Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


F-style or A-style mandolin?

PHJim 03 Nov 09 - 02:17 PM
Mavis Enderby 03 Nov 09 - 02:28 PM
Rog Peek 03 Nov 09 - 02:33 PM
Songbob 03 Nov 09 - 02:44 PM
Mark Clark 03 Nov 09 - 04:36 PM
Dave Hanson 04 Nov 09 - 03:24 AM
mandotim 04 Nov 09 - 05:05 AM
Willie-O 04 Nov 09 - 09:41 AM
Will Fly 04 Nov 09 - 10:38 AM
Brian Swinton 04 Nov 09 - 12:03 PM
PHJim 04 Nov 09 - 12:13 PM
PHJim 04 Nov 09 - 12:53 PM
PHJim 04 Nov 09 - 12:58 PM
The Sandman 04 Nov 09 - 01:03 PM
Songbob 04 Nov 09 - 01:25 PM
Mark Ross 04 Nov 09 - 03:09 PM
Mark Ross 04 Nov 09 - 03:10 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Nov 09 - 07:19 PM
Mark Clark 04 Nov 09 - 09:08 PM
GUEST,Paul S 05 Nov 09 - 08:52 AM
Dave Hanson 05 Nov 09 - 09:55 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: PHJim
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 02:17 PM

I almost high-jacked the Eastman Mandolin thread, but thought better of it.
   What difference in sound is made by adding a scroll to a mandolin? I can't understand why adding a big chunk of wood to the top side of a mandolin would make it sound better. Is the scroll so desirable for appearance only, or does it actually contribute to the sound. I have played both A and F models and there have been some of each that I loved and some of each that I didn't care for.
I've also played an Eastman 605 (A-style) and an Eastman 615 (F-style) and couldn't see much difference. What do other mandolin players think? It seems like a very expensive strap hook if that's all it adds.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 02:28 PM

I'm tempted to say it's an expensive strap hanger. If head rules over heart, an A style is probably the better choice for the money.

Scrolls do look good though! I like to think I'm resistant to such ornamentation - I normally play A style mandos - but I do have an F4 mandolin kit waiting in the wings...

Cheers,

Pete.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Rog Peek
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 02:33 PM

PHJim You'd have been more than welcome, in fact you'd have kept it current as it seems now to have slipped off the 1 day screen.

Rog


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Songbob
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 02:44 PM

It's partly history. The Gibson company had scroll models in both their mandolin and guitar lines, mostly for show. But when Lloyd Loar designed the F-5 mandolin, he used the fancy F-shape as the starting point, then did his "copy a violin even more than earlier models" experimenting. The result was a loud, very playable instrument with a distinctive tone. A deal of the tone comes from the f-holes instead of the oval sound hole of the earlier F- and A-models. So you could get an F- model with an oval soundhole, or an F-model with f-holes.

The difference, structurally, is that f-hole instruments don't have this honking big hole in the top between the bridge and neck, a hole which has to be reinforced against collapse. For this reason, A-models have either braces or a thicker top around the area of the soundhole, which cuts the volume but gives you more sustain and a little 'sweeter' tone. Most old A-models are sweet but silent (comparitively -- no good mando is 'silent'). F-models are sharper and woody in tone, and tend to be louder with less sustain.

All of these comparisons, of course, vary from instrument to instrument -- my A-model Gibson is louder than my "Loar" F-5, and the Mid-Missouri flat-top is probably louder than the Gibby.

So it comes down to the individual taste and style of music you're after playing. For string-bands, A's work well enough. In a bluegrass band, at full roar, you may need an F, and maybe even then, a pickup. For parlor music, go for the sweet, and as much volume as you can get among the sweeties. Try lots of mandos, side-by-side if you can, and expect buyer's remorse no matter what you get. I liked my "Loar" just fine till I sat in with folks playing REAL Loar mandolins, and then it sounded wimpy and thin. But then, against a real Loar (1921-1925 are the production years) nothing else has both the quality and the aging that produces a real killer instrument. You're getting into the "what will my modern instrument sound like in 50 years of playing?" territory, which is another subject entirely.

If I had to go looking for a new mandolin, without my current ones to 'fall back on,' I'd probably check out Eastman, "The Loar," plus Webber, Breedlove, and some of the one-man shops, and probably look for an A model -- maybe even an A with F-holes (Gibson A-40 or A-50 models from the 40s are like that).

Good luck.

And, no, the scroll doesn't affect the sound a whole lot, one way or another. It's just a chunk of wood glued to one side, and not much involved in the vibrating part of the instrument. The neck has more to do with the sound than the scroll.

Bob Clayton


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 03 Nov 09 - 04:36 PM

Bob's analysis is right on the money. Since both “A” and “F” were Gibson model designations, there were major differences in construction, specifications and tone. The scrolls were only decorative since they are solid blocks, not hollow. The scrolls and points don't change the shape of the acoustic chamber inside the body of the instrument. The shape and trim differences were to visually announce the high-end nature of the instrument in a time when lavish carving and decoration were applied to the top models by most instrument manufacturers. But the acoustic engineering was vastly different between those Gibson models. It was a time when mandolin orchestras were popular and lots of people played mandolins of al sizes and shapes.

Today the “A” models are still preferred by classical mandolinists while the F-5 (not so much the F-4) is preferred by bluegrass musicians. The reasons as outlined by Bob are because the F-5 will cut through an ensemble and provide a percussive pulse much the way an archtop jazz guitar (also a Gibson/Loar innovation) cuts through the sound of a big band to provide the rhythmic pulse.

But modern makers often copy only the general outward appearance of Gibson's “A” and “F” model mandolins without necessarily reproducing the features that really distinguish one from the other. That's why you need play a lot of mandolin models from different manufacturers to make an informed purchase choice.

I know quite a few bluegrass mandolinists who play “A” style instruments but they universally have F holes, not round or oval ones. I also think modern music is better approached using a mandolin with fifteen frets to the body, not twelve as in the old “A” styles. But those players wishing to reproduce older music may prefer ths short necked “A” models.

Suffice it to say that for the most part we still get what we pay for. Like many others, I chose a Chinese made instrument in part because it cost less than an equivalent U.S., Czech or Australian made instrument but I only bought my Eastman because it played and sounded the way I wanted a mandolin to play and sound. And I bought on the high end, not the low. I probably saved a couple of thousand over non Pac-rim hand carved instruments but there are many U.S., Czech and Australian hand made instruments that will blow my Eastman away... starting around $US12,000.

      - Mark


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 03:24 AM

The popularity of the ' F ' style particularly in the USA is all down to Bill Monroe, if Bill had played an ' A ' style then that would be the most popular.

Dave H


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: mandotim
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 05:05 AM

The simple answer is; one mandolin is not enough! As for as I can tell thse scroll doesn't really affect the tone much. The main differences (IMHO) in volume and tone come from these sources:
Tonewoods; spruce and cedar tops sound different, and maple and mahogany or birch bodies do too.
Soundholes; F holes tend to sound 'dryer' and 'woodier' than oval holes, which tend to have a more ringing sound with greater sustain.
Flat or carved top and back; Carved tops are usually louder, with a more punchy sound.
String choice; there's a world of difference in tone and volume between light and heavy strings
Pick choice; light picks produce a thinner, ringing sound, heavy ones produce the dry 'chop' so beloved in bluegrass.

Biggest difference of all? The player's hands and sense of the music they are playing.
Tim


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Willie-O
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 09:41 AM

The other difference between sound from f-holes and round-holes is this. Remember, the holes are there to project the sound out of the instrument, not to collect it from the strings (sound silly but I unconsciously believed the latter for a long time. Since the f-holes are on the sides of the instrument, whereas the round or oval hole is in the middle, the f-holes project more clearly, with no muffling or baffling from the sound passing out through the strings, and much less sound blockage from the player's right hand (assuming a right-handed player).

For years I thought I wanted a round-hole, and finally got one, but I find I want to switch back to f-holes, A or F style body, doesn't matter. I play Celtic but my playing style is kind of aggressive and I like the immediate attack (in terms of note production) and low action of a bluegrass-setup instrument. I tend to overdrive my current main instrument, the round-hole, when I play fast. It does have the longer sustain, but in the end that's not as important to me most of the time. I liked an Eastman 505 when I tried it out--top feels very alive, compared to the round-hole.

W-O


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 10:38 AM

I have to say that I'm not sure that f-holes or round holes per se are the ultimate shapers of volume and tone. The quality of the woods, the construction, the overall craftmanship, etc., will determine the sound of the instrument, IMHO. I play a handbuilt flat-top, roundhole instrument which is made from walnut back & sides, spruce face, mahogany/maple/mahogany stripe neck, ebony fretboard, rosewood bridge and bone nut and saddle. The instrument is as light as a feather and bright and loud as a button, and compares very favourably with f-hole instruments. I'm sure that both designs have their characteristics of tone and volume in general, but soundhole shape is only one factor. Just a personal thought.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Brian Swinton
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 12:03 PM

Having recently spent the extra for an f shape Weber compared to an a shape my contribution is that the balance of the f shape in your hands is perfection and it just looks so attractive. Since playing it for gigs in the last 2 months I have had more interest and good comments about my instrument than in the last 40 years. I wish i could have afforded one years ago but I've thought that every time I;ve upgraded any instrument.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 12:13 PM

Songbob said,"For string-bands, A's work well enough. In a bluegrass band, at full roar, you may need an F, and maybe even then, a pickup." Sacrilege!!! Bluegrass is one of the few places where we can hear music played through mics and making an acoustic sound. The last bluegrass band I played in used only one condenser mic most of the time.
I agree that f-hole are preferable to an oval hole when playing bluegrass with a banjo and fiddle, but I still feel that a good A-style mandolin is as good as a similar quality, but much higher priced F-style.
I own an Eastman 605 (A-style f-hole) and a Washburn Country mandolin (Two point oval-hole). I play the Eastman for bluegrass and the Washburn for Celtic. When it comes to jug band, blues or other styles, it's a toss up.
I do have an old 1970ish Ibanez that has had a pick-up installed and is stung in a high-strung tuning. I rarely use it out of the house.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 12:53 PM

Many years ago, I recall reading a quote from someone whose opinion I respected, I think Norman Blake, that Tut Taylor's Loar A5 was the best sounding mandolin that he'd ever played. This was the only A model that Loydd Loar ever signed. The A5 is the long necked (15 fret) A model.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: PHJim
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 12:58 PM

Songbob - I just realised who you are. I still play tunes I learned from your Old Timey Banjo book. Are you the same Bob Clayton?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 01:03 PM

I have a very loud mandolin, made by Antony Black,it has a round hole.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Songbob
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 01:25 PM

PHJim -- yes, the very same. And I still have copies of the Old-Timey Banjo Book knocking around the house (after publishing it in 1976 and reprinting a few years later, I changed from teaching music to teaching English, then settled into a bureaucrat's job with the gummint.

Glad you liked the book. I still sell one or two here and there, at $10 plus postage. I've sold a few here on the 'Cat, for that matter. To show how times change, the original price was $4.25, so I could ship it for $5 total, book rate. Now I sometimes put a $10 sticker over the printed price.

And the pickup I mentioned above would be one of the pickup-in-the-bridge style, not a single-coil wedged under the end of the fingerboard. And this solution doesn't work so well with really responsive instruments anyway, as they're really, really prone to feedback.

Bob


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 03:09 PM

The bluegrass mandolin player Red Rector played an oval hole A model Gibson. The last time I saw Jody Stecher playing with the band Perfect Strangers he was playing an f-hole A model.


Mark Ross


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 03:10 PM

F-hole, A model. Now try saying that 3 times fast!

Mark Ross


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 07:19 PM

Why A and F?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 04 Nov 09 - 09:08 PM

The prevailing wisdom is that “A” referenced the Artist series and “F” referenced the Florentine series of mandolins. This makes sense except Gibson was known to violate that nomenclature on occasion. Charles Johnson maintains “A Brief History Of Gibson Mandolins” page on his “Mandolin world Headquarters...and Guitars!” Web site that provides more detail without being exhaustive.

      - Mark


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: GUEST,Paul S
Date: 05 Nov 09 - 08:52 AM

I've tried many mandolins and while there is a reasonably large variety in sound, I've only ever found two that I didn't like the sound of.

The first was a $120 Russian-made A-style with a round sound hole. It just sucked.

The second was a Dobro-style mandolin, with a resonator in it. Saw it in a music store in Syracuse, NY a few months ago. When I first saw it, my mind was blown because I'd never seen such a thing, and LOVE the gritty sound of resonator guitars. The sound was absolutely horrible though: tinny, too trebly, and WAY too much sustain.

While you certainly can't compete with an expensive old Gibson, even a cheap mandolin can sound really nice!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: F-style or A-style mandolin?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 05 Nov 09 - 09:55 AM

A good set up job can work wonders, incidently I once had a Gibson A40 which was the biggest pile of crap I ever played.



Dave H


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 23 July 12:32 AM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.