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Thread: tuning like a guitar

  1. #1
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    Default tuning like a guitar

    Hi my jazz instructor ask me to tune my mandolin like a the first 4 of a guitar D, G, B, E. I tryed this on my 4 string Banjo but it sounded dead and and bad any suggestions ??? Mayby nylons on the banjo mandolin? help thanks fred
    fred davis

  2. #2
    Registered User Stephen Lind's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    an old trick
    used by studio musicians so they can double on other stringed instruments, sight read as if it were a guitar, and make more money

    i tried it with the mandolin for a quick second and didn't care for it at all

    after playing guitar for 50 years
    the darned 5th tuning makes MORE sense to me

    who'd a thunk

  3. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    If you want to go this route, on an inexpensive instrument, there's a Pac-Rim Dean "Mondo Mando" that's guitar-tuned, with six courses of strings; the bass strings E-A-D strings are single, the top G-B-E strings are doubled -- nine strings in all.

    It's for sale here for about $300.

    Ordinary mandolins don't sound good in "guitar" tuning. Besides, think about what you're doing: if you want the lowest-pitched course of strings to be tuned to D instead of G, you either have to tune them so far down that they're impossibly floppy, or tune them up until they're equivalent to the third course D. Doesn't work without a complete restringing.
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    In my opinion, the end result of this would be a lousy little guitar with little of the depth and range of that instrument and missing a lot of the character and charm of the mandolin. I have no argument with folks who want to do it but apart from the practical example cited in Stephen Lind's post, I don't see the point.
    Steve

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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    In the banjo world that's known as Chicago tuning. On a four string tenor you use DGBE, on a five string it's gDGBE. On a mandolin it makes the instrument drive like a ukulele in low-G tuning.

    The Chicago tuned five string banjo sees some popularity in Irish folk music (not ITM session music) where it's used primarilly as a chordal engine mimicking the guitar's role. Chicago tuning a five-string doesn't require different strings, so that makes it a bit more practical.

    Guitars and banjos change their tunings all the time; it's common practice for them. For mandolin, not so much.
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    tHIS INSTRUCTOR said that when he tought Jazz and Bules he didn't really know mandolin notes and only knew several chords and since [I] already played the mandolin it would easer to show me licks and what to study on the guitar if I tuned my mandolin that way
    fred davis

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    You say your "jazz instructor". Are you learning jazz mandolin or jazz guitar?

    If guitar, then why not just use a guitar?
    If mandolin, then why not get a mandolin instructor?

    Or are you just trying to learn "jazz" in general and this guy is too good to give up?

    The situation is not completely clear to me.
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    Registered User Super400's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    A few yers ago, when I started on mando, I seriously considered the tuning described by the OP. I figured I'd be right at home with a tuning I knew very well. I dedided against it and figured I might as well at least try and learn the standard way.

    After a couple of weeks of stumbling, that mando tuning started to make more and more sense than what I was used to. I could not even imagine playing in guitar tuning now. Sure glad I made the right call. At least for me it was. Interestingly, I have never confused the tunings. When I play mando, I think in mando terms. When I play guitar, I think in guitar terms. When I play banjo, people ask me to play in another room.

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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    Elderly has a used Gibson mando/guitar--6 strings tuned like guitar. I didn't care for it at all.
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    While interviewing this instructor he stated that I new (Played) the mandolin better than he did but he was very informative aout Jazz and Blues notes and chords. So last night I spent aout 3 hours retuning my mandobanjo DGBE it doesn't sound the best but I think it might work meanwile I think I can gain a lot of music theory I have not found that many instructors here that would even try to teach what i wanted most in this area play bluegrass and really I havent seen that many mandolin players in this area thanks fred
    fred davis

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    Baritone Uke in DGBE, seems a reasonable tuning, ... or a soprano in dGBe would be a consideration , the latter, reentrant tuning,
    has thin outer strings , as the D is only 2_1/2 steps lower than the E.

    Reentrant tuning may be suitable for the banjo mandolin in steel rather than nylon
    the G string(s) would be the only wound ones .. and those probably like a very light mandolin, an 0.034"..
    but that still may require re slotting the nut as thats bigger than the common .024" D of mandolin sets.

    FWIW I have come over to favor my 4 string banjo mandolin setups over the 8 string,
    they both proper GDAE tuning..
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    Registered User raulb's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    Forget tuning your mando like a guitar!! I think you have 3 real choices:

    1. If your instructor can show you what you want on a guitar but not on a mandolin, learn it on a real guitar. Then try it on your mando. Guitars and mandos are very different instruments and the guitar techniques he teaches you may not translate well.

    2. Get another instructor who knows how to play jazz mandolin. This is the selection I would suggest.

    3. Teach him the mandolin. An "instructor" who does not know the instrument as well as you do is not the instructor. He's the student. You're the instructor.
    raulb

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    Registered User man dough nollij's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by raulb View Post
    3. Teach him the mandolin. An "instructor" who does not know the instrument as well as you do is not the instructor. He's the student. You're the instructor.

    That's what I was thinking. Teach him enough mandolin that he can then teach you jazz on it. An odd situation, indeed.

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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    At first I was being my usual literal, orderly self, preparing to explain how simple it is to restring a mandolin to play like the top four strings of a guitar, and then I said, "Whaaaat???"

    I agree with raulb and dough here. You have the wrong teacher. Or if you're positively convinced he's the right one, play a guitar and convert your insights to mandolin later on your own time. And consider giving this "instructor" a Jethro Burns CD or two if you decide to continue. Tuning in fourths is a complete waste of the potential of a beautiful, supremely evolved instrument. (And I'm saying this as a guitar player first.)
    .
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    Thanks Paul I really respect your advice but I retuned my mandobanjo and I think I will also take my Baritone Uke with this tuning after a long discussion I think this guy is the real deal he showed me lost of jazz papers and said that he has three books out and yes I'm going to help him learn banjo I'm really interested in theory at this point in my development I have learned a lot from Mel Bay books but up until 5 years ago I didn't do much with music (Jock) been in your area a lot ridding my Bicycle raced in Santa Cruse several times and road the coast hwy. lots of times but injuys and illness made me learn the air of my ways wife interduced me to the many wonders of music and now I can't seem to learn enought. Try to learn bass Mandolin 4,5,6 string Banjo 3 styles of drums> Being disabled allows me lots of time to study, Tv is boring Opra only last so much thanks for all input fred
    fred davis

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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: tuning like a guitar

    Go Fred! Thanks for filling me in, too. Tuning in 4ths will be a good tool then. Just remember how cool courses tuned in fifths are, and how those intervals suggest other ideas.

    Nylon strings sound great on tenor banjo, and should sound good on any of the relatives, as long as it's single strings in each course. On a tenor banjo, any string tuned down to guitar scale on that short scale is going to be disappointing. It's too loose and floppy. If you want a fourth-tuned board in guitar intervals to work with, it needs to be a much shorter scale, like a mandolin or a banjo-uke*, both of which can be tuned to guitar pitches (an octave high) without a problem. Just use the top four strings from a normal guitar set, and tune them an octave high.

    * You could tune a tenor banjo up to the expected tuning with an A (guitar 5th fret) on the top string, and the other strings tuned to match, then capo it way up to get to the same DGBE tuning.

    But maybe you've figured this all out already.
    .
    ph

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