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A fantastic instrument!!It adds a texture like no other stringed instrument and the craftsmenship on the Dammann Mandocello is unsurpassed.

- Johnny Z of The Malibooz


Those of you who have been to a Brother Adams show know that Jairimi Driesenga and his bass, "Princess," are connected -- It's his soul. The instrument is a big part of our sound, our style, and our presence... It's hard not to notice the magic those 5-strings bring to the stage and we get questions about Princess at almost every show... 

Check out Jairimi killing it here.


Hi Ralph,

Great to hear from you. The mandocello is just superb. Ray has shown immeasurable patience with me in setting it up to my picky/pesky specifications, and the instrument continues to grow richer as it's played in. It has such an amazing, rich tone, with excellent clarity and note separation. An absolutely luscious tone color and terrific response. I'm using a lot of superlatives here because I've played a lot of high-end acoustic instruments in the last 40-or-so years, and your five-course mandocello is right there at the top of the list. The skill that Ray put into the top just makes it sing--Sitka and mahogany is a marvelous, time-tested pairing, and the bear claw provides that extra stiffness to take what would have been a great top and push it toward spectacular. But it's not just the wood, it's Ray. He did some serious voodoo with the carving and the bracing of that top. And using a fixed bridge instead of the standard tailpiece really connects the instrument with itself. There's no wasted, reflected tone there; the inset bridge lets the notes germinate on themselves and affords a more organic, holistic sound--it's something that comes from within the instrument, not something that is thrust upon it by a clanky metal tailpiece. Ray Varona is a true top-tear craftsman, and that's not even getting into his visual aesthetic, which I could write a page about. In short, I couldn't be more pleased.



Jamie Miller

You can hear Jamie playing some of his compositions here:
Field Of The Lord


While I am relatively new to the mandolin scene, I have long had an interest in two other hobbies that I think have some strong parallels when it comes to craftsmanship, quality and beauty.Namely motorcycles and watches. All three have product lines mass produced in Asia which will generally please the average or beginning user, and all three can also be found in hand-crafted small batches made by skilled craftsmen with a passion for their handiwork. And those who know can always tell you why it's worth it to buy the latter!

Ralph & Ray source all of their woods locally in the Appalachian foothills of central Virginia. The customization options seem almost endless between the top, sides, back, neck, head, inlays & all the other little pieces & parts. They have some cutters working for them, but sometimes get out there themselves in search of just the right tree, and they will work with each buyer to build exactly what he or she wants. I find the idea of having an instrument that was made by one guy, to my exact specification, from cutting down the tree to handing it to me to play, to be absolutely amazing. The love for what they are making came through in everything Ralph & Ray talked to us about that day. And while their prices are not low ($3-4k), I could immediately see exactly just how "worth it" their instruments are. I cannot wait to have my own, made exactly like I want it - one of a kind. If you're looking to go down register & pick up an octave mandolin or mandocello, I would strongly recommend you check these guys out.

You can follow's Troy's process of building an instrument with us through his MandolinCafe posts:
Build Report #1
Build Report #2
Build Report #3
Build Report #4
Build Report #5
Build Report #6