Weber Yellowstone Traditional Octave Mandolin Review

At Celtic Week I noticed a post on the wall by the cafeteria announcing the sale of a 2010 Weber Yellowstone Octave Mandolin for $2740.00, or something close to that. Sounded interesting. Since I had only really ever played my Trinity College Octave Mandolin, or one of Tom Fellenbaum’s (of Acoustic Corner in Black Mountain, NC) I figured I’d like to see what kind of quality you get spending 5 times what I spent, or twice as much as what Tom charges.

yellowstone traditional octave mandolinFirst thing I noticed was that the neck felt like a baseball bat. It was pretty thick and chunky. The strings were at a good height, but I did notice the bridge wasn’t sitting completely flat on the body. (That may have just been a poor setup?)

As you know I’m primarily a flat top player (Although I did play 4 stellar archtop mandos this week. One was a late teens Gibson F-2; another was an early 20’s Gibson F-4; then my roomate had an A and an F Stonebridge. I would’ve bought the F Stonebridge right then if I could’ve.), sometimes archtops sound too tight and compact in their sound to me. This too was the case with this Weber Yellowstone Octave Mandolin. It had nice intense projection, but it certainly did not have a sound I wanted to pay over 2K for. There wasn’t any sweetness to the sound. It was harsh and metallic, too much for my preferences.

It was a beautiful instrument to look at, but I’m still a fan of the wide open smoother sound of my economy Trinity College. (With heavier gauge strings to make it sing like that, of course!)

yellowstone traditional octave mandolin

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The Best Mandolin Picks: Part 1

V Picks

I had a chance to try out a number of plectrums, also known as picks, on my mandolins this month.  These were Wegens and V-Picks.

Since I liked the V-picks best, I decided to write a short review on what I found.

Basically, I love V-picks.

When I first got into traditional music I had a guitarist friend who raved about getting great tone from really expensive picks.  He would show me his vintage tortoise shell picks and exclaim how wonderful they were.  Since I couldn’t get any tortoise shell picks (as they are illegal), I found the Red Bear Trading company, and I invested $40.00. In two picks.  That was 6 years ago.  I lost the medium gauge pick, but still have my pink and white extra heavy tri point. (I don’t think they make that color anymore.) It’s got some ridges in it now, and has discolored a bit, but that has been my favorite pick for these last 6 years, as I transitioned from Guitar to Mandolin. How I never lost it, I can’t say.

One of my students decided she wanted to try out some new picks, and so purchased a number of Wegens, V-picks, and Red Bear Trading picks (Still on order. Looking forward to trying out some new ones.), and she bought me a few as well.

The first V-picks she gave me were super heavy.  I think they were 2.75 millimeters, which I thought would be ridiculous.  One was a sharp pointy, candy red, clear triangular pick. The other was a little stubby glow in the dark rounded pick. At first I thought I was going to hate these little guys.  Then I started playing with them.

I leaned more towards the glow in the dark medium round pick at first, as I do enjoy the rounded Proplecs.  And it was like playing a whole new fantastic mandolin. It sounded like I just installed a humbucker where there once was only a single coil, and now I had a tone knob to turn up the tone.  It is really wonderful.  The volume increased, and the tone increased, and I could even play lighter and get good response.  (Vinni says these picks have some extra grab on the string.)

 

Then I started using the sharp pointy triangular pick on my octave mandolin. It drove the sound board hard, and both chording and melody were a joy to play, with more volume and more tone.

I have a habit of dropping picks when I get into a really intense set of tunes, from sweaty fingers, but these stay right in place.

So I ordered a few more.  I ordered the clear rounded tremolo, the large 1.5 mm rounded pick, and also a pearly gates medium rounded (same thing as the glow in the dark pick, but shinier). Vinni threw in a .75 mm traditional guitar pick, and shipped the order out the same day. They were in my possession in three days.

The tremolo, and the 1.5 mm rounded I will use on my octave mandolin for a thinner sound, and for tunes that require triplets.  The pearly gates, goes with my mandolin.  I’m still not too fond of the .75 mm guitar pick.  It’s just too thin. (Although everyone who plays rhythm that I talk too, extol the virtues of thinner picks.  I might give it away to one of those players and see what they think.)

 

If you want to drive your mandolin, increase the tone and volume, and really enjoy playing, I’d highly recommend a V-pick.  Remember, I don’t play bluegrass, I play Irish Celtic Music, and the fatter picks work really well for me. I also play a flat top mandolin, and these picks make my mandolin sing.  The student who got these for me, prefers the Wegens overall, so far.  She has an archtop Weber F-style Mandolin.  My thought is, that the difference between the arch and the flat top may make a difference.

 

The Wegens are nice, but they are third on my list of top picks at the moment, tied with ProPlecs.

I personally think her mandolin sounds wonderful with these fatter V-picks too.

Looking forward to getting a new set of picks from Red Bear Trading, and I aim to do a review of those as well.