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Don Rickert Musician Shop

Introducing Two New Electric Mandolins (and other New Instruments) by D. Rickert

Posted by Don Rickert on


D. Rickert Musical Instruments is in the process of announcing a suite of 8 newly designed electric mandolin family instruments. These instruments have a classic look with a contemporary edge, combining old world master lutherie and varnishing with cutting edge electronics. All of these “mandos” either are, or will soon be, available at the Don Rickert Musician Shop.

This new instrument lineup includes:

  • Two mandolins (14” scale)
  • Two “mezzo” (5-string 17” scale) mandolins
  • Two 5-string octave mandolins (22.5” scale)
  • Two 5-string mandocellos (25.5” scale) 

So far, we have officially announced the two 14" scale mandolins of the series.

The M-1A Venetian Series Semi-Hollow Body Electric Mandolin by D. Rickert

Mando single pickup final build

The M-1B Venetian Series Chambered Body Electric Mandolin by D. Rickert

Mando double final build

See also articles about these new mandolins, both of which are a performer’s dream come true.

Even though they have not yet been announced, you can see images of the other new instruments below. The large image attempts to capture the sizes of these new instruments relative to each other. You can see that the Mezzo is actually a fairly small instrument, even though it has a 17" scale.

  New Mandolin Family portrait cropped

  Hypermando Mezzo final build scaled   Hypermando Octaves final build scaledHypermando cellos final build scaled

Target Players

None of our electric mandolin family instruments are cheap. Indeed, they are targeted very deliberately to:

  • Professionals
  • Seriously Committed Advanced Amateurs and Part-Time Performers

Intended Use

  • Live performance, ranging from living rooms to coliseums, where a focused, yet rich and natural acoustic sound (without feedback!) is required
  • Flawlessly driving special effects, particularly octave splitters, harmonizers, “anti-chorus” (unison doubling where the duplicate note is detuned by several cents…a very small amount…simulates the sound of two instruments playing), is required

The Opportunities We See

The market is flooded with acoustic and acoustic-electric mandolins. About 95% of these are some variation on either the Gibson F-type or A-Type. Even the “Flatiron” type, which enjoyed some popularity not that long ago, are essentially unsellable today. Basically, everyone these days wants a mandolin that looks more or less like Bill Monroe’s, but they will settle for the less expensive copies of the teardrop (A-Type) models. We know from market trials (remember, that Dr. Rickert, in his past life, was a professional consumer researcher…actually, he still does a bit of that kind of work as a consultant) that we did not have a snow ball’s chance of playing in the acoustic mandolin game.

Electric Mandolins

When it comes to electric mandolins, there are a surprisingly large number out there. They tend to be custom made solid bodies, with one or two magnetic pickups. We saw an opportunity for more unique (aka cooler) classic-looking chambered or semi-hollow (almost acoustic) instruments with state of the art pickup systems that afford the professional or committed amateur all of the electronic capability needed for amazingly realistic and feedback free amplified acoustic sound, and are specifically designed to work with effect signal processors, to boot!

Ah, Signal Processing…YES!

Furthermore, with minimal external signal processing equipment (we will give the necessary effect processors to our initial customers for FREE!), our electric mandolins can put out a very delightfully plausible sound of an octave mandolin, or even music in the range of a rare instrument called the Small Bass, which is tuned in 5ths and plays down to the low G on either an electric bass or full-size double base. No messing around with the giant rubber band like strings on U-Basses and similar instruments (we call these bass ukulele-like instruments feedback generation devices). Our electric mandolins look very early 20th Century, essentially like the Stromberg-Voisinet mandolins of the 1920s.

The Plectrum Problem

There is no getting around the fact that our 14” scale mandolins present a serious barrier to fiddlers and violinists, despite the fact that their scale is only an inch longer than a fiddle and they are tuned the same. What we are talking about is that pesky issue of learning how to pick a mandolin well. Sure, any fiddler can learn to strum chords on a mandolin pretty quickly. Learning how to do anything really cool takes a year or more of practice. I can attest to this from first hand experience!

I actually started as a mandolinist; however, I have been attacking instruments with a bow instead of a plectrum for so long that I have trouble imaging ever re-learning how to handle a pick on the fast tunes.

So, our mandolins are for experienced mandolin players or for musicians well along their way towards become such. We recommend that novice mandolin players first master the acoustic 8-string mandolin before moving to an expensive 4-string electric such as ours.

Our Big Mandos

As fraught with possibility as the 14” scale mandolins may be, the real possibilities are with the longer scale instruments, especially for fiddlers, violinists and other bowed string players (I will explain below). We are referring here to the… 

  • “Mezzo” (5-string 17” scale) mandolins (could also be called mandolas with a high e-string)
    • Because they cover both the mandolin and mandola ranges, we think that “mezzo” is a better descriptor.
  • 5-string octave mandolins (22.5” scale)
  • 5-string mandocellos (25.5” scale)

Each of our “Big Mandos” has ALL of the capabilities of our electric 14” scale mandolins, plus they can do a lot more. And I mean a whole lot more!

Characteristics Common to ALL of Our Big Mandos

  • Chambered Western Red Cedar bodies
  • 5-Strings
  • Capability of synthesizing 2 octaves lower and 1 octave higher than the physical string tuning
  • Can be played with a plectrum
  • Optimized for use of a Direct String Synthesis™ device, called an EBow
    • This is a virtual bow! No picking required
    • The EBow vibrates the strings with an electro-magnetic pulse. The EBow works best when in close proximity to a powerful magnetic pickup.
    • This optimization for use of an EBow includes a powerful magnetic humbucking pickup (an Almuse “Aggresor 5”, a 5-string version of the Seymour Duncan “Invader” pickup, well-known by electric guitarists) at the neck and string spacing in the region of the pickup in the 10.5mm–11mm range.
    • Through use of gesture combined with the appropriate external signal processing (supplied with the instrument), the EBow can synthesize attack ranging from a plectrum to a physical bow.
  • A multi-transducer piezo bridge pickup (actually 5 separate pickups, one for each string), affording the capability of pure acoustic tone
  • Sohisticated internal electronics including a special advanced pre-amp that makes the relatively low impedance magnetic pickups (about 1220 Ohms) and extremely high impedance piezo pickups (500,000+ Ohms) work together without damage to either pickup.
  • All of the things the player can do to mix the magnetic and piezo pickup signals and the use of the electro-magnetic pulse of the EBow are mind-boggling and a bit beyond the scope of this post.

Summary of Each of the Big Mandos

Despite the fact that all of the Big Mandos can play music in the lower octave ranges, each of the Big Mandos has its own special magic.

5-string “Mezzo” mandolins (17” scale)

  • Physical tuning: C3 G3 D4 A4 E5 (mandolin tuning with a C at added to the low end)
  • With an octave conversion effect processor (supplied with the instrument), the Mezzo’s signal can be taken down to a realistic sounding one octave lower (Cello with an E string at the high end)
  • The output of the Mezzo can also be taken down 2 octaves (large contra-bass), however, a second amplifier (bass amp) with appropriate sub-harmonic generation capability (important for achieving a realistic sound with such short strings) is necessary.

5-string octave mandolins (22.5” scale)

  • Physical tunings options:
    • Default tuning: G2 D3 A3 E4 B4 (Octave mandolin, tenor guitar or tenor banjo in “Irish” tuning, with a B at the high end)
    • Mandocello tuning: C2 G2 D3 A3 E4 (5-string Cello tuning)
      • Note: With a 22.5” scale length, the Mandocello tuning requires very large diameter special gauge strings.
  • With an octave conversion effect processor (supplied with the instrument), the default tuned Octave’s signal can be taken down to a realistic sounding one octave lower (Small bass with an E string at the high end)
  • A mandocello tuned Octave’s signal can be taken down to a realistic sounding one octave lower (large contra-bass)
  • With either tuning, going down two octaves enters the near sub-sonic (you can feel it more than you can hear it) range. It can be done.

5-string mandocellos (25.5” scale)

  • Physical tuning: Mandocello tuning: C2 G2 D3 A3 E4 (5-string Cello tuning)
  • With an octave conversion effect processor (supplied with the instrument), the default tuned Mandolcello’s signal can be taken down to a realistic sounding one octave lower (full size contra-bass)
  • Going down two octaves enters the near and actual sub-sonic (you can feel it more than you can hear it) range. It can be done.

Two New Electric Violins

Our announcement of the two new electric mandolins comes on the heels of a recent announcement of our two new electric violins.

New FX 5-string revised final build 1b scaledNew FX 5-string revised violin headstock final build 2 scaled


For more details, see the article:

D. Rickert FX-1 Venetian Series Arch Top Electric Violins

  • 5-string
  • cello
  • contra-bass
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  • mandocello
  • mandola
  • mandolin
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  • Musical Instruments
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  • octave
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