View Full Version : Using 4 strings on an 8 string solid body

Jul-05-2004, 6:20pm
I have seen some really cheap solid-body 8 string electric mandolins for sale in the $100 range. I am wondering whether that is a feasible alternative to paying $250-300 for a genuine 4 string or 5 string model.

I understand the advantage of using only 4 strings on an electric mandolin--I assume, if you use only 4 strings and they are loose, then it is easier to bend notes without pitch problems (plus, you avoid the problems in general of slightly dissonent double strings feeding through the sound system).

My question is, some of the solid body 8 strings are a lot cheaper than the 4 stringed electrics, e.g., as low as $100.

Is there any problem with just using 4 strings on an 8 string mando? For example, is the neck too narrow for bending notes, or is there something else I'm missing?

The other question I have is whether people recommend 4 or 5 strings for starting out on the electric mandolin. I am used to playing acoustic bluegrass, so this is a whole new area for me. My main concern is the price--I don't know if I will really like playing an electric mando, so if a 5 string is more expensive, that is a consideration...

John Clay

Jul-06-2004, 11:04am
I've never done it myself, but I've seen plenty of people suggest taking four strings off a double-course instrument to play it as a 4-stringer. Seems like the only thing that would be wierd would be the extra width in the neck. Just a word of warning/advice: most of those ultra-cheap electric mandolins are perfect examples of getting what you pay for. Kentucky, Fender and Epiphone all make instruments for about $250, and that's about as low as you'll want to go. Otherwise, you'll get really frustrated with your instrument really quickly. If you can scrounge the extra $150 to make that move up in the world, Do It, you'll be glad you did.

Taboot, Taboot,


Jul-06-2004, 11:45am
I recently bought a used 1960s Kinston 8 string mandola (it has a 16" scale). It's a solid body. It sounded fairly good with 8 strings, but it is an outright killer with just 4 strings.

With 4, it seems to intonate better. The notes are clearer and less like an out-of-tune sitar. You can do some bending with 4 strings (bending sounded terrible with 8 strings, at least on this instrument). Effects -- such as distortion or phaser -- seem to work better. Leads and chords work better for me with 4 strings.

I agree with the previous post, $100 may not get you an instrument that is really representative of what an electric mando can do. I paid $250 for my used Kinston.

Several years ago, I had an 8 string Rickenbacker electric mandolin. It was well built, sounded good, but was of limited use to me. I never tried it with just 4 strings. In 8 string mode, I found it only good for a song or two in evening of jamming because it wasn't very versatile for me. I bet it would have been better as a 4 string. Of course, a better player might find it works for them.

Personally, my experience and playing style or lack of style -- requires me to view an electric mandolin family instrument as totally different, requiring a different approach -- hence the 4 string preference.

Oh yea, I really didn't find it a problem simply taking the paired strings off. I have a Ric electric 12 string guitar that I play more often as a six string. It works fine mechanically.

Good luck. Hoyt