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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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June 18, 2015 | It's in the hole. (A vs. F)

It's in the hole...
Oval or F?

Query: So just what IS the difference in sound between an F hole and an Oval hole mandolin?

Tonal characteristics aren't easy to pigeonhole (no pun intended) into text, but let's attempt a visual of this...

Place your index finger about three inches from your mouth. Pucker your mouth as if to say "FOOH," blow very fast and hard on your finger. Contemplate the sensation a moment.

Now do the same, except open your mouth to say "FAHH" blowing very slowly, as if to warm your finger.

Again compare this sensation to the first time. Repeat both these and not the difference in feel on you finger pad.

Cold air verses warm air--this is a good metaphor for comparing if not the sound, the effect of the air. Like the "F" hole, sound is forced out quickly, its projection and focus many feet from the player. (Often the player hears an entirely different tone character than audience.) The sound of the Oval hole washes out over the player, and is far more "personal," more intimate, but more prone to being buried in an ensemble situation.

Which is better? If you've burned your finger on the toaster, you're certainly going to blow fast air on it, but if you've come in from a chilly walk on a February Nebraska morning, you'll aim for slow warm air. It's not an issue of one being better than the other, it's a matter of context.

Question: Which should I own, an "F" or an "Oval" hole mandolin?
Answer: Both...

Then again, maybe a D hole...

Above: Weber Gallatin D-hole Mandola

Posted by Ted at June 18, 2015 7:20 AM

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