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Jul 11, 2020 - 8:29:26 AM
53 posts since 9/20/2012

This one has been around the block a few times too, but I thought it might generate some discussion. So everyone knows that if you play bluegrass you MUST have a mandolin with f holes (and preferably some curly-cues). Oval hole mandolins are always described as appropriate for just about any other kind of music. Why (other than "that's the way Bill did it")? F hole mandolins are often described as louder, more "cutting", brighter, etc. Has anyone ever done sonograms of f hole and oval hole mandolins and quantified these alleged differences? Thoughts?

Jul 11, 2020 - 10:05:08 AM
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5 posts since 2/8/2015

I like the sound of the oval better I find mine give a chop that is woodier sounding and I don't agree the fhole is louder although they cut through at a higher pitch than ovals and that can be heard above the other instruments in a jam.
Other things are involved like string size, wood type , player attack.
Another consideration is the shape F style versus A style .
Oh and picks too I like thick big picks at least 1.5 and the bigger size with crisp edges and points.

Jul 13, 2020 - 5:03:24 AM

TSSN

USA

822 posts since 1/3/2011

This is a great question, to which there does seem to be lots of opinion.  I have even read in forums that "testing was done with this and that."  But no one can ever seem to back it up with an article or a tech report where someone has leaned in and done the actual bench work.   In fairness, I haven't gone looking for that definitive proof either.

Interestingly, I had my F-5 type f-hole mando setup recently (intonation had gotten quite bad), and it now has better sustain than my F-2 type oval hole mando.  So much for the full on F-5 f type having better "bark." 

Out of curiosity, how much would sonograms cost to do?

Jul 13, 2020 - 7:25:17 AM

53 posts since 9/20/2012

Ornithologists who study bird vocalizations do this stuff all the time. Here is a source for software (ravensoundsoftware.com/), so maybe this could be done with a good mic, computer, and appropriate software. I would think that getting the right instruments to compare, and having enough of them to have a reasonable sample size, would be the real challenge.

Jul 13, 2020 - 11:31:39 AM

TSSN

USA

822 posts since 1/3/2011

Would one need Raven Pro or Raven lite?

Jul 14, 2020 - 5:59:40 AM

53 posts since 9/20/2012

Since Raven Pro Lite is free, I would go with that one and see if it does the job. I'll bet that it is plenty powerful to handle this task. Are you thinking of giving it a try. Real quantitative data would be so cool.

Jul 14, 2020 - 8:29:09 AM

TSSN

USA

822 posts since 1/3/2011

Yes, I am considering trying it.  I have several instruments that I could try it out on, just to begin building a dataset.  Might enhance the discussion thread down the line.

Jul 14, 2020 - 9:40:53 AM
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53 posts since 9/20/2012

I'm very interested to see your results. Folks often note the difficulties associated with describing how instruments sound, but a quick perusal of the web comes up with the following adjective-laden observations:

"Trebles are thick and loud. Bass is punchy. Rhythm chops are awesomely resonant. "
"Bell like separation and clarity. Loud with tone. "
"more mid range and bass response, with a nice airy sound"
"Very strong sound. Loud, deep but even and very clear."
"balanced and clear with a small chorus of overtones"
"clear and distinctive voice with ringing sustain, creamy midrange, and enough front-end bite to cut through" and "dry and articulate vintage chime"

Is it possible to quantify this?

Jul 14, 2020 - 12:27:45 PM

TSSN

USA

822 posts since 1/3/2011

I'll have to think on some of those.

The only one that seems fairly straightforward is 'sustain' or 'bark'.

To me these are saying the same thing:
- Sustain refers to how long it takes to reach some threshold, XX dB.
- Bark is just very short sustain. (But then how short is 'short'?)

This area is open to a lot of subjective interpretation.

Edited by - TSSN on 07/14/2020 12:28:08

Jul 14, 2020 - 1:50:31 PM

53 posts since 9/20/2012

What I mean is that if the trebles are thick and loud and the bass is punchy, is that any different than if the bass was thick and loud and the trebles were punchy? Is either one any different from strong, loud, and deep?
Is there any difference between awesomely resonant, nice airy, and ringing sustain, a chorus of overtones, or vintage chime?
How does front end bite (kind of wonder what that even means) differ from clear, dry, or articulate?
Anyway, it's all just words unless you can quantify it in a repeatable manner.

Jul 15, 2020 - 6:33:53 AM

TSSN

USA

822 posts since 1/3/2011

I think my answer would have to be no, its not possible to quantify those in a repeatable manner. I think you'd need to get a group of players to agree on what something "front end bite" means. To me, that phrase alone could have as much to do with playing style as instrument construction.

Jul 16, 2020 - 9:12:02 AM

Robert

USA

62 posts since 12/30/2010

I have a Weber Vintage F model with oval hole that is my favorite sounding instrument but it doesn't get heard very well when there is a bluegrass banjo player present. Those folks are all hard of hearing and don't know how to back off. Some great early bluegrass was played on F4's and F2's. Vernon Derrick with Jimmy Martin, Curley Lambert played one as did others. That low end on a good one is hard to beat. The album of Red Rector and Norman Blake features Red's oval hole A model very nicely, The whole LP is on YouTube. A lot of these younger mandolin players just chink the time and don't bother going for that big bark chop. Play what you like.

Jul 16, 2020 - 10:17:13 AM

53 posts since 9/20/2012

I think Andy Statman played a snakehead A-4 for a long time too.

Jul 16, 2020 - 2:52:26 PM

TSSN

USA

822 posts since 1/3/2011

I love bluegrass, but I'm not a bluegrass purist. I agree with @Robert to play what you like.

Still, the question posed by @Yooper really does beg for some careful study.

Edited by - TSSN on 07/16/2020 14:52:57

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