Mike Compton discusses and demos his primary mandolin, which was built to match the tone of Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5.
by Teja Gerken
May 31, 2018
Australia’s Stephen Gilchrist is widely regarded as the finest contemporary mandolin builder. Having spent several years living in the US and working at Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, Tennessee, Stephen made it his mission to understand Lloyd Loar–era Gibson F-5 mandolins, and he’s best known for building replicas of these iconic instruments.
Mike Compton bought the first Gilchrist F-5 sold in the United States in 1979, and he met Stephen shortly thereafter. Since then, he has owned four Gilchrist F-5s, and he says that this one, built in 2002 as an attempt to match what Bill Monroe’s 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin would have sounded like when it was new, is his favorite. Built out of sugar maple (from a 450-year-old sugar maple tree from around Syracuse, New York) and red spruce, the mandolin captures the classic F-5 sound. In this video, Mike also talks about getting the right action for the mandolin and also about the kind of pick (stiff, about 1.5 mm) and strings (D’Addario EXPs) he prefers. He demonstrates the mandolin’s sound by playing Monroe’s “Whitehorse Breakdown.”
Gilchrist instruments are represented in the US by Nashville’s Carter Vintage Guitars (cartervintage.com).
Comments and Discussion
I didn't say he knew what it sounded like. Nobody but Loyd Loar and the original owner knew that. I said it was his version of what he *thought* Monroe's mandolin might sound like when it was new. Gilchrist made an educated guess considering his vast knowledge of mandolin building and what makes an instrument sound the way it does. He has examined quite a few Loars in his time as well. The sound that Monroe's Loar has/had includes a healthy dose of midrange which Gilchrist attempted to duplicate in #536.
Of course, Gilchrist's work speaks for itself and I feel no need to defend either Stephen Gilchrist or his instruments. If you are going to take me to task I would appreciate you at least be accurate with your arguments.
Life is good. MC
Left hand fingers wiggle around like that....Right hand goes up and down...
and Presto!...out comes Whitehorse Breakdown..
All there is to it...
Congratulations Mike and the Peghead production team..
You really smacked that one outta the park.
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