Instruments & Gear: Vintage Vault

1914 Gibson H-1 Mandola Demo and Mini-Lesson

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Peghead Nation Irish Mandolin instructor Marla Fibish demonstrates her vintage mandola and talks about her preferred tuning and some of the techniques and chord voicings she uses.

by Teja Gerken
September 21, 2017

Peghead Nation Irish Mandolin instructor Marla Fibish bought her 1914 Gibson H-1 mandola at the now defunct Fifth String music store in San Francisco more than 25 years ago. It was love at first sight, but applying it to the Irish music she plays required some experimentation. She eventually settled on a tuning of DGDA.

Gibson H-1s were built between 1902 and 1936. They are similar to the Gibson A-1 mandolin, with a slightly enlarged body and similar appointments. The instrument has a carved spruce top with an oval soundhole, and its back and sides are made from birch wood. Marla’s instrument has been refretted and the original tuning machines have been replaced, two modifications that are common for an instrument of this vintage. The mandola still had its pickguard when Marla bought it, but one of the mounting pins broke years ago, and she decided to play it without the pickguard.

Marla primarily uses the H-1 to accompany vocal tunes in various musical settings, including her duo with husband, Bruce Victor, Noctambule. While standard mandola tuning is CGDA, Marla tunes the lowest string pair up to D. In addition to talking about her history with this Gibson H-1 and how she settled on DGDA tuning, in this video Marla gives a primer on basic chord shapes and accompaniment techniques in DGDA tuning.

To study mandolin with Marla, enroll in her Irish Mandolin course now!

Category: Instruments & Gear

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