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Thread: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

  1. #1

    Smile Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    Hi,

    I play violin and I've been learning ukulele strumming and chords. The problem is I can't get my head around the ukulele tuning, even with the low G. I'm so used to fifths tuning I can't imagine playing melody with any other tuning.

    So I got the Aquila GDAE set and put them on my ukulele, but then I found chords were much harder than with ukulele tuning. I don't know if it's because my ukulele neck is much wider or what, but I found it quite hard. So I went back to standard ukulele tuning (with low G). But it's really frustrating for me to not be able to play melody. I also found the nylon E string didn't sound so good.

    So now I'm wondering if I should try mandolin? I googled about beginner mandolins and an entry-level Kentucky brand would be in my budget. But with mandolin I'm worried about the steel strings being hard to fret, especially with double strings.

    Also my main use of the ukulele is to strum and sing along. it seems the uke is more suited for that than the mandolin. I do like bluegrass music but I don't want to be limited to chopping.

    I read about a mandolele but I'm not sure those are still available. So basically i'm curious if others think I should just stick to strumming uke and play melody on the violin. Or if I should give mandolin a try. And is it hard for fiddle players to learn Mandolin? I've read that it would help me learn double stops on the fiddle.

    Cheers

  2. #2
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    I'm a mandolin player who plays the fiddle, I would buy a regular good quality mandolin,,same tuning, you just have to pace yourself learning to pick and getting tough on your fingers...

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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    I say it's worth giving it a try. Kentuckys seem ( by reputation) to be a good value at any price point, so you should get something that you can easily sell on if you don't like it.

    The steel strings will definitely take some adjustment. A good set-up with the lowest possible action will help, but it will still feel a lot harder on the fingers than the fiddle. Even more difficult for many is flat-picking vs bowing. A much different action, especially with the paired strings.

    The chord stuff can seem daunting at first, but all newbies to the instrument go through that. There's plenty of two finger shapes to start with. And it might not be as well suited to solo vocal accompaniment as the mellower uke, but it's not far off. You can play any style of music on the mando, nit just bluegrass. It's infinitely adaptable.

    Good luck!
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    There are many good brands of mandolin appropriate as an entry level.

    But here is an idea. Can you borrow or rent one, for a week or a month, and see if you like it. If you don't you are out very little money if any. If you do like it, you have justification for getting a better mandolin as your first.
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    The scale on a mandolin neck is also longer on most mandolins than on a violin. Yes the double courses of metal core strings are tough to get used to. Fiber core strings are available for mandolin. Yes the tuned in fifths thing is oh so useful. Fourths are a world different. Far more than Bluegrass can be played with expression and style on a mandolin. From Bach to Bebop and back again. It's out there believe me. Set up is the key to a successful relationship with a mandolin or violin for that matter but for different reasons. There is an excellent setup book available from a site member. Search Rob Meldrum's Mandolin Setup book here and you can have him email you a FREE copy. Kentucky or Eastman make good and inexpensive, not cheap, entry and mid level instruments. An A model will get you more instrument for your money than a F model. Far more hand work in fit and finish on an F model mandolin drives the price up. Luck... R/
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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    I came to fiddle from mandolin and have been finding it very difficult for several reasons. The mandolin has frets, so intonation is much easier to get (provided the mando is set up properly) than on the fiddle. Bowing was a total mystery to me but with good and patient tuition I ma getting an understanding of this. Holding the instrument is very different and things look so different when an instrument is up at your neck rather than comfortably down where you can see it and control it!
    You are coming to the mandolin from fiddle, so I'd say you might find it easier. Your intonation will be better and your finger placement probably more accurate, but the position you hold the mandolin in will be different from all you have been used to as a fiddler. Mandolin has flat or very minimally curved fingerboard compared to the fiddle's very curved fingerboard, and this takes some adjustment. Picking has to be learned from scratch though you can play all four strings and double stops are easier (I think!) The mandolin's steel strings are much harder on the fingers but you will develop hardened fingertips with playing. Pressure is much greater to push down on the steel strings than on the fiddle's strings, though as has been said above, good set-up will help a lot here.
    Give it a try, maybe by hiring/borrowing a mandolin to start with. I'm sure you will come to enjoy your instrument as you come to terms with it.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    I came to mandolin from a classical violin, bluegrass fiddle and guitar background. I found I could pretty much instantly play anything on mando that I could on violin/fiddle. If you're not used to picking that will take some work. And violin/'ukulele have NOT prepared your fingers for the calluses you'll form over the next few many hours of playing.

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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    You got a Head start since you know where the Notes are and Maybe sight read standard scores .

    Steel stings being Paired on a Mandolin do spread out the finger tip pressure .
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    I'd say don't give up on the ukulele and buy a mandolin.

    I came to the mandolin from the guitar and shortly after buying a mandolin I also bought a ukulele. I like them both and I like that although I have to learn new chord positions for both of them after knowing the guitar pretty well there was a lot of transferred knowledge whether it was just the music theory already acquired or already knowing notes on the guitar that transfer over to the mandolin as long as the string is the same as the guitar (and they all are).

    The ukulele is the same except for the guitar not have an open "C" as there is on the ukulele.

    I found it refreshing to just start over as far as learning chord positions on each new instrument. As far as melody...playing by ear it doesn't take long to be able to play melodies on either the mandolin or the ukulele.

    The ukulele is much easier on the fingers and is fun because of its small size. I read things on the computer and play the ukulele sometimes. As mentioned, the course of strings on the mandolin does distribute the pressure somewhat and you don't need to press down on the strings continually (in between actually hitting notes or chords you can release some of the pressure).

    I think having two new instrument to mess around with has helped me to be better on each instrument. If I didn't already know how to play the guitar, picking up two new instruments at once might not be such a good idea however.

    The mandolin is a little harder to play chords on (I think) than the ukulele but there are two finger chords and you can find easier ways to play most chords. The ukulele is still easier in this regard for the most part however.

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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    The OP said he's interested in strumming and accompanying singing. In my opinion a mandolin in the hands of a newbie to the instrument is not ideal for that.

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    The OP said he's interested in strumming and accompanying singing. In my opinion a mandolin in the hands of a newbie to the instrument is not ideal for that.
    I concur. That's why ukuleles are so popular. They're great for strumming and singing. Mandolins can be used for that, but it's probably one of the weakest roles for a mandolin.

    That said, any violin player can learn a lot from playing the mandolin (and vice-versa, as I'm finding out). I highly recommend the OP learn to play the mandolin, but probably not for this particular purpose.

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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    Learn to play the mandolin, you won't regret it. With the different voices from the uke, fiddle and mando, you'll find lots of interesting roads to take.

    I took up the fiddle because my hands couldn't take constant mandolin playing; now I switch around and still use the mandolin to get tunes under my fingers before playing them on the fiddle. There's just some music that appeals more to me on each instrument; it's nice to have a choice. Besides, they claim learning a new instrument helps keep your mind young.
    Eric

  14. #13

    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    Thanks everyone for the replies, there is a lot of useful information to ponder. I do have a few follow-up questions:

    When you say ukuleles are good for strumming and accompanying singing, is that due to the physical instrument or its tuning? If I strung my uke GDAE would it still be good for strumming and accompanying singing? If so then this might be the best option. if the tuning is the reason then perhaps I should give up trying to have an instrument where I can strum & play melody?

    one more question: are there any other instruments that are tuned in GDAE that would be good for strumming and accompanying singing? like tenor irish banjo?

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    I think ukuleles are good for strumming and singing because their range is more middle-of-the-road than mandolin, and the nylon strings make them more mellow. Mandolins can tend to sound tinny and overly bright when strummed, especially when singing along. They really do their best when they are accompanied by other instruments that provide the lower register for balance. The ukulele, though, is pretty well balanced in that mid-range already, and has a nice plunky sound to go behind a voice.

    I wouldn't know whether ukulele chords are harder or easier than mandolin, but standard two-finger mandolin chords are pretty easy. Don't let that be a stumbling block.

    Tenor banjo in Irish GDAE tuning (as opposed to its original CGDA tuning) is the same as an octave mandolin. It's a deep register. I suppose you could strum a tenor banjo, but strumming a banjo is not likely to win you any friends that would want to play with you.

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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    A baritone ukulele is tuned the same as the first 4 strings of a guitar, may that is an option. If you play that it is deeper in sound and you could start guitar very easily after. It won't be a benefit to have played the fiddle tho as the tuning is in 4ths.
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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    A baritone ukulele is tuned the same as the first 4 strings of a guitar, may that is an option. If you play that it is deeper in sound and you could start guitar very easily after. It won't be a benefit to have played the fiddle tho as the tuning is in 4ths.
    I have a baritone uke and a soprano. But I hate the 4ths tuning. it if it was straight 4ths that would be ok but there is 4ths or 3rds and that is confusing. I can pick out a melody but I stumble around. whereas with violin it's much more logical. but i understand how the uke/guitar tuning is better for chording, because the notes are closer together the chord shapes are simpler.

    Based on the feedback, it seems I just should just stick to the uke for singing & strumming, and when I want to play melody I can pick up the fiddle. Perhaps I'll get a 2nd soprano uke so I can have one in 5ths tuning and the other in normal tuning. what I love about the uke, at least my soprano (flea) is that it's soft and quiet (quite the opposite of mandolin or banjo). I can even play it softly sitting in bed while my wife next to me watches tv. the problem is the urge hits to play melody and I'm a bit lost.

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    Default Re: Fiddle player interested in learning mandolin

    My daughter is a young violin student and she has benefitted a lot by my sitting along side her during her practice time. so there is indeed a lot to say about the similar tuning. She struggles a little with the different finger positions that I use, but you will probably do great with it. Just like your fiddle, you have to remember to keep you arms relaxed as opposed to tensing them up.

    My daughter's violin teacher (who is an extremely talented musician) owns a Kentucky KM-1500 master model (beautiful instrument) and he told me once that he had gotten it to play a gig with his band. He assumed he would adapt to it easily but in his words "they sat me down and told me to never do that again"
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