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PaulGibsonBass

Octave Mandolin

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I've been listening to American singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz a lot lately and have been impressed with her use of an octave mandolin. Hers is a beautiful archtop that retails for over $4000 but I see Thomann do one (with a more traditional lute shaped body) for about £130. Does anyone play the octave mandolin? Any thoughts?

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Never played an Octave Mando but have been intrigued by them for a while now.
I can't imagine that one at that price point would be decent quality but who knows? With their return policy being rather good, it might be worth a try. :)

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I've dabbled with Octave Mandolin, Bouzouki and Tenor Guitar, as they can all be tuned the same (EADG, high to low). Great fun to play, and the Octave is [i]much[/i] easier to navigate those thick bass player fingers around than the teeny tiny regular mandolin. Tuning is in 5ths, not 4ths, and the chord shapes are totally unlike guitar, but if you're willing to put the time in it's a very rewarding instrument to play.

There are a few mid-range makes out there, especially if you consider tenors and bouzoukis as well.

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I play a bit of Bouzouki. Great little instruments. All sorts of tunings can be used, most common being GDAE and GDAD. Playing traditional tunes is probably best with GDAE. I like GDAD for chords. As walbassist says the chord shapes are very different to guitar but as you only have four courses of strings there is less to get your fingers around.

If you are looking for for one have a look at [url="https://www.hobgoblin.com/"]Hobgoblin's[/url] site. They usually have a broad range of prices and they are in the UK.

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Depending where you are, and so whether you are near a shop that stocks them, try before you buy. There are a plethora of scale lengths out there and what suits one person may not suit you. In my case I find the bouzouki scale length too long for playing fast melodies unless I capo at the fifth fret so Mandola/Octave Mandolin works better for me there, on the other hand the lower chords on the zouk are awesome.

Also consider the tenor guitar. Have fun Edited by oggiesnr

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I'd agree with the suggestion to find some to try out - the scale length and body dimensions vary so much between instruments that it really helps to play the model you're considering. It looks like the £130 Thomann model is a tweaked version of the Romanian made ones that you see in a number of shops, so you could probably find one of those to try.
My own OM is a 1987 John LeVoi, which was heavily used by the original owner and is played-in almost to the point of being "reliced". It was referred to as an octave mandola when I bought it, but is large enough that it's sometimes presumed to be a short-scale bouzouki. The distinctions between instruments are quite blurry!

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The Thomann one looks like the Stentor Music/Countryman brand. They are made in Rumania and are good enough for you to find out whether it's the instrument for you or not.

If you can afford a bit more, the Ashbury AM325 is a decent instrument and they pop up from time to time on Ebay. Blue Moon probably also make something in the range - if you can get to a Hobgoblin shop they're likely to have a range of things you can try, or Eagle Music in Huddersfield.

Octave Mandolin strings are normally in unison.

Most bouzoukis will have at least one course and possibly two as octaves, which gives you a completely different sound. I've played bouzouki for Irish traditional music for many years, I use GDAD, ADAD or AEAE. I wouldn't contemplate using GDAE, scale length is too long and most bouzoukis are too quiet to be heard playing single line stuff in a session.

I also have a 10-string bouzouki that is normally tuned in DADAD or DGDAD, which gives mandocello-like lows. Normally I'll capo this at 3, 5 or 7 to give me an open F, G or A - it's like capoing up a 4-course instrument without losing the lower notes.

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I had an Octave Mandola (Irish Bouzouki) which sounded GDAE an octave below a regular mandolin. Although the wider neck was better for me than a mandolin, the longer scale length made close-voiced mando chords impossible.

To the OP: Take a trip to Hobgoblin Music in Bristol. They have a good array of mando-type instruments. Also the shop is staffed by comically-bearded gentlemen. While you are there, both the Music Room and PMT are within 10 minutes' walk.

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I was watching Drive By Truckers on YouTube this week and saw Patterson Hood playing one. I did have a Bouzouki for a couple of years which I tuned like a mandolin. With the longer scale length it meant some of the chords were impossible but if I went down that route again I'd simply tune like the top 4 strings of a guitar. A great fun instrument and if I had more space I'd get one again.

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[quote name='Beer of the Bass' timestamp='1476530271' post='3154985']
[b]My own OM is a 1987 John LeVoi[/b], which was heavily used by the original owner and is played-in almost to the point of being "reliced". It was referred to as an octave mandola when I bought it, but is large enough that it's sometimes presumed to be a short-scale bouzouki. The distinctions between instruments are quite blurry!
[/quote]

Consider me envious :) I've always loved John's instruments but never been able to afford one.

Steve

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[quote name='oggiesnr' timestamp='1476699468' post='3156317']


Consider me envious :) I've always loved John's instruments but never been able to afford one.

Steve
[/quote]

It wasn't crazily expensive when I got it (about 15 years ago), £350 iirc. I part-exchanged an amp for it at Southside Music in Glasgow, a tiny wee shop that always had interesting stuff. I'm told that Marc Duff from Capercaille was the original owner. He must have played it a lot, as the top is covered in pick scratches and I had a couple of cracks in the back repaired.

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I play this, but in the uk we call it an octave mandola. Tunes like a mandolin but an octave lower. I have one built by Robin Greenwood who is based near Bournemouth in Dorset and he usually has one in stock that he's made. Fantastic instruments. Be careful of the cheaply made Chinese like Ozark, they tend to be very trebly in a not very nice way, you need the bottom end to make them sound good and that usually means quality woods and good bracing.
I used to have an Oakwood, which was also very good. eBay is a good source for 2nd hand and lots of British luthiers make them as they are popular on the folk scene.

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Posted (edited)
I dabble a bit on a Bouzouki. It's basically the same tuning as an octave mandolin / mandola. Or you can tune it in the Irish tuning mode.
I started trying to play mandolin a few years back - but I found the fret spacing and string spacing a bit too small for my fingers. This was a bit of a let-down for me at the time, because my wife had bought me a nice mandolin for Christmas a few years back, and I've always liked the sound of the mandolin.

The Bouzouki, having the same tuning, but basically being rather larger, is a lovely thing to play. It's quite loud and has a lovely ring to it. I bought mine from local guitar shop A-strings near Pontypridd, in South Wales. It is made by Ozark - I had come across their instruments before, having borrowed a Tenor Guitar for a while. I was mightily impressed with the quality of the Tenor Guitar, and the owner, my pal Malcolm hadn't paid much for it

The Ozark Bouzouki was only just over a hundred quid, and a quick tweak of the truss-rod (in the shop) and it just felt so nice to play. At that price, it was a steal, I thought - so I just went for it. I only really dabble and mess around on it for fun. But at £110 quid - it's well worth it. I've seen these on-line for that sort of money, and if you want to try one without spending too much - go for it :)

EDIT: I don't find mine to be too trebly at all - in fact, it sounds really nice, and rather better than its' price tag would suggest
A keyboard & guitar playing folk club pal has a rather more expensive mandola, and he really likes the sound of my Ozark, and couldn't believe the price I paid for it Edited by Marc S

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Had a shot on an Octave Mandolin a while back, and have been looking out for a reasonably priced one since (and an excuse for bringing one into the house! :D ).

Ozark do one for about £130 that looks good, very tempted with that one.

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I’ve got an old Fylde Octavius bouzouki (which is really much more of an octave mandola than a traditional bouzouki). The sound of the double course stringing is lovely and resonant. Beautiful sound. I keep telling myself I should get it out and play it more often. Like others I find mandolins just too fiddly, the string spacing on the mandola/bouzouki is just right! Edited by TrevorR

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Not being a guitar player I found strumming on a Mandolin wonderfully easy, got myself a cheapy electro acoustic from Hobgoblin, and I dabble a bit a home, My wife loves the sound of it so its win/win. Mine isn't an Octave Mandolin though, and I'm only strumming, so not really picking individual notes, which means the fret spacing isn't so much an issue for me. OFC if I delve into mando playing more seriously I may have to upgrade :)

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