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Thread: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

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    Registered User chris.burcher's Avatar
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    Default Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I just got back from my second visit to Carter Vintage and I'll save you all the oohs and ahhhs (maybe in another post) and cut to my dilemma and questions.

    I have never played anything but A5s and F5s, but have had those for nearly 30 years. I have an emando I fool around with. I recently discovered the magic of ovals and my mind was simultaneously opened and blown.

    So I went in to Carter looking to taste a bunch of familiar mandos and did so, but I also 'discovered' mandalas, mandocellos, and octaves - and oval A and F mandos. I didn't see that it made much of a difference the sound holes on the larger instruments.

    So now I have a new form of MAS. I want a mandola, a mando cello, and an octave.

    My question for y'all is, since I can only buy one now, is whether or not there is enough 'redundancy' between an octave and cello (or bouzouki or other alternatives for that matter) that one would be happy (temporarily) with one or the other. And, does it matter which one?

    If it makes a difference, I was shocked at how easily my mando knowledge transferred to ANY of these instruments despite the fact that on the dola and cello I was playing in different keys due to the courses, whereas on the octave I would essentially be doubling myself if that makes sense. I plan on doing nearly 100% solo work with these instruments, AND i don't care and have the ability to transpose fairly quickly should I need to, for example, play the cello in a band and not play 0023 as a G major chord. In other words, I don't see where I need an octave for ease of playing the same fingering to fit in with a band without having to transpose what I would play on mando.

    If it helps, I really dug on pretty much all the mandolas whether oval or f from gilchrists to old gibsons. And the northfield black top octave currently listed in the classifieds was my favorite overall instrument (next to the dude F5, obviously).

    Anyway, any insight y'all could provide, stories you could share, and perhaps share in my joy of discovering something totally new at this point in my game. My mind is so blown and I can't believe it took me this long to 'get it'.

    Chris

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Quote Originally Posted by chris.burcher View Post
    My question for y'all is, since I can only buy one now, is whether or not there is enough 'redundancy' between an octave and cello (or bouzouki or other alternatives for that matter) that one would be happy (temporarily) with one or the other. And, does it matter which one?
    While I have yet to succumb to the mandocello, an octave was attractive in that it allowed me to mate some of what I had learned from the mandolin with what I already knew from the guitar. It also offers the ancillary benefit of providing a mandola tuning when capoed at the fifth fret.
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I love my Gibson K4 mandocello and found my octave to be disappointing in both the bass and in cording. But a lot depends on what kind of music you play. I use my mandocello in an orchestra and take classical solo lessons. I can't do too much cord work on the heavy strings and big frets of my K4, although G C and D are easy and you can capo. I play a Stiver F5 with a Americana string band but use the MC on a few numbers. With those two for uppers and downers, I find the octave kind of bland-to-middling. But the F5 and K4 are great instruments and the Trinity Octave is an OK. Those are personal thoughts based on limited experience, and I have not played a mandola other than a little try here and there.
    Your decision will be personal too, so try them out and listen as well as "feel."

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    Registered User meow-n-dolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    The order I purchased them in was:

    Mandolin (several)
    Mandocello
    Mandola
    Octave
    Zook

    The octave can double (sort of) for a mandolin AND a zook. When I go camping, it's what I grab.

    The mandola probably gets the least "play-time" of all of them, but it's great for jazz, folk, or any kind of solo work.

    The zook, with light strings and a 27" scale, is a wonderful instrument, and best of them for Iris (obviously) and folk, and accompanying voice.

    That being said, I play the mandocello more than all but the mandolin. I often find myself playing along with a couple of fiddles, and for that, the 'cello is unsurpassed. It's 25" scale is a bit easier to transition to compared to the zook, and allows (for me) easier soloing -- and then there's those "bass" lines.. Even if there is a guitar present, it adds something. Yeah, and though I do play guitar, I really to prefer the 'cello for almost everything over the guitar - excepting perhaps flamenco

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    It sounds like you loved the Northfield OM. Personally, if you are doing solo work with whatever instrument I would think an mandocello would be less versatile than either a mandola or OM. I would go for the OM. To me that would be an excellent second instrument. One question: when you say 100% solo do you mean laying only one instrument for performance or that you would be doing multitracking for recording? If the former, then I think the OM would be a nice refreshing tone change in a performance. If playing duets or multi-tracking with yourself in a recording I would think the OM is great for both melody and countermelody or chording.

    Also, not to downplay the magnificent mandocello: they are not the easiest instrument to be virtuosic on and chords are certainly not the easiest. They can be tamed but it will take a bunch of time.
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    Registered User chris.burcher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    This is absolutely wonderful info and incredibly helpful.

    Jim, just me solo performing singing and playing, rotating through guitar, mando, and other(s). I am thinking octave to start. But $4500 for the northfield ......

    perhaps watching the used market a bit as a next step. Not like I don't watch it daily already

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    Registered User Marcus CA's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Personally, if you are doing solo work with whatever instrument I would think an mandocello would be less versatile than either a mandola or OM. I would go for the OM.
    I totally agree! Of mandola, OM, and mandocello, the OM tuned GDAE has a range closest to the guitar's. It also sounds the best of all of those, IMHO, if you want to play chords with some open strings. To my ear, the mandola sounds a bit thin with open chords, and the 'cello sounds a bit thuddy.

    Another variable to consider is whether to go for an OM or a GOM/octar (like the Northfield). Personally, I love my OM and have never heard a GOM that I liked anywhere near as much, because they haven't had the richness or fullness of tone. However, that is totally personal preference.

    Yet another approach would be to go for a long-scale cittern, which gives you the range of a mandocello combined with an OM --- so from the C below the guitar's low E all the way up to the guitar's high E.

    If the Northfield's price is too steep for you, you could look at an Eastman for starters, to get a sense of how much you would be playing this new instrument after the honeymoon period ends. For an OM (not GOM) in the middle of those price points, you could look at something by Richard Beard, who built the cittern that I totally love. He currently has two OM's and a guitzouk listed on Reverb, and also builds to order. He uses a variety of wood combinations, so you could dial in the tone that you want from an OM. There also is a Weber Absaroka below $3K in the Classified right now (NFI), which should be pretty nice.

    Happy hunting!
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I know how you feel because I fell the same way about 11 or 12 years ago. I now have an F5 mandolin, hybrid F4 mandolin, a banjolin, resonator mandolin, mandola, a couple octave mandolins and two mandocello.

    I recommend getting a ~21" octave mandolin next. You can capo 5 and its a mandola. And you have the three highest courses of a mandocello. The stretch on a 25 - 26" mandocello can be intimidating to a new player.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Don't forget the mandobass, the octomandobass, and the subcontraoctomandobass. To say nothing of resophonics.
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    Registered User chris.burcher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Wow, so many things I did not know. Or didn't realize I knew. Octar/guitar body octave mandolin vs. octave mandolin. Yes, I also forgot about resonators and mando basses but I'll have to eat this elephant one bite at a time.

    I should have paid more attention to what exactly I was playing. But it was so freeing to NOT pay attention and just grab and strum.

    I didn't have an issue with reach/fingering on anything. Sure, some were more of a stretch and I'll assume those were the longer scale lengths. A 21" scale length OM sounds ideal from several of y'all. I appreciate that narrowing down a lot.

    Either something interesting will come up in the classifieds or I'll make another trip to Nashville. Or both.

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    Registered User zookster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Lots of good comments. Let me weigh in, as I play all of these instruments.

    The octave mandolin will give you immediate response, as the fingering and scales are the same as your mandolin. More pinky finger, but otherwise accessible. Position chords are the key. A relatively easy transition.

    Mandocello is wonderful and deep, and I love 'em, but your have to mentally be adept to play in a group setting, since you are tuned a fifth down. Otherwise, a wonderful tonality, and mando friendly fingering. I am attracted to those deep tones, and use one regularly in Irish sessions (along with an octave).

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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I know the feeling when you want to play all those beautiful instruments at once. Coming from the violin, I played a (cheap) mandolin for a long time. After that I decided to switch to an Eastman octave mandolin. Recently I converted a godin archtop to a mandocello (24,84").

    What I learned so far is that you should not try to play the same style on each instrument. Especially for the mandocello you will no longer be able to really cut through with melodic lines. If you focus on bass lines and patterns instead, you will play a very valuable part in the band. As one said earlier, even together with a guitar.

    I think that GBOMs are more versatile, you can strum chords to accompany vocals or play melodic lines and mix both. My eastman (teardrop) OM instead is more focused on the middle and heights - it does not have the rich/broad sound it needs to fill a room when played alone. It has a good volume to cut through, though.

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Since you don't have any problem with a long reach, the option for larger instruments is quite appealing. (I have small hands and a guitar is always difficult.) Personally, I would listen to a number of instruments on youtube in order to get a little distance from the situation. You'd also learn what you like, and want, for technique and sound.

    BTW teardrop OM's sound more like the mandolin family. Guitar shapes are fine for solo and sound more like a guitar.
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    An alternate view:

    I purchased a mandola, (CGDA) and after more than a few years I discovered I wasn't really playing it. And it was a pain to carry to jam sessions and gigs.

    So I sold it.

    I recently got me a five course mandola- mandolin. It does everything I might want mandola wise, while providing solid mandolinning for regular play. In one case.

    Note: only a solution for mandola.
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Quote Originally Posted by chris.burcher View Post
    This is absolutely wonderful info and incredibly helpful.

    Jim, just me solo performing singing and playing, rotating through guitar, mando, and other(s). I am thinking octave to start. But $4500 for the northfield ......

    perhaps watching the used market a bit as a next step. Not like I don't watch it daily already
    How about $3900?

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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Don't forget the mandobass, the octomandobass, and the subcontraoctomandobass. To say nothing of resophonics.
    Also don't forget the guitarrón (four-string) tuned in 5ths starting at E (1)

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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I had a great run finding mandolins over the decades. Never really much thought of getting an octave mandolin until the Eastman MDO-305 came out. At sub-$1k I just had to give it a try. When COVID hit, I dedicated time to playing it. . . a lot! Such fun retooling my mandolin pieces to the OM! Such an interesting challenge reworking the grips and pulling music out of it!

    Though of going the $5k route, and one day may? That Eastman is a fun box for me and I'm glad I bought it!

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    Registered User chris.burcher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    So many great suggestions - and so many variations on the mandolin theme!! Currently I'm lusting after an eastman octave like several mentioned as well as an eastman 'cello either F hole or oval. But I fear those instruments may not be available and they have increased in price coincident with my interest haha. And, yes, the Northfield used $3900 looks nice.. . . but
    Last edited by chris.burcher; Dec-02-2021 at 4:45pm.

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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I’ll throw 2 more cents in. I started on borrowed guitar, bought a banjo, then mandolin. Eventually got a Weber Hyalite OM that was a 22.5 inch scale. It was a rhythm machine but tough for me to play melody on. Eventually turned it into a Weber Yellowstone mandocello that still ranks as one of the best 2 or 3 instruments I’ve owned. But, the scale length was also tough, and I found myself either playing bass lines or trying to strum it like an OM (man, it growled!). So, I found myself just playing my bass or guitar instead. When I moved my daughter into her apartment in Boston 2.5 years ago I went to TME primarily to play a Kimble mandola they had. It was a spectacular instrument, but after 30 minutes of playing I didn’t feel like it was different enough from mando or OM to justify it for me. The revelation that day, though, was playing a Girouard 20 inch scale GBOM. The scale length just fit me. I waited too long and missed out on that one, but got a Weber Bitterroot from TMS that I love and still have/play regularly. If I want mandola tuning I can capo it at the fifth fret and play pretty much with mando fingerings (I actually really like doing that with the Prelude to the Cello Suites).

    So, my vote is for OM. Sadly, I think my Cello days are done (that really was a nice Weber, and I dig the thump, but…), but I may get a proper Mandola some day. I use my OM often at home and also use it in our praise band when I need guitar range but want that double course rhythmic drive. Good luck choosing, and enjoy he journey!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I wanted an Eastman MDO-305 last winter, but waited too long and they sold out. The Mandolin Store just got more in and mine arrived yesterday. It was a long day waiting to open it after acclimation, but I have no regrets. The setup is excellent and the tone is richer than I expected.

    My only issue is I have a longer scale bouzouki and several mandolins. My fingering is getting confused by the in-between length, but that won't be an issue after a couple of days playing it. It's a great budget friendly way to see if you like an OM.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I own each of the instruments you're considering, and went from mandolin to octave mandolin to mandola to mandocello (added a mando-bass last year, but let's ignore that for now). Like some of the others posting, I acquired them in the order mandolin-octave mandolin-mandola-mandocello.

    Were I to do it over again, I'd go step-by-step down the ladder and get mandola next. Gradually deepening the tonal range. I'm playing more mandola now than any instrument, an old Stahl Larson Brothers from Bernunzio's, and find it good for vocal accompaniment, lead, and putting harmonies in around mandolins and violins. Also, there really isn't that much difference between playing GDAE and CGDA instruments; chord formations are the same, and you just need to remember that what you thought was a G chord is now a C chord, and so on.

    To confess, my mandocelli are the most neglected instruments. I have a '20's Gibson K-1 and a 1900's Waldo bowl-back. I traded in my Eastman 'cello -- an excellent instrument -- because I really wasn't playing it. I have three mandolas: the Stahl, a Sobell that probably once was an OM until I restrung it, and a Washburn bowl-back, late 19th century. My two octaves are a Flatiron "bouzouki," '80's vintage, and a Regal Octofone that I've strung with octave pairs in the two lower courses.

    To me the mandocello is basically an ensemble instrument, although I'm aware of some who play it solo. Balancing against the advantage of transferring mandolin chording directly to the OM, is the fact that scale length and fret spacing is closest to what you're familiar with on mandola.

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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Um....
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    I love Sweeney's photo. It says to me that all one needs is your own music store. I'm getting there with 2 mandolins, 1 mandola, 1 OM, 1 guitar and and 3 violins. I've the opinion that the musical situation determines which instrument 'gets used'. Trying to adapt a particular instrument for a number of situations is an unnecessary challenge. IMHO (On the other hand, if you need to 'make it work - you will. I have...and now I have too many. )
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    To me the mandocello is basically an ensemble instrument, although I'm aware of some who play it solo.
    That is the historical and general view, and I spend most of my mandocello practice time on my part in the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra.
    But it does open up the option of playing some great solo cello music, and there is more and more original music coming out for plucked mandocello. You can check out my CBOM MC 21st Century post if interested. I do see people playing bluegrass classics on MCello, but my fingers can't move that fast.
    Probably and realistically though, for the purposes in Chris' original post, the Mandocello is less flexible for accompanying and soloing. When I was string-banding before the pandemic, I only used my K4 on 3 or 4 songs.

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    Registered User chris.burcher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hey guys and gals, I need some help please . . . old newbie

    Thanks, again, everyone. Just to keep the thread going, I have focused on owning-to-try-out an octave or 'dola next, then hope for a 'cello at some point. I guess I should have known this would be harder than mandolins due to there being even fewer of these types of instruments around. Have seen a few come through the classifieds and made offers but no dice, yet. Probably get an eastman octave and/or eastman 'dola as those seem to be more available and a good entry-level try-it-to-see-if-I-wanna-spend more.

    And, yeah, I'm looking to do solo gigs rotating between mandolin, guitar, and ??? on some singer songwritery stuff just to challenge myself.

    This is for another thread, but I've spent 25 years playing music no one has ever heard, so I'm shifting the model to play things people know in hopes that one day I an be the campfire or sundowner entertainment. I shunned that role my whole life to avoid the 'play something we know' conversation. I used to tend hard toward elitist and snobbery when it comes to song selection, only to realize that some of the popular music is incredibly good, fun to play and sing, and even more fun to hear played live. So I'm trying to close the loop and hold myself accountable. And I am starting to hear different tones for some of the songs I've worked up. These tones seem to lie somewhere on the spectrum that includes the instruments in this thread.

    Thanks!

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