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Thread: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

  1. #1
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    I am an electric newbie.

    I never played electric guitar growing up, and mandolin is the only stringed instrument I can play. I recently purchased a Fender MandoStrat 4 string, and now I have a "practice amp" to play with.

    So one thing I notice is that most of the threads regarding emandos are discussing gear, instruments and/or gizmos.

    Not many (that I can find) discussing playing the dern thing.


    Not having played an electric instrument before there is a lot for me to learn.

    Some observations:

    Tremolo is flat out stupid. There is so much sustain for as long as I want it and longer, tremolo just muddies things up.

    Hammer-ons are dicey depending on that darn reverb.

    Pull-offs just don't work. I don't know why.

    Double stops with care. That second string adds so much stuff to the sound it is a bigger transition. On acoustic I go back and forth between single note and double stops, on emando the difference is so huge that it sticks out. If need to be more tasteful about it.

    Four finger chords are just way too much sound. (Or am I showing how old I am). Double stops and three finger chords do everything I need to do.


    So are these electric newbie observations universal, or less than accomplished technique? What other pitfalls can I avoid?
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    Finger Stylish Finger Stylish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    For me, it will be a trial & error type process. Strings, amps, size room you're in, a whole lot of things can require technique tweaking.
    I haven't been playing a straight electric long as well, but I surmise it isn't going to be as easy (sound wise) as standing in front of a condenser mic and letting your hand go play.
    Finesse and patience and will be required for me to feel good about it.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Have to treat it like its just a different instrument. Not a mandolin, just tuned like one.
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Have to treat it like its just a different instrument. Not a mandolin, just tuned like one.
    That's pretty much my view. Shapes/patterns on the fretboard are the same but playing it is nothing like playing acoustic mandolin.

    And then the amp and pedals are just as much of an instrument as the mando itself, at least regarding getting a good tone.

    Pull-offs can work better with more gain. I use lots of double stops. Really though, I think of it mostly as a lead instrument and just fit in double stops occasionally without really playing chords in a rhythm context like you might do playing acoustic or of course playing electric guitar.

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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    I experimented with a four-string Mandobird last summer. One of the things I noticed is that I really needed a lighter left-hand touch and I had to concentrate on a more direct 90 degree fretting attack or else I would bend a lot of notes unintentionally. In fact, I would sometimes bend the low G string right off the fret. I agree that the tremolo has less of a role (unless you get into some Ventures stuff). I found myself playing some slower things (like Stormy Weather) and just really concentrating on hearing the notes ring out. I do play lots of 2 and 3 note chords with that. I also had a little problem with my E string being a little quieter than the other strings and that is probably just a set-up problem that I haven't resolved.

    I also know nothing about gear. I borrowed an amp. I even borrowed a wah-wah pedal (that was a riot). But at the end of the summer when the rest of my acoustic band returned, they advised that maybe (ahem) I should go back to something that sounded more like a mandolin.
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    Transister User Bill Stokes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Hammer-ons are dicey depending on that darn reverb.

    Pull-offs just don't work. I don't know why.
    I rely on hammer-ons and pull-offs a good bit on the electrics. (2 mandobirds w. different tunings and a 4-string e-mandola.)

    Generally, I agree with you about chords; even double stops can distort. Depends on what effects you're using, and how much overdrive.

    But isn't it fun to wail on an electric? A different animal from the acoustic for sure, but a cool change.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    I am putting my pedal adventure on hold until I get a handle on all what I have. I got a modeling amp that has 24 presets out of 8 classic amplifiers. I don't know my amps, but an electric friend of mine sure does. "OK, that's a Marshall, that's a VOX...." just from listening. So for now I am just messing with the presets, and various settings.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Slides and hammer ons really depend on how that reverb is set. What acoustically sounds so cool can quickly sound like a sound riot on the electric.
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    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    it sounds like your amp will work fine , i have been playing electric guitar for a long time, so i have lots of amps to use. But i like using my smaller battery operated ones that have onboard effects, that's all you need. Keep practicing and your pull offs and the rest will come did you get it set up , when i got mt mandostrat i had to file down the nut slots and lower the action, after that it played great
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    Registered User zedmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    My Mandobird is still due for some set up--and I will be lowering the action--not right down, but down a bit & maybe make the neck angle a bit steeper.
    But maybe I don't seem to have as much trouble with some of the other stuff due to my guitar background?
    Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    OK this is all about single string (4~5) Not 8 string electrics, right?
    since clean amplified 8 strings are a different thing,
    than a 4 string thru effects pedals
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    is like dancing,
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    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    I got a 4 stringer. I never played guitar and have all the same issues OP stated. I thought it may work good with electric band friends have but nobody seems to want another "Guitar" player. -As that what is come down to sounding like. Theyd rather have the acoustic mando. So I got a better pickup.

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    A single course electric instrument IS a different animal. Good advice to think of it as a different instrument altogether.

    1) Know the sound you are seeking. If you don't know this, the next stuff is next to impossible.

    2) Learn to pick much lighter to achieve #1. Your tone is now in a combination of your hands, pickup and amp, not just in your hands anymore. Lots of experimentation will be needed, especially in the amp. Always keep #1 in mind.

    3) MUCH lighter left hand touch!!

    If you don't know what #1 is, maybe do a lot of listening to e mando and e guitar players until you find something you like.
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    Registered User chasray's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    I agree with Pete. I'll add a lighter touch has been difficult for me. Make sustain your friend, and a tasteful string bend once in a while.

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    Créateur des e-mandos Soundfarmer Pete's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Here`s a nice clip of a 4 string....very delicate..... and Nazareno is kind enough to list his gear at the end of the clip ...
    https://youtu.be/SUzgyA5oV1s

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    Registered User zedmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    I play 12 string guitar and 6 string--and there are some differences, but there are many similarities--the main thing that's trickier on a 12 string than a 6 string is bending strings.
    Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?

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    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    I recently bought a 5 string Goldtone. I agree with everything that's been said. I don't care for the sound of the open A string but it will take lot of practice to avoid it completely. Comping with a two string blues shuffle sounds pretty good. I've found that there isn't enough room between the bridge and the pickup for me to mute strings with my palm and not hit the pickup with the pick.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Yea mine is a four string. I got it because I was curious and the price was right.

    1) Know the sound you are seeking. If you don't know this, the next stuff is next to impossible.
    Peter you are very right.

    And I think going forward this is going to be a real challenge. In a way, I have a kind of a hole in my experience. My life time of listening to music did not include much rock. It did not include a lot of electric guitar. I think I am as culturally aware as anyone of the great guitar solos, in a general sense, but until very recently I never really listened with "musician" ears.

    I started my acoustic mandolin jurney in a similar fashion, for better or worse, many many years ago, and I had been messing with the mandolin for many years before I ever heard any recorded mandolin music of any kind. I shudder to think of the inefficiency of my practice time because I hadn't a defined sound I was chasing after. Were I to start over this is one thing I would do differently.

    So its all a new adventure to me.
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    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    The first thing to remember is 'it's not a little guitar', it's a solid body mandolin. All tips so far have been great - I'd add - learn your chord shapes - 3 strings, in particular.

    I feel sorry for the poster above whose band didn't get it - when I play my JBovier, I get lots of comments - lots of discussion, and lots of approval.

    My other piece of advice is to roll back the tone when you use pedals - they're really designed for guitars, and the overtones of the mando can become very ice-picky very quickly. I've found it's better to use an envelope filter or auto-wah, rather than a wah pedal - the sweep of the wah is too wide. Same (I'm guessing) with volume pedals.

    I use a Fender M-80 amp - treble wound back. I'm guessing most Fenders would be the same... The more mid-tones of the Marshall or Mesa Boogie might work better for you.

    Good Luck with it! Let me know how you go!
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    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    And, FWIW, I've never had any issue with hammer ons or pull offs. But that's just me.

    My mando rig is (since I've started..)

    Polytune Tuner>Boss AW-3 (Autowah)>Marshall Guv'nor II overdrive (lots of mids)>Boss DS-1>Marshall Vibratrem>EHX memory toy delay.

    (My guitar rig: Polytune, Steve VAi BAd HOrsie II wah>Jim DUnlop Fuzz>Boss BD2>Boss Chorus CH1>Boss DD6 delay (set to analog, usually))
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    And, FWIW, I've never had any issue with hammer ons or pull offs. But that's just me.
    I think my problem is with the amp settings. I don't know what I am doing, and that reverb multiplies each hammer-on into sonic chaos.

    The first thing to remember is 'it's not a little guitar', it's a solid body mandolin.
    I think that is really true. And it is difficult because there is not much cultural context for electric mandolin. Western Swing, I think, is the only musical genre where electric mandolin has a long and famous history. I can't think of another.

    We have to make our own context.
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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    If you want to mess around with a bit of Rock 'n Roll sound, I like the double stop shape you can do two frets apart on adjacent strings, like xx42 sliding up to xx53, with the amp gained out. Simple, but fun.

    One thing I learned with my Mandobird when I had it is that you can change the whole tone of the instrument by changing out the pots and caps. I went from 250 pots to 500s and changed the cap, I don't remember from what to a "22" and it really mellowed out the sound.

  26. #23
    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Check out some rockabilly. Major matchbox had a solidbody. Also Sam bush, laps in seven

  27. #24

    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    It is a big long journey , so many options with electronics . just have fun checking stuff out . amps ,effects processors , pick ups, every day some new pedal seems to come out or some new effects processor . expect to buy lots of gear

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by ricomando View Post
    expect to buy lots of gear
    I knew it. That always seems to be part of the solution.
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