Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dean Mondo Mando (or: What Was I Thinking?)


I wrote an entry awhile back about an Alvarez Yairi nine-string acoustic guitar that had been very intriguing and that I wish I had back. Take that Yairi nine-string and add it to my ongoing fascination with both traditional mandolins and 12-string mandoguitars (of which I'll write about soon), and you might possibly understand how I came to own this Dean Mondo Mando. It's no excuse, but maybe you understand. I like the idea of being able to record a mandolin sound on my songs, but I don't really want to take the time to learn to play one. I know how to play a large handful of chords on a mandolin and I've faked a few people out, but the truth is that I'm no mando player. I did own a Phantom Mandoguitar at one point, which is an exact copy of the old Vox Mandoguitars. In fact, I owned the original NAMM show model and I REALLY wish I had it back.

So, a little over a year ago I came across this Dean Mondo Mando on eBay. It's a little larger than a traditional mandolin, with nine strings; the bottom 3 strings are doubled, while the top three strings are single [ed. note: to be clear, the three treble side strings are doubled]. So, it sounds somewhat like a cross between a mandolin and a 12-string. But here's where eBay fails us now and then: you can't try the instruments out ahead of time. If I had, I would have known what a piece of junk this was.

As Jack Nicholson said in the Batman movie, "Crap, crap, crap!"

This thing sucked more than a Hoover in a rice factory. Or something like that. What looks to be the body style of an F-style mando really turned out to be very flat on the top of the instrument...no arch. It had a pick-up built in, but to get the thing intonated you had to move the bridge so far back that the wires were showing up through the hole in the top. Excellent design!

The only thing going for it was the intricate inlay on the neck, which was pretty...pretty useless. The pickup sounded like crap and that's all the nice things I can think of to say. I realized that I had made a big mistake and put it back up for sale on eBay. It's hard to list something on eBay that you just recently bought, think it sucks, and try to describe it so that it will sell but you don't have to lie about it either. I took a hit on the price of this one just to get rid of it honestly. I hope the new owner enjoyed it more than I did. He couldn't have enjoyed it less.

So, they can't all be winners. I'll keep my eyes open for more unique instruments in the future, but I'll be a lot pickier about giving them an in-hand tryout before I buy. And I definitely will have my eye out for a Mandoguitar in the future. Anyone have an extra?

4 comments:

G L Wilson said...

Surely you mean the TOP 3 strings are doubled, while the BOTTOM three strings are single?

Looking at it logically, the "bottom" strings are the bassier ones.

MikeCarter said...

The top (treble) strings are doubled. Gives you a nice solid bass line and some fullness to the rest of the sound if, for example, you play a certain amount of old-timey music, which I do.

Possibly because I got the a-style acoustic model, I wasn't expecting an archtop. Anyway, I started out thinking of the thing as a old-style "teardrop" parlor guitar like my great-uncle had. Or maybe the Davy Crockett guitar I had when I was 8 years old. Hmmmm ... I just realized that last one.

Taken on its own merits, the thing is a lot of fun. No problems with intonation, although I did mess about with the string height a bit, and the addition of an armrest bounced up the timbre a tad. It's not a guitar, and trying to make it work like a mandolin is not a great idea, either. But as itself, it has some good points.

Jaimie Muehlhausen said...

Hey Mike,

Thanks for the comment. I've been practically begging people with no luck, but I'll take this opportunity to mention that the blog isn't going to last much longer unless I get some contributions from poeple like yourself. If you've got a story of "one that got away," please send it my way. Doesn't have to be long...I'd just love to get stories from others.

docwobbles said...

I have one of these Deans here right now, one without the electric pickup and the intricately inlaid fretboard. It's not terrible, but it does sound sort of cheesy and cheap.