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Thread: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

  1. #1

    Default Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Apologies if this subject or something similar has been aired before.

    I practice a lot on mandolin when acquiring new tunes, and I realised that I was adding considerably to the general wear and tear of my vintage Gibson A Style. This is a particularly fine specimen of vintage mandolin which is valued at 2000$. Fret wear was a particular problem.

    Having thought about it I decided to buy a relatively cheap mando exclusively for practice, and use Gibson when I feel tunes are ready for finer playing or gigging.

    This may sound a bit pretentious but my only reason for doing this is pure practicality.
    I'm curious to hear if other players have adopted this ploy. Some fellow musicians feel I'm over protecting a fine instrument to the detriment of my enjoyment of it.

    Best wishes to all,

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    It makes sense to me to preserve and protect a fine vintage instrument at a higher level than a less precious one, but I would avoid getting too fussy about it. Made to be played and all that. You want your muscle memory tuned in to the important axe.

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    What sort of “wear and tear”?
    If you are really damaging the instrument you might need to adjust your technique. There are hundreds of instruments of similar age out there being played with no “un due” wear. If you’re chewing up the fingerboard or the top, something is off with how you are handling the pick or you have serious fingernail mass. Both can be adjusted.
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Yeah, what Tim said. Instruments are made to be played, and those vintage instruments have lasted this long because they were built so well. If you are concerned about damaging your mandolin - if indeed you are seeing damage - it is most likely being caused by the way you are playing it. If you don't mind a bit of a Dad joke by way of analogy, the part of a car that causes the most problems is the nut behind the wheel. Also, generally speaking, there's no need to play as hard as you might during gig while working through stuff at home. But there's something else, which is the enjoyment factor. You've got this nice instrument, which probably sounds delightful. Why not hear the way it sounds as often as possible? You might also discover ways to make it sound the way you want, during the process. I'd say play your good instrument, but pay attention, keeping an eye out for any signs of damage. You're going to need frets done now and then anyway.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    I have "worn out" several instruments over the years. Mostly fret wear, but also the dents and dings that come with frequent handling. Not so much fingerboard wear. Some get the frets dressed, and some are simply not worth it.

    I have different instruments for fancy or presentation gigs, bar gigs, campfire jamming and the ones I leave out around the house to practice.

    Having several instruments makes it easy to try new strings and preserves the ones on the instruments as they are not played constantly. The gigging instruments seem to take the most abuse.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Well I think you should do what makes you happy. And this is as good as any other excuse to buy another mandolin

    But from a practical standpoint play what makes you sound best and just bring your beloved Gibson in to a good tech for a little TLC every so often. I think sometimes we forget regular tune ups and a good craftsman can really keep your mando in shape. Finding a really good repair human is well worth the effort (they aren't all good).

    I would play it.
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    I will admit there is something to be said for practicing on an instrument that requires more effort, ( higher action, less volume and tone) , its kind of like wearing ankle weights when jogging, when you take them off - or go to play what you've practiced on the higher end instrument, you may find it easier so you can relax more.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Well, one thing you could have done is having EVO or stainless steel frets installed on that Gibson. Like Chuck said above, finding a good repairperson is worth the money. I'd say keep playing that one. Unless you really want something else for a cheaper practice instrument. Then buy that one too.

    FWIW, most of my practice is on a less expensive mandolin that can also show up at gigs depending on my mood.
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    I play for me, so I practice with my 2 favorites in a monthly rotation. I’m always using an instrument that sounds good and plays well. Why do anything different?

    I use those for jamming, and a couple of others as well, depending on circumstances. Socially distant, I play an electric (mandocaster) with a little amp.

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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    I once applied this thinking to getting an inexpensive mandolin to take to practice for the coldest days of winter so as to not expose one of my nicer mandolins. I picked up the least expensive Loar Honey Creek for this purpose. It played easy and noted well but the chop was so anemic that I got rid of it and gave up the idea.
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  13. #11

    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Many thanks for replies - a range of views which don't necessarily conflict with mine. All points made are valid and appreciated - with the proviso that subjectivity
    trumps everything. Happy to continue on my merry way practicing like gusto and treating myself to sweet music every now and then on the Gibson! Whoever next acquires the Gibson will appreciate my quixotic approach to Mandolin husbandry!!
    Many thanks,
    Mibrom

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    I long ago bought an inexpensive ($50, from an older woman who retrieved it from under her bed, she said) Strad-O-Lin to be my "knockabout" mandolin -- the one you throw in the back of the car when going camping, take to a party with musical friends just in case some tunes get started, walk around an outdoor arts festival with, lend to a friend who wants to "try one out," etc.

    What I didn't realize was, it was a helluva mandolin! I ended up recording with it, using it at some gigs, grabbing it instead of my Gibsons, Eastmans, Martin etc. to take to serious jams. Finally traded it in on a better Strad-O-Lin; wouldn't be without one. So if you go for something "cheaper," make sure its good enough that you enjoy playing it, and don't just keep it behind the practice room door where no one else will know you have it.
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    I agree with Allen, I play because I like the sound of my mandolin. If you get a lesser mandolin for practice make sure you like how it sounds. I don't think I would play very much on an instrument I didn't like the sound of . The more I like the sound, the more I pick it up and play.
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Why if I have great instruments do I want a cheap one? Makes no sense. I can't any of them with me.

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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Having a second or backup instrument is a good idea. I try to find mandolins that share physical features with my favorite one, i.e. neck shape and width and a similar action height. I want the feel to be the same, I use the same gauge strings on them all. I just want them all to have something in common as to their playability. I don't always play my top dog but when I do pick it up it's like a familiar old friend with a great voice. I have many reasons that I've invented to rationalize buying another mandolin and now Allen Hopkins has me trying to think up a reason I need a Strad-O-Lin. Oh yea, it will save the wear and tear on my back up mandolins.

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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    I also have a Gibson that I love! Had it since 1985. Kept it well and love playing it!

    During those decades, it's the quality of my beater that's gone up! (Who am I kiddin'? Beaters!)

    Carry my mantra: "On the journey to excellence, enjoy mediocrity."

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  21. #17

    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Quote Originally Posted by mibrom View Post
    Apologies if this subject or something similar has been aired before.

    I practice a lot on mandolin when acquiring new tunes, and I realised that I was adding considerably to the general wear and tear of my vintage Gibson A Style. This is a particularly fine specimen of vintage mandolin which is valued at 2000$. Fret wear was a particular problem.

    Having thought about it I decided to buy a relatively cheap mando exclusively for practice, and use Gibson when I feel tunes are ready for finer playing or gigging.

    This may sound a bit pretentious but my only reason for doing this is pure practicality.
    I'm curious to hear if other players have adopted this ploy. Some fellow musicians feel I'm over protecting a fine instrument to the detriment of my enjoyment of it.

    Best wishes to all,
    Generally speaking, you will advance faster if you spend your practice time on a fine instrument. Why? Because the techniques/skills (sensitivity, sonic wherewithal, sound control, etc) that you can develop on the responsive instrument are diminished and increasingly irrelevant on a non-responsive, "entry-level" instrument. It's much like automobiles for example: the techniques requisite for handling and evoking high performance are different than in operation of an economy car. Etc.

    This typically does not become apparent until you get on a fine instrument and immediately experience the tremendous subtlety that now brings forth a range of sounds, hitherto unknown; what was unnoticeable on the cheaper instrument - sloppy technique, etc - now produces noticeable effects.

    So, because you can't hear it, the lesser instrument does not allow the training of nuance and refinement of technique that the fine instrument immediately demands. This is why 'serious' students are encouraged to acquire good quality (as high-quality as possible) instruments from the get-go.

  22. #18

    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    *Ah maybe I missed the point of it. I would advocate using the good stuff - maintaining it as needed (refret, etc).
    Last edited by catmandu2; May-16-2021 at 1:38pm.

  23. #19

    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Would you rather spend several hundred dollars on a mandolin that quite likely won't sound and play as good as your Gibson, or a fret job on the Gibson?

    Seriously, if you're wearing out the frets so quickly that it's becoming a concern, it sounds like you're could use a pro setup and easing up on the fretting hand.

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    I long ago bought an inexpensive ($50, from an older woman who retrieved it from under her bed, she said) Strad-O-Lin to be my "knockabout" mandolin -- the one you throw in the back of the car when going camping, take to a party with musical friends just in case some tunes get started, walk around an outdoor arts festival with, lend to a friend who wants to "try one out," etc.

    What I didn't realize was, it was a helluva mandolin! I ended up recording with it, using it at some gigs, grabbing it instead of my Gibsons, Eastmans, Martin etc. to take to serious jams. Finally traded it in on a better Strad-O-Lin; wouldn't be without one. So if you go for something "cheaper," make sure its good enough that you enjoy playing it, and don't just keep it behind the practice room door where no one else will know you have it.
    I'm on vacation right now. I brought my Kentucky. I miss my Strad-O-Lin.

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    I have a Parsons Flat-top as my beater. I keep it leaning against my home office desk. I don't worry about it getting dinged. It has a very pleasing sound, but it isn't that loud. I also travel with it. I save my Old Wave oval for microphone gigs and my Rigel A+ Deluxe for plug in gigs.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    Quote Originally Posted by mibrom View Post

    Having thought about it I decided to buy a relatively cheap mando exclusively for practice, and use Gibson when I feel tunes are ready for finer playing or gigging.
    I have heard some pretty good excuses for buying another mandolin. This is as good as any.

    I tend to practice with the mandolin I am going to gig with. First of all it feels the same, and ten minutes before a gig is not time to get acclimated to a different mandolin. Also, by practicing with the gigging mandolin I will discover anything that goes wrong with plenty of time to get it fixed. Again, ten minutes before a gig is no time to find that your e string has stretched and can't be tuned.

    But... all that said, you don't need to explain to me why it makes sense to get a new mandolin. It just does. For any reason at all.
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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Using cheaper mandolin for extensive practice.

    One person's "beater" instrument could be another person's finest "gigging" instrument and vice versa.

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