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Tech: Gretsch mandolin

Cappuccino 22 Aug 17 - 04:39 PM
GUEST,bignige 22 Aug 17 - 06:20 PM
gillymor 22 Aug 17 - 07:06 PM
GUEST,Marcia Palmater 22 Aug 17 - 08:09 PM
punkfolkrocker 22 Aug 17 - 08:23 PM
GUEST 22 Aug 17 - 08:28 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 23 Aug 17 - 12:52 AM
Dave Hanson 23 Aug 17 - 02:00 AM
punkfolkrocker 23 Aug 17 - 02:39 AM
Cappuccino 23 Aug 17 - 05:09 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 23 Aug 17 - 05:15 AM
banjoman 23 Aug 17 - 05:19 AM
GUEST,Bignige 23 Aug 17 - 08:47 AM
gillymor 23 Aug 17 - 09:00 AM
GUEST,Ray 23 Aug 17 - 09:40 AM
Cappuccino 23 Aug 17 - 11:11 AM
gillymor 23 Aug 17 - 11:18 AM
GUEST,Ray 23 Aug 17 - 01:15 PM
punkfolkrocker 23 Aug 17 - 01:20 PM
GUEST,Ray 23 Aug 17 - 02:06 PM
leeneia 26 Aug 17 - 10:55 AM
leeneia 26 Aug 17 - 10:31 PM
GUEST,Ray 27 Aug 17 - 10:10 AM
punkfolkrocker 27 Aug 17 - 10:21 AM
GUEST,Ray 27 Aug 17 - 11:39 AM
GUEST 27 Aug 17 - 02:34 PM
GUEST 27 Aug 17 - 06:13 PM
leeneia 28 Aug 17 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,Jerry Crossley 29 Aug 17 - 04:53 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 29 Aug 17 - 08:36 AM
GUEST,Ray 29 Aug 17 - 10:56 AM
punkfolkrocker 29 Aug 17 - 11:00 AM
GUEST 29 Aug 17 - 11:25 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 29 Aug 17 - 11:26 AM
Dave Hanson 29 Aug 17 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,gilly 29 Aug 17 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,Ray 29 Aug 17 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,Jerry Crossley 30 Aug 17 - 04:16 AM
GUEST,Ray 30 Aug 17 - 10:57 AM
GUEST,Jerry 30 Aug 17 - 05:47 PM
GUEST,gilly 01 Sep 17 - 03:43 AM
Ernest 01 Sep 17 - 04:37 AM
GUEST 01 Sep 17 - 05:19 PM
GUEST,gilly 03 Sep 17 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,Jerry 03 Sep 17 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,Ray 07 Sep 17 - 09:57 AM
Dave the Gnome 07 Sep 17 - 10:33 AM
leeneia 07 Sep 17 - 10:54 AM
GUEST,Jerry 07 Sep 17 - 01:27 PM
GUEST,bignige 08 Sep 17 - 05:13 PM
GUEST,Jon 08 Sep 17 - 06:05 PM
GUEST,Ray 09 Sep 17 - 04:32 AM
GUEST,bignige 09 Sep 17 - 07:05 AM
GUEST,Jon 09 Sep 17 - 07:44 AM
GUEST,Jon 09 Sep 17 - 07:56 AM
Dave Hanson 09 Sep 17 - 09:52 AM
GUEST,Jon 09 Sep 17 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,Jon 09 Sep 17 - 10:07 AM
GUEST,Ray 09 Sep 17 - 12:46 PM
GUEST,bignige 09 Sep 17 - 04:52 PM
GUEST,Ray 10 Sep 17 - 04:08 AM
GUEST,Jon 10 Sep 17 - 08:41 AM
punkfolkrocker 10 Sep 17 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,Jon 10 Sep 17 - 10:56 AM
GUEST,Jon 10 Sep 17 - 02:05 PM
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Subject: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Cappuccino
Date: 22 Aug 17 - 04:39 PM

In a music shop here in Norwich (UK) I recently found a Gretsch New Yorker mandolin. I confess to being first seduced by the name, but the thing played very nicely in the shop, so I bought it. I've just settled down to change a set of strings, and have been appalled to find that the tailpiece is so badly designed that it has taken me over an hour to change six of the eight strings (I gave up before trying the last two). This is the kind of tailpiece where a loop on the end of the string fits over a little stub or 'hook'; you then feed the string under a sort of tailpiece cover and then up to the fingerboard. Those little hooks are awful – you can't keep the string on them, and time after time I found I was halfway through winding it at one end and it slipped off the other! I am now seriously thinking of getting a guitar technician to take the tailpiece off and replace it with another one; I've had cheaper mandolins with far better ones. Before I do so, has anyone had similar problems with this mandolin, and if so, how did you get round it?

Thanks.

Cappuccino, Norfolk UK.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,bignige
Date: 22 Aug 17 - 06:20 PM

It is problem, I found the best way is sellotape on the metal tag until its fully tensioned, then remove.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: gillymor
Date: 22 Aug 17 - 07:06 PM

When changing mando strings I install one at a time and after hooking a string around the nub I hold it tight with my left hand and clamp it down at about the 12th fret with a capo, attach the string to the string post, put at least enough tension on it to hold it tight and then move on to the next one.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Marcia Palmater
Date: 22 Aug 17 - 08:09 PM

Don't know why anyone would be "seduced" by a Gretsch mandolin! I wouldn't have one in the house. Vega, Martin, Gibson -- those are high-quality instruments.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 22 Aug 17 - 08:23 PM

Gretsch, like other brands, sell reasonable quality fairly affordable country / roots / folk instruments.
Probably most originating from the same Far Eastern factories.
Though Gretsch mandos may not be amongst the cheapest of their similar quality kind...

'High-quality instruments' Brand Name snobs can be mislead and seduced probably more than any other musicians...

For instance Gibson have acquired a well deserved reputation for being far too overpriced whilst neglecting acceptable quality control.

Modern Chinese copies of Gibson instruments can be as good, if not better, at a fraction of the price.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Aug 17 - 08:28 PM

I don't know if that mandolin is particularly difficult but I keep tension on the string with my right hand while winding it with my left.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 12:52 AM

The technique gillymoor mentioned (using a capo as a clamp after attaching the string at the tailpiece) works for most instruments with tailpieces. I use it for banjos and archtop and resonator guitars as well as mandolins.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 02:00 AM

Punkfolkrocker, I've got 2 Gibsons a 1917 A model and a modern F9 which is Gibsons budget model, both are superb mandolins and neither was overpriced !

You have to be extremely unlucky to get a bad Gibson unless you were daft enough to buy one built in the 1970s

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 02:39 AM

... and by too many user reports all over guitar forums and youtube, this century...!!!


My one and only Gibson [2015] needed to be fixed under warranty as the electrics were faulty, and the guitar not fit for purpose, brand new out of the box...

But my main point is that many 'cheaper' mandos are more than acceptable standard these days.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Cappuccino
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 05:09 AM

Thank you all.    Marcia, I was 'seduced' by the mandolin first because of the name, which still has a reputation here for guitars, but then because the tone was clearly way superior to anything else in the shop. Yes, I'd love a Gibson or a Martin – but on my pension that is just not going to happen! The Gretsch mandolins are apparently made in China, or, I now understand 'were', because I'm told the factory there has closed down.

The problem with the Gretsch tailpiece is, I now find, a 'known problem'.   On a mandolin discussion forum, I find one user saying "The tailpiece on the Gretsch mandolins was designed by Satan to taunt mankind. It is by far the worst tailpiece on the planet."   I am not alone!

On previous cheaper mandolins I have had, the top of the tailpiece clicks off to let you get at the hook. (Didn't Fender electric guitars use to have something similar?)   The Gretsch one doesn't - you have eight tiny, badly-positioned and small hooks set inconveniently right next to the strap holder, under a fixed cover.   You have to hook the string in place, then bend the string through something in excess of ninety degrees, and feed the rest of the string under this cover… you have clearance of perhaps two or three millimetres, and you can't see where it's going, so of course it either ends up passing under another string, or the loop slips off the hook.   

At this point it is helpful to have four hands, although the capo technique has been referred to (and one chap used a magnet to keep the string in place).

Other users say they have almost thrown the thing out of the window, or they simply live with old strings until changing one becomes essential. I think I shall clamp the blasted thing in place on a workbench next time I do this… which may not be for many years.

Many thanks, all the best from rural Norfolk, UK
- Cappuccino


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 05:15 AM

Have you considered getting a luthier to change the tailpiece?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: banjoman
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 05:19 AM

Changing the Tailpiece is not a difficult job provided that you may have to fit a non Gretsch which may need a bit of fettling to fit and need new screw holes.
Try anchoring the new strings with a bit of Gaffer Tape and then capo at about fifth fret.
Persevere as its sounds like yo have got a fine instrument


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Bignige
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 08:47 AM

Not sure if it is generally known but Gibson don't make Mandolins anymore, other than the odd one to special order. The flood back in 2010, more or less wiped them out. Wood store, machinery all ruined. So if you have a Gibson I suggest you hold on to it, it may well start going up in price due to the scarcity factor


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: gillymor
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 09:00 AM

Gibson still makes mandolins but apparently not in great numbers at this point.

From a 12th Fret ad for an F-5L Fern:

"These mandolins are a welcome sight, not just because they are great instruments but also because they mean that Gibson's Nashville production lines are recovering from the devastating floods of 2010."

12th Fret Gibsons


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 09:40 AM

The worst mandolin I have for changing strings is a National RM-1 and the best way to do it is to use a blob of Bluetack and a capo - I assume this would also work with a Gretch.

Most mandolin tailpieces have their faults - try getting the strings "off" a Collings Mandola! Anyone thinking about better tailpieces should investigate the "James". Problem is they cost almost as much as most people are prepared to pay for a mandolin


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Cappuccino
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 11:11 AM

Thanks. I didn't realise it was such a common problem.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: gillymor
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 11:18 AM

One other tip is to give each string a slight bend (not a kink!) at it's winding to give you a good angle to hook it on the nub and to help hold it there.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 01:15 PM

Google has a number of images of the "James" tailpiece. The main (hinged) body is cast rather than stamped and the top has a pair of lugs which engage with two neoprene O-rings to keep it in place. The closeed top, together with the 0-rings, keep the string from slipping off the hook but it's still worthwhile using a capo to stop the loose end swinging around whilst you deal with the tuner end.

Price? Think north of $150 for the basic model and, if you can find a supply in the UK, let me know where!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 01:20 PM

I restrung a late 19th Cent Italian bowlback, and don't remember any real problems...

So they must have got it right all that time ago....???


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 23 Aug 17 - 02:06 PM

They tend to have hooks rather than pins. Bluetack hadn't been invented and the Shubb capo was still some way off as were the self adhesive sticking plasters necessary to stem the inevitable bleeding from string end pricks; but, with practice, it is clearly possible, although unpleasant.

Much progress has been made since those days; i.e. geared tuners, d'addario strings, electronic tuners, sliced bread etc. etc. but nostalgia isn't necessarily what it used to be.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: leeneia
Date: 26 Aug 17 - 10:55 AM

The new strings have probably been coiled and stored in envelopes. Try coiling them the other way to straighten them so they won't be as bouncy. You might need to coil them the other way and let them sit for a while.

Take a delicate pair of pliers and gently squish the loops from a circle shape to an almond shape. Then the loops will nestle on the hooks better.

The blu-tack will probably be helpful too.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: leeneia
Date: 26 Aug 17 - 10:31 PM

"the tone was clearly way superior to anything else in the shop."

Good for you. The sound is the most important thing, and I'm sure you will soon develop some techniques for dealing with the strings.

When you think about it, all cordage is perverse. It doesn't occur in nature; humans invented it. It's useful, but it ties itself in knots, it kinks, it ravels, it snaps and it whips around. Just listening to a mandolin, we know that the strings are very fine and under high tension. They are bound to be perverse.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 10:10 AM

"the tone was clearly way superior to anything else in the shop."

Given the number of mandolins in the average shop, such a comparison doesn't really amount to much.

As for "coiling strings the other way round", in my limited experience, (barely 40+ years of mandolin and 50 of guitar playing) I find that strings tend to unwind when you take them out of the packet. The only ones which didn't were the late lamented "Nashville Straights" which came already unwound in a long thin cardboard box!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 10:21 AM

"the tone was clearly way superior to anything else in the shop."

As a mando player, I don't actually like the high pitched sound of the bloody things, they hurt my ears...

My old Italian bowlback does have a more mellow tone, but even then the bass strings dominate with a weird resonance...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 11:39 AM

Try playing a National RM-1 for a while and the high pitched sound of the others will pale into insignificance!

Seriously, I was about to suggest Thomastic strings but they too have unwound E's so there'll likely be no difference. I can only conclude that it's either the instruments you've heard/played or that it's you. Have you ever tried a mandocello?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 02:34 PM

Also try my mandolin banjo.

I have played a Gibson mandocello, I seem to remember it being hard work but very rewarding in sound. Until its owner changed to lighter strings and a bazouki (probably GDAD) tuning.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Aug 17 - 06:13 PM

Any one come across a liuto cantabile? Practical reasons for not aside, having played the clip on the wiki page, I want one.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: leeneia
Date: 28 Aug 17 - 11:33 AM

Typical Mudcat. One person wants help making music, and a whole passel of people, mostly male, hop on to belittle and discourage. I wonder how many of you ever actually pick up and instrument any more.

Guest, I have 45 years' experience with strings, and I stand by my suggestions.

Cappucino, keep working with your strings, and you will master them. Sometimes skills just have to come with time.
=========
Other Guest - thanks for the link to the liuto. It's interesting.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jerry Crossley
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 04:53 AM

Well, I wouldn't go quite as far as that, but I do come across lots of posts by people struggling with mandolins, but I suspect that is because they have graduated from guitars and expect everything from stringing, fretspacing and actually playing to be like a guitar in miniature. They are of course an entirely different type of instrument and are played quite differently, linearly along the strings rather chordally across the strings, and should not be viewed as an easy second instrument, unless you are a seasoned fiddle player. But yes, they are a pain to restring, though not as tedious as an auto harp. You can sometimes avoid using those transverse string anchors, mentioned earlier on, by simply looping two adjacent strings over the same (parallel aligned) hook.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 08:36 AM

I'm so glad my mandolin (sadly underused) has ball-end strings and bridge pins.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 10:56 AM

Jerry - I think a lot of the problem has been that, until relatively recently, it has been quite difficult to get hold of a decent instrument without paying the earth. Logic might suggest that because its around half the size of a guitar, a mandolin should be half the price. Experience, however, demonstrates that you have to be paying at least twice as much for an equivalent mandolin as you would for a guitar. The reason for this is largely down to the higher degree of accuracy needed in the build and set up of the instrument. Get the intonation a shade out and it sounds twice as bad as it would on a guitar. Consequently, there aren't many shops who stock mandolins in a significant quantity - I can only think of one shop that has more mandolins than I do!

Mark - how easy is it to get hold of ball end mandolin strings? My GBOM uses ball ends and I have to get custom sets made up. Fortunately there is a very accommodating string manufacturer not far away from me.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 11:00 AM

"how easy is it to get hold of ball end mandolin strings?"

.. guitar strings and a wire cutter.....???


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 11:25 AM

My Buchanan mandolin uses ball end strings. I use a Picato 650s PB 11-40 medium set.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 11:26 AM

I use these which are easily available.

If GBOM means, as I think it does, Guitar-bodied octave mandolin, I suspect PFR's suggestion of finding the right guitar strings would be the best bet, depending on string length.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 11:29 AM

Eagle Music in Huddersfield sell ' Eagle Newtone ' ball end mandolin strings, from top English strings from Malcolm Newton.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,gilly
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 12:04 PM

I love these'cheapo' mandolins and have two of them - a sunburst and a natural. Yes, stringing is a pain but using a capo and taking your time works fine.The other tip is to load the string in from the 'wrong' end - ie from the bridge pass the loop end under the tailpiece, then loop over the hooks, hold it down with the capo on the neck as above. This avoids making the 90 degree bend referred to above.
I think at their price they are great sounding and well made instruments and have played the sunburst one hard for several years. The natural one is all mahogany and to my ears sounds a little sweeter but doesn't have strap pins so is less versatile.
Strings ? Good old Ernie Ball...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 29 Aug 17 - 01:19 PM

Yes, truncated ball end guitar strings are the obvious solution but making up mandolin sets in that way is costly and wasteful.

As Dave says, Eagle Music sell ball end Newtones (custon gauges if you want) but they're actually cheaper if you buy them direct from Newtone. (Incidentally, Malcolm Newton retired a couple of years ago and the business is now run by Neil Silverman from new premises.)

Didn't realise that ball end mandolin strings were so popular. Then again, I have nothing that needs them. The D'Addario OM strings, irrespective of the wrong ends, are too light. I use/need 13-52s.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jerry Crossley
Date: 30 Aug 17 - 04:16 AM

I like the comment about most music shops having less mandolins than yourself, which is very true for me too. Typical High Street music shops here in U.K. clearly don't see them as serious instruments and usually have a few token low grade ones on display amidst a vast array of guitars. The same tends to go for banjos, and you have to go to specialist shops to find any that are any good in terms of sound or playability.
As for cost, yes, you're paying about £1000 for a decent mandolin, notwithstanding any bargains on EBay and private sales, whereas guitars of similar build quality can be got for only a few hundred these days. All of which is ironic, because I started on mandolin as a teenager simply because it took me forever to save up enough cash to get a guitar, which were very expensive in those days. However, I have no regrets, because learning to play tunes on a melodic instrument first is an excellent grounding for taking up the likes of guitar and actually understanding music (keys, scales, modes, harmonic progressions, etc.) Or am I just being elitist?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 30 Aug 17 - 10:57 AM

Jerry - The annoying thing about most UK shops is that they appear to simply hang them on the wall and wait for someone to buy them. Most of them look unplayable and I've even seen some with the plastic foam strip beneath the bridge that the pac-rim factories fit. There are exceptions but these are few and far apart.

As for guitars, the adoption of CNC technology has meant that the big factories are able to produce guitars which, even if they sound awful, can be played in tune - you couldn't say that of some of the rubbish produced in the 70s. I suspect that similar production techniques have yet to filter down to the mandolin producers in any meaningful way.

As for price, once you get, say, over £2000, the old law of diminishing returns kicks in and it's largely down to how much you like the sound of the instrument although I'm convinced that one of my mandolins could strip the head off a banjo if need be!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 30 Aug 17 - 05:47 PM

I don't disagree with any of that, but not sure I understand the banjo reference, since it can be read in more ways than one. The key message then is only buy mandolins (or banjos in my experience) from specialist shops, but expect to pay more and not less than you paid for your guitar if you want comparable quality, sound and playability, even though you're actually getting less timber.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,gilly
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 03:43 AM

Isn't 'graduated from the guitar' a little bit patronising ?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Ernest
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 04:37 AM

@ Guest, gilly: It is ony patronizing if you are a guitarist. And then you deserve it ;0)

Getting my coat...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 05:19 PM

Yes, sorry, 'graduated' is the wrong word, diversified is better, but I still don't think one should view the mandolin as an easy instrument after learning guitar because it's actually harder to play properly. I'm sure many will disagree with that, but most can become reasonably adept on guitar within a few weeks, but the mandolin is rather less forgiving.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,gilly
Date: 03 Sep 17 - 12:17 PM

Yes, I wasn't being totally earnest Ernest [couldn't resist it] and I would most certainly agree that the mandolin is not an 'easy' instrument - having been playing mandolin for 40+ years I'm still learning. When I was a teenager I used to think bass guitar was easy, then I heard Jack Bruce, know what I mean ?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 03 Sep 17 - 06:05 PM

46 years in my case, and still not got around to cross picking yet (McReynolds style), but been seduced by so many other instruments along the way.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 09:57 AM

Jerry - sorry for the pregnant pause; I've been away. The banjo reference - in cerrtain (particularly bluegrass) circles, much debate takes place as to whether a mandolin can compete with a banjo. Most would agree that the loudest available is the National RM-1 resonator mandolin (I actually got one as a retirement present!) They're loud, or so I thought until I got hold of another "real" one which, can be embarrassingly loud if I let rip. It did cost me more than half of what I paid for my first house and I only mention it because someone seemed to imply that all mandolins are the same. You pays your money and takes your choice!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 10:33 AM

My daughter has begun on the slippery slope of instrument acquisition syndrome! She has had a mandolin that I picked up in a charity shop for £20 for some years and wanted a better one. So she now has a Pilgrim flat iron one that she bought at Whitby festival a couple of weeks back.

I didn't realise that changing strings on one with a tailpiece, which the new one has could be so complicated. The old one is a ball end one. I must warn her! The new one is far easier to tune and play and has a truss rod in the neck along with adjusters on the bridge so she can set the action to whatever she likes best. I know the Pilgrim is a budget instrument but I must say it sounds lovely to me.

Then again I am a free reed player...

:D tG


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: leeneia
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 10:54 AM

Hi, Dave. Just don't tell anybody it's a budget instrument. Let people listen, and if they are pleased, they are pleased.

I've had lots of compliments on a guitar which cost $37.50 at an antique shop. It has a plywood top and it's called a Global.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 07 Sep 17 - 01:27 PM

Ray - When you say compete, I assume you mean in volume. However in bluegrass they don't really compete, because the mandolin chops for most of the time behind the banjo or fiddle, and then the banjo all but drops out altogether whilst the mandolin plays a solo, I don't know why people say I'm pedantic. Whilst I agree with previous post that many a good tune is played on an old fiddle, when it comes to volume and sound quality you tend to get what you pay for; top end mandolins and banjos produce more volume in general, because they have better but more expensive component materials (solid tonewoods, brass tone rings, etc) and you won't normally find those in your average music shop, however good their range of guitars might be.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,bignige
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 05:13 PM

For me a the difference between a cheap and expensive instrument shows up when you have dig in there for volume. I have a Sigma 00028vs, which looks and plays more or less like its Martin equivalent, but when you need to attack the strings in a session say it just doesn't have it.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 08 Sep 17 - 06:05 PM

Possibly disagree there. I've had a few debates over this, having changed a while ago now but in some ways, I regret giving my under £100 Roumanian built (I think) Portuguese style mando (mine was a "Vintage", similar also sold as Ozark...) away when I got the Buchanan.

Not a major problem to me as I also dabble with tenor banjo and no regrets in getting a nicer instrument but the general feeling after asking others seems to be that (although the latter is surprising for its small body), the cheap one was a bit easier to hear and the more expensive one is sweeter. The cheap one was also easier for me to hear myself on in a session.

Not sure about the digging in although I play with 1 - 1.14 picks these days and think of myself as being on the heavy handed side.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 04:32 AM

At the risk of stating the obvious, it's easier to play a loud mandolin quietly than to get a quiet mandolin to play loudly.

Most instruments have a limit. To try and put it simply, the sound which comes out of them all comprises an initial "thud" as the pick strikes the strings together with a "ring" as the strings sound out. At some point, the thud will overpower the ring and this occurs at a lower level on cheaper/poorer instruments which choke up if you try to play them too hard.

This may be an oversimplification as it also depends on string gauge, set-up and pick weight. Like Jon, I also use 1 - 1.4mm rounded picks (Wegen). I find that I need to go lighter and pointier on mandola and octave mandolin.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,bignige
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 07:05 AM

I'm really only talking Guitars. I would say a guitars tone and projection must come from the woods. The better the grade the better the construction the better projection. If you only require a brush type strum, then yes cheaper instruments will give you that, but if you need to replicate a bass guitar then may be not. The bottom line is that it is a very subjective thing, personally I like to hear the depth of a well rounded bass.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 07:44 AM

One thing with those cheap Romanian mandolins then is that they actually used solid tonewoods - I think mine had a spruce top and rosewood back and sides. Less fond of them in other ways - I dislike the classical guitar type tuners but to me (and yes things can be subjective/personal), a very good budget session instrument.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 07:56 AM

This one is described as having solid maple back and sides.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 09:52 AM

How often do you see eBay adds for ' hand built mandolin, solid woods ' and everyone can see it's a far Eastern factory made plywood box ?

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 10:01 AM

True Dave but I don't believe that is the case with these.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 10:07 AM

(And even Eagle Music Shop describe it as all solid spruce/maple)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 12:46 PM

The fact that it's solid wood doesn't mean that it's any good or that it will survive the rigours of being played for a significant length of time.

It's largely a matter of balance. A heavily built instrument will last for years but sound awful. A lightly built one will sound good but fall apart. An expert builder will know how light she/he can go whilst producing something which will last. It's not simply a case of sticking a flat piece of solid wood on top of a box - the top needs to be "tuned" to sound its best (and most of the better mandolins have carved tops anyway).

As with guitars, at the cheaper end of the market, you're sometimes better off getting something built of plywood (ah! My old, red label, Yamaha FG180 and how about spending a couple of hundred thousand on an an original "plywood" Maccaferri?)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,bignige
Date: 09 Sep 17 - 04:52 PM

Just another thought, cheap instruments may sound ok or even good when they are newish, try them again after say 20/30 years. Makers who have been around a while tend to know how to put and instrument together so it matures will age.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Ray
Date: 10 Sep 17 - 04:08 AM

Yes. Cheap (and generally plywood) instruments tend to sound much the same as they did new whereas luthier built instruments usually improve with age.

Similarly, cheap instruments tend to depreciate whereas luthier built ones retain and usually increase in value. E.G. I paid £190 for a new Martin D18 guitar in 1974.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 10 Sep 17 - 08:41 AM

Yep there may be general rules... All the same there are circumstances in sessions were I'd rather have one of those under £100 Vintage/Ozark/Hora mandolins with me than my (I'd think around £800 new) Buchanan.

I got my cheap one when I first moved to this area and gave it away last year so it would have done me around 16 years. I replaced the tail piece before I parted with it as it had gone a bit rusty but saw no reason why it shouldn't do someone else another 16 years.

We could argue this all we want but nothing is likely to change my own opinion of that instrument based on using one for a reasonable length of time and having goes on things of similar and of greater price (although nothing really expensive) over the years.

Of course someone else might find things different but that's how I found things.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 10 Sep 17 - 10:23 AM

So far the bias for expensive instruments here is focused on 'pure' acoustic players..

But when pickups, mics, EQ, and speakers enter the equation...???


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 10 Sep 17 - 10:56 AM

I rarely venture that way pfr... Of course the slightly better volume of that cheap mandolin I had would cease to be an issue there and the Buchanan would win out on tone and I think in feeling nicer to play too.

My Yamaha AR3 has pretty decent electronics but in my own rare home dabblings, I've wound up sending it through a Zoom A2.1 to modiy the tone a touch. My cheap Jay Turser which I like to play will plug in but isn't too clever.

I've nothing else acoustic built to plug in and attempts with external pickups haven't been that great. Mics, of the little I've acquired, Rhode M2 for voice and M5 on instrument seems to work at home as well as anything *when* I've set things up.

But that's me... I have mixer, amp, etc. too and dabble one in a while (even have Yamaha Pacifica and Roland GR55 and solid mandolin). Not averse to playing around for my own amusement and once in a while get the crazy notion I might to something... But really I think my place in music when I do get out is the sessions to informal folk club type things.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Gretsch mandolin
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 10 Sep 17 - 02:05 PM

Just a side comment on makers as it cropped up. Neither "Vintage" or "Ozark" are makers. They are music wholesalers. "Vintage" is a label of John Hornby Skewes and "Ozark" of Stentor, I think both pretty big in the UK. As far as I understand things they just source instruments to supply to music shops.

I don't know the situation now but much (although not that mando, these were East European), even lower range products from better named brands seemed to have been made by Samick, a South Korean company, or similar maker.

At higher ends, you will be getting the hand made traditional luthier stuff (and Buchanan is one of these) but I'd think there is a lot of quite useable and playable stuff, including "badged" coming from these factories.


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