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Thread: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

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    Default 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    I recently got a hankering to get a solidbody electric mandolin. I am unsure of whether to go 4 or 8 string. It would seem like a 4 string would be more guitar like and allow string bending and other techniques. But, will I lose the mando sound? Thoughts?

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Yep, that's the tradeoff. A 4-string sounds like a guitar; an 8-string sounds more like a mandolin.
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    If you are anywhere near Andover, look into this one. I've tried to buy it but the seller doesn't seem interested in a long-distance sale. https://us.letgo.com/en/i/mandoblast...a-2119f31f3c33
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    If you get an 8 string, you can always play it as a 4 string.
    "it's not in bad taste, if it's funny" - john waters

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  6. #5

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    I've never seriously toyed with emandos until I got a bad case of EMAS recently. My first desire is to sound like a guitar, so waiting for the 4 string to arrive. Also thinking of an eOM, but I will get an 8 string (more choices there by far) and just remove 4 strings to start with. I'm also starting with the budget eastwoods to see if the eMando thing is just a phase or not.

    I have plenty of pedals already to play with. Delay, reverb, and compressor for that singing sustained clean tone will be where I start...

  7. #6

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Honest question: what is the purpose of a 4-string mando? Mainly as a tool for mandolin players to get a [small] guitar sound? I'm a lifelong guitar player and have owned probably a couple hundred guitars, and maybe 25-50 "other". The thing that I love about the mando is the zingy, chorusy sound of the high-tuned pairs of strings. To me, a 4-string mando would be kind of like taking six strings off a 12-string guitar. It'd just be a guitar. I guess that a 4-string mando to me would be like a steel string ukulele.

  8. #7

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Sometimes a "small" guitar sound is what is needed and it's presented in a fifths rather than fourths/third tuning format and that may be most familiar to the player. I'm a big fan of having one of each, a 4 and 8 string (although I would opt for a 5 string emando).

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  9. #8

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Yep, that's the tradeoff. A 4-string sounds like a guitar; an 8-string sounds more like a mandolin.
    Yep, that's for sure Martin about the 4 string but you can plug in, turn it all up to 11 and harness "The Sound Of The Lord Of The Flies"

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    8 into 4 conversion of an EM 150 as a CGDA tuned electric-acoustic mandola works well

    perfect solution for the weak E string is it doesn't have one ..

    little different sound than a solid body..
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    If you are anywhere near Andover, look into this one. I've tried to buy it but the seller doesn't seem interested in a long-distance sale. https://us.letgo.com/en/i/mandoblast...a-2119f31f3c33
    Thanks. Do you know much about this brand and model you can share?

  12. #11
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveGinNJ View Post
    Thanks. Do you know much about this brand and model you can share?
    it's a great price. MSRP $850; when available, the discount price at Elderly is $637.50. So if you don't like it, you can easily get your money back out of it. The Blue Star Mandoblaster is a cut or two above other entry-level emandos; some pro bands use them (Otis Taylor, BR5-49).
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    It's not a serious consideration but string bending is easier with single strings.
    David Hopkins

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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by Red_Label View Post
    Honest question: what is the purpose of a 4-string mando? Mainly as a tool for mandolin players to get a [small] guitar sound? I'm a lifelong guitar player and have owned probably a couple hundred guitars, and maybe 25-50 "other". The thing that I love about the mando is the zingy, chorusy sound of the high-tuned pairs of strings. To me, a 4-string mando would be kind of like taking six strings off a 12-string guitar. It'd just be a guitar. I guess that a 4-string mando to me would be like a steel string ukulele.
    Listen to Paul Buskirk, Tiny Moore, Eldon Shamblin, Johnny Gimbel, Alex Gregory, Ricky Skaggs, Mike Lampert, Michael Kang, Jason Anick, and a few others.

    For me the 4 and 5 string emandos are useful hybrids in terms of sounds. The chord inversions and arpeggios are all mandolin while the melodies and riffs are more guitar-like. It adds something interesting to a recording without screaming MANDOLIN at the listener.

    I am using a JBovier EMC-5 extensively recording my new CD. I'm doubling up some regular mandolin lines, adding rhythm parts, and also using it in place of electric guitar.

    Playing a 5 string, I can get into a decent amount of the guitar's range. So it's a bit easier to use as a vocal accompaniment.

    Tonal palettes are nearly as broad as an electric guitar's, but I still get to play in 5ths.

    Hope that's helpful.

    Daniel

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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by Red_Label View Post
    Honest question: what is the purpose of a 4-string mando? Mainly as a tool for mandolin players to get a [small] guitar sound? I'm a lifelong guitar player and have owned probably a couple hundred guitars, and maybe 25-50 "other". The thing that I love about the mando is the zingy, chorusy sound of the high-tuned pairs of strings. To me, a 4-string mando would be kind of like taking six strings off a 12-string guitar. It'd just be a guitar. I guess that a 4-string mando to me would be like a steel string ukulele.
    You get mandolin voicing without the high overtones that the amplified strings get. I’m an ok jazz guitarist, but much better on mandolin. I can play an electric set. It does sound somewhat like a guitar, but the range and the voicing are different.

    Some prefer the 8 string. But I found I can tame a four string more to my liking. Maybe if I had an eight I’d learn.
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    I like a 4 or 5 string the best but i enjoy playing my 8 string ones also , you might end up with both, or should i say all 3 of them a 4 , 5 , 8 strings
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  19. #16

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    With a four string, you can cut your tuning time and string costs in half!

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  21. #17

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bradford View Post
    With a four string, you can cut your tuning time and string costs in half!

    Ha ha! Worthy considerations! Seems like when you double the number of strings, you triple the tuning "fun". I love the sound of my 12-strings, but don't always enjoy stringing and tuning them. Fortunately, they stay in tune pretty well once they're tuned for the day (as do my mandos).

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Nestlerode View Post
    Listen to Paul Buskirk, Tiny Moore, Eldon Shamblin, Johnny Gimbel, Alex Gregory, Ricky Skaggs, Mike Lampert, Michael Kang, Jason Anick, and a few others.

    For me the 4 and 5 string emandos are useful hybrids in terms of sounds. The chord inversions and arpeggios are all mandolin while the melodies and riffs are more guitar-like. It adds something interesting to a recording without screaming MANDOLIN at the listener.

    I am using a JBovier EMC-5 extensively recording my new CD. I'm doubling up some regular mandolin lines, adding rhythm parts, and also using it in place of electric guitar.

    Playing a 5 string, I can get into a decent amount of the guitar's range. So it's a bit easier to use as a vocal accompaniment.

    Tonal palettes are nearly as broad as an electric guitar's, but I still get to play in 5ths.

    Hope that's helpful.

    Daniel
    Good info. Thanks!

  22. #18

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    This thread has helped me too, even though I had already decided to start with a 4 string, I hadn't heard others' thoughts. In my case I can't play guitar for beans, but 5ths tuning on 4 courses is getting easier every day, so it will scratch my guitar envy nicely. An eOM will get me exactly into guitar range too. Not sure I could handle 5 strings though, for melodies sure, but for chords seems like It would defeat the simplicity of just 4 courses.

    I am hoping it arrives today...

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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by Red_Label View Post
    Ha ha! Worthy considerations! Seems like when you double the number of strings, you triple the tuning "fun". I love the sound of my 12-strings, but don't always enjoy stringing and tuning them. Fortunately, they stay in tune pretty well once they're tuned for the day (as do my mandos).

    - - - Updated - - -



    Good info. Thanks!
    I made a hammered dulcimer once. Never again. It takes 2 months to tune one of those things.
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  24. #20

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    I have owned both 4- and 8-string electric mandolins. I liked the 8-string better for chording. The 4-string was good for melodic lines, but not so much for chording.

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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    For the normal mandolin scale neck and tuning, I myself prefer an 8-string. Single-strings that high up are just too piercing sonically for me, and I'd opt to go lower. I have a mini-strat conversion to 5-string tuned GDAEa which is an octave lower with a high 'a' string on the top. Scale length was shortened (from 19" to 17", though if I were to do it over, I'd go with 18").

    You can't play an electric the same way as you would acoustic. Full 4-string chords on an 8-string sound pretty muddy.

    However, you can play an acoustic like you would an electric much more successfully. So much of it is vocabulary, left-hand touch, slurring, varying RH attack and muting. (There is absolutely NOTHING I hate more than to hear someone play Monroe style on an electric 8-string.)

    Here's an example of the last paragraph. This is played on my (acoustic) Gibson F4 with a Fishman bridge pickup, plugged directly into a Russian made amp. No pre-amps or pedal effects...just physical hand techniques and vocabulary. It's a little ragged cause the bass player and drummer I was jamming with onstage were a couple of 16-year old Finnish kids and they were nervous and stuff
    https://soundcloud.com/user-643522979/15-purplehazelive

    Now here's another example, using my electric 5-string in a Fairport Convention/Steeleye Span folk rock setting. I have no desire to sound like a "mandolin" at all, and if people automatically hear it as an electric guitar, I am just fine with that.
    https://soundcloud.com/user-643522979/garry-owen

    Here a pic of my elec 5-string...


    Niles H
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  27. #22

    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    I made a hammered dulcimer once. Never again. It takes 2 months to tune one of those things.

    LOL! Yeah... that makes me cringe just thinking about tuning.

  28. #23
    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    I bought a cheap Kentucky 300e four-string emando and took one hour to replace the cheap lipstick pickup with a Bill Lawrence set of hotrails, and I couldn't be happier with it. Looking for a better amp, but the mando itself is great.
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by Red_Label View Post
    LOL! Yeah... that makes me cringe just thinking about tuning.
    It takes longer to tune a hammered dulcimer than it does to make one.
    David Hopkins

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  31. #25
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    Default Re: 4- vs 8-string electric mandos

    I recently joined the electric mandolin club. After a long debate about all the various build styles, and different ways we might amplify a mandolin, I chose an 8-string solid body, a classic Gibson EM200 and couldn't be happier. Have had it for about two weeks, and took it to a brewery gig last weekend where it sang through a Fender Super Champ XD. At home (and for larger gigs) it pairs with a Vox AC30 and a pedal board.

    The P90 pick-ups really shine using the volume knob to go between clean, crunch, and lead tones. Very easy to find the 'sweet spot' where playing dynamics bring out the 'woof' of overdrive, almost as if it were an F-holed archtop. To Niles point, you can totally play Monroe style with this set-up.

    But also to Nile's point... why do that! Current favorite tones right now remind of Steve Hackett's work on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

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