worth all the work to put into making it reasonably playable? New nut and bridge spacing as well as new string gauges required? Perhaps even needing to thin the neck?!?

    I would need a pickup, would a K and K suffice? Going into a pedalboard and then PA

    I feel like the oval hole would work best to get the low growl, anyone have strong feelings that f-holes are better?

    I like the looks of a guitar body... Anyone making those?

    Any luthiers have a particularly strong mandocello?

    I realize this is all over the map. Just got a mandola and like the CGDA tuning a lot.
    Am hoping to play some classical on it and fill in a little low end when my bass player canít make it to the gigs. I know itís not a bass, but as a trio we are pretty treble heavy and a few songs with the mandocello would help round out an otherwise tonally bland gig.

    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Getting into Mandocello

    Eastman are made beautifully. Just because some people on this forum like necks and string spacings like toothpicks they get poormouthed a lot. With a proper setup any instrument is going to perform better, play better, and sound better. You want it set up by a competent and experienced luthier to your wishes and needs. If you like and want wide necks and string spacing - say so, and stick with it. So, yes - it's worth it. Eastman instruments are absolutely world class in build quality and materials. That's why I own two of them - both archtop guitars. One is F-hole and one is oval hole - I love both of them. I would love to own an Eastman mandocello, but just can't afford one right now. So until then, I'll keep playing my converted guitars.

    Can't speak for K & K pickups on them. I've used lots of stuff other than that brand, and gotten good results from all of them, but they are all slightly different. Do your research. Also, talk to your luthier who should be able to work with you on finding what you want.

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  5. #3
    Registered User meow-n-dolin's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    North Bend OR

    Default Re: Getting into Mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by dang View Post
    Are the Eastman Mandocellos not worth all the work to put into making it reasonably playable? New nut and bridge spacing as well as new string gauges required? Perhaps even needing to thin the neck?!?

    There is absolutely "wrong" or "unplayable" about the Eastman mandocello. I have owned two (the first was lost in a fire). As far as set-up (purchased from The Mandolin Store), the only thing needed was a tiny, tiny, lowering of the action, and, after about four months, a 1/4 turn on the truss rod. My most recent one, which i have had for about 2 1/2 years, has never needed anything done. As NotMelloCello recommends, purchase one from a store with a good reputation.

    Some don't like the guitar-width neck. That is fine. But, if my Eastman had a neck like my zouk, it would definitely be more challenging to play. And my hands are pretty average. I have yet to discover the "perfect" neck.

    As NotMelloCello also notes, the quality is excellent.

    I have owned the f-hole as well as the oval-hole. For playing in a group situation, and depending on the instrumentation, the f-hole might be better -- the tone certainly cuts through. For solo work, or if there is no guitar in the combo, I prefer the oval-hole. It's a fuller, richer, sound. But note, the difference isn't huge.

    The strings are okay. The standard D' Addario set works fine. If you prefer the Thomastiks, go ahead and try them. (note: from experience, I can say I prefer the TKs on the f-hole, but prefer the D'Addarios on the oval-hole.

    On the f-hole, I used a clip-on condenser mic (AT-35?). For the oval hole, I use the L R Baggs Anthem (sound hole mounted). It works really nice, is completely invisible, and sounds very good.

    I hope this helps, and does not muddy the waters even more

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  7. #4
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: Getting into Mandocello

    My experience with the Eastman mandocelli: the ones I played were not set up correctly in terms of string pair spacing especially the C-course, so if you buy yours from a reputable shop it should be no problem or just set aside some cash for set up costs. I did complain to the Eastman rep but they were not interested in addressing the problem. Perhaps they have taken all that into consideration since then.

    As far as playing a mandocello in a band situation: Years ago I was asked to play in a recording session and they asked I bring the mandocello. We did a few takes and then realized that the range conflicted with the guitar. For that cut I opted for mandola which filled the mid-range. It is just good to be aware of that if you are arranging in a group with guitar.

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  9. #5
    Registered User
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    Jul 2007
    No. California

    Default Re: Getting into Mandocello

    Unfortunately, you may have a tough time finding a mandocello for sale within a few hours of Omaha, which means that you're going to be taking on a new instrument without being able to road test it to see if your dream will come true.

    So, it's going to be really important to buy a mandocello from a music store that is known for setting up their instruments well. Fortunately for you, most of the major mandolin stores that get mentioned regularly here are Eastman dealers. Unfortunately, though, they don't always have an Eastman mandocello in stock, and if they do, the shipping cost will be comparable to that of a guitar, rather than a mandolin.

    re: the pick-up: I'm a huge fan of the K&K Minis, which I have put in several of my guitars. However, it is impossible to install one in an instrument with f-holes and is pretty challenging even with a mandocello's oval hole. They're really designed to be installed through the soundhole of a guitar.

    There are luthiers who make a great mandocello, but not at anywhere near the price of an Eastman. That's just PacRim economics.

    I agree that the oval hole "would work best to get the low growl," but I also agree with meow-n-dolin that the tone will cut through more with f-holes. So, it just depends on what you prefer.

    re: mandola vs. mandocello: I agree with Jim that the mandocello has more overlap with guitar than mandola does, but it extends on the low end of the range, rather than the high end. Since you said that your trio is already treble-heavy, that may be a significant difference for you. Now that you have a mandola, you can try it out and see how much it overlaps with your other two bandmates --- assuming that you can actually get together with your trio these days. If you're happy with it, save your money. If you aren't, then let the hunt begin.

    Enjoy the ride!
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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