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Thread: Transposing keys for mandola

  1. #1
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    Default Transposing keys for mandola

    There is no dumb question, right? Well here goes. When playing my mandola with the same melody fingerings & chord structures as my mandolin, I can change keys as needed for chord structures such as if I want to play my mandola in key of G, I would use D key progressions or wanting to play in key of C, I would use G chord progressions, etc.
    Now here is my question for those more musically trained than me. What do I need to do to change keys when following notation melodies?
    I know I could learn different fingerings for my mandola or teach myself to read Alto clef while changing my note fingerings, but I really don't want to. When playing with others I play my mandolin and only use my mandola for private enjoyment/solo play.
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    You do the same thing you are doing with the chords - move the exact same (mandolin) finger pattern to the next higher string (on the mandola). The mandolin and mandola have three strings in common. The mandola gets rid of the high e string and adds the low C. This string-shifting works fine until you are playing notes on what would be the mandolin's e string because on the mandola, there will not be a higher string to go to. Then you are on your own.
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    The dodge of imagining you are still playing a mandolin is fine in early stages---when I switched from violin to viola I did the same. It only failed when I looked at what I would have played as an F natural (3rd fret D string) only to hear the clash because it is B, not a Bb, and should be 4th fret (no actual frets on a viola of course).

    You need to get past that quickly though, to really enjoy the lower range. An exercise you can try is to use the same scale steps as your familiar melody, but two frets higher and one (apparent) string lower. This is one octave down. If you began on the open A string on mandolin this will mean you have to begin on 2nd fret on the "D" string, which is really the G string.

    It gets clumsy trying to explain various mechanical tactics to shortcut your way to some kind of playing. Eventually you learn the actual pitches and learn that you are playing different instrument. I find great value in playing along with recorded music to test ideas and techniques, and to get ideas. If you simply try to play one octave down by ear, to your most familiar recorded melodies, you should get some comfort after not too long.

    A fly in this ointment is that mandolas are an uncomfortably long scale for some mandolin fingering approaches. That is why I prefer a 10-string mandolin.
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    It gets clumsy trying to explain various mechanical tactics to shortcut your way to some kind of playing. Eventually you learn the actual pitches and learn that you are playing different instrument. I find great value in playing along with recorded music to test ideas and techniques, and to get ideas. If you simply try to play one octave down by ear, to your most familiar recorded melodies, you should get some comfort after not too long.

    I read the one book I could find on mandolas. The author talked of using a capo on the second fret of a mandola. He either wasn't very clear or I am thick headed as he left me even more confused.

    A fly in this ointment is that mandolas are an uncomfortably long scale for some mandolin fingering approaches. That is why I prefer a 10-string mandolin.[/QUOTE]

    For this reason I often use cheater two finger chords on the mandola. I usually feel at ease with my approach to the mandola as my only audience is my wife.(otherwise I reach for the mandolin)
    But, I feel an inner desire to understand more.
    The closest thing I have to any formal musical training came when I decided I wanted to learn to play music (at the age of 63) and bought two books, TEACH YOUR SELF TO READ MUSIC and TEACH YOUR SELF TO PLAY MANDOLIN.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    ....What do I need to do to change keys when following notation melodies?
    I know I could learn different fingerings for my mandola or teach myself to read Alto clef while changing my note fingerings, but I really don't want to.
    What are you asking - how to play mandola from sheet music written in treble clef, how to rewrite treble clef sheet music in alto clef or how to transpose individual notes into different keys?

    If its the former, consider that 3/4 of the strings of the mandola are identical to the mandolin. You already know everything you need to play the notes on the mandola's G, D and A strings from treble clef notation. You know that the notes on the mandolin E string above probably a B (7th fret on E) are likely unreachable. Likewise treble clef notation goes into too many ledger lines for your C string. That's where you shift octaves or pretend you're playing guitar where you're deep in the ledger line basement.

    I don't think you mean the second option as you state you "don't really want" to do anything as difficult as learning to read alto... ;-)

    If its the third and you want to change the key of the song so you can finger the notes just like you would on mandolin - you'll still be playing alone. Do you expect everyone else to change the key they play standard tunes in just to accommodate you?

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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    What are you asking - how to play mandola from sheet music written in treble clef, how to rewrite treble clef sheet music in alto clef or how to transpose individual notes into different keys?

    If its the former, consider that 3/4 of the strings of the mandola are identical to the mandolin. You already know everything you need to play the notes on the mandola's G, D and A strings from treble clef notation. You know that the notes on the mandolin E string above probably a B (7th fret on E) are likely unreachable. Likewise treble clef notation goes into too many ledger lines for your C string. That's where you shift octaves or pretend you're playing guitar where you're deep in the ledger line basement.

    I don't think you mean the second option as you state you "don't really want" to do anything as difficult as learning to read alto... ;-)

    If its the third and you want to change the key of the song so you can finger the notes just like you would on mandolin - you'll still be playing alone. Do you expect everyone else to change the key they play standard tunes in just to accommodate you?
    Bingo How to transpose notes to a different key.

    I do not expect people to change keys to accommodate me, thus the reason I only play mandola except when playing at home alone.
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    I do some scales and arpeggios and some double stops going up and down on the mandolin. When I pick up the mandola, and I don't think about it much, I keep going down because there is another string there!

    As I see it, there are two ways to 'transpose'. First is to know the pattern and just transfer it to the bigger instrument. This is where you don't make any friends.

    The second is to know the name of the note the tune starts on and find it somewhere on the mandola. Yes, this is not transposing, just going to a different octave. But if your friend tells you what note to start on, you don't have to think about transposing. All you need to do is to 'go from there". (Ask 'how and why' some other day...).

    To transpose you invoke Einestein's theory of relativity because it is all relative and numbers really help. For this, by ear, you could recognize the sound of say a 'third' higher, or a 'second' lower. So getting to know the sound of different intervals really helps. An easy one is that going from one open string to another is a fifth apart.

    I spend a lot of time with this website and it really helps. Music Theory dot net.
    http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/ear-interval


    If you read notes then this is a good place to start. (They have much more ...)
    http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/30

    One more thing. Chords work the same as notes when it comes to 'intervals' so a fifth apart is the same. e.g. G string to D string is an interval of a fifth. G major to D major chords. The same I - V interval.
    Last edited by DougC; May-11-2016 at 9:26pm.
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    Bingo How to transpose notes to a different key
    Ok this may be laborius, but worth it. Note that the fact that you're playing mandola, in itself, does not require you to change keys. In an orchestra there are violins, violas, cello, bass, woodwinds, etc. all playing in the same key. So for some reason you want to change the key of a song from G major to D major (I do this often to accommodate what I call my voice). You know your G major scale - to shift a melody line to D major you raise each note a fifth, (or down a fourth) this keeps the intervals the same. Remember you go from 1 sharp to 2 moving from G to D. I would start by re-writing the music on blank staff paper. After a while you'll be able to do this in your head!

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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    You may want to do what I did and get hold of a copy of MelBay's 'Complete Tenor Banjo Method', not so you can learn how to play mandola like a banjo, but because it gets you to a place where you can just read your treble clef tunes and play them straight off. It's basically how the band players learned back in the day so they could just get a lead sheet and play it, there's even a follow-up version that will get you doing chord melody from the lead line (after a shed-load of practicing :/ )

    Anyway I did that for my tenor guitar and I can pick up a mandola or tenor banjo and play them from treble sheets even though they're tuned differently to the mandolin. If I give myself a warm-up to clear my head I can even do it with the violoncello and mandoloncello reading the tune from the treble but playing down in the bass, whereas before I could only play treble clef up the fingerboard where it sounds on those.

    Anyway hewe are a couple of pics to give you an idea how it starts off etc
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    Thanks Beanzy for the images of the Tenor Banjo book. A lot of people seem to like this book. I'm glad it shows a fingerboard and fingers instead of a piano. (I don't play piano. I play mandola.)

    I hope this does not get too complicated for the original question here. I think he is not just learning a new instrument but also is interested in how music works. Or how he can understand how to make music work for him.

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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    You may want to do what I did and get hold of a copy of MelBay's 'Complete Tenor Banjo Method', not so you can learn how to play mandola like a banjo, but because it gets you to a place where you can just read your treble clef tunes and play them straight off. It's basically how the band players learned back in the day so they could just get a lead sheet and play it, there's even a follow-up version that will get you doing chord melody from the lead line (after a shed-load of practicing :/ )

    Anyway I did that for my tenor guitar and I can pick up a mandola or tenor banjo and play them from treble sheets even though they're tuned differently to the mandolin. If I give myself a warm-up to clear my head I can even do it with the violoncello and mandoloncello reading the tune from the treble but playing down in the bass, whereas before I could only play treble clef up the fingerboard where it sounds on those.

    Anyway hewe are a couple of pics to give you an idea how it starts off etc
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    I will order one today.
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    Or you could trade your mandola for an octave mandolin, which has the same chords and notes as a mandolin, but a longer scale and an octave lower.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Transposing keys for mandola

    There are a few approaches. If you are playing classical music from sheet music then you need to learn (at least) alto clef. I got this book which really helped back then: From Violin To Viola Transitional Method. It does sound, tho, that is not what you are looking for.

    If you need to read music in general, then Beanzy's suggestion for the Tenor banjo notation makes sense. Otherwise, if you are playing folk music, fiddle tunes or backing up vocals, rely on your ear and get used to the scales in the keys you are playing in.
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