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Thread: Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

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    Question Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

    Is there a difference in the playing technique between mandolin and octavemandolin?
    Or is it all the same?
    I know that fingerpicking a ukulele string is harder than fingerpicking a guitar string so I suppose that fingerpicking a mandolin string is harder than fingerpicking a octavemandolin string. Do I need less force to get a tone from an octavemandolin than from a mandolin?

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    Default Re: Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

    The main difference is the big difference in scale lengths between the two instruments. Generally it is taken that when playing mandolin your fretting fingers will cover two frets per finger rather than the "normal" fret-per-finger that is used on guitars. The short scle on the mandolin makes it a bit tight to use the finger-per-fret technique. On the octave, depending on scale length and individual hand size and finger spread, many people use the guitar model, but others will still finger two frets per finger. On my 21.5" octave I use both, depending on the tune I am playing (mainly Scottish and Celtic) but I have a wide spread and can cover the frets easily.

    You seem, however, to be talking about picking rather than fretting in your post, and I see you talk about fingerpicking. Generally a plectrum is used on mandolin and octave, though there are players who do fingerpick. Mandolins with their narrow fingerboards and double courses are very hard to fingerpick as there is little space for your picking fingers. Octaves are a bit easier. If you are going to be using a pick, there are loads of postings on this forum re choice of picks, and like so much else in playing our chosen instruments, much depends on individual preferences. The octave has a better sustain than the mandolin because of its scale length and bigger body and so getting a "good" tone might well be easier, but as a regular player of both instruments I am not really aware of adapting my picking technique. Now you have me thinking about it!
    Last edited by John Kelly; Jul-24-2018 at 3:35am. Reason: typos
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    Default Re: Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

    Thank you John! :-)

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    Default Re: Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

    Quote Originally Posted by greeenhorn View Post
    Is there a difference in the playing technique between mandolin and octavemandolin? ... Do I need less force to get a tone from an octavemandolin than from a mandolin?
    On both instruments, you can vary your tone by how much force you use. Both instruments can sound great with a light touch or a hard strum. As John mentioned, an octave has more sustain --- especially if you compare an OM with an oval hole to a mandolin with F-holes --- and a mandolin has a stronger attack, so the nature of the tone will be different from equivalent force.

    With the playing technique, I find that my right hand is looser playing the OM than the mandolin. I like to play off the sustain, so I often let my hand flow through the strings, whether I am playing chords or single notes. When I want a chop-like effect playing rhythm, I also use palm muting since, like most players, I can't play four-finger chords on the instrument.
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    Default Re: Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus CA View Post
    I also use palm muting since, like most players, I can't play four-finger chords on the instrument.
    How so? There are several four-finger chords you can play comfortable on a OM. But it is good that you say that you use palm muting, so you are fingerpicking instead of flatpicking at times ... I use the chord book of Harvey Reid.

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    Default Re: Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

    Quote Originally Posted by greeenhorn View Post
    How so? There are several four-finger chords you can play comfortable on a OM. But it is good that you say that you use palm muting, so you are fingerpicking instead of flatpicking at times ... I use the chord book of Harvey Reid.
    You can palm-mute while using a pick too, greenhorn. I often do this while playing chords on the octave. It is something I learned away back from watching Hank Marvin of The Shadows (showing my age now) on his red Stratocaster when I was trying to learn all the great instrumentals they did back in the early 1960s.
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    Default Re: Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

    Quote Originally Posted by greeenhorn View Post
    Is there a difference in the playing technique between mandolin and octavemandolin?
    Or is it all the same?
    I have mandolins with 13 and 13.5 inch scales, mandolas with 17 and 19 inch scales, and a Cümbüş (12-string Turkish banjo) tuned in fifths with 21 inch scale, like a 6-course octave mandolin. The 13s and 17 aren't *too* much different in fingering, while the 17 gives me a little more finger space for chords. The 19 and 21 take (to me) very different techniques than the shorter axes, and I find chording much more difficult, even with my large hands. Playing single-note melodies only demands (of me) different stretches.

    My muscle memory doesn't quite extend across all scales.

    I know that fingerpicking a ukulele string is harder than fingerpicking a guitar string so I suppose that fingerpicking a mandolin string is harder than fingerpicking a octavemandolin string. Do I need less force to get a tone from an octavemandolin than from a mandolin?
    My 'ukes range from soprano to baritone. I've not found that playing nylon strings on any 'uke requires more pressure or force than medium-gauge steel guitar strings in concert pitch. YMMV. Varying string gauge lets you choose the tension of any string set. Lighter strings make for easier but softer playing.

    I've fingerpicked guitars for over a half-century, mandos for over a decade less. I quietly bare-fingerpick an acoustic mandolin or tenor mandola at home. For noise, I attack grandpa's century-old banjo-mandolin with National steel thumb and fingerpicks. When I do that sitting down, the cat jumps on my knee and howls. Fingering a mandola or OM should be less painful to bystanders.

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    Default Re: Difference Mandolin and Octavemandolin in playing

    I'm learning the differences in a mandolin and an octave mandolin. I have a beautiful octave that Eddie Blevins in Blountville, TN, made for me. It's been a long time since I played anything but a standard mandolin. The octave has a 22" scale length and I'm learning the true meaning of the adage "Slow and steady wins the race."

    I actually have to watch the fingers on the frets most of the time but it's getting better. I'm not ready to use it on stage yet but maybe the new muscle memory will begin kicking in one of these days.
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