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Thread: Why electric mandolin?

  1. #1
    Registered User Cindy's Avatar
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    Default Why electric mandolin?

    At a music festival today I saw two electric mandolins on stage, both being played in bands with electric guitars, and I could barely tell the difference between the mandolin and the guitar licks. I looked at some e-mando demos on YouTube and while they sounded good if I closed my eyes and didn't know better I'd assume it was an electric guitar. Did I just not see players who knew how to exploit it?
    An acoustic mandolin (with or without a pickup) is delightfully distinctive in an acoustic band. Is it just my ears or is an electric mandolin sort of pointless?

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    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    I think Abercrombie tuned his mando like a guitar. One advantage of one electric guitar with one electric mandolin is not stepping on each others toes as much as you would with duplicate instruments. Range and chord voicings different.

    I'm about to go plays some electric mandolin and electric guitar (not at the same time) tonight at Casa Del Sol in Nyack, NY. Come on down.

  4. #4
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Is it just my ears or is an electric mandolin sort of pointless?
    Not if you are an electric guitarslinger at heart trapped by life's cruel circumstances in a mandolin player's body.

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    In which case, I'd recommend a 17"-19" scale instrument tuned an octave lower GDAE with a high "a" on top. No expensive CUSTOM instrument to go that route....get one of those short scale kid sized electrics and just string it up with 5 strings instead of 6. If the pickups are junk, put in a couple Seymour Duncans.

    PS: DON'T even/ever mention the dreaded "M"- word which may immediately pigeonhole you up on Rocky Top. Stick to the story that it's a short scale EG in a tuning. (You can either call it the Keith Richards 5-string tuning, or one used by Ry Cooder. That should shut 'em up!)

  5. #5

    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Though a rank beginner, I've been playing some simple harmonies in a rock band (Credence Clearwater tunes, for example, lend themselves to mando fills and chords), and I find that getting enough volume for both the mains and the monitors is a constant solution search. My Myers pickup works fine, but I like to unplug it between songs featuring the mandolin to conserve battery life, and that makes the rest of the band wait for me. I'm saving for a step-up instrument, and have considered a Rigal. Although I'll likely still go with acoustic, I can definitely see the application in the right setting for an electric mandolin.

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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Reverb and distortion. They seem to have a little extra dimension when they process sound from a pick-up instead of a microphone.
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  9. #7

    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cindy View Post
    Why electric mandolin?

    At a music festival today I saw two electric mandolins on stage, both being played in bands with electric guitars, and I could barely tell the difference between the mandolin and the guitar licks. I looked at some e-mando demos on YouTube and while they sounded good if I closed my eyes and didn't know better I'd assume it was an electric guitar. Did I just not see players who knew how to exploit it?

    An acoustic mandolin (with or without a pickup) is delightfully distinctive in an acoustic band. Is it just my ears or is an electric mandolin sort of pointless?
    Hmm... why *would* someone use an electric instrument over the acoustic version of the same instrument?

    Quite a few reasons pop into mind, even with just a moment's thought.

    Feedback potential, and elimination thereof. Ease of set-up and soundcheck. Lack of a need for pre-amps and other processing. Better and longer sustain. Hardier on the road.

    I do enjoy my acoustic instruments, *and* my electric instruments. They are all capable of different timbres, although my electric ones are much more versatile than the acoustic ones in that regard. I just look for solutions which work for me and my circumstances, and file away the solutions others use just in case I ever have the same needs. It's a great learning tool to figure out the "Why?" Of another person's rig/gear, even just asking them, and gets me further than dismissal.

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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    I used an electric Eastwood e-mando in our Irish band and loved it. With some easy tweaks to the amp I got a decent acoustic sound out of it-- easily good enough for playing in a noisy pub. I wasn't stuck in one spot aiming my mandolin at a mic, and I only need one vocal mic. It's very durable. I could sit on it and not harm it. Best of all, mine looks like a mini Telecaster which I love.
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Pointless, no, just a different tool, in my view. It's the perfect axe for a mandolinist who plays loud bars and clubs. It's also the perfect axe for a fiddler who occasionally will need to play guitar-ish licks in a different setting, like Tiny Moore in Bob Will's band. Jason Anick, a great gypsy jazz violinist uses his electric mandolin when looking for that amplified-hollow-bodied guitar sound on tunes. He's certainly capable of learning a guitar, but what's the point when he gets the tone on an instrument he already knows the tuning to. It really comes down to having to learn another instrument. You know the mandolin fretboard backwards and forwards, why learn a new instrument? And for the lazy guys club, electric mandolins are smaller and lighter.

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  15. #10

    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    I think you have to make a distinction between 4/5 string and 8 string emandos. The 4/5 string variety does sound a lot like a small electric guitar to my ears as well. The 8 string variety however retains that double course sound we know and love even when plugged in. Like Paul Busman, my emando looks like a little Telecaster which I love.

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    Len B.
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  17. #11
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Because......
    Eoin



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  19. #12

    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Not sure where a Godin A8 falls in the mix but I consider it an electric and it flat out works great. I bought it for 2 reasons as I needed to be amplified with a loud band, i did not want to modify my acoustic mando and the Godin is a really simple/idiot proof way to get loud and people who here it say that and sounds great (not me)
    Lou

  20. #13

    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    The Godin A8 is definitely in the "electric" mix and from my perspective, designed to provide an amplified acoustic sound. I like that application a lot and typically use a Kentucky KM-340S with a JJB Electronics twin piezo for amplified acoustic needs. I just can't get too loud or it'll feed back. If I need to get really loud or use distortion, etc., my little mando-Tele gets the nod. So much depends on the circumstances (loud vs. quiet gigs) and the requirements of the song (amplified acoustic vs. electric 8 string vs. electric 4/5 string). It's good to have a tool to handle each of these settings. Maybe I need to get 4/5 stringer...

    As an aside to you Loubrava, when people say your mandolin sounds great, they are complimenting you, the player. You could always make it sound awful but you have obviously amassed the skills and taste to garner the compliments from the audience. Enjoy them and be very thankful.

    Len B.
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  21. #14
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    I have not seen your ears to know if they are Pointless or Not .. Vulcan?

    past stories of guitar players struggling to emulate Tiny Moore's Texas Swing band solos
    on his electric 5 string mandolin have circulated ..

    the phrasing using Guitar ADGBE fingering is just different than CGDAE.
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    Registered User Polecat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    There are things you can do with an electric guitar that you can't on an acoustic. The same is true of mandolins. It is true that electric mandolins with single-string courses sound less mandolinny than 8-strings. If you play modified guitar licks and riffs on an emando, again you will tend to sound like a sopranino electric guitar (if there is such a thing). Also, there is no amplification equipment and no effects pedals which are "voiced" for the electric mandolin; they are all designed to make guitars sound "better".

    Having said all that, no, I don't believe electric mandolin is pointless. I play a solid body 8-string with an Almuse Aggressor pickup into a tube amp that is modified for mandolin (different coupling caps and tone stack), using an overdrive pedal which has a fairly radical parametric eq (Pearl OD-05 from the early 80's), and a chorus pedal which again does not colour the sound too much (Danelectro Cool Cat running on 18V). I recently played a gig with an acoustic guitarrist who frequently commented to me during rehearsals that he was impressed with the tone of my setup, and that it was not like that of an electric guitar. Just as it is silly to treat a Stratocaster as if it were just a louder Martin, when playing emando you need a different approach than with an acoustic, but if you work out what you want to do, it's a great instrument.
    "Give me a mandolin and I'll play you rock 'n' roll" (Keith Moon)

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    I use a mandolin because I can find more notes intuitively. I use a 10-string because I like the lower range. I use a magnetic pickup because it sounds better than mic or piezo on my instrument. I use a pickup on a flat-top acoustic instead of a solid-body electric because my duo is drumless and the acoustic has more percussive presence and a more spectrum-filing tone.

    I would personally find little use for a 4-string solid-body electric. I first heard one in performance at a club in Lubbock in the 80s. The country band's fiddle player switched off to a Fender emando with gobs of distortion. Result was just another violin-like solo.

    Mandolins with four strings or courses are limited in useful pitch range, so tend to be only the soloing voice (additional help as chop where appropriate). 5-strings get down into guitar range, good as accompaniment, but I now prefer the doubled courses, which have an inherent power to the attack and sustain. I find I don't need overdrive (or chorus).

    I would be using my 10-string solid-body if I was in a band with drums. In any case, I can do stuff on the 10-string that I would not think of or be able to do on guitar. And for the record, you can indeed bend notes on doubled courses if you use light strings (like guitar payers do) and damp one of the pair. Just takes practice.
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    Registered User Martin Ohrt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    From my point of view, mandocrucian nails it... I use such a 5-String Octave in a Jazzband to play the guitarist's role, and I'm complimented very often on the sound of my "tiny guitar".

    Also, electric mandos in standard GDAE (4 as well as 8 string) are very interesting, as they just add another "flavour" to the mandolin world.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Somewhat depends on what you mean by "electric mandolin." A solid-body mandolin with a magnetic pickup will sound very much like a small treble electric guitar. A hollow-body mandolin with a piezo pickup (Ovation, e.g.) may not sound just like an acoustic mandolin, but will be closer. The difference is whether the pickup registers the vibrations of the body, or whether the signal's produced by a steel string vibrating in the magnetic field of the pickup.

    There's also the question of the player's technique; is he/she playing the instrument like a small, treble guitar, or quoting some of the approach of an acoustic mandolinist? Is the player using effects, and if so, which ones and how? What kind of music's being played?

    This hollow-body, 8-string electric mandolin appears to have a more "mandolin-y" sound, even though it utilizes a magnetic pickup:

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  28. #19

    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Effects options.

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  30. #20

    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Ha - pretty much. But where's the DL-4?

    And of course, not only this (as someone upthreads mentioned the 'electric-guitar' interface aspect of it all)...but of course, also all the other technological gadgets and toys in the dig age - the electric *guitar* aspect (amps, effects) being just one ..

  31. #21
    Registered User Cindy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Thanks to all these many replies. I have been educated!
    I think the emandos I saw were being played like tiny guitars and that's why they sounded like electric guitars. I can see why playing a tiny electric guitar would be a fun/interesting thing to do if you played in a band with electric guitars, plus the subtle sound things you could do (that I didn't see/hear anyone do at the festival but I do see in the many fine examples here).

    "This hollow-body, 8-string electric mandolin appears to have a more "mandolin-y" sound, even though it utilizes a magnetic pickup:" ... sounds very cool. Thanks allenhopkins!

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    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Huge improvement over the old steam and coal mandolins.
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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  37. #24
    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    These are some of my electrics

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    A couple 8 and some 4 with one octave 5
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  39. #25
    Registered User Ausdoerrt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why electric mandolin?

    Easiest answer to "why" - when you're playing in a loud band, the acoustic won't be heard (enough).

    And you can get a sort-of-acoustic sound out of it if you want to, anyway. Here's me playing my electric, I think I've gotten pretty close with the sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgKWD1gOhPQ
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