What kind of music do you play on your 10 string?

  1. Chip Booth
    Chip Booth
    My limited experience with 10 string instruments is that they are commonly built on a mandola sized body and therefore have a tone that is richer and deeper than a typical mandolin, even in the upper register. I'm going to guess that few of us 10 string players play bluegrass on them.

    I use mine primarily for singer/songwriter style folk music. Our band has a string bass, fiddle, and two of us who switch back and forth between guitar and mandolin. We play a lot of slower, lush folky music where the sustain and roundness of the 10 string really fits in nicely with bowed bass. I use it in place of a second guitar in almost all situations, and have been experimenting with playing a few tunes with the mandolin and 10 string and no guitar at all. My new Lawrence Smart 10 string has an incredible tone that is much closer to a traditional F hole mandolin than any other 10 string I have played including his others. It has the "pop" on the attack like a bluegrass mandolin and chops quite well. As a result I use it for quite a few faster, almost grassy songs that I used to play on my regular mandolin.

    I also recently had the chance to exclusively play my ten string for a week at the Sun Valley Swing 'n' Dixie Jazz Jamboree. I can safely say I was the only mandolin player at the festival (though Eva Scow was there last year), and it was a blast. So I dabble in some jazz, and have been playing choros from Mike Marshall's book as well. I love the tone of the 10 string on the choro pieces, and it's fun finding ways to incorporate the 5th course into the melodies.
  2. Ted Eschliman
    Ted Eschliman
    Most of my playing is in a praise band at church. Since they aren't accustomed to a mandolin anyway, the fact that mine is 10-string (let alone fanned-fret), the rest of the musicians have no preconceived notion of what my instrument should look like. I do a lot of cross-picking, and since my instrument is amplified, I don't have to worry about brilliance in the high end.

    What I like about the 10-string is the extended range, access to a FULL two-octave scale in any of the 4 FFcP patterns, without having to move up the fretboard. Having a rich bottom end on the C course is a dream. I use Thomastik mandola string (164M) and add a Thomastik mandolin E to the set.

  3. Chip Booth
    Chip Booth
    What is the scale length on your fan Ted? Mine is roughly 14" to 16". I recently played a fanned fret with a 16 2/3 ish low C. It made for a nice tight C, and didn't make for any obvious adjustment in fingering. Then again, I thought that the first time played a fanned fret instrument. Since then I have learned that there is definitely some adjustment neccesary but it well worth the effort!
  4. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    I currently use my 5-string for some material that will end up being 10-string. I expect that will eventually include some jazz as well as celtic and Bach when I get my Buchanan. I'm also saving up Dudu Maia's original tunes from his web site (pdf sheet music) for that happy day, since most require the low range.

    I'm impressed with these fanned-fret designs, although it gives my a headache to look at. I find no need for it, myself, and I want the same ease of short-scale reach on the low strings as on the uppers. Would be interested in your reaction to a couple I've recently recorded as solo song heads, the first being mine, the second Joe Zawinul and Cannonball Adderly:

    Here: http://www.twtunes.com/pages/TryAgain.mp3

    And here: http://www.twtunes.com/pages/Mercy.mp3
  5. Chip Booth
    Chip Booth
    Tom, both are very cool. Nice composition, and I love the tone you get on Mercy.

    As for the fanned frets, it really comes into play when you are talking about acoustic instruments. It's much easier to get a rich, full, and loud low C with a short scale on an electric instrument, but really tough on an acoustic. The fan allows for both the low end and high end to be optimized for tone and playability. That said a lot of guys make a single scale length (usually a longer scale) work just fine.
  6. Tom Wright
    Tom Wright
    Thanks for checking out the tunes. I didn't get a decent bottom at first, but after switching to stainless steel wound I'm pretty happy.

    We'll see how the Buchanan works out. It's a 14"--his 8-strings are 13 1/2".
  7. warh0rn
    I am waiting on strings to decide on gauges and pitch. Seeing as mine is a 17" I am leaning more towards going up in gauge and down a whole step. Capoing when I want the mandola-lin open notes. I will do a post on it when I get it all together.
  8. klaezimmer
    From my comments, you will understand I am not accomplished on these instruments. I play them in public with typically a fairly low embarrassment level in adding color and texture in an ensemble setting. On the whole, I will not be able to hold the attention of an audience for 30 minutes with just me playing the instrument. But on a rudimentary level, it could be said of me, "He plays well with others."

    Although I have had the 22.25" scale cittern (Stan Pope, bldr) over a year and a half, I have yet to do anything with it. I purchased it for a prototype to experiment with in the process of designing another kind of instrument based on the same scale length. Once I complete that project, I expect to revert it to either a GDADG or a DGDAE instrument whereupon I will determine where it will fit into the grand scheme of things.

    Most, but not all, of my playing nowadays tends to be in church or worship settings. However, modern worship music borrows from a broad number of genres along with creating some of its own unique elements as a genre unto itself.

    The 19.5" scale cittern (Glen Reid, bldr) I have had longest - since about 2003 or 2004. Tuned GCGDA, it is quite friendly to the keys of G and C, and to a lesser degree, F and Bb. It is in a tonal range that fits very nicely in accompanying the singing voice. It fits well with folk and Americana rock styles of music. Its remarkable sustain makes it sound a tad muddy if strummed repeatedly like a guitar; but a strummed chord allowed to ring sounds powerful. It has a very gritty sound, particularly on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th courses which provides a nice edge to solo lines in harder edged material. I have used a metal slide with it to a good effect, also.

    The 15" scale cittern (David Freshwater, bldr) has been with me a while, too. Again, remarkable sustain. Tuned DGDAE, it fits well within the roots genres (Americana, folk, blues, country), rock, pop, and also Israeli folk. It can be strummed to a more pleasant effect than the Reid, but it does ringing sustained chords eloquently, too. I find it friendly to G, C, D, F, and to a lesser degree A.
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