Miscellaneous Rumbles

From guitar to Mandolin

1

Anyone pick up mandolin after playing guitar for years? I have a new love for Celtic music and was considering a mandolin. Seems like it would be a relatively easy transition, any thoughts?

2

Very tight strings. Hard on your fingertips.

K

3

I've thought about it, but, this guy squelched my idea of even trying it. Lol

4

Wow!

Makes me want a mando now!

K

6

It felt very natural. A lot of chords can be played with just two fingers. It's tuned "backwards," so figuring out lead lines isn't too difficult. You'll be playing songs in no time. The action at the nut seemed to be more crucial on the mandolin than guitar for me. I lowered the slots and it played considerably easier.

7

I've been playing (if you could call it that) guitar since 1985, and picked up mandolin in 1993. Mandolin has been my personal favorite instrument ever since, and I consider myself much more proficient on mando than on guitar.

If you are serious about this, The transition is not difficult provided that you follow a few guidelines...

  1. Do NOT attempt to approach mandolin as if it were tuned like an upside down bass. I know the temptation is there, but while the tuning (GDAE) is indeed the inverse of a Bass, you need to break out of the common myth that you can apply everything you know about guitar over to mandolin. Yes, you do have a head start as a guitarist, but the advantages mainly lie in basic fretted instrument proficiency.. e.g. left hand basic techniques-- fretting, hammers and pulls, and finger dexterity. Right hand technique can also be an advantage if you have decent flatpicking experience. However, you will quickly find that you will need to rethink chord voicings... It just ain't the same ballgame as guitar in that respect. In other words, don't try to make your mandolin style guitar-centric... Or it will sound more like a guitar played in Nashville high-tuning than a legit mandolin.

  2. If you know how to play fiddle/violin, you are 2/3 the way there. The hardest part about transitioning is learning to STOP thinking like a guitar player... And it's not that easy. BUT, if you already have violin experience it makes it much easier. Mandolin voicing is identical to violin in terms of tuning, chord structure and a scales.

  3. As a beginner, get a GOOD chord reference book. While there are many out there, there is one that I recommend over any others... I still keep one in each mandolin case to this day: "The Mandolin Chord Book" by James Major-- published by Amsco Publishing

The biggest advantage that this book has over the competition is that the chords are arranged by KEY, not chord name. Furthermore, within each key, it shows multiple chord voicings, and they are the particular voicings that work best (and physically easiest) within that particular key... Making the learning of transitional chord muscle memory just a bit easier. Yes, there are many others, published by the usual suspects... Mel Bay, Alfred, etc. And I don't have a problem with their instruction books, but the chord books are a little lacking.

Finally, approach it as an entirely new instrument, and think outside the box of your guitar comfort level. You will find that melodic scales come much easier, as the mandolin is tuned in fifths all across the fretboard... Making scales and Barre chords easier to move (there's not that pesky interval difference that exists between the G and B strings on guitar!)

Once you feel like you are making headway in your studies, I highly recommend a book to take you to the next level...

Fretboard Roadmaps for Mandolin by Hal Leonard Publications.

If you are interested primarily in Irish/Celtic mandolin styles, you will find that scale knowledge extremely important in that genre, as many tunes are often doubled on fiddle.

Sorry for the lecture, but I'm pretty passionate about mandolin. Hope this hasn't scared you off.

8

Any thoughts on the difference in sound from a oval vs “F” hole mandolin?

I’m referring to “F” style mandolins with different sound holes.

9

Any thoughts on the difference in sound from a oval vs “F” hole mandolin?

I’m referring to “F” style mandolins with different sound holes.

– Hipbone

Within F-body mandolins, f-hole variants tend to have parallel tone bar bracing, while oval-hole bodies tend to have x-bracing.

A quality oval-hole mandolin will generally have a rounder, smoother tone across the spectrum, while an f-hole body will tend to be more bass and mid- focused. Obviously, f-hole bodies are generally favored by bluegrass pickers, as a great deal of their time is spent "chopping rhythm", which, in essence, is serving as the "snare drum" of the band. They value the woofy attack that an f-hole body gives in this respect.

I have both types, but have come to appreciate the oval hole soundboard as slightly more versatile.

Regardless of which type you choose, it's important to select an instrument with as much solid wood as possible... Particularly the top. In the mandolin world, it makes a huge difference in tone AND volume. Volume is important, as the instrument has very little sustain due to the nature of the string courses. Hard woods for the back and sides (preferably maple, but mahogany will do) and a solid top of spruce or cedar will help maximize volume and projection.

Although a carved top is preferred by most, prices rise dramatically for carved tops. A solid pressed top will get you there as a beginner, particularly if it is mated to a solid maple back. And for God's sake make sure that the bridge is properly mated to the curvature of the top.

11

Yes, I have been slowly trying to fit in learning to play the mandolin, but I have unexpectedly been finding more available time to learn the square neck resonator guitar. But, I agree wholeheartedly with Rob's thoughts above.

12

I agree with everything TP (and others) have posted. I inherited an F style mandolin in 2005, from my grandfather. I was already a violinist and a guitarist, so the mandolin was obviously a fairly easy cross over for me.

I still had to approach it as totally different instrument, and develop the techniques specific to the mandolin. Scales are the same as the violin, but the mandolin has the advantage of being able to play full chords. The mandolin requires proficiency in alternate picking and rapid tremolo picking. With practice, scales and arpeggios can be played lightening fast.

The length of the neck is very short, and the strings are very taut. This will cause some sore fingers at first, until you build up good calluses. I also have a thick callus on the edge of my left thumb, where it comes in contact with the edge of the fretboard. Playing quickly requires me to tuck my left thumb down, as an anchor, while my fingers use it as a reference point.

I've found the mandolin to be a joy to play, and it's one of my favorite instruments. Like any other instrument, it takes some time and plenty of practice to make progress. I play all types of music on my mandolin, from Bluegrass to Bach. In an ensemble, it can fill a sonic void, that you never knew was there, until it is filled.

13

My early 70's MIJ Kentucky Mandolin, that I inherited from my grandfather. Maple neck, maple back and sides, spruce top, rosewood fretboard. This is a very loud mandolin, with good projection in cutting through a mix. I've since added a Fishman Nashville Ebony Piezoelectric Bridge, a K&K preamp, and I bought a Fender Acoustasonic 90 watt amplifier (with XLR out), for playing plugged in.

14

Practice enough and maybe, just maybe, you'll be able to pull off a tune like this: (the fireworks start around 1:10 mark, but the entire song is worth a listen)

Enjoy.

P.S.... I ain't there yet, and I've been actively playing for over 25 years...

15

I find this both inspiring and devistating to my ego!

16

By the way, here's another a couple more Johnny Staats cuts-- studio recording with better sound quality than the live cut I posted. The guy is phenomenal. Keep in mind that this is bluegrass/newgrass oriented, and not celtic. But the fluidity and phrasing astound me.

I think that when he sleeps, he probably dreams of 32nd notes jumping over a fence, instead of sheep.

17

What TP says.

Forget guitar. Other than purely physical matters of technique, it has nothing to do with mandolin. The ability to fret and pick will carry over, but all your chord and lead muscle memory are useless, and it will only retard your progress to try to employ them.

The "guitar-strung-upside-down" trope is based in incontrovertible fact, but it's never done me a lick of good in understanding any 5ths-tuned instrument. I don't think fast enough to turn chord or single-note fingerings upside down on the fly - and by the time I work out voicings or fingerings based on that pattern-reversal concept, I could have figured them out by trial and error.

If you can really turn tuning intervals upside down on the fly as you play, you're way too gifted to waste time typing on the internet. Get on with your mission of conquering the musical world. You're a prodigy.

I played tenor banjo (also tuned in 5ths) before I played guitar, and while memory of some basic chord shapes have helped me approach the mandolin, it wasn't much of a head start. I've been whacking at it intermittently for 15 years or so, and I've reached the sucks level. I bull-headedly occasionally persist because I refuse to let a fretted instrument completely defeat me - but it's close.

Good luck!

18

Ricky Skaggs gives us a lesson...

19

I’ve been fooling around with Mando’s for quite awhile. Never played one on stage but they are really fun to play around the house I picked up one of those laminated chord charts years ago and just pull it out when I get stuck, from there I can generally follow along with most music.

I love the sound of the eight strings, yes it was hard playing on the narrow neck, sort of like a 60’s Rick on steroids fretboard, but it comes with practice.

Super fun and easy to travel with

20

By the way, here's another a couple more Johnny Staats cuts-- studio recording with better sound quality than the live cut I posted. The guy is phenomenal. Keep in mind that this is bluegrass/newgrass oriented, and not celtic. But the fluidity and phrasing astound me.

I think that when he sleeps, he probably dreams of 32nd notes jumping over a fence, instead of sheep.

– Tartan Phantom

Bluegrass has it's roots in Celtic music.

21

i picked up a mandolin a few years ago with the plan to learn some of the Irish traditional music. The transition was not all that difficult, considering the string layout. For example, if I want to figure out a new chord, I set down in front o.f a mirror with my guitar, finger the chord in question, and look to see wher my fingers are on the E, A, D & G strings. In the reflection, I can picture where to place my fingers on the mandolin. And, if I'm allowed a "plug" here, The site called "MandoLessons" has been my primary learning source. It features tabs and play along sections that let me learn at my own speed.

22

Thanks for all the input.... I decided on an Eastman 515V Solid maple back and sides with a solid spruce top. It has an antique varnish finish.
Not sure when I’ll get it, I have it on layaway.

It’ll give me time to get a chord book and visualize some chords and scales.

It’s a looker.....

23

Thanks for all the input.... I decided on an Eastman 515V Solid maple back and sides with a solid spruce top. It has an antique varnish finish.
Not sure when I’ll get it, I have it on layaway.

It’ll give me time to get a chord book and visualize some chords and scales.

It’s a looker.....

– Hipbone

Well, first of all IMHO, Tartan Phantom is very right on everything he said.

2nd, that's a left handed mando in your post.

Are you left handed?

Lee

24

Yep, I’m a lefty...

25

Being lefty handed I already have a head start. I’ve had to think outside the box my entire life. Not sure I’ve ever thought “like a guitar player.”

I’m just gonna approach the mandolin with curiosity and a sense of fun. I have no interest in sounding like anyone else. Just my own funky way of expressing myself. This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the input!

Life is short, I’m ready for a new challenge....


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