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Thread: From viola to Mandola

  1. #1

    Default From viola to Mandola

    Hello everyone,
    This is so new to me! I am a professional violist in Pittsburgh who got in her head to learn mandola ( I don't know why ). I am trying to play some of my easier viola repertoire that I use with students, and I am planning on taking lessons with a mandolist in Pittsburgh. Is there any music that is written specifically for mandola. Thank you for any input! Tatyana

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  3. #2

    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Hi, Tatyana, and welcome!

    There is very little to no material written specifically for mandola. It's a more extreme version of when one is looking for viola-specific music.

    On the plus side, there is quite a bit of material for CGDA-tuned tenor banjo, including chord books. Those materials build to where one can play chord-melody style.

    Also, as you likely can read various staves, there is a lot of material which can be brought across from other bowed instruments.

    I do love mandola, and can completely understand why you decided to pursue it.

  4. #3
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    I wonder if any of the viola concertos would work on the mandola. The Telemann, perhaps?

    There are all sorts of classical mandolin records out there. Can't think of a one featuring the mandola as a solo instrument. You could be the first!
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Hi Tatyana,

    There are two varieties of "mandola", one tuned CGDA which you are playing, and the other tuned GDAE, an octave below the regular mandolin. The standard story is that the CGDA instrument was invented in Italy in the late 19th century, and most commonly used as part of so-called "classical quartets" which played plucked versions of string quartets (usually the easier Mozart, Haydn, and occasionally Beethoven). In the US the instrument was introduced around the same time, probably a few years later (but that is uncertain). To my knowledge, no specific repertoire of, say, a solo nature survives from this period for CGDA mandola, but there is a great deal of ensemble music (most of it, very bad/dated).

    Although the CGDA instrument was used in Europe for some time as part of mandolin ensembles (and classical quartets) it eventually was supplanted by the GDAE instrument (what people in the US call the "octave mandolin") such that, today, the CGDA instrument is rarely used in Europe, except in Austria. It is used somewhat more frequently in Japan, but hardly at all in Australia, both countries with large mandolin cultures.

    There is a small original modern literature for GDAE mandola, both solo and concerto, primarily German. The best source is www.trekel.de.

    Despite the absence of original literature for the CGDA mandola, one can play much of the literature for solo classical mandolin, provided that the scale length is not too long. I own a 17 inch scale instrument which I string sometimes as a CGDA instrument, and sometimes as a GDAE instrument. It is currently strung as a CGDA instrument (as of yesterday). This morning I played Victor Kioulaphides well-known piece for solo mandolin, "Diferencias" on it and also a new solo piece by James Kellaris that I will be performing soon. Works perfect well.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Registered User stever1422's Avatar
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    I hope that your lessons will be with Charlie Rappaport. He made my daughter's mandola sing, and he's a great guy to boot.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    One other thing....the biggest difference will be learning to use a plectrum rather than the bow.

    They are different beasts!

    So be patient, I assume your bow technique is quite good....it may take a little time for your pick technique to catch up...and then you'll be amazing!

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  11. #7

    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    I'm making the same transition. So far, I've been going through my viola sheet music (like Telemann, Bach, etc...) and adding a few pieces here or there. I've found some success with Irish & Scottish tunes for viola (there's a Mel Bay or two for that) and tenor banjo music. Tenor banjo is good for chords...been using that in conjunction with "Rise Up Singing" which has a number of songs that make use of the chords.

  12. #8

    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Thank you for your welcome! I played today for an hour and my left hand fingers are hurting!!! :-) I did find some books on tenor banjo which has the same CGDA tuning and will try them. Chords are troublesome for me since I am mostly used to single line melody on viola. I am having fun, though!

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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Tatyana View Post
    Chords are troublesome for me . . .
    Be sure to check out 3 note chords as they are much easier on the fingers and hands. They sound great and are easy to form. Look up 3 note chords for mandolins and transpose. Also, not all situations require "chords" - 2 notes or even single notes can be quite effective. Enjoy your 'dola journey. It's one of my favorite instruments.

  14. #10

    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    I made the transition from bowed cello to mandocello several years ago and STILL use a lot of my bowed cello music. I found the transfer pretty easy as far as the LH was concerned; yep, the plectrum is where you'll need to put in some time. For that, I'd recommend a MANDOLIN method book, such as Marilyn Mair's, so you can work on different plectrum techniques. I wish more bowed string players would take up the mandolin family; it is such a beautiful sound and so rewarding, without too much difficulty!
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats" Albert Schweitzer

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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Tatyana View Post
    Thank you for your welcome! I played today for an hour and my left hand fingers are hurting!!! :-) I did find some books on tenor banjo which has the same CGDA tuning and will try them. Chords are troublesome for me since I am mostly used to single line melody on viola. I am having fun, though!
    As a professional violist, I am curious what type/model ("level", if you will) of mandola instrument you have been playing?

    Having played a little bit of fiddle, I experienced quite a difference in the hand position, and tensions and strains on the left hand/fingers, between the fretted and violin/viola category instruments. I associate a wider fingerboard with more comfort and fingering ease, where I expect you might be finding the opposite, being used to a narrower viola fingerboard and probably a shorter scale.

    Re: chording, you can get a long ways using 2-finger chords, or double-stops, especially when combined with an adjacent open string. As you are already playing simple classical viola repertoire (!), I would guess you have already had your mandola set up by a good luthier or tech. If not, a good setup can very significantly improve playing comfort and fluidity.
    Last edited by acousticphd; Sep-30-2015 at 5:43pm. Reason: typo
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  18. #12
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Jacob Reuven's mandola rendition of the JS Bach Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 may be my favorite plucked-string version on YouTube. The dude has both speed and soul ... a rare combo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwn7...1600D&index=11
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Jacob Reuven's mandola rendition of the JS Bach Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 may be my favorite plucked-string version on YouTube. The dude has both speed and soul ... a rare combo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwn7...1600D&index=11
    that is a mandocello he is playing right? Mandola would be much smaller
    aah the link is wrong that isn't Reuven this is

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MPShxt5qFc

  20. #14
    bass player gone mando
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Tatyana, I have nothing to add except that I love mandola as an instrument and I wish you luck on your journey ... if you are good enough to play viola pretty well, I am sure you will do well on mandola.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by kstueve View Post
    that is a mandocello he is playing right? Mandola would be much smaller
    aah the link is wrong that isn't Reuven this is
    Ack! My bad. Don't much like that cello version: the notes are there but the dude sounds like a metronome.

    One (and by one I primarily mean "me") should take the time to do YouTube links properly. Here's Reuven:

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    I still want to try a Kerman mandolin!

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    I still want to try a Kerman mandolin!
    Good luck with that. A friend who's a tremendous musician, and is the person the Chicago Symphony calls when they need a mandolin soloist, managed to get in touch with Kerman about commissioning an instrument. He wasn't impressed enough with her musical résumé to take her on as a customer.
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

    Notorious: My Celtic CD--listen & buy!

    Donaldson • Wood • Thormahlen • Andersen • Old Wave • Bacorn • Yanuziello • Fender • National • Gibson • Franke • Fuchs • Aceto • Three Hungry Pit Bulls

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Good luck with that. A friend who's a tremendous musician, and is the person the Chicago Symphony calls when they need a mandolin soloist, managed to get in touch with Kerman about commissioning an instrument. He wasn't impressed enough with her musical résumé to take her on as a customer.
    I guess I don't stand a chance then!

  26. #19

    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    Thank you to all for your input. I am scheduling a mandola lesson with Charles Rappoport here in Pittsburgh. I am sooo humbled by mandola. I am trying to put in one hour a day, and yes, playing some of the viola concerti on it, or at least attempting too. The c and g strings are the hardest. I am still getting a buzz on them ( probably not enough pressure). I am going from playing Shostakovich and Mahler on viola this week to basic scales on mandola!

  27. #20

    Default Re: From viola to Mandola

    I asked an advice from Charles Rappoport ( a lesson hopefully is coming up ) and by his recommendation got a Trinity College mandola, the higher level.. I think there were two on the internet.. I am hoping to may be get softer strings depending on what Mr. Rappoport suggests. Right now, C and G strings are the hardest, especially on the fourth finger, but I am not giving up.. yet!

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