1978/2016 Yamaha "Classical" Mandolone

Around here, instruments getting second or third lives is not unusual at all. This is the same FG-345 I worked on a few years ago, though I just recently bought it back from its since-then owner. This time around I took it out of the lineup (despite its playing spot-on) and converted it into this -- an odd, 8-string, mandocello-style instrument called a mandolone.

Where mandocellos are tuned in fifths, mandolones are tuned in fourths like bass-family instruments and start on the A string of a usual EADG bass -- tuned in ADGC low to high. This makes them in the same range as a bajo quinto's low end, though the strings are tuned in unison instead of octaves. The feel/sound is thus more along the lines of mandocello, though a mandocello's range is expanded (CGDA starting at the 3rd fret of the A string and gaining nearly an octave on the high-end). Still -- I intend to play it like a bajo quinto/sexto, as you can hear in the soundclip above -- punchy bass oompahs.

The twist that I've done with this instrument, however, is that I've used classical wound strings (nylon core/silvered-copper wrappings) rather than steel strings, and the bridge is guitar-style (like a bajo quinto/sexto) rather than floating. I think we can all agree that the warmth and bottom-end response of your average classical string is much superior to your average steel string... and the flexibility and springiness of the material also means that there's no fatigue when playing this more than half an hour (which I can't say for even the best-built mandocellos). The reduced tension also means that the whole set, even though I'm using hard-tension gauges for the pitches I'm using, clocks in around the same as a light-gauge set of guitar steel strings.

Yamaha headstocks are long enough to allow for the silly "ear" tuners I've added from my parts-bin.

The gauges are 60w, 48w, 40w, 33w -- all from D'Addario Pro-Arte single packets.

Forgive the quickly-filled bridge pin holes. This was a very quick project. The strings mount through small holes -- and are then pulled-up through the soundhole and knotted-off. As you can see, there's plenty of back-angle on the saddle.

I know a lot of you are also thinking something along the lines of, "...but aren't classical saddles non-compensated?" That's true, but at the gauges used and the action height needed for clean "pounding" (1/4" on the A side and 3/32" on the C side), the steel-string compensation is nearly perfect for the set of strings on here. I actually need to make a new saddle to adjust a few of the slots a hair back.

So there you have it! Another weirdo instrument.

I modded this specifically to use for the bass/baritone role on my next album. It'll be perfect for it.


Art 'Dreco said...

That is weirdness at its very best --- fantastic bass!! Would most acoustic guitars be good candidates for a Mandolone conversion?

Jake Wildwood said...

As long as they're lightly-built. The Yamahas have lighter bracing than a lot of lam guitars and the wider body gives it more bottom-end. Plus -- you need some relief dialed into the neck to keep the fretting clean-sounding, so it's a good option for a warped-neck guitar... :D