The Acoustic Guitar Forum

Go Back   The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > Other Stringed Instruments

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 12-30-2020, 06:07 AM
jwhelan56's Avatar
jwhelan56 jwhelan56 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Grapevine, TX
Posts: 1,025
Default Mandolin-Mandola-Octave Mandolin tunings

I'm waiting on the arrival of a luthier built mandola to give the acoustic duo i perform in some different sounds for songs that it will sound good in. I am a guitar player, and have not owned a mandolin (or other variants mentioned in the thread subject).

I know mandolins are tuned G-D-A-E. The mandola I have coming is tuned C-G-D-A. Obviously I will have some learning curve for chords on this mandola vs. guitar chords. Neither of these tunings mimic guitar tuning.

Any advice on getting acclimated to this new instrument? I'm sure I can find some chord charts online.

Here's a pic of the new inbound arrival. It was built in 1999 by luthier J. Higgins in the United Kingdom. It has a Fishman pickup installed in it.

Thanks in advance for any advice you might share.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg karv24exoihmsai5bijp.jpg (27.8 KB, 152 views)
File Type: jpg o6iceorisjnwtjmws5qp.jpg (25.4 KB, 153 views)
__________________
Jim Whelan
Grapevine, TX
  • Emerald X20 Artisan Woody custom
  • Kinscherff Adi/Koa High Noon
  • Takamine EF17C - Solid Koa, 1 of 20 in the world
  • Takamine EAC48C Santa Fe - Spruce/EI Rosewood
  • Takamine GJ72CE-12 BSB 12 string
  • Whelan Sitka/Claro Walnut Dreadnought
  • Whelan Italian Spruce/Madagascar Grand Auditorium
  • Yamaha A3M Sunburst

Last edited by jwhelan56; 12-30-2020 at 06:19 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 12-30-2020, 06:44 AM
Norsepicker Norsepicker is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2019
Posts: 98
Default Tenor guitar tuning

Thatís tenor guitar tuning. Before you change any tuning make sure you have the right strings, donít just tune or theyíll snap. Thatís a nice instrument, I thought a lot about getting it, glad itís found a good home. I find both tenor guitar and mandolin easier to learn and play than guitar. Make sure that tuning is right, ask the owner to make sure that is the tuning. If you want to move to the mandolin octave tuning you can order strings for that.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-30-2020, 06:55 AM
Norsepicker Norsepicker is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2019
Posts: 98
Default Other instruments

Tenor banjo is also tuned that way for Irish music, also the mandola. So if you want to play Irish music, the tuning that the mandola is coming in is the best. Otherwise, investigate octave mandolin strings.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-30-2020, 07:01 AM
bkepler bkepler is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Maryland
Posts: 168
Default Mandolin-Mandola-Octave Mandolin tunings

It seemed like your question was also about wrapping your head around mandolin-style chords. For something bigger like Mandola, etc., open chords will sound good. Think of the instrument like a mentally flipped guitar (just the low 4 strings of the guitar). Play all your guitar chords upside down and youíre in business.

Edited to add: thatís just the shapes. That upside down G chord will sound as a C chord on your C-G-D-A Mandola.
__________________
Lowden G-23
Pono DS-20
Martin D-18 Standard
Epiphone 1934 Olympic
Composite Acoustics Cargo
Alvarez AJ-417/12
Silvertone 1958/9 620 Jumbo
Supertone 1941 3/4 Scale (Terz?)
Oscar Schmidt 3/4 Scale
Kepler Biscuit Reso

Last edited by bkepler; 12-30-2020 at 07:25 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-30-2020, 08:48 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Washington State
Posts: 2,481
Default

I play mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin and mandocello. When going from G-D-A-E mandolin to C-G-D-A mandola, there are a few ways to look at it.

One is mechanical transposition, like a capo. A G shape on mandolin becomes a C chord on a mandola. A D shape on the mandolin is a G on a mandola. And so on. Simply count up 4 intervals. So put your fingers in position on your mandola for what would be an A on your mandolin - its actually a D now.

Another way is to understand that the G, D and A strings on your mandola are tuned exactly the same as the G, D and A strings on your mandolin. So an F chord using those strings on your mandolin is exactly the same on the mandola, just shifted over one string.

If you read music its a little work to adjust from treble to alto clef. If you use tabs (I dont) you may have difficulty finding any mandola tabs.

There are people who only play alone and do their mandolin tunes on the mandola using exactly the same fingering they use on mandolin and thus just change the key for every song. I can't do that because most of my life I've played music in a group setting.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-30-2020, 01:58 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Staten Island, NY - for now
Posts: 11,392
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by jwhelan56 View Post
... I am a guitar player, and have not owned a mandolin (or other variants mentioned in the thread subject).

I know mandolins are tuned G-D-A-E. The mandola I have coming is tuned C-G-D-A. Obviously I will have some learning curve for chords on this mandola vs. guitar chords. Neither of these tunings mimic guitar tuning.

Any advice on getting acclimated to this new instrument?...
The late LA Wrecking Crew member Tommy Tedesco built a lucrative 40+ year career on being able to play virtually any stringed instrument called for at a given session - his secret being that all of them were in some variation of guitar tuning. If you don't want to master a whole new set of fingerings, focus on the most-used range of a given instrument and, with an appropriately-gauged set of strings, set it up in a guitar-related tuning; FWIW there's a century-old precedent - 1920's guitarists switching over to tenor/plectrum banjo would set them up in DGBE "Chicago" tuning, uke players would use drop-G tuning on their tenor banjos (a trick I learned from Chuck Romanoff of Schooner Fare) - and IME most of the audience will never know the difference ...

Here's some tunings I've heard of and/or use myself (Note: since there's no formal lexicon most names are my own):
  • Soprano uke-o-lin: DGBE, an octave above baritone uke (emphasizes middle/upper registers of mandolin, first-choice "cheater" tuning)
  • Alto uke-o-lin: GCEA drop-G tenor uke tuning (emphasizes low/middle registers of mandolin, also good mid/high register mandola tuning with lighter string gauges and a new nut)
  • "Chicag-ola": DGBE baritone uke tuning covers the bulk of the mandola's customary range
  • Piccolo bass: EADG, like the lowest four strings of a guitar - this electric-derived tuning (most often associated with Stanley Clarke and his purpose-built instruments) is a great alternative for long-scale octave mando or (even better, thanks to the larger/deeper body) mandocello
  • Contrabass uke: DGBE, an octave below baritone uke - this one's strictly for mandocello, and makes an interesting alternative to baritone guitar in an ensemble arrangement
  • "Highgrass": One of the better-known "cheater" banjo tunings - if you're thinking of doubling on 5-string (and your shrink can't talk you out of it ) this variation on "Chicago" tenor/plectrum (gDGBE) virtually eliminates the left-hand learning curve and, if you're a proficient fingerpicker, retuning/fretting that high-G string allows for up-the-neck chromatic chord voicings impossible to achieve otherwise
  • "North Chicago": The GCEA drop-G tenor-uke tuning adapted for tenor banjo - extremely versatile, I've used it for neo-trad folk, Irish (far better lead instrument than GDAE tenor IME), chanteys, Dixieland/vaudeville, and even fingerstyle (pair this one with GCEA mandola for a night of Irish/Celtic music - use the mando for the ballads, the banjo for the drinking/Rebel songs)
Hope this helps...
__________________
"Mistaking silence for weakness and contempt for fear is the final, fatal error of a fool"
- Sicilian proverb (paraphrased)
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-30-2020, 06:36 PM
Explorer Explorer is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 593
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by jwhelan56 View Post
I know mandolins are tuned G-D-A-E. The mandola I have coming is tuned C-G-D-A. Obviously I will have some learning curve for chords on this mandola vs. guitar chords. Neither of these tunings mimic guitar tuning.

Any advice on getting acclimated to this new instrument? I'm sure I can find some chord charts online.
I own more mandolas than mandolin or octave mandolin. The mandolas get the most active use for me.

My first suggestion is to get a decent chord book. I started with Mel Bay's Deluxe Tenor Banjo Chord Encyclopedia. I eventually got the big tenor mandola chord book published by Fretted Friends.

With book in hand, learn barre forms for the various major and minor chords, then adding the seventh variants and diminished and augmented chords. Practice the forms by playing rhythm guitar on hit songs from across the decades. I started with classic Doobie Brothers, adding guitaristic suspensions and hammer-ons when working songs like Listen to the Music.

Start learning scales using FFCP (Four Finger Closed Position), using materials you can find online for mandolin. I gradually stretched my fretting hand working these to where I can easily play them all over the neck.

Start working your ear. Mandola is an oddball, so resources like slowing down free YouTube videos is a huge tool.

----

Just to note, Barney McKenna really established EADG tuning as the standard for traditional Irish banjo. Your instrument's scale length isn't really suited to octave mandolin EADG or mandolin EADG an octave higher. I recommend you learn the heck out of CGDA mandola tuning, for which your instrument was designed.

Good luck!
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-30-2020, 06:41 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Washington State
Posts: 2,481
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
.....all of them were in some variation of guitar tuning. If you don't want to master a whole new set of fingerings, focus on the most-used range of a given instrument and, with an appropriately-gauged set of strings, set it up in a guitar-related tuning; FWIW there's a century-old precedent - 1920's guitarists switching over to tenor/plectrum banjo would set them up in DGBE "Chicago" tuning, uke players would use drop-G tuning on their tenor banjos (a trick I learned from Chuck Romanoff of Schooner Fare) - and IME most of the audience will never know the difference ... :
First off - you're spending the money to get a mandola. Why not learn how to really play it vs just fake it? I'm from the bluegrass world. Most of us are multi-instrumentalists. If we can figure out fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo and bass you can too.

Second - your 'dola tailpiece probably takes loop end strings. If you're not going to use standard tuning you can't use pre-packaged sets - you'll need to put together your own custom 8 string loop end sets to have the proper tension.

Third - once you get used to the simplicity and symmetry of 5th's tuning you'll love it. You'll wonder why more guitarists haven't adopted it.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 12-30-2020, 09:16 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Staten Island, NY - for now
Posts: 11,392
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
First off - you're spending the money to get a mandola. Why not learn how to really play it vs just fake it? I'm from the bluegrass world. Most of us are multi-instrumentalists. If we can figure out fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo and bass you can too.

Second - your 'dola tailpiece probably takes loop end strings. If you're not going to use standard tuning you can't use pre-packaged sets - you'll need to put together your own custom 8 string loop end sets to have the proper tension.

Third - once you get used to the simplicity and symmetry of 5th's tuning you'll love it. You'll wonder why more guitarists haven't adopted it.
  1. The only one on the list that I don't play is fiddle (figured 'em all out long ago - and yes, I can play legit mandolin and doghouse bass), and just as some obscure 17th century lute player decided one day to tune his third course to G rather than F#, or modern fingerstyle players use alternate tunings full- or part-time to create certain sonic textures, I enjoy the possibilities (not to mention the convenience) guitar-based tunings provide; since the OP is primarily a guitar player who intends to use the mandola as a texture rather than a solo instrument, and voiced some concerns about both the tuning in fifths and the associated learning curve, alternate tunings provide a viable option IMO
  2. That's a given, and I wasted a lot of time/money when I set up my first tenor banjo in Irish GDAE 30 years ago (another non-standard tuning, BTW) until I found I could buy properly-gauged strings in bulk - been doing it ever since for all my instruments, and I keep a good supply on hand so I'm never caught short
  3. My earliest background was in jazz; while I have no problem accessing wide-spaced chord voicings (using either skip-string picking/comping a la Johnny Smith, or fingerstyle), tuning in fifths, although highly effective for single-line/double-stop and bluegrass "chop" chording, doesn't allow for the close internal voicings I favor without large stretches - and as with much else in life, just because I can (I have a six-fret span in first position - seven frets on shorter-scale guitars) doesn't mean I should...
__________________
"Mistaking silence for weakness and contempt for fear is the final, fatal error of a fool"
- Sicilian proverb (paraphrased)
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01-01-2021, 09:25 AM
jwhelan56's Avatar
jwhelan56 jwhelan56 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Grapevine, TX
Posts: 1,025
Default

Thanks to all for the comments and advice. Very helpful...!!

The mandola has yet to arrive. The seller shipped it on Christmas Eve, and it is still in transit. Tracking is showing it being delivered on Monday.

Looking forward to learning and making some joyful noise with it. Happy New Year!!
__________________
Jim Whelan
Grapevine, TX
  • Emerald X20 Artisan Woody custom
  • Kinscherff Adi/Koa High Noon
  • Takamine EF17C - Solid Koa, 1 of 20 in the world
  • Takamine EAC48C Santa Fe - Spruce/EI Rosewood
  • Takamine GJ72CE-12 BSB 12 string
  • Whelan Sitka/Claro Walnut Dreadnought
  • Whelan Italian Spruce/Madagascar Grand Auditorium
  • Yamaha A3M Sunburst
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-03-2021, 01:03 AM
Explorer Explorer is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 593
Default

I just realized that I didn't share a tidbit which simplified my life a long time ago.

For some reason, loop-end strings are sometimes more expensive, and occasionally completely unavailable when you really need them.

Once when I was in that matter situation, someone showed me how to crush the balls out of ball-end strings. Here's an example of doing so. (Yes, the video has no sound. It's not mine.)



I now have six-inch offset pliers from Kobalt in my kit, to more easily break out the ball. I take care that the actual string isn't in the path of the jaws, lightly crush one side of the ball, and then rotate the ball one quarter turn and light crush again. This keeps the string from getting deform through enthusiasm.

Ball-end strings are cheaper in bulk than loop ends from places like JustStrings.com, and have more available gauges as well. I can usually make six sets for the cost of four deeply discounted prepackaged sets.

Good luck!
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-03-2021, 10:19 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Staten Island, NY - for now
Posts: 11,392
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
...Once when I was in that matter situation, someone showed me how to crush the balls out of ball-end strings...
Was it this guy:

__________________
"Mistaking silence for weakness and contempt for fear is the final, fatal error of a fool"
- Sicilian proverb (paraphrased)
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-10-2021, 02:46 PM
shufflebeat shufflebeat is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 654
Default

I keep my mandola in CGCF which is great for hammer/pull arpeggios, drone-y chords and walking bass lines (or harmonies thereof). Works great with capo for easy access to almost any key.

The keenly observant will notice it has the same intervals as the 4 bass strings of DADGAD which has similar properties and if you've ever explored that it'll be a doddle.
__________________
Give a man a fishing rod... and he's got the makings of a rudimentary banjo.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01-11-2021, 04:27 PM
FreeRangeTrout FreeRangeTrout is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Posts: 18
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by shufflebeat View Post
I keep my mandola in CGCF which is great for hammer/pull arpeggios, drone-y chords and walking bass lines (or harmonies thereof). Works great with capo for easy access to almost any key.

The keenly observant will notice it has the same intervals as the 4 bass strings of DADGAD which has similar properties and if you've ever explored that it'll be a doddle.
That's an excellent idea. I use a small variation on that CGCG (which is not uncommon for octave mandolins). This approach yields a fifth-fourth-fifth set of intervals between strings and makes for some recognizable double stops in the middle courses. It is also reminds me of open C tuning on a banjo, if that makes sense.

0h, yeah, just remembered - it also kept the grubby paws of one grumpy fiddle player I used to play with off my mandola - he just didn't want to fool with alternate tunings...
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 01-16-2021, 08:17 AM
shufflebeat shufflebeat is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 654
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by FreeRangeTrout View Post
...it also kept the grubby paws of one grumpy fiddle player I used to play with off my mandola - he just didn't want to fool with alternate tunings...
V wise.

Some folks just can't take a hint, or sometimes an expletive laden rant.
__________________
Give a man a fishing rod... and he's got the makings of a rudimentary banjo.
Reply With Quote
Reply

  The Acoustic Guitar Forum > General Acoustic Guitar and Amplification Discussion > Other Stringed Instruments

Thread Tools





All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:12 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, The Acoustic Guitar Forum
vB Ad Management by =RedTyger=