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Thread: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

  1. #1

    Default When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Hi all,

    I play both Violin and Mandolin, and I am beginning to question when is it that the Mandolin sounds better than Violin? What I mean is in what aspects, I'm mostly a classical player. I find myself not sticking to my practice regime for Mandolin as much as for Violin because of this. But I want to get back to loving Mandolin just as much. Thanks guys.

  2. #2
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    My fiddling is very much a work in progress, so in my hands, the mandolin usually sounds better. But dang the fiddle is so cool.

    Seriously, it's not that the mandolin sounds better for some things, it's that it does different things in a band than the fiddle does.
    One of the things I love about mandolin is what you can do playing accompaniment parts with a guitarist or pianist, the mandolin can play all these syncopated and off-beat rhythm parts, without getting in the way. I think of it as equal parts percussion, harmony and melody. Makes it a lot of fun in a band that allows for some level of improv. Lots of options as the second or third accompaniment instrument in a band.
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Quote Originally Posted by sheets View Post
    My fiddling is very much a work in progress, so in my hands, the mandolin usually sounds better. But dang the fiddle is so cool.

    Seriously, it's not that the mandolin sounds better for some things, it's that it does different things in a band than the fiddle does.
    One of the things I love about mandolin is what you can do playing accompaniment parts with a guitarist or pianist, the mandolin can play all these syncopated and off-beat rhythm parts, without getting in the way. I think of it as equal parts percussion, harmony and melody. Makes it a lot of fun in a band that allows for some level of improv. Lots of options as the second or third accompaniment instrument in a band.
    Ahhh I see. Great point. I was thinking more so from a Solo perspective. Like for Thile's Partitas and Sonatas or the Cello Suites covered on Mandolin. But I do thing it has the power to not be as overbearing as Violin can be. Thanks!

  4. #4
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Solo is an interesting question, pretty much down to personal preference, I think. More about the performer than the instrument for me. I've heard compelling solos on pretty much any instrument out there.

    I tend to play music where the groove is critical, and the mandolin is just so handy in those contexts. There are some fiddlers who can really drive hard, but they are all too rare. A tough skill to master, I suspect.
    -Dave
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    Way too many other instruments

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    In a general sense, a violin is closer to the human voice whereas the mandolin leans more to percussion. That doesn't mean that you can't approximate both aspects on both instruments. A good fiddle/violinist can make percussive sounds on a fiddle and a good mandolinist can make the mandolin sing but the specific nature of the instruments and the way the sounds are produced is different.

    A guitar is closer to mandolin in that respect but an electric guitar with some added effects can produce voice-like sounds with sustain.

    I think you phrased the question wrong. You can't really compare the two but each have their own uses in a palette of making music. I think it would be comparable to asking "When does yellow look better than red?" or "Which is better: a toaster or a jet plane?"
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    ..."Which is better: a toaster or a jet plane?"
    I have to ponder that for a while.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    I live with a fiddler and we play music together. I know what I can do better than she does, and vice-versa. She can do a *lot* more than I can in subtle dynamics, ornamentation, and everything you get with sustained notes that we can't do on mandolin.

    Me, I get three or more strings to play a chord within a melody line that I'm playing. That's huge, for certain tunes.

    She can't do that. Fiddlers are limited to double stops, and a double stop by definition isn't a chord. That's what keeps me interested in mandolin and octave mandolin, even though I'm playing some Irish flute on the side as a sustained-tone melody instrument. A mandolin can throw in full harmonic sounds within an otherwise single-note melody line. Fiddles can't do that.

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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    There aren't good or bad sounds. Just sounds. The sound of a siren is agony if you've just been caught speeding, but if your house just caught fire, the same sound is quite uplifting.

    Mandos and violins just have different sounds. Which sounds better depends on the material, the context, and what other instruments are involved. Violin certainly has the longest, most emotional sustain of any string instreument. But the mando's lack of sustain has advantages when you go for an eight-string chord chop, a lightning tremolo, or some sly cross-picking, the mando has the rest of them beat.

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    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Yeah all said and good but for resale value, I'd take the jet plane.
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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    Registered User George R. Lane's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I have to ponder that for a while.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    I learned violin first - started 44 years ago. I started mandolin 10 years ago. I almost always sound better on mandolin now.

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    Registered User Michael Neverisky's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Quote Originally Posted by jarednye View Post
    Like for Thile's Partitas and Sonatas
    99% the player, 1‰ the instrument. Thile is a genius.

    IMHO, jazz is more of a visceral experience on the fretted fiddle than the bowed one.

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    en kunnskapssøker James Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    How does a violinist/fiddle player even make notes with no fretboard??
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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    In my opinion the only thing shared between these two is tuning and fingering. Otherwise they have nothing in common and can't compete in a who's better situation. They couldn't be more different. One is percussive in nature and the other definitely not. The last sentence was totally made up so it may not make sense to any one else.

  19. #16

    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    "Which is better: a toaster or a jet plane?"
    Toaster. All day long.

    As been said, it's a sustain thing. Violin has it all day. Mandolin has tremolo. A pseudo-sustain technique. I'll add, sometimes a two note chord is enough: When you've got other instruments playing the same chord at another register. Last but not least the pitch bend, is a bear on mandolin. Yes, the technique of the musician has a lot to do with it. Probably the most.

  20. #17

    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Quote Originally Posted by James Miller View Post
    How does a violinist/fiddle player even make notes with no fretboard??
    One doesn't need frets to create a tone/note. There are fretless banjers, and basses too. To be on pitch with the rest of the band is the tuff part. Because where one's finger touches the string to the fingerboard, that's the note. Called intonation. The fretted mandolin has fixed intonation. A violinist has to use his/her ear, as feedback, to establish the correct/desired tone on a violin.

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  22. #18
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    "A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of two or more (usually three or more) notes (also called "pitches") that are heard as if sounding simultaneously"

    Two note chords are commonly called dyads and usually the root and fifth.

    Mandolin plays second fiddle to the violin.

    I like them both but not likely ever to be a violinist and always a mandolin student.

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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Depends on whether you need toast or a have a long way to travel

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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    Not really intending to dump on the OP and his question, but it strikes me that a mandolin never sounds "better" than a violin, and a violin never sounds "better" than a mandolin. They are different instruments and they sound VERY different: no one, not even a non-player, would likely confuse the tone of a mandolin for a violin, or vice versa. They fill different musical spaces, so to speak. And they tend to fulfill different roles in bands and other playing ensembles. The violin has the ability to do long sustain. The mandolin has the ability to do polyphony. And so on, ad infinitum.

    This whole discussion reminds me of the surreal question: "Would you rather walk to school, or carry your lunch?"

  26. #21
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: When does Mandolin sound better than Violin?

    when the mandolin player is a lot better than the fiddler

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