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Thread: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

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    Default How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    I've been learning violin and some guitar lately, and, to my surprise, it's improved my mandolin playing a lot. This got me thinking: Chris Thile, Mike Marshall, Sam Bush, Matt Flinner, and many other top-level mandolin players all play other stringed instruments very well. This would not be the case at all with most classical players– some might play a little piano in addition to their primary instrument, but extreme specialization is the rule. (I still feel a little guilty for playing anything besides clarinet.)

    So, are there any top mandolin people who play only mandolin? Or is it almost like it's impossible to be a great mandolin player without having come to grips with some other members of the string family?

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    Well, I play Banjo & Guitar !. Seriously, i can't answer your question,but the same one has occurred to me when i've seen a top player pick up another instrument. I have the Herschel Sizemore's tuition DVD on which he's joined by Alan Bibey.At one point AB picks up a Guitar & picks along with Herschel - he's no slouch either.
    My personal feeling is that if you have a great talent to play one instrument,then unless you feel that you 'must' limit yourself to it,then it's very hard NOT to decide to try your hand on another instrument,not just to show off your skills,but for the textures & tones & the 'other dimensions' that an alternative instrument brings with it.
    Most musicians have interests in a variety of different musical genres,& Mandolin players won't be any different.That some of those genres won't be 'particularly' suitable for Mandolin goes without saying. No wonder then that many of those Mandolin players will decide to play an instrument which is 'more' suitable. One thing i have noticed,is that the top Mandolin players are usually ridiculously good on their 'other' instrument(s) as well - 'talent will out' on whatever instrument !,
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    It is more of an exception for them to only play one, the majority are multi-instrumentalists, even if they only perform on one. Doyle Lawson and Del McCoury both worked as professional-level banjo players early in their careers. Lester Flatt first worked as a mandolin player and Jimmy Martin taught a young Doyle Lawson how to play mandolin "from his wrist." Some guys like fiddler Stuart Duncan are accomplished Rice-style guitarists. Tim O'Brien, Ricky Skaggs and Sam Bush are all master fiddlers amongst everything else they play (which is everything) Nothing ever helped my guitar playing as much as getting serious about the mandolin did. When the key turns in the lock for one, it can make opening the other ones easier.
    Last edited by Fretbear; Apr-28-2012 at 4:42am.
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    Adam Steffey says the only thing he plays is mandolin. He said he'll occasionally mess with a mandola but it's difficult because with mandolin he typically frets with only three fingers.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fretbear View Post
    ...Tim O'Brien, Ricky Skaggs and Sam Bush are all master fiddlers amongst everything else they play (which is everything) Nothing ever helped my guitar playing as much as getting serious about the mandolin did. When the key turns in the lock for one, it can make opening the other ones easier.
    I'm with you on the mandolin helping your guitar playing, in my case it opened up flat picking to a fingerstyle gutarist and added a new dimension. In regards to Skaggs, this song shows he was no slouch on the guitar.


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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    Playing mandolin actually hurt my guitar playing since I haven't played the guitar at all since I took up mandolin 5 years ago...
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    BarnOwl Barn Owl's Avatar
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ostrander View Post
    Playing mandolin actually hurt my guitar playing since I haven't played the guitar at all since I took up mandolin 5 years ago...
    same goes over here with my violin playin... stringing it up next week though.. promised myself.
    "Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun."

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    Steve / Barn Owl - I'll join the club !. After playing Banjo for close on 50 years & Guitar for over 15,i rarely see the things.Even after a recent set-up on my Guitar,it's still in it's case & all the self promises i make re.Banjo & Guitar get broken,
    Ivan
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    Registered User neil argonaut's Avatar
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    Yeah, I've been playing just over a year, and in that time seen my abilities at other instruments slip dramatically due to neglect; however, I've a feeling if i put in a bit of time to get back playing them I may end up a bit better than I was due to a better understanding and hearing of scales, chords etc since starting mandolin.

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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    On stringed instruments, excluding guitar & fiddle, most players are multi-instrumentalists. I play 9.

    One major exception, which really blew my mind, was Jaco Pastorius who only played electric bass!!!

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    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: How many great mandolin players *only* play the mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I'm with you on the mandolin helping your guitar playing, in my case it opened up flat picking to a fingerstyle gutarist and added a new dimension. In regards to Skaggs, this song shows he was no slouch on the guitar.

    I never knew he hybrid-picked on the acoustic. It is usually done by electric players, like that Tele picker in the video. Notice Bobby Hicks on fiddle?
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