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Thread: Mandolin or Fiddle or Dobro

  1. #1
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    This might be a weird question. I love all kinds of music, especially Americana & bluegrass. Guitar is my main instrument, but I can play a little bit of banjo. I am looking to learn another instrument and I can't decide which one. I love the sound of the mando, fiddle, and dobro. I am leaning towards mandolin. I think it would probably be easier to pick up than fiddle. Any comments or info? Thanks.

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    The mandolin is easy for a guitar player to pick up.

    Not as easy, I'd guess as Dobro.

    Mandolin could be a stepping-stone to fiddle.

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    Registered User Bob DeVellis's Avatar
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    The mandolin is a great choice. Having frets makes it considerably easier than fiddle and I think it's much more versatile (and portable) than dobro.
    Bob DeVellis

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    Spencer Sorenson Spencer's Avatar
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    I just answered this in another post, which basically says I play mandolin because I'm not good enough on the fiddle. I started trying to learn fiddle too late to get very good at it, in my mid-20's.

    Bowing and intonation take a lot of work for the less talented, and I don't think there aren't too many people who can start fiddle as grownups and become really proficient, some exceptions noted of course. Though I would rather play the fiddle, I think I get a lot more pleasure from playing the mandolin, since I can play that a higher level than I ever would have been able to with a fiddle. Within a short time after starting the mandolin, I was past my level on the fiddle, and have not looked back too much since.

    Bonus, my neck doesn't hurt so much since I quit fiddle.

    Spencer

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    " Not as easy, I'd guess as Dobro. "

    I would not consider the dobro an easy instrument. Gotta know a lot of theory, and be quick on your feet to play that thing.

    My friend says it's like playing guitar using just one finger.

    Me? I'd try the fiddle, because the tone is just so wonderful ... in the right hands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by (Benignus @ Oct. 05 2004, 12:06)
    My friend says it's like playing guitar using just one finger.
    ...

    That easy, huh?


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    Jest passin' thru... TeleMark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (Benignus @ Oct. 05 2004, 12:06)
    My friend says it's like playing guitar using just one finger.
    You mean like all the guys in the "Nu-metal" bands?

    All I need is drop-D and 1 finger!

    TeleMark
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    I was thinking mandolin would be easier for a guitarist. I also thought it would be more versatile than banjo, which I can already play a little. Also, you can't really accompany yourself with a fiddle very well.

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    But if you get good at the dobro, everyone will love you! I run across a ton of mandolin players but rarely do I see a dobro player. It does seem trickier than mandolin though, and you have to deal with getting the proper intonation and all that good stuff.

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    One thing to consider: If you want to be a popular musician and be invited to play at lot of places with a lot of people, and you want an instrument that can be learned to a basic competency level fairly quickly, try bass. Now, I am not saying bass is "easy" or putting down great bass players. It is a hard instrument to be great on. I am just saying it can be learned to some "performance ready" level in a reasonable period of time, by an already competent musician. Stand-up bass is preferable, but I have seen acoustic-electric bass guitar and even solid body bass be allowed in acoustic groups, just because there are not enough alternatives. In my area, I could get just a passably decent bass player in about three bands right now.

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    Registered User ShaneJ's Avatar
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    Anything but the b@%j* !!!

    I've played or tried to play the others. Most difficult would be fiddle followed by the dobro. Mandolin is the easiest transition from guitar, IMO. Fiddle is tougher because of no frets, but that's not all that difficult really. The hardest part for me was using the bow - especially on a $250 fiddle. If I played my instructor's $10K fiddle it was much easier, but I didn't have four figuers to plunk down on a fiddle back in college. I played some dobro last year. Getting used to open G or other tunings isn't all that tough, but using the steel is a big change, though not as tough as the bow on the fiddle. With mandolin, you fret and pick the same way you are used to with a guitar. All you have to do is get used to the smaller scale (actually easier than guitar scale) and learn new fingerings.

    I'd agree with Johnny though...playing bass would be really cool - especially the upright bass. Slappin' out those cool walking bass lines can really make a song. I'd be calling you to come and play all the time.

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    Well, I started learning violin late in life, as a "Suzuki dad". I'm learning along with my daughter. Coming from guitar, you have two challenges. 1) right hand. 2) left hand. :-)

    The right hand challenge: Bowing is way different from picking. Its a whole new animal, and will take dilligence to get right.

    Left hand challenge: No frets. How much of a challenge this is for you will depend on your ear. I played french horn as a kid, so that is where I learned to read music, basic music theory, how to practice, etc. The bonus from a fiddler's perspective is that the french horn is a notoriously wild beast to ride, so it enforced ear training more than other brass instruments would have.

    Fiddle is going to take longer to get to a point where you are happy with the way you sound. And you will need an instructor -- you just *can* *not* self teach on the violin. However, if that is what lights your candle, and you are willing to put in the work, then why not?

    Mandolin is an "easy" transition from fiddle, so I'm told. I'm yet to demonstrate that. For me, I have two challenges going from fiddle to mandolin: 1) right hand, 2) left hand.

    Picking is a whole new technique for me. Regarding the left hand, learning to fret cleanly is something I need to practice. And I've never played a chord oriented instrument, so I need to brush up on some music theory and learn to fret even more better goodly. But anyway, to play propper back-up fiddle I need to absorb some theory and learn the chords, too.

    The good thing about mando and violin is the left hand logic is the same, even if technique is different.

    As to starting on the fiddle as an adult -- don't sweat it too much if what you want to do is old-time and Bluegrass and have some fun. The tunes are easy for the most part, and don't require playing in high positions. Classical violin is a different matter -- it is best to start young. I was at a fiddle camp for Suzuki students this past weekend. I was talking to one of the mom's I know, and we decided that the best age to start violin lessons is when the grandparents are 3 years old :-) Both of our kids are 5 and came home with a simple but fun version of Cripple Creek.

    Oh, on a closing note, I got a bass lesson while I was at camp! All of 10 minutes. I could actually stuble through a couple of major scales with it. Wow! The distances you have to cover on the finger board are *huge* compared to a fiddle. And no frets. As mentioned before, no shortage of gigs for bass players -- the downside is carrying that huge instrument around.

    -dave

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