The open C string on a cello would have to be my favorite sound. Its grinding organic growl makes what is left of my hair stand on end. If I were the owner of one of these instruments I could play just that string for hours in the same way the Australian didgeridoo is played. This instrument only produces one note but an infinite variation of sound.

Being a maker of mandolins it is therefore no accident that I have built 4 mandocellos. . . . so far. What is interesting and maybe a little sad is that my first mandcello is by far the best sounding one. To make matters worse the second mandocello is the second best and the last 2 come in as equal third or last.

As one can well imagine this outcome left me scratching my head, or, more to the point pulling my hair out. I guess I have fallen into the trap that many luthiers have where more than one variable has been changed between builds.  The scientific method of only changing one variable at a time does not take into account that  we are mortal beings.

The details of the build of these 4 instruments is not relevant however I do believe that I have solved the mystery of the diminishing returns and I will happily talk about it in my next blog. . . .just joking.

What I failed to treat as important was scale length. The first mandocello had a scale length of 860mm which is very long and I was lucky to find strings long enough so I needed to make the tail piece longer than normal. The CC string on this instrument has a thumping growling sound with all the fundamentals being fully expressed.

The next instrument had a scale length of 700mm which is the standard scale length of a full sized cello. The CC on this instrument was not as good as its predecessor and I made the mistake, at this point, of assuming it was because the body of this instrument was smaller. The following 2 instruments had bigger bodies and should have sounded better but their scale length was reduced to 640mm.

Of course the “trade off” with having a long scale length is decreased play-ability and this is what a player needs to “weigh up” when choosing an instrument. Having said that there is one more variable that comes into the equation when choosing scale length of a mandocello. . . . Wound strings can be used for the entire instrument if the scale length is 640mm or less. This would result in an instrument with very even response through out its range.

About the Luthiers Journey article series

Richard Morgan is a maker (luthier) from Australia and a member of theMandolinTuner community. From the moment that Richard joined theMandolinTuner we started exchanging e-mails and I was very happy to read about his work, especially as Richard mandolins (and mandolas, mandocellos, etc.) are truly innovative, featuring a unique sound-board design and lots of other innovations as well.

Soon, I start thinking of Richard as a friend of mine and I shared with him my vision of creating a section for luthiers within theMandolinTuner, something I believe would be very interesting for theMandolinTuner community. I am happy to say that Richard liked my idea and what you read now is a series of articles we have planned as the first step towards realizing this vision. I named  this article series “A Luthiers Journey”.

So, enjoy Richard describing his journey as an instrument maker.

– Chris Rizos 

 

All Luthiers Journey Articles by Richard Morgan

  • Richard Morgan Floating Soundboard

Thank god for luggage handlers

Watching the plane next to ours being loaded It became clear how and why musical instruments often turn up damaged. The acoustic bass guitar which I created in 2009 did not survive the flight [...]

  • Radiant Instrument Necks

Radiant Instrument Necks and Neck Joins

Christos: It's been a while since I published the last post by Richard, so I was very happy to receive this article, which provides insight in the importance of radiant instrument necks for the produced [...]

  • Luthier's Journey #10

Too Much Coffee

If I had to choose listening to an average instrument played by a master or vice versa I would choose the former. Of course a masterful musician may simply choose not to play a [...]

  • Mandolin Making Skills by Richard Morgan

A good haircut

I can remember as a child the pleasure of my monthly haircut. My mum would drop me off at the hairdresser and go shopping. I would often fall asleep as it was a very [...]

Hair Loss

The open C string on a cello would have to be my favorite sound. Its grinding organic growl makes what is left of my hair stand on end. If I were the owner of [...]

  • Old Violin

A Rough Diamond

Anyone who visits my home country, Australia, will be astonished by the huge distances between the towns and cities. Australia does have a relatively low population. For example, the island state where I live [...]

  • Richard Morgan

Synchronicity

Probably the most enjoyable part of my journey as a luthier has been of recent years. It all started with attempts at building timber resonator cones. I was looking for warmer tone. The "National" [...]

  • Mandolins from Richard Morgan

Windy Strings

As a maker I have found discussions with other makers extremely useful. The exchange of ideas, philosophies and techniques is a big part of keeping the learning curve steep. Also feedback from players is [...]

Spruce

In team sports like soccer there are individuals who "make" the play and others who "read" the play. A good balance of each is needed. In my opinion the same sort of balance is [...]

  • Richard Morgan Mandola honey

Pure Honey

This is second article of the Luthiers Journey series, titled Pure Honey. In this article, Richard Morgan begins with the hazards and suggested basic precautions in the art of  luthiery, and then describes with a [...]

  • Richard Morgan mandola copy

The Patient Dies

Richard Morgan is a maker (luthier) from Australia and a member of theMandolinTuner community. From the moment that Richard joined theMandolinTuner we started exchanging e-mails and I was very happy to read about his [...]

Richard Morgan

My name is Richard and I am an Australian designer and maker of mandolins. I live with my partner in a small coastal town in Tasmania and work at home. The mandolin family of instruments produce beautiful [...]

 

Instruments by Richard Morgan

Instruments by Richard Morgan are featured at www.extraordinaryinstruments.com

Mandolinist Christos Rizos Extraordinary Instruments