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Thread: Looking for something darker and throatier

  1. #1
    Registered User jdchapman's Avatar
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    Default Looking for something darker and throatier

    Hi All,

    I have about 5K to play with, and am looking for an F style on the darker and throatier side. I prefer a radiused board and heavier frets. I liked my Silverangel and preferred a Northfield I owned to the Collings MF I had for awhile, if that helps. The latter was too bright for my tastes. Any small luthier shop suggestions? I'm looking for something used, btw.
    Last edited by jdchapman; Aug-29-2021 at 12:58pm.

  2. #2
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    I recommend the Guinness, or perhaps a Dos Equis.... oh you were talking about mandolins, my bad!
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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  4. #3
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    I have no idea what 'darker and throatier' means, but if you're looking used the best place is probably Nashville, with Carter and Gruhn's to check. I don't think a brand recommendation is going to help a lot, and I've never heard of a brand noted for 'darker and throatier' tone.

    YMMV
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  6. #4
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    How about going up in size? Mandola or octave?
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  7. #5
    Registered User jdchapman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    I am open to mandolas. (And I do like Dos Equis...)

    I know these words, like wine-talk, are all metaphors and therefore frustrating. (I don't really know what "dry" means in either context.) Therefore the Silverangel vs. Northfield vs. Collings description I also tried to employ. How about this: I like the way Grisman and Skaggs make their instruments sound when playing duets.

  8. #6
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    If you can find a used F-5 from Skip Kelley with a radius fingerboard that would be worth considering. There is one in the classifieds in your price range but it has a flat fingerboard.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/175385#175385
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    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  9. #7
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Quote Originally Posted by jdchapman View Post
    I am open to mandolas. (And I do like Dos Equis...)

    I know these words, like wine-talk, are all metaphors and therefore frustrating. (I don't really know what "dry" means in either context.) Therefore the Silverangel vs. Northfield vs. Collings description I also tried to employ. How about this: I like the way Grisman and Skaggs make their instruments sound when playing duets.
    I am not much of a follower of their playing, gasp, but I have seen them and I would say they are rather assertive with their picking and in control. Have you varied your technique and attack and tried different strings? These alone might get you to where you want to be, as well as the shape thickness type of pick. Just some less expensive thoughts. Years ago there was an octave mandolin thread and Tavy I believe had some nice mp3 comparisons of different scales of dola and OM. I posted a couple link to Sierra Hull playing OM in the theory thread this morning if you want to give a listen and see if any of those tones do it for you as well.

    You may have already tried my suggestions and if so great but if not that is where I start when I want a tone shift. I actually start with the pick first then varied attacks and such. I tend to play lightly but playing or attacking the strings harder for me makes a big difference.

    Oh and I’m not much of a beer drinker but if I do #1 would be Killkeny’s Irish Cream Ale and #2 would be Guinness Draught. FWIW I haven’t seen the Killkeny’s in many years so maybe it isn’t made anymore but I have noticed depending on consumption my perception of my playing ability either exponentially increases or decreases. Kind of hit and miss that way.
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  11. #8
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Well, it doesn't fit the physical description of what you are looking for at all, but when you say "darker and throatier," I picture the sound that comes out of some, but not all old Gibson oval hole A models. You can certainly radius the board and install the frets of your choice on one if you so desire. It won't grow a scroll, though. As for the scroll models from that period, some of the F-2's might sound "throaty," but I wouldn't call them dark. However, I do remember a very late F-4 that I thought was "dark and round." It was built between 1938 and 1940 or so, and was very different in nature from any 1910's or 1920's F-4's that I have played.

    Dave Grisman has generally kept several mandolins of various types, brands, and shapes around, so there is no telling what he might have used in the duet recordings you have referenced. I think Skaggs has usually played Gibson F-5's, some from the 1920's, and some from the modern era. I would suggest Skaggs might have been using a modern era instrument, because to me, 1920's F-5's do not sound either dark or throaty.

    And yes, experiment with different strings and picks.

  12. #9
    Registered User jdchapman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Just relistened to the Skaggs and Rice record, and while he's great, I agree, that was a bad example.

    I generally play with a thick and heavy pick, either a Dawg or RedBear, which help with tone, but even with the Dawg the Collings MF I had for awhile was too bright. I quite love my Silver Angel, but it's got some issues up the neck.

    Plus, I'm lucky enough right now to be able to afford to try some different instruments. Which is good, because pandemic. I am working far too many hours right now to imagine a Nashville road trip any time soon, unfortunately. I'm not opposed to a vintage Gibson, but I like to try small shop luthier instruments.

  13. #10
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    David McLaughlin used LaBella's, and he is known for a dark tone on his Loar. Of course, he liked them dull too.
    Not all the clams are at the beach

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  14. #11

    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Would it be worth considering different tone woods rather than spruce/maple?

  15. #12
    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    I’ve always thought of my Big Mon & my large body Skip Kelley as throaty. I’d go for something with a large chamber.
    2020 Big Mon
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  16. #13

    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Hm. You're about seven hours from Nashville. Grunh's and Carter's are less than a day away!

    And since you have $5k to drop on an auxiliary axe, you can certainly swing the cost of a motel room and a few meals.

    So check out their inventories online. If there are a few candidates, it could be a fun trip, right?

  17. #14

    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Quote Originally Posted by Parmejohn View Post
    Would it be worth considering different tone woods rather than spruce/maple?
    The one I have now is and old spruce and birch snakehead. I once had a spruce and rosewood Big Muddy.

    They weren't nearly as bright as the spruce and maple Red Line I had for a while.

    A friend builds walnut zooks, and they're pretty warm-sounding, too.

  18. #15

    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Do mandolins with Brazilian rosewood backs exist in the world? I would love to hear how one of those sounds.

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  19. #16
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    This option doesn’t cost five thousand dollars: take any mando, put slightly heavier strings on it and tune it down a tone or two. (Check a tension chart before doing this to a nice one)
    Just to get an idea of the range of tone you already have available.

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  21. #17
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    I understand the quest for and description of a dark/throaty mandolin. It’s something quite identifiable once heard, and it is also something felt through the hand or even the back on the mandolin while playing. I’ve also primarily experienced it with spruce/maple mandolins. It’s like a combo of a distinguishable mid-bass response and some sustain, but still with the clarity and defined trebles a spruce/maple combo is more known for. It also seems to break up a little, not in a way of not handling a big chop or something, but more like what happens when you overdrive a tube amp. It’s also linked with significant natural volume.

    For a user F meeting those descriptors, you really can’t go wrong with a used Weber from circa 2004-2011 or so, when the shop was still in Montana. I had a Fern from that time that was - I’m learning - quite special. I’ve never played anything like it, although as impressive as it was tonally it was rough going in terms of action. I had numerous luthiers look at it and it just seemed to be that way. It’s not true of all Webers though. I owned spruce/maple Bitteroot from the time that played like a dream. It was a tad brighter, but the volume was intense, a true powerhouse.

    Yellowstone’s and Ferns from that time come upon the classifieds from time to time and are definitely worth a look.
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  22. #18
    Resident Hack
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    I will echo what Simon DS said about strings. I'm about 3 months into my new Mando and have worked through a few different sets of strings (and the spectrum of picks, with each set). I've been trying the whole range (PB, NB, Monel, light vs. medium) and have gotten noticeably different sounds from each.

    My band plays 1/2 step down so I also get to hear the difference between when I install the strings at regular pitch and when I eventually loosen them down. 1/2 step down is a great way to darken your sound and makes 95% of the songs I play sound better.
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  23. #19

    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    I know the feeling. I carved the back on one of my A-5s to get that nice throaty growl in the lower striongs for Celtic music. It's not the best matchup for bluegrass though. I'm betting that if you talked to Max Girouard he could build you a mandolin in the tone character you're looking for.

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  25. #20
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Oh yeah, I bet Girouard could get you that tone. Webers do often have it, but they also have fairly thick necks, which I personally find uncomfortable
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    My blog: https://theoffgridmusician.music.blog/
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  26. #21
    Registered User rnjl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Yes, this. I once described wanting a mandolin that sounded more like a barn than a bell. I think my Carlson Flatiron A model has that, but I've heard other mandolins like Gibsons, Buckeyes, and Parsons have that quality too. I always think of most Webers, like Yellowstones and Bitterroots, and Collings mandolins as having that clearer, more bell-like quality, but yes some Weber Ferns are classic woody bluegrass machines.

    To use another comparison, some mandolins are woody like old Martins and some mandolins are bright and clear and crisp like Taylors.

    I like Taylor guitars- the sound just jumps out of them- but if I could only have one (well, I do only have one, and it's a Blueridge) I'd choose a Martin.

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  28. #22
    Registered User jdchapman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Both of these are helpful.
    I want a barn. And a Martin over a Taylor.

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  30. #23
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Question Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    a Mandola ..
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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  32. #24

    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    I have no idea what 'darker and throatier' means . . . .
    Dark as in not bright, of course. Maple can get pretty damn shrill, so I'd just look for another wood for the back and sides. Birch, mahogany, walnut, cherry, and rosewood all turn down the treble.

    Throaty is tougher to nail down. But I get it. I like Guild guitars because their tone is what I think of as throaty. They give the wound strings a hint of a twangy grunt that almost sounds like talking. For my playing, it's a better fit than the balanced sound of most Martins, the nasal sound of most Taylors, or the beefy sound of most Gibsons.

    It's throatier.

  33. #25

    Default Re: Looking for something darker and throatier

    I have a 2004 Weber Bitterroot with mahogany back and side, cedar top that works well for what you described.

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