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Thread: Mandola lovers

  1. #1
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    Question Mandola lovers

    First let me apologize for raising a topic that I suspect has been discussed before, probably many times. I've searched for such discussions here on the Cafe without much success.

    I'm new to the mandolin family having spent my life playing guitar (sixty plus years devoted to mostly cowboy chords). My knowledge of musical theory has not grown much as a result. i.e. Standard tuning; open chords. I thought a foray into the mandolin family would stretch me and help me grow. I've had difficulty with the smallish dimensions of a mandolin fingerboard so I've acquired an octave mandolin. That was a step in the right direction. Now I'm wondering about something "in between" - a mandola seems to fit that description.

    I'd like to hear from those of you who are mandola players. How did you "get there?" i.e. How and why did you gravitate to the mandola? Do you still play other instruments? What does the mandola add to your musical capabilities and how difficult did you find the challenge of learning to play mandola as opposed to learning other instruments?

    These may be naive questions, but they reflect where I am in my musical journey. Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.

    Larry

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    In the 90's, I was playing with the Providence Mandolin Orchestra and the 1st and 2nd mandolin sections were burgeoning somewhat with over 20 players combined while the mandola section had only 3 or 4 players. Having played both 1st and 2nd mandolin for a few years, I was ready to try my hands at mandola so I bought a Weber Yellowstone 'dola (with the 17 inch scale) and it was quite powerful and helped add some "weight" to the tenor voices of the orchestra. Unfortunately for me the 17 inch scale was too big for my rather diminutive size so I commissioned Paul Duff to build me his version of the Loar era H-5 with a 15 7/8 inch scale, just the ticket for my hand size.

    The Weber got traded to a guy in California for a '56 Gibson F-12 mandolin which I still play regularly. I also still own the Duff though it doesn't get as much play time as the F-12. It's too beautiful to sell for now so in my stable it still resides. I have long since moved away from Rhode Island so I no longer play in an orchestra (rats!!).

    To answer some of your questions, I still play guitar (acoustic and electric), mandolin (acoustic and electric also). The mandola was a challenge getting used to that low C string course at first but eventually got used to it. You have to learn the instrument for what it is and to not translate from mandolin to mandola. It is a different dialect but not a different language. Hope some of this is useful for you norseman40. Welcome to the Cafe!!

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  4. #3
    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I also switched from mandolin to dola to fill the tenor voice at our weekly acoustic jam. I mainly play bass guitar and the mandola has opened my ears and brain to chords and soloing. It has really changed my bass playing.

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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I came to mandolin and mandolin through violin and viola. I love the darker, deeper sound of mandola. My instrument has a 17" string length. I have long fingers, but the reach is sometimes a little clumsy. On an instrument that was any larger you would probably approach it as one finger–one fret, but the 17" scale is still where one finger covering two frets is typical.

    After playing guitar, a 'dola will still feel like a toy to you.

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  8. #5
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I enjoy my dolas very much but do find some challenges. This generally has me playing my dolas for solo play. When playing with others I prefer the mandolin. This for audible reasons as the mandolin offers a distinct voice in a jam, but this is not the only reason.
    I play a dola using mandolin fingering which always puts tunes as I learned them on a mandolin in the wrong key. Transposing keys when chording is relatively simple. Problem for me is I don't play a lot of rhythm and personally have no appreciation for playing or even hearing chop chords (I guess my own shortcoming). Transposing keys for melodic playing is a skill I lack without a pencil, paper and a considerable amount of time.
    So this brings me to my point. If you play with mandolin fingering on an octave you have the advantage of not having to frequently transpose tunes as you know them. You may play differently than me or exceed my limited skills at transposing.
    If none of what I have said presents issues for you, the full sound and greater sustain of a dola vs. a mandolin provides nice middle ground between a mandolin and an octave making a nice addition to your arsenal.
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I was playing electric bass, cello and guitar when I switched to the mandolin family. (why? don't know)
    But my mandolin had gathered dust for years with me occasionally giving it a try and then giving up.

    Each time it was the same two things:
    1. My fingers were all cramped up and just felt wrong.
    2. The ultra high register of the instrument just wasn't me.

    So I bought a cheap mandola and suddenly everything felt right.
    The range of the instrument is just right for me. Not low at all - just right.

    I've switched totally to mandola and will buy a good one in a year I think.

    This instrument needs more love I think.

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  12. #7
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Quote Originally Posted by BoxCarJoe View Post

    This instrument needs more love I think.
    I agree with Boxcar Joe; this instrument needs (and is deserving of) more love. It's just a great range and a great voice. What's not to love?
    Purr more, hiss less.

  13. #8

    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Mandola has become my favorite instrument. I play guitar, mandolin, and mandola. Since I mostly play solo, I actually end up playing the mandola more than the mandolin. To me its the perfect range and I love the added sustain. Plus it has opened up skills in learning to finger melodies in different keys. The extra space on the fingerboard is welcome, but really, it hasn't seemed that hard to switch between them.

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    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    As a cheap way of seeing if you like it why not put a capo at the fifth fret on your octave mandolin? You’ll be able to see how you adapt to the fingering and if you like the tone; with the caveat that open strings may be slightly muted depending on how snug the capo is.

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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Come to think of it, this is what turned me over to mandola.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVkX7MmITwk

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  19. #11
    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Quote Originally Posted by OneChordTrick View Post
    As a cheap way of seeing if you like it why not put a capo at the fifth fret on your octave mandolin? You’ll be able to see how you adapt to the fingering and if you like the tone; with the caveat that open strings may be slightly muted depending on how snug the capo is.
    This will not even begin to give you the tone or feel of a mandola. The thing that surprised me most about a mandola is the tone. While the G strings are the same note as a mandolin (not an octave above which you get from this method) the length of the string is 3' longer and so the tone is darker. Also the fingering is the same as a mandolin but the key is different. In other words a G scale on a mandolin is a C scale on a dola.

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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I'm getting some good responses to my initial questions. Thanks for that.

    Have any of you found a good app for your tablet or mobile phone that offers chords, scales, exercises and alternate tunings for the mandola? I have one for guitar and another for mandolin, but have struck out while looking for one devoted to mandola. Thanks, again. Larry

  21. #13

    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Mandola is a wonderful instrument and My mandolins don’t get played much anymore.
    Just wondering what the choice of picks are for mandola.
    I have been using a 73 Dunlop Ultex.

  22. #14
    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Visentin View Post
    This will not even begin to give you the tone or feel of a mandola. The thing that surprised me most about a mandola is the tone. While the G strings are the same note as a mandolin (not an octave above which you get from this method) the length of the string is 3' longer and so the tone is darker. Also the fingering is the same as a mandolin but the key is different. In other words a G scale on a mandolin is a C scale on a dola.
    Not sure I understand?

    The scale on my octave mandolin is 20.75” capoed at the fifth fret 15.5”. From another thread on here typical Mandola scale length is 15-17”. My Octave is tuned GDAE one octave below a mandolin, a Mandola is tuned CGDA so my Octave Mandolin capoed at the fifth fret the “old” G would be the C below the open G of a mandolin or the same as a Mandola. So I’d have an instrument with the same effective scale length and tuning as a Mandola. Or am I missing something obvious?

  23. #15
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Well, commenting on Bob V's post, strings that are the same pitch, but different scale lengths, have to differ either in diameter (gauge), string tension, or both. E.g., the G 4th string on a set of D'Addario J74 mandolin strings is .040"; the G 3rd string on a set of J76 mandola strings is .035". To be tuned to an equal pitch, with a longer scale, the string gauge is reduced .005". If we associate "darker" tone with increased string diameter (defensible hypothesis?), the thinner string shouldn't sound "darker." If we associate it with a longer scale (equally defensible hypothesis?), it may indeed emphasize lower overtones ("darker" sound).

    There are many other variables, such as body size and design, that affect the perceived tone from an instrument. An octave mandolin capoed at the 5th fret will typically have larger body size than a mandola, plus a larger neck, wider fretboard, and possibly heavier body construction and bracing. The sound won't be totally dissimilar to that of a mandola, but it won't be identical, in most cases (IMHO).

    What you will get, will be the experience of playing mandolin-type music in CGDA tuning, with all the transposition issues that involves. Took me quite a while to get used to playing mandolin material on the mandola, though I do it quite a bit now. I even had a five-course CGDAE instrument built for me, so I could play in both ranges. I will say, though I really like the instrument, it doesn't sound quite like either a mandolin or a mandola.

    I've just had a bit of a mandola epiphany, having purchased a Larson-built (yes it is, Mick!) Stahl mandola, probably 1920's vintage or slightly earlier. It has, in my experience, exceptional tone and volume, and it's got me toting a mandola to all the jams and sing-arounds to which I used to take a mandolin. At least for a while, it's my new-BFF fave mandolin-family instrument.
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    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Thanks Allen, you put more eloquently what I was trying to say.

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  27. #17

    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    As part of my downsizing in preparation for retirement, I recently sold my Weber mandolin.

    I'm keeping my Bridger Mandola, a Bouzouki, one guitar (have a few to sell), a few ukes, and a bass. I'm just too clumsy for mandolin, although I love the sound in accompaniment and will continue to listen to mandolin music.

    I play mostly solo. Mandola is just perfect for solo and contemplation.

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  29. #18
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Forgive me. I missed the word OCTAVE when I read the post I responded to. When I read "cheap way" I thought it was about putting a capo on a mandolin. I see how this is a way (putting a capo on an octave mando) but it is not cheap.

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  31. #19
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    As Norseman already has an octave mandolin adding a capo is probably cheaper than buying a Mandola...

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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I have joined the mandola club. I bought a used Pono Mandola that was listed here in the classified section. It will be shipped tomorrow. I'm anxious to give it a whirl. Thanks again for the comments and suggestions offered here in response to my original post.

  34. #21
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Almost there. I'm anxiously awaiting a new mandola build from Tyler White in Indiana. I have his #11 mandolin and my new mandola, #18 is his second. Going to be a curvy, curly blonde.

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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I've had a mandola jones for a while but never played one. Afaik I've never seen one hanging in a store. The big foot of the mandolin family

  37. #23
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    I've had a mandola jones for a while but never played one. Afaik I've never seen one hanging in a store. The big foot of the mandolin family
    Step right this way!

    http://www.fiddlersgreenmusicshop.co...sernig-mandola

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  39. #24
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I love playing mandola and I've started a thread or two here on the Cafe about that over the years. If I'm playing by myself, I prefer the 'dola in certain respects. Warm tone, better to sing along with if it's the only instrument. That said, playing with a group, which invariably includes guitars, I prefer mandolin since the higher pitch works better with guitars.

    As far as learning it, I would just use the standard tuning and learn it like a mandolin. The chord shapes are all the same. Everything's just transposed a fifth (or a fourth, depending on how you're looking at it), such that the G on a mandolin becomes a C, etc. You get used to that and I don't find it difficult to move between the instruments.

    My other instruments are upright bass and bass guitar, so I guess I find the lower pitch of the 'dola attractive. Octave mandolin is very cool too but it's so much longer scale that it's a very different instrument to play.
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  41. #25
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    Default Re: Mandola lovers

    I have no idea when I first came across mandolas. Must have been while drooling over instruments on various websites starting about about 15-18 years ago or at a Co-mando get together in California. Or both.

    In 2003 I acquired a Weber Alder #2, which I still own. It has a 17" scale length, which is a bit long for me, so I don't play it much. If I require a flat top mandola sound I can, as someone has already suggested, capo my octave mandolin at the 5th fret. That shortens my 19" octave mandolin to about 15" scale length.

    Playing electric mandos, I gravitate toward 5 string instruments. These are tuned CGDAE, so they're basically short scale mandos with a 'cheater' e on top.

    There aren't many materials out there for mandola, so as a player you need to be able to transpose from mandolin. This is really just a matter of learning a little theory and getting your scales down.

    I love the chord voicings mandola tuning provides, and they are kinder as solo vocal accompaniment than a mandolin.

    I did a little iFlip video some years ago on the Weber...

    Some wag has slagged it off for poor audio. I suppose the mic on the iFlip left something to be desired. Oh well.

    Hope this is helpful!
    Daniel

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