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Thread: About empty strings (mandolin)

  1. #1

    Default About empty strings (mandolin)

    I would like to have your advice on the empty strings that continue to sound if we do not stop them.
    This is especially the case when plays at the 1 position.
    For example, for the prelude of the 1 Suite for cello by JS Bach: Should we let the empty strings sound or do they have to be blocked when we move to another note?

  2. #2
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Oct 2009
    Ardnadam, Argyll, Scotland

    Default Re: About empty strings (mandolin)

    I would suggest that you use this feature of your instrument creatively. There are times when it can enhance the music to let the open strings ring on, creating passing harmonies and especially in legato passages; There are also times when you might want the notes to sound cleanly but to cut off before the next note. Traditional players will often use open strings as drones to enrich the sound - listen to fiddlers in Scottish/Irish and other trad styles. Mandolin and guitar players will also do this.

    As I am not a player of classical music (as you seem to be from your Bach reference) I cannot offer you advice on classical pieces, but I imagine that the use of staccato and legato techniques along with palm muting (on fretted instruments) or pizzicato on violin family will be at the disposal of the classical player just as they are there for players of other genres. They are all part of the colour palette we can use while playing our chosen instruments.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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  4. #3
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    May 2007
    Pacific Northwest, USA

    Default Re: About empty strings (mandolin)

    I don't play Classical music, but I do play a few Irish and Scottish "slow reels" and O'Carolan tunes out of first position. On some of those, I will briefly touch an open string to stop it ringing after playing a note on it.

    It's basically a question of whether the ringing open string note is consonant with the following notes (which might sound good!), or whether it clashes with the following notes. It's just a natural instinct to stop the note if it clashes with the following notes, and let it ring if it doesn't.

    I have to pay special attention to this on my octave mandolin, where the intrinsic note sustain is much longer than it is on my mandolin.

  5. #4

    Default Re: About empty strings (mandolin)

    Thank you for your answers

  6. #5
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Sep 2006
    Upstate New York
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    Default Re: About empty strings (mandolin)

    Its one of the aesthetic choices one gapples with when playing classical. Especially when playing something originally written for violin, which has no sustain on open strings.

    I spend more time than I should figuring out where on the neck to play a phrase, where is it easiest (minimize finger movement, great reaches or cross string transitions and other "hard" things), where does its sound the best, (avoid that open string to avoid sustain, perhaps put the whole phrase on wound strings so as to avoid changing the tibre, etc.)

    Once I got "serious" about classical music I got a coach/instructor with whom I work, via Skype, to sort these things out. What i have discovered is that since most notes on the mandolin can be played in two or three different locations, it is a shame not to use them.
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