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The Fifth Course

Playing 8 String Electric

Rating: 1 votes, 5.00 average.
In terms of technique, playing an 8 string solid body electric is pretty much the same as playing a 4 string solid body electric. Except you don't bend notes.

Having 8 strings makes the tone more mandolinistic and less guitaristic [to invent a couple of words]. So I've been playing material I usually reserve for my Vessel F5, just to hear it come through an amp. And I've added songs to my mandolin repertoire, because I am crazy enough to stomp on some effects boxes too.

Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" is very cool with a little flange for the rhythm parts. Then I kick in the overdrive for the break. Yes, I purposely distort the signal coming out of an 8 string solid body mandolin. Sounds great!

Neil Young's "Powderfinger" gets distortion/overdrive for the whole song. But instead of flange, I use the chorus pedal. It better approximates the Les Paul-thick tone he always gets. You wouldn't think that an 8 string mandolin would ever need chorus, but this is a case of getting the right effect on the signal to create a tone. It's different than a double string tone.

For other songs I want a jangly tone. The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" comes to mind as does The Pretenders's "Back on the Chain Gang" and one of my songs, "Rolling with the Circus." For these I can go dry into the amp, or add in one or both the flange and the chorus.

[I haven't written a song that gets the kind of treatment required of a Jimi Hendrix or a Neil Young song, but I'm working on it.]


To be quite honest I have no idea if anyone really cares about playing rock n' roll electric mandolin. But I like it. My band mates like it. Audience members are curious in a good way often. And perhaps most importantly of all, my wife likes it.

We had a little jam session tonight. Just like in the picture.

Let me know if you're out there.


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  1. flatt's Avatar
    Just read your blog; ah! I am in that state of "just about to" .... I'm going for a Mandobird (cheap; looks great; sounds OK what I've heard) but I lunge between 4-string and 8-string.

    I play pretty much rock'n'roll mandolin when I can ... yes I DO bend strings on an 8! At the moment it's on an F-Furch with Fishman p/u ... through various stomp-boxes. Should I go 4 or 8? My gut tells me 4, my heart tells me 4, but my brain (knows my technique) and says "Nah ... 8!"...

    The Mandobird iv DOES look like any set-up problems can be addressed better then the viii?

    Ah, I'm just rambling ... sorry to take up your time!!!

  2. Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
    PM sent!
  3. TonyEarth's Avatar
    i definitely like electrics, as you may have seen from my posts. but like flatt, i don't know if i should go for 4 or 8.
  4. Bill Lemerise's Avatar
    I went with an 8 string electric, and it is a joy to play. I use a Fishman loud box, which has reverb & chorus; I am looking for suggestions as to what affects I should be looking at. A guitarist freind said he recorded with an e -mando player who used tremolo...thats were I am at, fishing for ideas.