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Thread: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

  1. #1
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    Smile Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    I would like to hear other peoples thoughts and suggestions on mandolin tunings other than the traditional G-D-A-E. If you play different styles do you prefer different tunings for them? Which tunings tend to help with certain styles of playing? For example tunings for Celtic, Jazz, Classical, Renaissance, etc. I would also like to hear from people who never tune their mandolin to the standard G-D-A-E and why they choose not to. I know many people coming from a guitar background tend to like a different tuning as well.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    Pick up a copy of Rotten Taters to hear a large assortment of tunings

  3. #3
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    Fiddlers do alternate tunings , so It's done ..

    Radim Zinkle. Galactic Mandolin , plays a piece written in 12 re tunings,
    and some restringing to achieve the intervals, the pairs
    in different diaTonic harmonies.
    writing about music
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    One way is to spell out a 4 note chord
    and see which notes can be reached by
    lowering GDAE

    Some open tunings (Low to High ie. GDAE):
    DDAD
    AAEC#
    FCGD
    GDGB
    GDGD
    GDAD
    ADAE
    EDAE
    These involve tuning higher which I
    wouldn't attempt with regular strings:
    GDBB
    EEBE
    BEBE
    AE#AC#
    AEAE
    AEAC
    AEAD
    EEAE

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  6. #5
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    The basic options:

    GDAD is probably the most common, used by Irish bouzouki players and some mandolinists (Andy Irvine)

    ADAE (raises the low string rather than the high pair)

    GDGD or AEAE - open 5ths

    while fiddlers will call alternate tunings "crosstunings", on the the mandolin "crosstunings" usually is used for tuning in which certain of the pairs are tuned to different notes. The most common (or maybe famous) of which is the "Sleepy-Eyed John" ("Get Up John") tuning: F#A - DD - AA - AD

    - - - - - -
    And, any tuning relationship can be dropped down (or raised a half-stop or two) a half-step, whole tone, or lower.

    GDAE dropped down to (Yank Rachell's) EBC#F#

    GDAE dropped a whole step to FCGD (Mike Doucet usually has one of his fiddles tuned this way for a darker sound and to play all those open drone strings with a C-tuned accordion)

    or GDAD lowered to FCGC (Andy Irvine)

    etc.

    Niles H

    (PS: There are several tunes arranged for a couple of these tuning relationships in the book The Mandola Sampler)

  7. #6
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    For the last little while I have been practicing some in AEAE. Its fun for OT fiddle tunes. It takes some getting used to. Occationally it sounds awesome. And sometimes even a mistake sounds so darn cool.

    I didn't want to be de-tuining and re-tuning all the time, so I just keep one mandolin in cross. Another advantage to this is that if its a different instrument its easier to think of it as a different instrument - if you know what I mean.

    I took a fiddle workshop with Greg Canote. He keeps one fiddle in calico tuning, which is AEAC#.

    I did a workshop with Frank Wakefield last summer and we did that crazy tuning for Get Up John. It almost wasn't worth it. Almost.


    With a guitar it seems it is easier to de-tune and then re-tune. (Especially if you can tell good anecdotes while you tune.) But with mandolin its a royal pain. I am liking this one mandolin in standard, one in cross. Besides, its a good justification for getting another mandolin.
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    My favorite alternate tuning is ADAD, a lot of the European bouzouki players I've jammed with also use this tuning, I play mostly traditional Nordic music and medieval dance music with that tuning. I'm actually really surprised that nobody has posted this tuning yet. I thought it was more common, but maybe not.

  9. #8
    Registered User metrognome's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    As of yet I have only experimented with alternate tunings on guitar, mostly tuning to open E or open A chords and playing with a slide on my pinky so I can 3-finger chords, DADGAD and dropping low E to D. My take on it is that each of these experiments has revealed a new sonic/harmonic opening to be explored because of the different inversions that suddenly appear. On the guitar, I find it helpful to think about how the changes affect chord fingerings. It would be fun to do that with a mando too.

    I had just decided that I was happy with my one mando, but it sure would be fun to have a second for messing around with alternate tunings. LOL!

  10. #9
    Registered User James Rankine's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    It's probably an irrational fear but I've always stayed clear of leaving a mandolin tuned up to AEAE because of worries about the long term effect of increased string tension. I've always felt happier tuning down to GDGD. Anyone any thoughts on AEAE versus GDGD? Obviously if your playing with other musicians the tuning becomes important - it makes more sense for the fiddle with less tension to tune up but it strikes me the mandolin might be happier going down.

  11. #10
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    I have been playing quite a few tunes in A and tho I usually play them in the fiddle in AEAE, I kept my mandolin in the std tuning for these. The big problem was that retuning is a pain on mandolin. I would bring a second cross-tuned mandolin to a big session but I can't hear myself much on most of them so I play my resonator which is plenty loud. Man, I may need a second one of those.

    I do have the resonator tuned with light gauge strings so it might take the extra tension.
    Jim

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  12. #11
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    Quote Originally Posted by James Rankine View Post
    It's probably an irrational fear but I've always stayed clear of leaving a mandolin tuned up to AEAE because of worries about the long term effect of increased string tension. I've always felt happier tuning down to GDGD. Anyone any thoughts on AEAE versus GDGD? Obviously if your playing with other musicians the tuning becomes important - it makes more sense for the fiddle with less tension to tune up but it strikes me the mandolin might be happier going down.
    The mandolin I have kept in AEAE for many seasons, cycling humid and dry hot and cold, has not shown any ill effects. Can't generalize from the specific but if there are any effects, I would think it small.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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  13. #12
    Registered User LongBlackVeil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    Love Calico Tuning on the fiddle AEAC#. One of my favorite tunes is Laughing Boy. I think it would sound excellent on a mandolin.

    I just hate returning a mandolin though
    "When you learn an old time fiddle tune, you make a friend for life"

  14. #13
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

    Quote Originally Posted by LongBlackVeil View Post

    I just hate returning a mandolin though
    Justification of MAS!
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
    We cannot put off living until we are ready. -- Jose Ortega Y Gasset

    The entire staff
    funny....

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