Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

  1. #1
    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Buckinghamshire
    Posts
    150
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    I have made a New Year resolution to learn to play mandola and mandocello properly. To this end I have a copy of Mel Bay's tenor banjo method which is written entirely in the treble clef. I am aware from previous threads that some mandola and mandocello music, particularly orchestral, is written in other clefs but it is unlikely I will play in an orchestra. My aim is to play the same music on the mandola that I am now playing on mandolin.
    Also I hope that once a few notes scales and chords are learnt they will apply to the mandocello, as it is the same tuning, sufficient to let me work out some simple accompaniments to the tunes.
    Before I start I would like to check if there are any flaws in this plan or if I overlooked anything. Any comments will be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Registered User jmp's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    336

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    Yep, mandocello would be bass clef and mandola would be alto (C) clef. I think your plan would work to learn the notes using a clef familiar to you at first. However, I think the kinds of parts you would play on mandocello would in practice be much different than the upper register instruments. Mandocello is pretty low down so it would be more about bass-like lines and not a lot of chords and melodies. There is plenty of cello repertoire you could borrow from such as the Bach cello suites to help build up chops. I guess what I am saying is that mandola is not much of a stretch from mandolin, but mandocello is a bit of a different beast. Not to deter you, go for it!
    Last edited by jmp; Jan-09-2014 at 2:58pm.

  3. #3
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Washington State
    Posts
    3,040

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    My take on mandocello is "anything I play on guitar sounds better on 'cello." I do use a lot of chords and melody runs, but it is very different from chords and melody runs on the 'dola or mandolin.

  4. The following members say thank you to Mandobart for this post:

    jmp 

  5. #4
    5 Blessings Sweetpea44's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    446

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by maudlin mandolin View Post
    I have made a New Year resolution to learn to play mandola and mandocello properly. To this end I have a copy of Mel Bay's tenor banjo method which is written entirely in the treble clef. I am aware from previous threads that some mandola and mandocello music, particularly orchestral, is written in other clefs but it is unlikely I will play in an orchestra. My aim is to play the same music on the mandola that I am now playing on mandolin.
    Also I hope that once a few notes scales and chords are learnt they will apply to the mandocello, as it is the same tuning, sufficient to let me work out some simple accompaniments to the tunes.
    Before I start I would like to check if there are any flaws in this plan or if I overlooked anything. Any comments will be greatly appreciated.
    Keep us posted on this .... sounds intriging. One of my resolutions is to learn the Cello Suites Prelude on the octave mandolin (have the sheet music for treble clef).
    Be true to your teeth, or they'll be false to you!

  6. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    27,218

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by maudlin mandolin View Post
    My aim is to play the same music on the mandola that I am now playing on mandolin.
    It might help to explain what music you play on mandolin. If you primarily play bluegrass it might be different from say Italian music or classical or ragtime.

    As far as mandola: as long as you don't care about playing classical viola music you are prob fine reading treble clef. The mention here about playing Bach tho might put you in a strange place. For instance, the Bach cello suites are available transcribed for viola but if you read the treble clef for violin on the mandola I think you will find the fingering might be problematic.

    As for the mandocello: I agree that it is a much different animal with much longer finger stretches. When I played mandocello in a neo-old time band I generally played bass lines and some countermelodies. You might have problems there too if you tried to play transcribed violin music on the mandocello.
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes
    Playing lately:
    2018 Campanella A-5 -- 2007 Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- '83 Flatiron A5-2 -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- ca. 1920 Weymann Style 25 Mandolin-Banjo -- National RM-1

  7. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Albany NY
    Posts
    887

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    I agree with what JMP said, while the fingering and chord structures are the same, most likely orchestral or other arranged parts would probably be quite different. I occasionally play the same music on both, and it often doesn't really work on both, just one or the other. I would expect them to be less interchangeable than you thought.
    I encourage you on your endeavors, I really love playing alto and tenor mando instruments. Welcome to the dark side

  8. #7
    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Buckinghamshire
    Posts
    150
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    Thank you for the helpful comments. I made a start and almost immediately the big drawback to using this method became apparent. Because you are playing the notes written in treble clef an octave below you cannot go below middle C. It is clear to me now why mandola music is written in the alto clef -so you play the actual written notes.
    However I am going to persevere until I can play the tunes our group does (mainly IT and old time) and any with low notes just play those notes an octave higher.

  9. #8
    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Buckinghamshire
    Posts
    150
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello


    Here is my first effort, The White Petticoat for Song a Week social group. This tune has a low B which I replaced with D after looking at a discussion on The Session between flute players who have the same problem as most flutes cannot play below middle C.

  10. The following members say thank you to maudlin mandolin for this post:


  11. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Albany NY
    Posts
    887

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    That cello sounds pretty good, especially on the lower courses, sounds like your fingers are finding their way!

  12. #10
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    8,249
    Blog Entries
    4

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    Sounds good to me -- pretty lively piece! What kind of a mandocello do you have?
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    I started playing mandocello after hearing Mike Marshall on youtube a year or more ago. It took me a long time to be able to fret the strings without them squirreling away under my fingers, much less buzzing. I had played the banjo for about a year prior, and was able to carry a tune pretty readily, but the mandocello has been much more difficult to learn. My hands are not large, and despite, or because of, years of manual labor, were neither strong enough nor flexible enough for the task. However, I have made steady progress.
    Recently I took the mandocello to a reputable local luthier who replaced the nut, bridge, and saddle. Now the instrument is set up perfectly, and the sound is astounding. I am using Suzuki Cello books on the advice of Red Henry. My daughter is studying the cello so we share music.
    I've let a few people who are accomplished guitar players to try my mandocello, and they are pretty quick studies. It's been a slog for me, but I don't mind. I am making progress.
    My mandocello is a two-point made by Randy Wood. Red spruce and hard maple, I believe. Beautiful sound. I'd like to hear Mike Marshall play it, to hear its potential. Maybe he'll humor me at Freshgrass this summer...

  14. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Lincoln, Nebraska
    Posts
    4

    Post Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    I am not an authority on the mandocello because I only aspire to own one at this point. I will own one but I don't yet. However, I will presume to chime in here because of previous experience in a completely different musical realm. I was a high school band director for years, and a player of brass instruments. There is more connection here than you might think. The reality is that, regardless of the instrument category--whether the sound is generated by string vibration, vibration of the air column in a wind instrument, or vibration of a drum head or other percussion instrument that has been struck with a stick or mallet--the higher frequencies respond very differently than the low frequencies. A middle C vibrates at 256 cycles per second, the A below middle C at 220, the A above at 440. If you follow that pattern you get the next higher A vibrating at 880 cps. In the other direction, the next octave down is 110. Now, the A vibrating at 110 cps and the A vibrating at 880 cps are within the human vocal range. They are not extreme. The low C on the mandocello vibrates just 64 times per second. The vibrations are much too quick to count but you can begin to hear the individual beats at that pitch if you listen carefully. The quality of sound created by these various frequencies is obviously very different. Thinking back to brass instruments for a moment, theoretically three tubas can play the music played by a trumpet trio--two octaves lower. However, what sparkles coming from the bells of trumpets would simply be a blustery bunch of indistinct mush coming from the bells of tubas--that is, unless the tuba players were exceptional players. Exceptional tubists might pull off Bugler's Holiday as a novelty number but it would scarcely be more than a novelty. The quality of sound is so different in the lower registers that, for practical purposes, much of the music that works exceedingly well with a trumpet or a mandolin (I do own one of those) is just not suitable for a tuba or a mandocello. As has been pointed out, the human physical challenges are considerable with a mandocello (as with a tuba) but of at least equal importance is the physical reality--that is to say, the physics--of how sound is generated and how that impacts playing characteristics of the various instruments in the various ranges.

  15. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Chicago - most lately but - home is in Northern Arkansas.
    Posts
    606

    Default Re: Learning to play mandola and mandocello

    I agree with all the above comments but will add a few little bits to your explorations ... The Mel Bay Tenor Banjo book is a good start and a system of learning which is at the least, consistent.

    But there is a problem with it - the melody focus of the instrument is primarily on the treble strings ... this is quite a valid technique for banjo but it misses the strengths of both a Mandola and a MandoCello. If you can already read music, you are a step up on the learning curve, the Alto and Bass clefs can be thought of as a slightly different dialect of the musical language, notation. There are a few other books which may add a bit more depth and attitude to your playing. One of these is the second Mel Bay book on tenor banjo, Tenor Banjo Melody Chord Playing System http://www.melbay.com/Products/93629...icationSId=B13 While this book will really open up some of the possibilities for your chosen interests it still comes from the perspective of the treble melody system. So ... what to do?

    The approach I concocted about 12 or so years ago, evolved from a few sources which are available if you look ... one is to find a friendly Viola player / instructor and take a few classes from them. It seems that most become tantalized with a Mandola once they realize what it is and how it is a plucked viola - rather than bowed. My instructor had played Viola professionally for almost thirty years and wasn't aware the instrument even existed ... she got a MidMo mandola and really helped me understand the use and function of the instrument, I taught her how to use a pick. Not an even deal but it worked.

    The other things to be aware of ... TablEdit has a series of set up modifications which you can use to play an Alto Clef on, and virtually transcribe all your music to the lower clef with relative ease, once you understand how to use it http://www.tabledit.com/
    This will take time, but it is worth the effort. As a plus ... there is a LOT of music available in this format which can be simply adapted to the Alto Clef and a lot of people who are on various forums who will be glad to help you through the steps. A final possibility is to have a good chord program which I found helped me find some voices and chord forms which are not common in most chord books. The one program which I found to be extremely helpful was Chord Wizard http://www.chordwizard.com/products.aspx This program was created in Australia a bunch of years ago and has evolved into a very comprehensive method of learning not only chords but scale relationships and harmonic possibilities on virtually any stringed instrument. For a Mandola or MandoCello, both of these programs need to be set for Tenor Banjo and then the octaves adjusted for the real scale. It does take time to grasp all the possibilities but for me, it was worth the effort.

    A little clue about both of these instruments - Chop chords are not needed or really playable on the longer fret board. Find chords which will work in three or four frets and go from there. The sounds are akin to mandolin but much richer and easier to play. And there are a lot of chords which can be made this way. Enjoy -
    Mandola fever is permanent.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •