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Thread: Alternate Mandolin Tunings

  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Dec 2009

    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.


  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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    Oct 2002
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy

    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
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  4. #4
    Registered User
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    Jan 2003
    Southern Maine USA

    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):
    These involve tuning higher which I
    wouldn't attempt with regular strings:

  5. #5
    mandolin's Lord Voldemort mandocrucian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002

    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)


    Niles H

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

  6. #6
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Upstate New York and Washington DC area
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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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