View Full Version : Fingerpicking Guitar To Mando

Mike Buesseler
Oct-17-2004, 3:23pm
I pretty much started my musical life playing guitar fingerpicking instrumental. (Went to college with Leo Kottke...what was I supposed to do?)

What I'm wondering is why you never hear any of those great fingerpicked guitar tunes (Kottke, Fahey, Doc Watson, etc) played as mando solos, or duets.

I'm sure there are a bunch of reasons, but I often find myself wishing for a playable mando version of Pete Seeger's "Livin' In the Country" or Kottke's "The Fisherman" or "Ojo."

Anyone ever tried or heard any of these as mando tunes? Have any ideas how to arrange them for mando?

Oct-17-2004, 5:07pm
What I'm wondering is why you never hear any of those great fingerpicked guitar tunes (Kottke, Fahey, Doc Watson, etc) played as mando solos, or duets. #

1) Easier to play on a guitar, where there are more available strings, tuned to smaller intervals than the 5ths of mandolin.

2) Lower register is usually more effective, plus large guitar body produces more volume.

3) Fingerstyle is not traditional as a technique among mandolinists who tend to be exclusively using the plectrum. #(RH) fingers or pick+fingers is routinely discouraged as a viable technique, usually by players who've never really tried it or could never make it work for them.

So in essence, you usually have to work harder to get this stuff on a mandolin than on guitar, and, if you do, there's often a lack of appreciation among your mando cohorts.

When you do hear fingerstyle or pick+fingers on mandolin, it's probably going to be from someone who is playing mandolin as a second or third instrument, is outside of the mandolin tradition and is transferring techniques and vocabulary of the primary instrument (guitar, banjo) onto mandolin. #"Billy The Kid" is fingerpicked by Ry Cooder. #There are some interesting tracks from Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull ("Christmas Song") which sound like RH finger techniques are used. Ralph Stanley has recorded a few things playing mandolin, and he uses banjo rolls; I've also seen John McEuen play it banjo style, and Wayne Henderson uses thumbpick & fingers although most of what he does is replicate flatpicking lines.

Ouside of blind old-time musician Kenny Hall, who used his index finger (back and forth ) as a pick, it's hard to think of many mandolin players, besides Frank Wakefield, who incorporate hybrid techniques. #Once you move to the Irish bouzouki and cittern, you'll find more fingerstyle playing (Gerald Trimble, Josef Sobel...)

I do some Mississippi John Hurt stuff ("Casey Jones", "My Creole Belle" etc.), a John Renbournesque "Trotto", and have messed with Davey Graham's "Angi" and some Beatles things like "Dear Prudence" and "Blackbird", either fingerstyle and/or pick+fingers.

But that's fingerstyle tunes. But I'm using a lot of pick+fingers for banjo rolls, or for Telecaster/pedal steel guitar style doublestop licks, or sambaesque chording, and so on. It's the door to another playing level.

I'll be doing a CROSSPICKING, CLAWHAMMER, AND RELATED ACROSS THE STRING PLAYING workshop (http://www.ext.vt.edu/resources/4h/northern/adult.html#L7) Dec. 3-5, 2004 at the No. VA 4-H Center.

Niles Hokkanen

Mike Buesseler
Oct-17-2004, 5:17pm
Wow! #Not much more to say about THAT subject, I imagine. #Thanks, Niles. #I always get more than I expected from you. #I would SO love to attend almost any of your workshops....but the airfare is about twice the cost of the classes. #Still, I'm always wrestling with this...

I sort of knew those answers were coming, and that if anyone had a handle on the subject, it would be you. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif # Is there anything you HAVEN'T tried on a mandolin? (Also, have you ever heard Peter Lang fingerpick a mando?)

Still, I'd like to hear some of those tunes played with a flatpick....maybe it would take two mandos, or a mando/guitar. #I've tabbed out the melody for Livin In The Country, but just like you suggest, it needs something more. #I'm going to keep working on it. #All I need is the right accompaniment. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Oct-22-2004, 6:06am
Hi Niles
Someone said you are working on "several" new mandolin instructions books ( I hope the rumor is correct).
If so , PLEASE include your fingerpicking mando version of Mississippi John Hurt´s "Casey Jones" in one of those books.
Thanks for considering this http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif


Jim Garber
Oct-22-2004, 7:02am
There are earlier variants of the mandolin that were gut strung and played with the fingers. These were not tuned to the gdae tuning but were in fourths closer to guitar with 6 courses.

Here is one I own from 1896 by Serafino Casini of Florence. This is called a Lombardi mandolino but is actually more of a hybrid "re-issue." Earlier mandolinos often had 12 strings. Mine also has a scalloped fretboard.


Oct-26-2004, 1:47pm
Radim Zenkl (www.zenkl.com) plays some fingerstyle tunes on an acoustic 4 stringer with nylon instead of steel. There are examples on his cd "Restless Joy," which is really terriffic. I haven't heard his other discs, but have yet to hear a negative comment about them. He's a terriffic example of a musician with *great* sensibilities who's almost completely un-fettered by the chains of his instrument's tradition.


Oct-26-2004, 3:57pm
Out of curiosity I bought a set of five metal fingerpicks and tried them while playing an old Dobro mandolin. (Mostly because I was terrified of scratching the top of any other.) I never got the hang of it but felt there was some potential. The combination of the metal picks with the resonator type tone was very unique.

Oct-26-2004, 5:00pm
A lot of the fingerstyle guitar things are built around voicings that are particular to the guitar and when adapted to mandolin, the voicings are just not workable. However, sometimes making the effort to adapt different pieces can get some really pleasing results. The ones that I have found that worked usually involved moving them to a different key to make them fit the mandolin. It seems like "Living in the Country" can be crosspicked (in D as on guitar) without too much trouble. I don't know about the Kottke stuff, but it's worth a try. Sometimes even the failures can be a learning experience.