Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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January 2, 2007 | Of course, of course...

Everyone has their preconceptions of what makes up an instrument. At, we certainly aren't unfamiliar with breaking molds and disturbing stereotypes. Scrolls don't mean much to us, and frankly, tremolo can be pretty disgusting when poorly executed (and it is frequently, but that's a subject for another day...), so ocassionaly it's hard for us to plug in (pun intended) the rigid traditionalist mandolin crowd. What really sets off on another course, or we should say a single course, is just that--mandolins with single strings.

There are plenty of misconceptions about single verses double. Electric mandolinists like Tiny Moore, Michael Lampert, and Paul Glasse have been able to get away with it, because they are amplified, after all. But can an acoustic mandolin get away without a double course?


The double verses single course controversy goes back to the development of 5 and 6 string guitars in the 1770s. Concerns about the durability of nylon verses steel (nice to have an extra in case one breaks) cinched the deal, and many opted for the extra metal for safety, and for what was commonly expected in instrument volume. Think about it; does a 12-string acoustic guitar sound louder than a 6-string? Inarguably, not that much louder. They are fuller, perhaps, but volume is not why guitarist double on them, it's strictly a specifically desired tonal quality.

Our Arrow Jazzbo 4-string and Old Wave Solocomp JM do just fine acoustically. We advocate this is a viable option of the future. It's not the string that makes the volume, it's the carving, bracing, and quality wood of the top that makes the difference. (The pick and the player, too, of course) Tone color in the string perhaps, but not loudness. You double the pitch with two-strings, but in our albeit empirical studies, phase cancellation negates any potential increase in volume. All you add is playing "stiffness."

In defense of double, a rich, quality tremolo depends on the double course, and the same can be said for the resonance required for cross picking and drones. In Jazz, this is not part of the arsenal, so we opt for the magnificent finger control and phrasing you benefit from with the single-course.

Vibrato, sustain (yes, absolutely more sustain!) and maneuverable control are right their in your fingertips, in ways you couldn't dream of getting out of a double-course. Contrary to popular thinking, you don't lose volume.

We throw down the gauntlet and challenge more progressive builders to create more options in single-course, acoustic mandolins. Enough of the crazy eights!

What do you think? Contact

Posted by Ted at January 2, 2007 8:44 PM

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