View Full Version : 10 string instruments

Feb-05-2004, 12:25am
For some reason I have it in my head to go after a 10 string instrument. As I have said I play mando now and would like to go with a 10 string mando. Freshwater and Fylde make them both, tuned in CGDAE or DGDAE. how many of you have played a 10string mando? I want to stick with GDAE because of the mando tuning. Adding a string to this seems that it would be an easy transition. I guess my question is do 10 string mandos work or do you need to have a bigger scale , ie: zouks and citerns?

Feb-05-2004, 7:00am
I had been considering posting the same question - I was looking at the 10 string cittern on the Freshwater site thinking it could give the same range as a mandocello and octave mandolin. Opinions?

Bob DeVellis
Feb-05-2004, 8:50am
I've had the same notion but pretty much got talked out of it by people I spoke to, including Stefan Sobell, who felt that it's the rare instrument that can handle both the lowest and highest pitches required of a 10-string. Stefan felt that even his large-bodied mandolins couldn't be counted on to work that well across the full range, although some apparently do very nicely. So, I think I'd want to try a particular instrument with a specific set of strings to determine how it sounded before commiting to a purchase. The idea is very appealing, though -- a mandolin and mandola all in one. On the other hand, when was the last time you really ran out of range on either a mandolin or a mandola?

Feb-05-2004, 9:28am
I'd suggest trying with a resonator..

Feb-05-2004, 9:48am
I'd suggest trying with a resonator..


What exactly do you mean here? Do you mean like a dobro type mandolin? Or a resonator type with the action set so you can flatpick or finger pick?

Feb-05-2004, 9:51am
...uh, Dan? Is that your way of foreshadowing something ;)

Feb-05-2004, 9:57am
bobd - Thank you for you input. #I guess the other factor has to be intended use which for me is recreation/relaxation playing at home. #The approximately $700 for the Freshwater (depending on exchange rate) makes it attractive for that use. #If I were considering use for public performance I'd be looking for something better but also something much more expensive.

On the other hand, the even the mandocello overlaps the range of the mandolin so a moderate quality mandocello is probably my best bet.

mad dawg
Feb-05-2004, 9:59am
Hi Bob -- here (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=16;t=12452;hl=10) is a related thread that might prove helpful.


Feb-05-2004, 1:20pm
I'm in agreement with Sobell on this one: a 5-course instrument tuned in 5ths inevitably will involve some sort of unsatisfactory compromise. #Think about adding a 5th (low) course on a mandolin -- to maintain sufficient string tension, you'd need a VERY heavy C string, which as a double course just wouldn't sound very good. #Lengthening the scale sounds like a good idea to fix that problem (as you lengthen, you have lighten up the gauge on the strings to maintain tension), but now you've got a problem with your upper E string -- once you've had to lighten the gauge below about .009, you'll be looking at frequent string breakage.

In short, I've reached the personal conclusion that about 2 octaves is the maximum acceptable range between the highest and lowest open string on a single-scale instrument.

What's the solution? #The expensive and difficult one is to get an instrument without a single scale. #The fretboard on Ale Moller's mandola extends up the headstock on the bass side, allowing use of higher gauge strings on the lower courses and providing access to notes beyond the 2-fret range. #So in effect, he has a dual-scale instrument.

The cheaper solution used by most 5-string players I've seen is simply to modify the tuning, perhaps raising the lowest course from a C to a D and lowering the upper course from E to D. #With this tuning (and an appropriate scale length of around 16-17"), you're back to 2 octaves and can get a very nice tone from your instrument.

Feb-05-2004, 2:16pm
10-string instruments tuned CGDAE are not all that rare in Italianate classical music. They're tuned like a mandocello plus OM, not mandola plus mandolin, however. If you really want ten strings tuned in a mandolinish manner, it seems to be easier to make it work on a large instrument. Those beasts have bodies far bigger than a Gibson mandocello.

Michael Wolf
Feb-05-2004, 2:32pm
I would suggest the "Fanned Fret"-design for those, who want to play in fifths and have a different scale for each string. I hadn't the chance to try myself but had a very interesting talk with Steve Parks about such instruments. You can see a Fanned-Fret-Tenorguitar on his Website. You can have a 58cm scale on the base-side and around 50cm on the treble-side for example. So you will also have an easy to play instrument on the higher strings, without getting to thick lower strings.

I think the construction of Ale Möllers Mandola means, that he can get deeper notes for swedish-fiddletune-drones, if needed. But the relation between scale-length and string-gaughes stayes nearly the same as on normal instruments in that case.


Feb-05-2004, 3:15pm
Michael - Mollers mandola effectively has 2 scales, one for the upper courses and a longer one for the lower courses, so the strings have to be gauged for the 2 different scales. #But as you say, the extension allows him really just to access those low notes for drone or occasional effects (which is why the pinpoint capos work nicely in that situation -- he can effectively change the key of his low drone); within the frettable playing area, he's in essence just changed his tuning.

I've seen pictures of a fanned-fret zouk somewhere (as I recall it was a Davy Stuart custom electric model). #I always wondered how much adjustment of playing style (ie., left hand position) would be required to play one.

Feb-06-2004, 2:00am
Really what I'm after is more bass than what I get out of my mandolin. The octave mandola from Freshwater seems like a possibility:

Freshwater Octave Mandola (http://www.frettedfolkinstruments.com/product2.htm#1)

It is tuned GDAE like the mando so the chord shapes should be the same right?

I thought the only way to get a more bassy instrument ws to add a course and still keep the manod tuning. What I want is to be able to play more rythmn and back up. This sounds odd to me to do on the mando. My weak point is playing chords and accompaniment so I am trying to focus on this to strengthen this area.

Feb-06-2004, 4:37am
PickinBob: yes, precisely.. my national tenor is very happy tuned all over the map.. I think that technology "doesn't mind" the 10-string spread like wood does.

Rohn: Maybe http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Feb-09-2004, 12:45am
OK, what's up with this thing:

10 string Guitar-Mandolin-Ebay (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3701652960&category=10179)

Feb-09-2004, 8:05am
The string arrangement on the nut of 2-3-3-2 is an indication that the instrument is probably a South American tiple.
The tuning is similar to that of the ukulele, with octave strings on the three lower-pitched courses.