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  • Acoustic vs Electric Mandolin

    February 15th, 2022
    mandolin, music  [html]
    When I bought my mandolin in 2013, I recorded some examples comparing it to my previous one. Now that I have an electric mandolin, I wanted to do something similar.

    The acoustic mandolin is a Collings MT, and the electric is a Gold Tone GME-4. Here's how they sounded:

    Chords
    (acoustic mp3)

    (electric mp3)

    High riff
    (acoustic mp3)

    (electric mp3)

    Low riff
    (acoustic mp3)

    (electric mp3)

    High melody
    (acoustic mp3)

    (electric mp3)

    Medium melody
    (acoustic mp3)

    (electric mp3)

    Low melody
    (acoustic mp3)

    (electric mp3)



    The acoustic has relatively worn J74 medium phosphor bronze strings, while the electric has the steel strings that shipped with the instrument. I mic'd the acoustic the way I would play it live: about 2" from the 15th fret, where the neck meets the body, with a Sennheiser e835s. With the electric I had the tone knob at 10 (no low pass) and connected it to the board via a MXR M222 on bypass (details).

    Overall, for most of the kind of playing I do, I strongly prefer the sound of the acoustic. It's much more complex, especially in the high end. On the other hand, the electric offers some options for sounds that I can't get on the acoustic, especially when paired with the talkbox, and it sounds good enough clean that I would be ok playing that way some. For Free Raisins gigs, where I'm playing mandolin almost all the time, I'm definitely going to continue bringing my acoustic, and might additionally bring my electric when that wouldn't be too much hassle. For Kingfisher gigs, however, where I mostly play keyboard and when I do play mandolin expect to mostly use pedals, I think I'll probably bring only my electric.

    (My view might change after hearing how the electric sounds at a dance. Sometimes what sounds best in isolation isn't a good fit with other instruments, or in the chaos of a dance hall.)

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