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Northfield Flat Top Octave
 
Peghead Nation co-founder Dan Gabel and instructor Joe K. Walsh demonstrate Northfield’s popular octave mandolin.
January 17, 2024
 

Until fairly recently, octave mandolins were relatively obscure instruments. Although bouzoukis, citterns, and mandocellos have been around for a long time, instruments that are designed to be tuned an octave lower than a standard mandolin weren’t part of the classic mandolin orchestra or other mandolin-family traditions. The exact origins of the octave mandolin are hard to pin down, but guitar-shaped octave mandolins are an even more recent development. Having primarily been the domain of individual luthiers, octave mandolins have typically been expensive and hard to find, but Northfield Mandolins changed this a few years  with their readily available guitar-shaped archtop and flattop models. In addition, Northfield recently came out with the A-style mandolin-shaped WaveLength (check out John Reischman’s demo) and electric EleOcto, making the company a real trailblazer in the field. Peghead Nation co-founder Dan Gabel recently acquired a Northfield Flat Top Octave, and in this video, he and Peghead Nation instructor Joe K. Walsh demonstrate the instrument. 

Northfield Flat Top Octaves are available with black walnut or maple back and sides and Italian Alpine spruce tops, and an all-walnut body is also an option. Dan opted for the walnut-and-spruce version, and the woods on his instrument are top-notch. The top has somewhat wide grain and the walnut back displays a great bookmatch and highly distinctive, lighter-colored sapwood at its center. Loosely modeled after an 0-size Martin tenor guitar, the instrument is 13⅝ inches wide at the lower bout and is tapered to be slightly thinner at the tailblock than at the upper bout, making it very comfortable to hold. The Flat Top Octave has X-braces, a flattop guitar-style pin bridge, and a 22-inch scale. The simple appointments include tortoise body binding, a multi-ring black and white rosette, and dot position markers in the walnut fingerboard. Dan keeps the instrument strung and tuned with a standard octave mandolin setup, but Northfield also offers a set of strings gauged for “Chicago tuning,” which is the same as the top four strings of a guitar (DGBE), making it even easier for guitarists to adjust to.

Dan got the Northfield to expand his range of sounds beyond guitar and standard mandolin when playing with his band, Minus Mary, which performs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. “I wanted a different voice in the band, particularly playing fiddle tunes, where I tend to play mandolin, and the guitar register kind of drops out,” he says. “It’s nice to have a deeper resonance in that situation.”

When Joe K. Walsh was recently in the Peghead Nation studio to shoot lessons for his courses, he was traveling without his own Northfield Archtop Octave (check out his demo of that instrument), so he borrowed Dan’s. While in the studio, he also played a few tunes on the Flat Top Octave. This video opens with Joe improvising on a blues and ends with him playing Roger Tallroth’s “Josefin’s Waltz,” which he also teaches in his Octave Mandolin course. 

To study mandolin and octave mandolin with Joe K. Walsh on Peghead Nation, enroll in his Octave Mandolin, Bluegrass Mandolin Jam Favorites, Swing and Jazz Mandolin, Improvising for Mandolin and Fiddle, or The Advancing Mandolinist courses!

SPECS: 14-fret 0-size guitar body. Italian Alpine spruce top with tapered X-bracing. Black walnut back and sides. Black walnut neck, fingerboard, and bridge. 22-inch scale. 1¹³/₃₂-inch nut width. Gotoh tuners. Made in Marshall, Michigan. Starting at $2,995. northfieldinstruments.com

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© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com
 
 
    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com