Results of Recent Survey: Big Mandolin/Irish Bouzouki Attribute Preferences (Updated 4-2022)
Photos of NEW Sessioneer Bouzouki by Rickert and Hale

Rickert Musical Instruments Is Branching Out with Mandolin Family and Related Instruments.

Don Rickert side head shot

Email: don@donrickertdesign.com

Phone: 706-896-0909

My name is Donald Rickert, I am a musical instrument designer, inventor, craftsman/maker, musician, luthier and Professional Industrial Designer/Design Researcher. I have been a luthier since 1970, transitioning to full-time professional luthier in 2006.

See more details about me.

About My Company, D. Rickert Musical Instruments

My company, D. Rickert Musical Instruments, formally established in 2008, is based in Hiawassee, Georgia, USA. My business partner is luthier, Dr. Randy Hale. Our new joint venture, Rickert & Hale, Luthiers, will focus on mandolin family instruments. Please check out our new website: www.RickertandHale.com.

See more details about D. Rickert Musical Instruments

Who Plays Instruments Made by D. Rickert Musical Instruments?

Since our founding in 2008, our instruments have made it into the hands of more than 250 musicians. A short list of some of the well-known musicians playing our instruments include: Alasdair Fraser, Darol Anger, Natalie Haas, Andrew Gonzalez (violoncello da spalla), William Hurd (violoncello da spalla), Kristen Rule (violoncello da spalla), Albert Chang (aka Sleightlymusical) (violoncello da spalla), Peter Walker (violoncello da spalla), Gary Payne, Aindrias de Staic, David Thames and Mary Anne Thames.

See pictures and see/hear videos of some of the instruments made by D. Rickert and played by some of the artists listed above.

Our Soon-to-Come “Big Mandolins” and Related Instruments

When I say “Big Mandolins” I am referring generally to octave mandolins, mandocellos and what are commonly referred to these days as “Irish bouzoukis”. Roger Landes points out that, in Ireland, these instruments are simply known as “bouzoukis”, just as, in Belgium, “Brussel sprouts” are simply called “sprouts” and “Belgian waffles” are called “waffles”. But I digress. As a long-time enthusiast, and occasional player (I am primarily a fiddler), of these wonderful tenor and baritone range instruments I have been iterating designs for years while gaining a reputation primarily for my bowed string instruments.

For various reasons, not the least of which is a passionate desire to expand my creative horizons as a musical instrument designer and luthier, I have decided to vigorously enter the mandolin family and related instruments arena. Because my passion is especially strong with respect to the larger and lower pitched mandolin family and related instruments, the initial offerings will be a more or less traditional Irish bouzouki, and several models of octave mandolins. As you may have guessed, I have zero interest in selling-factory made economy instruments to which my name is affixed. My love lies in making exquisite things. So, my new mandolin family instruments will not be cheap, although not so high-priced as to be in the “If you need to ask the price, you can’t afford it” category, at least not in the short term. Put another way, our target audience is comprised of professionals and seriously-committed amateurs with the necessary resources to acquire the very best instruments.

After carrying out a market assessment, I mean actual formal market research, including, surveys, depth interviews, conjoint analysis (i.e., features and pricing analysis), etc., I have concluded that there is a very healthy market for high-end luthier-built octave mandolins, citterns and bouzoukis. If you are interested in the results of a recent survey, click here.

To be sure, mandolin family instruments have become a mainstay of a large number of many popular musical genres, including Celtic, Bluegrass, old-time, folk, Americana, New Age, rock and jazz. With a longstanding large Irish Bouzouki fan base, and the emergence of superstar octave mandolin players, such as Sierra Hull, Tim O’Brien and Molly Tuttle, the market for these larger mandolin family instruments is quite promising. In summary, custom fretted stringed instruments, such as octave mandolins and bouzoukis, have a much larger fan base than niche violin family instruments.

As with the bowed string instruments I have been making for years, I intend to make instruments that will appreciate in value. At least with the higher-priced instruments, which are described below, I plan to embed microchips into the instruments that are digitally linked to NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) existing on a crypto block chain (e.g., Ethereum). The purpose is to establish provenance with absolute certainty. This relates to the goal of having my new instruments appreciate in value rather than end up in pawn shops or eBay.

Our Planned Initial Offerings in the Mandolin Family Space

Several CAD sketches appear below. Actual photos and sound samples will be available maybe in April 2022.

Octave Mandolin - Bouzouki 1 small adjIrish Bouzouki

Flat Top Bouzouki, available in both short (22”) and long (25.5”) scale versions, 4 or 5 courses. These instruments will have what has become the expected traditional “onion” or “teardrop” shape, inspired by the pioneers of the Irish bouzouki form, including Peter Abnett, Stefan Sobell, Joe Foley and Graham McDonald. Introductory price: $2,500 to $3,700, depending on features such as tone woods, neck binding, ornate purfling, fancy inlay, fittings, etc.

We are still trying to figure out exactly how to profitably make the instrument in this price range, that is, without sacrificing build, material and fitting (e.g., tuners) quality, and 100% made in our North Georgia USA workshop (i.e., NOT even partially built in Asia or Eastern Europe). Employing fairly-paid local apprentice help and/or even use of limited CNC machining are currently on the table. In any case, the first articles will be a bargain, as they will be made completely me or my new business partner, Randy Hale, in our Hiawassee, Georgia (USA) workshops, which are located literally 1/3 mile from each other.

Octave Mandolin Standard 1 small adjArchtop Octave Mandolin/Cittern Based on an Archtop Guitar plan, Deluxe Model

This high-end Archtop Octave Mandolin (4 courses) is also available in a 5-course configuration, which is often called a cittern (5 courses). It has a fully carved top and back. The top is Sitka or Engelmann spruce; back and sides, flamed bigleaf American maple; neck, three-piece hard maple, also known as sugar maple. Its body plan is unapologetically inspired by the legendary archtop guitars of Robert Benedetto and seen in other high-end instruments such as the Gibson OM-5C octave mandolin, as well as Nugget, Duff, Heiden, and Dudenbostel, etc.; however, our Octave Mandolin/Cittern will cost far less than any of those mentioned.

This instrument will be available in either a 21” or 23” scale length. We are aiming for an introductory price ranging from $6,500 to $8,500, depending on features (e.g., cutaway). You can anticipate that price will increase once its reputation is firmly established.

Octave Mandolin Artist Master-Built small adjCustom Artist Models

These will be very high-end archtop instruments, available in an octave mandolin (4 courses), Irish bouzouki (4 courses) or cittern (5 courses) configurations, set to sell initially in the $9,000 to $12,000 range.

Like the deluxe model, the default top is Sitka or Engleman spruce; back and sides, flamed bigleaf American maple; neck, three-piece hard maple, also known as sugar maple. Other tone woods will be available per buyer preference.

Octave mandolin and cittern versions, available with 21” or 23” scale length. Irish bouzouki, 25.5” scale length.

Availability

The instruments will be available for commission very soon. Just have to finalize the CAD design work, make the molds, jigs and fixtures. We will announce availability by May 2022. We plan to eventually make enough of the bouzoukis to have a stock of ready-to-ship instruments. The first articles, however, will be custom builds associated with specific commissions.

Email: don@donrickertdesign.com

Phone: 706-896-0909

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)