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Thread: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

  1. #76

    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Very good points Jim. I especially like the "unplugged" Telecaster suggestion. A good piece of wood will have some inherently acoustic properties that are apparent when played unplugged. My Stratocaster has an excellent one piece swamp ash body that is very musical and resonant even unplugged. (It makes playing late at night unplugged doable without waking the wife and neighbors). My Telecaster is a thin line design with semi hollow body and an f hole so it already has quite good acoustic properties.

    If the instrument responds well unplugged, move on to the pickups to evaluate whether they have the sound you want plugged in. If so, great. If not, replace the pickups or get a different instrument. The last part of the signal chain is the amplifier. I'm a loyal Fender amp kind of guy so I knew that the Vibro Champ I use when plugged in would be quite satisfactory. It was retrofitted with a Webber 10" speaker a few years ago and really sings when the volume is ~7 to 8. I do use an ART pre amp to get a hotter signal to the amp than just the pickups alone. Apparently the pickups in my Morgan Monroe 8 string aren't very hot and I had to crank the amp up to 10 without the pre amp to be heard in the mix. It didn't sound so good all maxed out so adding the pre amp really helped boost the signal and I could back off the volume on the amp to 7 or so. At some point I'll upgrade the pickups but for now, it's a very straightforward setup and it sounds really quite good for a $200 (used) electric mandolin.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  2. #77
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    I knew this would happen and you are probably correct, but I am going to resist. Or is it the only route?

    With acoustic mandolin, once you have chosen the mandolin you want and it is set up and tuned, you work on technique. Everything you want to fix in your sound is already in your hands.

    But even in this thread, which I thought of as an emando technique thread in a sea of equipment threads, even in this discussion there is the refrain - fix it by buying something else.

    And for an electric newbie it is hard to sort out. The fellow with the hammer says that every problem is a nail. My guitar buddy says that every problem I have will be solved with a Mesa Boogie.

    That said, I am trying things. I played through my brothers large tweed vintage (1957?) Fender amp, in his huge music room, and he played with his pedals. Great awesome fun.
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  3. #78
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    To help return to technique, there is a large component involved in tone. Pick use is very important---for example, I find the typical acoustic sweet spot location is where electrics get clunky and boring. I find I am either on the fingerboard, or near the bridge with a highly angled pick, or gliding across the strings with a very light touch for strums.

    Your complaint about double stops involves technique but also gear, in the form of settings. When two pitches are played together there is a virtual note called “resultant” or “difference” which is the frequency shared as a number common to both. For example, notes a 5th apart share the note an octave below the lower of the 5th. A closer interval like a major 3rd shares a note much lower, and violinists are sometimes taught to listen for that resulting pitch to help tune 3rds to a more pleasing perfect version, since then the deeper note becomes clear and steady.

    When you use overdrive (distortion) you compress the dynamics and those difference tones become very noticeable. Much of the power in “power” chords is the deeper bass note resulting from the stacked 5ths and 4ths combining to yield the resultant, made loud by the extreme compression of distortion.

    3rds are really dicey, as they will show the effect of tempered scale and the difference tone will be loud, warbling, and ugly, if much distortion is used. To avoid the ugly tone you need minimal distortion, and best tonal results are with a bright tone going into the distortion circuitry, giving the best chance for a clear tone coming out. There is an alternate approach but it requires being completely maxed out with shredding distortion, as in the fun video Eva Holbrook did with a Schwab emando--“Slash’s Little Sister”. To get this sound, the overdrive is so heavy that any overtones from the strings are left behind and swamped by the fundamental tones, and there is less grumble in the difference tones, but only mud in the main tone (which you may want).

    The main thing is that you really need different technique for electric and you need to work the gear, too. Here are a couple of examples I did with my Ryder to demo my distortion pedal and amp.

    Street Fighting Man begins with no distortion, I kick it on and you hear the volume jump and the tone change. In this case I am using very slight clipping, it has mainly the effect of some volume boost and stronger midrange. I am strumming (more like banging/slapping) on the fingerboard and using the treble (bridge) pickup. This shows the approach of minimal distortion and bright tone.
    https://soundcloud.com/twtunes/street-fighting-man

    In Red House I use a different setting, a fair amount of distortion and tone rolled off on the pedal to make it sweeter, and I am using the neck (bass) pickup. In both cases there are no tubes, and no software. (I did add some reverb afterward.) The pedal (King of Tone from AnalogMan) is one of a number of boutique distortion pedals out there, most of which are analog, which is nice for low battery usage.
    https://soundcloud.com/twtunes/red-house

    I like the Maxon SD9 Sonic Overdrive pedal, too. I used it for Mercy, Mercy, Mercy in this last example, which is again depending on bright tone going in and not too much distortion, but enough to make it sing.
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  5. #79
    Registered User Jim Bevan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    With acoustic mandolin, once you have chosen the mandolin you want and it is set up and tuned, you work on technique. Everything you want to fix in your sound is already in your hands.
    Jeff, that's where I was trying to help you to get to.

    However, this is a case of "once you have chosen the mandolin and the amp and the speaker you want and it is set up and tuned..."
    Accomplish this, and then ya, everything you want to fix in your sound will be in your hands (and not in your feet ).

  6. #80
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    However, this is a case of "once you have chosen the mandolin and the amp and the speaker you want and it is set up and tuned..." Accomplish this, and then ya, everything you want to fix in your sound will be in your hands (and not in your feet ).
    That makes sense. I know that I don't know enough to recognize when I am fighting the equipment or fighting my bad habits.
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    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I knew this would happen and you are probably correct, but I am going to resist. Or is it the only route? With acoustic mandolin, once you have chosen the mandolin you want and it is set up and tuned, you work on technique. Everything you want to fix in your sound is already in your hands. But even in this thread, which I thought of as an emando technique thread in a sea of equipment threads, even in this discussion there is the refrain - fix it by buying something else. And for an electric newbie it is hard to sort out. The fellow with the hammer says that every problem is a nail. My guitar buddy says that every problem I have will be solved with a Mesa Boogie. That said, I am trying things. I played through my brothers large tweed vintage (1957?) Fender amp, in his huge music room, and he played with his pedals. Great awesome fun.
    As I said simple is best. No effects work as well as having effects work. Don't use them if you don't want them.

    So raw techniques:

    Getting the fretting right. Just behind the fret. You can move it further back (when you have space) for what I'd call a microtome effect.

    String bending. Very hard on a 8 string. Light strings and gentler than a guitar.

    Get used to volume and tone swells.

    Practice sliding into notes. Semi tones. Whole tones. Minor thirds. Major thirds. Stopping is important. Continue up till the octave.

    Playing above the twelfth fret. You'll need to work on your precision. Try not to use your middle finger as some of those high frets get very hard to access

    Mute palming. Lean your palm lightly next to the bridge. A different effect to lifting your fingers.

    Build your speed slowly.

    If you have more than one pickup, don't be scared to experiment with all of them.

    And the tone and volume don't have to be on 10 all the time. Winding both back has different and useful effects.

    Jazz chords become nice. A #9 chord has a nicer timbre. Even a 9. Play one at 5 -3 -5 to get a sense.

    Pick scrapes work.

    Pick near the near middle of the body.
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  9. #82

    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    And don't ignore/overlook using a slide to get some very sweet or very nasty sounds. Peter Mix had a short thread here on the cafe about using a brass slide on a Gibson EM-200 with P-90s. Well worth searching out.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  10. #83
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Get used to volume and tone swells. .
    Not sure what you mean.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    OK. I spent some Christmas money, and purchased a VOX AC4TVMINI, at a decent price.

    I am using it to learn about tube amps played clean.

    So this is what I am doing: I went back to the Fender Mustang and chose the channel that models the VOX. I figured out how to remove all the built in effects and get it clean. I adjusted gain, volume, treble and bass and got it so that it sounded surprisingly (or maybe not considering my inexperienced ears for this) like the VOX I just bought.

    I wrote everything down that I did.

    Then I went back to the Mustang simulation of the VOX, and experimented with (played with) the reverb and the various effects options, - kind of like auditioning for what individual effects pedals I predict I will be purchasing to use with the VOX.

    Step at a time.
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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
    If you have more than one pickup, don't be scared to experiment with all of them.
    Only one.

    And the tone and volume don't have to be on 10 all the time. Winding both back has different and useful effects.
    I can't figure out what the tone control knob does. (Its a four string fender mando-caster.) It makes a difference, but I can't seem to get my memory around what difference it makes and when it is better set where. I only notice that in some cases I need to adjust it because my e-string will sound a tad weaker than the others with some settings.
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  13. #86
    Registered User Jim Bevan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Dialing back the tone control will attenuate the higher frequencies.

    From my experience, I seems to me that Fender didn't spend much time redesigning the electric guitar parts (the pickup and the tone control) for the mandolin's frequency range, so turning down the tone knob has a tendency to attenuate the treble frequencies starting at a lower pitch than I wish it was set at. (Turn it all the way down, and an E-string 12th-fret high E pretty much disappears.)

    I'd recommend, with a clean, non-distorted amp setting, leaving it all the way up, and adjust the tone to suit your taste using the amp's controls. The only time I really use the mando's tone control is if I'm taking a solo at a volume that produces some distortion -- then it's often preferable (just a matter of taste, but lots of guitarists do it) to dial back the tone knob a little. It also helps with controlling that weird effect on Fenders where if you turn the volume all the way up, the treble increases significantly in the last 5% range.

  14. #87
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    I'd recommend, with a clean, non-distorted amp setting, leaving it all the way up, and adjust the tone to suit your taste using the amp's controls. The only time I really use the mando's tone control is if I'm taking a solo at a volume that produces some distortion -- then it's often preferable (just a matter of taste, but lots of guitarists do it) to dial back the tone knob a little. .
    Tried it. A good strategy.
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    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Not sure what you mean.
    A nice effect where you turn the volume or tone up or down while playing to sound somewhat like a bow (volume) or a Wah (tone)
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    A nice effect where you turn the volume or tone up or down while playing to sound somewhat like a bow (volume) or a Wah (tone)
    I just saw this thread and suddenly, I understand.
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    Registered User Polecat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    That makes sense. I know that I don't know enough to recognize when I am fighting the equipment or fighting my bad habits.
    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    OK. I spent some Christmas money, and purchased a VOX AC4TVMINI, at a decent price.
    I am using it to learn about tube amps played clean.
    That was about the best thing you could do IMHO, I'm a big fan of playing through a low powered tube amp. If you have access to a technician, you could ask him to disable the tone control on the amp (or if you trust yourself with a soldering iron, you could do it yourself, I'd be happy to explain how), and check that the capacitor in the tone control of your emando is of a suitable value (I'm guessing that it's probably 47nF - 22nF works better, to my ears).
    You will then have the simplest set-up imaginable, with some degree of overdrive/crunch if you turn everything to full volume, and the ability to play cleaner by winding the volume back on your instrument, and you can experiment with how to get a sound you like (plenty of good suggestions here already).
    "Give me a mandolin and I'll play you rock 'n' roll" (Keith Moon)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Polecat View Post
    That was about the best thing you could do IMHO.
    I probably should have started that way. But, we start where we start.

    And I still like to plug into the Mustang and make angry sounds. Keep the flies from landing.


    Playing clean through the VOX, I am really appreciating the mandostrat. The intonation is perfect all the way up the neck, every note is pitch perfect and the feel is consistent.

    The amp has the ability to reduce itself from 4 watts to 1/10 watt, so that the same volume settings are closer to the "bend in the saturation curve" (sounds good, eh) and I can get overdrive distortion at reasonable volumes. Kind of fun to play right on the edge of that, and then by picking just a little harder I bring on some distortion, or pick softer and I play clean.

    My electric guitar brother differentiates between honest distortion and dishonest distortion, meaning, I think, overdrive distortion (honest) and digitally created distortion (dishonest). He uses both to good effect, but differentiates when and where.

    He says I am "almost ready" to try a little reverb.
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  19. #92
    Registered User Polecat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Just to put my money where my mouth is, I recorded this as a demonstration of "emando through a one-knob amp"

    https://soundcloud.com/polecatmandocafe/ookpik

    It's not the best playing (I've had a hard day), but you get the idea (I hope). The amp is similar to yours - two cascaded triode stages into a pentode, total output about 3W, the same size (6.5") speaker as your Vox, and nothing else. It can sound a lot angrier (it was only turned about half way up), if I have time, I'll record a distorted freakout in the next day or so.
    "Give me a mandolin and I'll play you rock 'n' roll" (Keith Moon)

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

    Great stuff. I like how the distortion comes in when you play more intensely, like highlighting the text. That is what I try to do.

    Its like a dimension not available to acoustic playing.
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    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Great stuff. I like how the distortion comes in when you play more intensely, like highlighting the text. That is what I try to do. Its like a dimension not available to acoustic playing.
    That's why I love the solid body. And it's different again to a guitar.
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  22. #95
    Registered User Polecat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Quote Originally Posted by Polecat View Post
    Just to put my money where my mouth is, I recorded this as a demonstration of "emando through a one-knob amp"
    ...I'll record a distorted freakout in the next day or so.
    Here it is: https://soundcloud.com/polecatmandocafe/ng2

    It won't be everybody's cup of tea, a railing against death "go not gentle" approach to Neal Gow's lament, but it's as good as anything to show what I try to do when playing with impossibly high gain. The first thing is - everything you don't damp will ring, so if you want to keep any semblance of a tune, the only intervals allowed for double-stops are fifths (what so-called "power chords" are built of. Secondly, this kind of noise is very exhausting to the ear and listeners will turn off in short order unless you do something to keep their attention, like for example playing ridiculously fast (which I'll admit I'm no good at) or, as I've tried to do here, introducing different tonalities - the first part of the tune is played very close to the bridge holding the body of the instrument tight against myself, to get a very "stringy" sound; the second part is played allowing the instrument to resonate and striking the strings in the middle - the sound is poorer in string overtones but because the pickup is being shaken by the body resonance, a different mix of overtones is introduced.
    I didn't play about with the volume and tone pots - volume is on full, and tone turned back to stop the high frequencies lobotomizing me, the whole thing was played pretty loud - loud enough to provide controllable feedback but not so that everything screamed when I stopped playing. What works well is legato playing (pull-offs and hammer-ons rather than picking every note), staccato for effect (play with palm mute and stop the note with an extra finger), and of course string bending. What doesn't work are chords (other than power chords), trying to play too clean, and taking it too seriously - something always happens to mess up what you're trying to do (especially live), and you have to react to that.
    Last edited by Polecat; Feb-27-2016 at 2:19pm.
    "Give me a mandolin and I'll play you rock 'n' roll" (Keith Moon)

  23. #96

    Default Re: Electric Mandolin Tips and Tricks

    Hi, just thought I'd share some of my observations on electric mandolin vs. Acoustic tips here. I will say first that I play both and that I have a background in guitar and piano .. I have been teaching stringed instruments at a local university as well as privately for about 13 years, and playing since i was four ( I know. I wasted the first three years of my life) - anywho... I purchased a epiphone mandobird IV from the blem section of musicians friend when in my early twenties over a decade ago for about $30. Ive never found a blem to date. I've also never modded the pickup but did experiment with string gauge a bit. I use nickel flats high e a .12 .. Pretty much a heavier set. I have never really differentiated by instruments. Strings are strings. Bronze/hybrids for acoustics and steel or nickel for electric. The single course mandobird is one of my fave instruments for many reasons. Admittedly I bought it because it looked cool and was cheap, but tonal range and infinite possibilities make it a mainstay in both my jazz band and my electric improv band. I have a Kalamazoo k-11(I think that's the model name) from 1934 that I play with my blue grass and old time bands ...
    I guess I was bewildered quite a bit by the consensus of the electric mandos "limitations" of no trememo and full chords sounding sucky. I tremelo all the time. Hammers and pulls are a breeze, and I play big four note jazz chords in both bands, as well as double stops. IMO that is all technique. My guess is that those that can't tremelo well on electric probably don't really tremelo well period. Tremelo is a careful breakdown of alternate picking and triplets, not just sloppily playing the note as fast as one can. The wrist is loose, there's no tension in the arm and it takes years to develop correct technique. Same with hammers and pulls. And with the electric a number of other cool variables can occur, most notable the ability to bend and slide. I would seek out an experienced teacher and get the best out of all techniques by practicing diligently and glacially slooooooooow with guidance from a teacher. Also for the beginner electo mando player, leave the effects alone at first. Rolling off the treble and working the volume and tone knobs is like an added thing to learn but I encourage it. Effects come much later, as you cannot develop good technique when it's not clean.
    As bill Monroe said "if you can think it, you can do it"...
    A number of videos are on my YouTube channel (Cutch Tuttle) featuring my mandobird. I love helping and studying music with passionate students, and I can be reached via my email sneergrass@hotmail.com anytime.

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