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Style J. Serial number 25936.
Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.
One of the problems with the new mandolin orchestras was that the mandolin family historically lacked a bass instrument. Gibson was the only company to address the problem directly. Introduced in 1912 to supply a true bass to the mandolin orchestra, the Gibson mando-bass was modeled after the Style A mandolin and tuned like a double bass. With four over-spun strings, the instrument could be played with a plectrum, unlike double basses of the period, whose plain gut upper strings required finger picking. Alternatively, Gibson catalogs also say that a small felt-covered hammer could be used to play the mando-bass, suggesting a comparison with the piano, as well as the double bass. Indeed, Gibson also stated that the mando-bass was an instrument "with a tone as deep and powerful as the bass register of a concert grand, but with the plectral tone color."
Lit.: Joseph R. Johnson, Mandolin Clubs and Orchestras in the United States (1880-1920): Their Origin, History and Instruments, M.M. Thesis (Vermillion: University of South Dakota, 1987), pp. 34, 49-51, 182.
Joseph R. Johnson, "The Mandolin Orchestra in America, Part 3: Other Instruments," American Lutherie, No. 21 (Spring 1990), pp. 45-46.
Joseph R. Johnson, "The Mandolin Orchestra in America," The Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Two, 1988-1990, (Tacoma, Washington: Guild of American Luthiers, 2000), pp. 271-272.