Belated Happy Valentines Day . . .

Seem to be a day and a dollar short these days. No excuse, but it rained yesterday and we spent the day goofing off. I went to one of my favorite music stores, The Mandolin Store which was a mistake as I spent a pile of money on a new octave mandolin. It has a guitar shaped body rather than the traditional tear drop shape an, to my ear, it sounds much better with a more balanced and richer voice.

My new toy

I’m including an excerpt from my book, The Awakening of Russell Henderson when Russell bought his mandolin . . .

. . . “The store smelled of wood. Guitars, banjos, violins, and mandolins hung all over the walls, and strings, accessories, books and CDs sat on racks around the room. 

I explained to the salesman—a guy about my age—what I was looking for. He asked me about my experience, and I replied that I had none.

He showed me several student models. I asked him the difference between those and more expensive ones, and he explained about the differences in woods (solid or laminated), manufacturing processes (how much hand work was involved), and price (solid wood being pricier). I asked if he could play some from the different price ranges. I found it easy to hear the differences: the student models were nice, but the more expensive ones definitely sounded much better, having a nice, woody sounding low end and less harshness on the higher strings. He played a number of different ones, and I asked Hanna what she thought. Interestingly, she liked the same one as I did, a Collings MT O Oval Hole A Style with a satin finish for $2970.00 including a quality hardshell case. The salesman recommended that I get a good humidifier for it.

Not understanding, I asked, “A humidifier? Why?”

“Where’re you from?”


“Well,” he said, “it’s pretty wet in Iowa, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it rains a lot, and it can be really humid, especially in summer.”

 “Our relative humidity out here can be really low, averaging maybe around thirty percent. Most wood instruments are now made in climate-controlled conditions around fifty percent. When the outside humidity is low, the wood dries out, warps, and can actually crack—usually the tops. Half our repairs are due to lack of proper humidity.”

I thought about our guitars and looked at Hanna. I could tell she was thinking the same thing I was. So, along with the mandolin humidifier, I got two guitar humidifiers, some mandolin picks of various thicknesses, a shoulder strap, and two extra sets of strings for the mandolin along with two sets each for our guitars. I browsed the book shelves and found three books, one for beginners, one on accompaniment, and one of folk songs for mandolin, all with videos and sound tracks. I also bought another electronic tuner. I then found three folk type CDs with mandolin. The guy showed me a few things about care for the instrument. He threw in all our strings along with a polishing cloth and some polish. We walked out into Montana sunshine, and I couldn’t wait to start playing.”

Til later . . .

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