View Full Version : How do you play an octave?

Mar-06-2004, 8:28am
When I've been in a music store that had an octave mandolin, I've just played simple melodies using the same fretting as on a regular mandolin. #Obviously this plays the same song at a lower pitch. #

Do you generally look for music written in the lower octave or do you mostly play the standard notation one octave lower than written?

I have a Freshwater octave on order (due in late April, early May) and am trying to decide what sort of instructional material I should be gathering and/or working on in the interim.


Mar-07-2004, 7:18am
I definately recommend, John McGann's "Guide to Octave Mandolin and Bouzouki". Not only does he explore a full catalouge of different types of tunes, he wrote out and included the Tab for both the rhythm and melody parts. The introductory 18 pages will give you good oversite of the mechanics of playing a "big Mandolin" and the notes for each tune are a good introduction as to how you approach the tune either melodically or as accompaniment.

A Listing # (http://www.johnmcgann.com/books.html)for the book is here with a table of contents. Scroll down to the "Octave Mandolin" section. His Website # (http://www.johnmcgann.com/)is here.


Mar-07-2004, 9:42am

Thank you. #That book is one that I will probably order. #However, the sample page is what gave rise to the question. #Well, that and the lesson webpages for octaves at Folk of the Wood (Octave tab (http://www.folkofthewood.com/page4195.htm)).

Both show that on the treble clef, a note on the second line up (G) is played on the D string, fifth fret. #That is exactly where I'd play that note on a standard mandolin. #That lead to my question - do octave players generally just play the treble clef music like they are holding a standard mandolin, in effect shifting one octave or do you look for music written specifically at the range of the instrument?

I realize there is not going to be one answer but was trying to get a sense of what others are doing.

Bob DeVellis
Mar-07-2004, 10:07am
Yes, OM players generally play trble clef music, ignoring the fact that the notes actually sounded are an octave lower. One of the advantages of octave mandolin over differently-tuned instruments is that a mandolin player can pretty much retain what has already been learned and transfer it to the larger instrument. The main difference, I think, is a reliance on more open-string chord shapes because the stretches for closed chords are so long on an octave.

Mar-07-2004, 11:58am
This was touched on a few years ago and might as well be rehashed. In 1912 at the Guild of American Guitar and Mandolin players, a consensus was arrived at (with Gibson's arm twisting) that ALL the instruments of a Mandolin Orchestra, would be written in the treble clef. !!!

What this did / and still does today is create a formula which would allow a musician to move from one section to another to fill in the sound. We still see this with guitar music ... which is generally written way out of its real acoustical range. And that is true with mandolin family instruments. The mandolin is written an octave low, the mandola and M/Cello an octave or two, too high.

What this means is - it's Exactly what Bob brought up. Octave / big mandolins are normally played from a treble clef. It does simplify things - it isn't particulary accurate. Although, now that I think about it ... an O/M may be the only instrument which is actually in the acoustic range of the treble clef.

Hmmmh ...

Mar-11-2004, 7:53pm
You can think of it like guitar notation- the music sounds an octave lower than written, when played on guitar or octave mando. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Mar-31-2004, 9:19am
Use just one finger by fret

I have a Freshwater Octave mandolin( 610 mm). Too long scale lenght to play melody. I must did take an octave mandola with a 585 mm scale lenght

I tune in FCGD and put a capo on the 2nd Fret. A whole better in melody http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif , but less power in chords http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif

May-04-2004, 11:51am
Playing from Treble clef, you are really auto-transposing down an octave, so the notes are at the same frets as on the mando. Because of the longer scale the fingering has to be different. I am going to try to get some pictures together, but it's basically one finger per fret, starting on 2, with extensions for frets 1 and 6. To go higher, you shift. It's exactly the same as the fingering I use on the cello, so there are centuries of technique built up, waiting only to be used.