Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vox Mando Guitar

In my post about Barney Kessel's guitars, I mentioned he had a luthier build a short scale twelve string neck from a Gibson twelve string guitar that was attached to a mandolin body.

This got me thinking about the Vox Mando Guitar.

This was a combination mandolin-guitar that allows you to play mandolin music while playing the left-hand fingerings like a guitar.

It was tuned like a regular guitar, but an octave up. A mandolin is tuned in fifths.

The very first instrument in recorded history that fits the mandolin-guitar definition is the mandolino Genovese, or Genoese mandolin, popular in the 1700's and 1800's in and around Genoa, Italy.

During that era in Italy, mandolins were all the rage. Different regions developed their own variations of mandolin, with a differing array of strings.

The Genoese mandolin was tuned like a guitar and had six courses of strings.  This meant each string was doubled and tuned the same, unlike a twelve string guitar in which the lower four strings are an octave apart.  The Genoese mandolin was tuned an octave higher than the guitar. 

1965 Vox Mando Guitar
In 1965 Vox Musical Instruments created the Vox Mando Guitar, sometimes known as the Octave Twelve.

Like it's mandolin predecessor, the Vox Mando-Guitar had a short scale neck with 17 frets, however the guitars strings were tuned like a twelve string guitar with the lower four courses doubled an octave apart and the top two strings doubled in unison. This provided a sound much like you would have if you capo'd a twelve string guitar at the twelfth fret.

It sounded nothing like a mandolin. Instead it had a big jangly sound especially when amplified through a Vox AC30.

The Mando Guitar was manufactured for Vox by Eko Guitars of Italy. I think some of it's design inspiration came from the Teisco May Queen guitar.

Back in the day, the Mando Guitar was not a hit for Vox since no artists of the day endorsed it. Although this advertisment states George Harrison played one. Brian Jones played one too.

The only guitarist I have seen use one is Buddy Miller.  I saw him and his wife Julie at a local club and Buddy used it on one song.

Despite it's lack of popularity, there are currently five companies that manufacturer twelve string mando guitars for sale.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)


Tom Allen said...

I've read George Harrison played a Mando on "Words of Love" but I believe he played it on "If I Needed Someone". The WoL guitar is extreme treble whereas the IINS guitar sounds like a high-strung 12 string.

David said...

Alex Chilton says he used one for the solo in “September Gurls” on Big Star’s Radio City album (“Big Star’s Radio City”- Bruce Eaton). Eaton is cited in Holly George-Warren’s “A Man Called Destruction” that Chilton also played it on Daisy Glaze. Supposedly it was left in Ardent Studios from old Box Tops sessions.

CB Alyn said...

It was not Vox Musical instruments The Company's legal name was Jennings Musical Instruments