New Gear Day #3 – Ozark ‘Portuguese’ Flat Back Mandolin 2001

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I’ve recently been trying to drag my compositional process away from guitar-centric ideas, and the easiest way I’ve found to do that is explore another instrument. The last purchase was was a ukulele that really helped me see new musical ideas but I also found myself craving something even higher in register in the form of a mandolin. After searching through various online classifieds and playing some of the new Epiphone and Fender mandolins, I acquired a flat back Ozark Mandolin.

The first thing that attracted to this model was the solid wood construction which I find preferable for acoustic instruments as I’ve found it greatly affects the reliability, tone and resonance. Alongside the beautiful spruce top with the escutcheon inlay it has a dark stained maple back and sides and single piece bridge.The bridge tailpiece has a beautiful in engraved pattern. Its sounds bright vibrant with enough lower frequencies to stop the instrument feeling harsh even with higher tension 0.74 strings on.

The sound and aesthetic feature of this instrument are excellent but from a playability perspective I’m going to make some changes. The biggest challenge is going to be finding a bridge that will bring the action down to an acceptable level as the original has been heavily sanded and is still uncomfortable beyond the 5th fret and the intonation isn’t great. One thing can’t realistically change is the neck shape which is a harsh V that after an hour really get sore on your thumb. Hopefully it will be less of an issue once the action is lower.

From a guitarists perspective the instruments tuning makes finding your musical feet a little tricky (tuned in 5ths as appose to 4ths/3rds) but I’m quickly adjusting. So far I’ve been annoying the buildings residents with renditions of ‘Losing My Religion’, traditional reels and classical violin pieces. I might arrange some pieces for guitar and mandolin as an exercise to be released although not before I annoy everyone with some Led Zepplelin tunes.

Antony

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