Sponsored By

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.”

To study mandolin with Mike Compton, enroll in his course Monroe-Style Mandolin on Peghead Nation today!

Gilchrist instruments are represented in the US by Nashville’s Carter Vintage Guitars (cartervintage.com).


Category: Instruments & Gear

Comments and Discussion

Posted by JustinFuh on
Thank you. Very good stuff!
Posted by Mike Compton on
Thanks John Wintle!
Posted by Mike Compton on
Thanks Qball! But it's not nearly as simple as that. I've been whittling on this tune for a few years off and on. I've got a few like this that I don't spend consistent time on and consequently it takes me quite a while to get a decent version of them. But I'm about to get "Whitehorse..." by the horns I think, or at least a version I can live with.

Posted by Mike Compton on
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
Posted by John Wintle on
I really loved this musical interlude with the great Mike Compton. He has been my favourite mando player for a many a year. His Gilly is a gem!
Posted by Qball Quinn on
" Yeeaaaah !!!......"
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.
Posted by jamesjones1454@hotmail.com on
How would Stephen Gilchrist know what Bill Monroe's 1923 Gibson F5 mandolin sounded like "when it was new"? Even Bill Monroe didn't know. He bought it, second hand, in 1942 when it was already 19 years old.
Leave a Reply

Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.


Article Thumbnail
Aug 14, 2020
Fingerstyle jazz guitarist Charlie Rauh performs an improvisation with Peghead Nation instructor Mark Goldenberg.

Start Learning Today

One Course: $20/month or $200/year
Two Courses: $30/month or $300/year
Access to All Courses: $100/month

Peghead Nation’s String School is your source for roots music instruction, bringing you full courses in guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, fiddle, and Dobro, featuring talented instructors, high-quality video instruction, accurate notation and tab, and fun songs to play right from the beginning. Enroll and become a Peghead today!