Key to the Instruments

I own a few of these instruments on the home page. The others are owned by students or were images obtained from the internet. Here's a little background on the instruments - builders, players, history and genres....Clockwise from the top:

A5 model mandolin

This style of mandolin doesn’t have the "bark" for bluegrass as the F-5 (and the design makes it considerably cheaper.) It is a very versatile mandolin, one that can be used for almost any genre of music. The A model mandolins with an oval, rather than the "f" holes can have a woodier sound, especially coveted by celtic and old-time players. The wire is for a pickup in the saddle, which allows sound technicians to get a clear, crisp signal they can mix with the warmer sound from a microphone.

Gibson Banner LG-2, Mahogany top and sides

The mahogany top and "X" bracing gives this mid-1940s guitar just the right sound for acoustic fingerstyle blues. The cross of the X brace is close to the soundhole, freeing up the top for better vibration and projection. WWII-era LG-2s are known for their very large neck profiles; because Gibson could not easily get hardwoods during the war, softer wood was used. Some didn't have truss rods due to metal being used for the war effort.

The LG-2s with spruce tops are generally warmer sounding, and equally wonderful. The "banner" nomenclature comes from the headstock decoration reading "Only A Gibson is Good Enough."

Jazz guitar, electric semi-hollowbody

Featuring the mellow sound of the two rectangular humbucker pickups, this could be a Gibson L-5 CES. First released to the world in 1951, the L5-CES is a classic archtop Jazz/Blues guitar. Also widely used in bygone days for Country Western and early Rock 'n' Roll.

Resonator mandolin, wooden-body

The first heyday of resonator instruments was largely in the 1920’s and ‘30s, before electric amplifiers were available. The resonator gives the instrument more volume, as it functions like a speaker cone, and is made of metal. Wood-bodied resonators have a warmer sound, and still have some of the projection of metal-bodied resonators. Some of the best old resonator guitars and mandolins were made by the "National" company (National String Instrument Corporation of Los Angeles, California).

Bob Brozman has written fascinating book about these instruments: "The History and Artistry of National Resonator Instruments," The National Resophonic Company continues the tradition, making high quality resophonic instruments today. You can hear Steve James playing resophonic guitar and mandolin on "Tennesse Local,"from Del Rey’s "Blue Uke: At the Ukeshack #2" album.

Fender Telecaster ("tele")

The Telecaster is known for its bright, cutting tone. The Telecaster was important in the evolution of country, electric blues, funk, rock ‘n’ roll and other forms of popular music, because its solid construction allowed the guitar to be played loudly as a lead instrument, with long sustain if desired. One of the secrets to the Telecaster's sound centers on the bridge pickup, which has more windings than the neck pickup and hence has a much higher output, sometimes having twice the inductance of the neck pickup. At the same time, a capacitor is fitted between the slider of the volume control and the output, allowing treble sounds to bleed through while the mid and lower ranges are dampened.

Signature players include James Burton, Steve Cropper, Albert Lee, Danny Gatton, Andy Summers, Roy Buchanan and Albert King.

Brian Moore Electric "iGuitar"

The "I" stands for "internet". This guitar is made for folks who want to connect to a computer and explore the world of online interactive music, recording and jamming. Features include RMC piezo pickup and 13 pinsystem for access to 13 pin Roland and compatible guitar processors. Because there’s a pickup under each string, it can be used with music software to transcribe not only the right note, but what string it’s played on.

Fender Stratocaster – "Strat"

Fender Strats hit the market in the spring of 1954, as an advanced version of the Fender Telecaster. Invented by Leo Fender, they feature a whammy bar (also know as a "vibrato system," which Fender called "tremolo") and three single coil pickups. In 1977 a five-way selector was added to provide combinations of the front and middle pickups and back and middle pickups. (Before this, people like Dick Dale used to wedge cardboard into the 3-position switch to get the desired sound.)

Famous players include Dick Dale, Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and countless others.

Fender Electric Mandolin, aka Fender Mandocaster

First introduced in spring 1956, in production through 1976. In the United States, the first solidbody electric mandolin was built in 1952 by Paul Bigsby for Western swing musician Tiny Moore, which made for the instrument being associated with the country swing sound. The 5 string version has a large tradition in India. It’s now used in heavy metal, blues and a variety of music.

The first solidbody electric mandolin was the pauelectrico developed in Brazil in the early 1940s and based on the cavaquinho, an instrument related to both the mandolin and the ukulele. The 4 string pau eletrico later evolved into the 5 string guitarra baiana, commonly used in a style of Brazilian popular music called frevo. Visit the source, for more of this fascinating story.

Electric mandolin players include Paul Glasse, John Abercrombie, Johnny Gimble, Michael Kang, Michael Lampert and Jamie Masefield.


The bandolim is Brazilian instrument with a wider body than a mandolin. It sustains the notes longer, so that you can play one note and let it ring, rather than sustaining through use of tremolo. It’s very common in choro (pronounced "SHOH-roe") music. Jacob do Bandolim was a major innovator in the choro style. You can find his music, and much more his music at David Grisman's Acoustic Disc, on recordings ACD-4 and ACD-14. For a longer list of choro bandolimists, visit the "Brasilian and Choro" section MandoScapes radio show flier.

F5 mandolin

The original use of this mandolin was in classical mandolin orchestras in the early 1900s. The Gibson company had traveling salesmen who sold mandolin- and banjo -family instruments and sheet music to groups and neighborhoods wishing to play music together. Later, string bands used them, and Bill Monroe used this type of instrument to develop a new style of music: bluegrass.

Tacoma Papoose guitar

This cedar guitar has a crisp but warm tone. It’s like a tuned like a guitar capoed at the 5th fret: A-D-G-C-E-A. It falls into the sonic range between the guitar and mandolin, and can provide a wonderful texture in a band setting. Great for practicing behind the steering wheel as your child practices outdoor team sports.

Acoustic hollowbody jazz guitar

Sometimes guitars lower-end guitars of this shape sound good if they're set up with a higher action for a playing slide/bottleneck style guitar. Note the pickguard at fingerboard height – this makes the height of your hand at a better elevation for playing rapid, sweeping phrases to get a horn-like sound in bebop.

Linda Manzer acoustic cutaway guitar

Linda Manzer's guitars are famous for their quality, inventiveness and variety, played by artists as diverse as Pat Metheny, Gordon Lightfoot and Carlos Santana. The cutaway feature allows players more range, as more notes can be played on the longer neck. Visit the "Electronics" section of her web site for information on some of her favorite acoustic pickups.

Acoustic "Dreadnought" guitar

This is the guitar bluegrass players love. C.F. Martin and Co. introduced the dreadnought in 1929. It had a wider and deeper body than any guitar made at the time. It is one of the most popular and most-copied guitars, especially popular for flatpicking and rhythm playing.

5-string electric mandolin, semi-hollow body

This "Junior deluxe" has a mahogany body and spruce top, combined with a Seymour Duncan mini-humbucker pickup to deliver a warm, fat tone suitable for jazz, blues, country, or rock music. A hollow tone chamber enhances the low and mid range of the instrument, giving it a guitar-like quality while still retaining that tuned-in-fifths sound. Built by Joel Eckhaus, who builds quality instruments of the "uncommon" variety. (Check out the tenor guitars and the "Swamp Cat" electric mandolin.)

Famous players include Tiny Moore (Bob Wills, Merle Haggard); Armandinho Macêdo, Hamilton de Holanda (acoustic and electric), (Brazil); U. Srinivas and U. Ganesh, (India).

From the "How it Happened" and "Teaching Stories" pages:

Electric guitar – Brian Moore Stratocaster

Note the single coil with two humbuckers on either side. Brian Moore guitars are some of the most ergonomically comfortable to play.

From the "Contact Ellen" page:

Carbon fiber A5 mandolin, New Millenium Acoustic Design

Carbon-fiber has been used for years in fine stringed instruments, though never in mandolins until now. It has proven to be a superb material for the purpose. It's five times stronger than steel, exceptionally lightweight and marvelously resonant. Favored by home-bound as well as traveling performing mandolinists, beach players and river rafters, as it can survive temperature and humidity changes and gracefully maintain a consistent sound and tuning. The radiused fingerboards make them a joy to play. See's extensive review.


Photo coming soon A multi-functional "Pikasso" Manzer guitar, for Pat Metheny. (3 necks and 42 strings)