May 9, 2020, 0 Comments
Octaves, octaves, octaves. It’s all everyone is talking about these days. Octave mandolins are the up and coming mandolin on the market. If you have not tried one yet, you probably want to try one.
An octave mandolin is tuned in fifths and is one full octave lower than a regular mandolin. The body shape can vary depending on the builder. The shape of an octave mandolin that I build was inspired by an archtop guitar. The tone of an octave mandolin is between a mando-cello and a mandola, but it does have its own unique sound. An octave mandolin is typically used to provide accompaniment, but many more musicians are using it to provide the melody.
The construction of an octave mandolin is like the construction of an A or an F mandolin. I use a spruce top, either Sitka or Engelmann, and a maple back, either quilted or curly maple. The sides are almost always curly maple. Initially, I carve the top and back on my CNC machine, and then I hand graduate the back and top to achieve the desired tone. I use tap tuning to ensure I have the right tone for the instrument. Even though the instrument has a longer neck scale, I am still using a tension compensated fretboard, which has been designed specifically for an octave mandolin, so you will have perfect intonation up and down the fretboard. If you are interested in learning more about the tension compensated fretboard, I can e-mail you a prior newsletter with the information. Just contact me through the “Contact” section of the Web site.
Many people ask me what to play on the octave mandolin or where to take classes on the octave mandolin. Don Julin of Mandolins Heals the World (www.mandolinshealtheworld.com) prepared an online series of classes for octave mandolins that will be similar to his regular mandolin instruction. He is available for private online lessons as well. Don currently plays one of my octave mandolins which was delivered to him at Wintergrass 2020. If you would like to see pictures of Don’s instrument, go to the “Artist” section of the Web site. His blonde octave with a quilted maple back is truly stunning.
If you are interested in more information or a possible demo of an octave mandolin, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I would love to work with you on building your custom octave mandolin.
Play more. Play an instrument that is easy to play.
Gary Lewandowski, Luthier