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Thread: Should I Buy an OM

  1. #1
    Registered User Mike Scott's Avatar
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    Default Should I Buy an OM

    So, does this make sense. I currently play mandolin, but at nowhere near session tempo. I also started up on the concertina about a year ago and same issue-too slow for session tempo. I enjoy going to the sessions, but would like to be more of a participant. I welcome your opinions about acquiring an Octave and playing accompaniment. At least then I could participate. I don’t believe there are any in the sessions I attend. If I go this direction, the concertina will be history......

    Any viewpoints?

    Thanks!
    Thanks!
    Mike

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  2. #2

    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    I think playing accompaniment on an octave mandolin is a great choice for session playing. You could also play rhythm on your mandolin, but it is more appropriate to the genre to play octave mandolin.
    There are lots of good affordable options in OMs. I'm partial to the Pono OM, but also Eastman, Trinity College, and others.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Since you already have the SA, I'd say no harm in it, but do you want to dilute your progress on mandolin?

    But the pull towards playing with others is strong. I played bass guitar in bands for decades because of it.
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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    I'm not sure I'm really understanding your problem. Why can't you play accompaniment on your mandolin, in much the same way you're proposing to do on the OM?
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  7. #5

    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    It took me 3+ years of practice to get up to jam session speeds, and even now it's only simpler tunes, I have to be warmed up, and it has to be a good day, then I can keep up. Hoping that will continue to improve as I continue to practice.

    I actually converted an OM to a tenor guitar and find that is a cleaner sound, but it lost some acoustic power. It's just removing every other string, so it still plays like an OM.

    On a more interesting note, I was able to duplicate Banjo Ben's rhythm guitar accompaniment lessons on a tenor pretty much perfectly, and it didn't take that long to learn. Basic Rhythm guitar (on a tenor or OM, or even a mandolin), isn't that hard to learn either. So if you are gonna play rhythm, learn to play rhythm. :-)

    When playing rhythm, I find barre chords work really well on an OM (chop chords not so much), and your left hand position will be more like a guitar player than a mandolin player.

    You may want to learn to rhythm on a mando though, that's the whole chop thing. But you don't have to chop all the time, you can also play the rhythm guitar-like patterns too.
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    Registered User Steve-o's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    One thing to consider if there is more than one guitar at a session, the OM occupies a similar niche sonically, so it may be overkill. On the other hand, you can add color if you play counter melody, but that requires skill AND speed.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by flatpicknut View Post
    I'm not sure I'm really understanding your problem. Why can't you play accompaniment on your mandolin, in much the same way you're proposing to do on the OM?
    It's not an ironclad rule, but it's a convention in Irish trad sessions that mandolins play melody, not accompaniment.

    I think the main reason is that the mandolin pitch range is exactly the same as the fiddles, flutes, and concertinas -- the main drivers of unison melody in a session. Chords played in that same pitch range on mandolin tend to clash against the melody, instead of sitting "underneath" the melody like accompaniment an octave down with guitars, OMs, and bouzoukis. You don't get a carved-out space for mandolin in the music like the chop in Bluegrass. So the potential for chordal distraction against the main melody instruments is higher with the high-pitched mandolin in this music.

    The other problem is making sure your chord choices and strum timing don't clash with those of the guitar player(s) in a session, and it seems that there is almost always a six string botherer in most sessions. Accompaniment in Irish and Scottish trad is an improvised art form, so there is potential for distraction with more than one accompanist (the reason many sessions request only one guitar player at a time).

    That said, I do sometimes play chords or partial chords in a local Scottish session along with pipes, mainly focused on the bottom G and D strings (like the "Modal A" or "A5" chord 2200), because that's one way of getting underneath the border pipe range that sits on the upper A and E string range.

    So again, a convention but maybe not an ironclad rule. Just be careful not to distract the melody players, lest ye get the Evil Eye in your direction.

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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    It's not an ironclad rule, but it's a convention in Irish trad sessions that mandolins play melody, not accompaniment.
    Ah, I didn't see anything in the original message about Irish trad.
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by flatpicknut View Post
    Ah, I didn't see anything in the original message about Irish trad.
    Implied by the concertina? Don't see too many squeezeboxes in bluegrass, blues, old-time jams. Also the term "session," which is what the Celtic pickers call 'em, pretty much.
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Yeah I was thinkin BG jam session too. Ours around here can have 5 guitar players all strumming at once, and those that can play melody, do. Improvs are one at a time, but unison melody, and mass strumming is just part of the scene.

    The only thing they are strict about is one bass player per group, but we don't get many bass players so that's never a problem.
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Implied by the concertina? Don't see too many squeezeboxes in bluegrass, blues, old-time jams. Also the term "session," which is what the Celtic pickers call 'em, pretty much.
    Interesting. The folk or bluegrass "jams" or "sessions" I've been to can have just about any instrument imaginable show up, including harmonicas and concertinas. In fact, the concertina made me think Cajun music. And "session" certainly doesn't have a Celtic implication to me! Live and learn!
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  20. #12

    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by flatpicknut View Post
    Interesting. The folk or bluegrass "jams" or "sessions" I've been to can have just about any instrument imaginable show up, including harmonicas and concertinas. In fact, the concertina made me think Cajun music. And "session" certainly doesn't have a Celtic implication to me! Live and learn!
    We'll have to get our terminology together: no concertinas in cajun, just melodeons..

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  22. #13
    Registered User Mike Scott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Sorry, definitely meant ITM sessions. I don’t have any issues with the mandolin at the bluegrass jams I attend. I play Anglo Concertina. I would guess if there’s a concertina that is at a bluegrass jam it would be an English or duet. Totally different animals, but that’s a whole different story..........
    Thanks!
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Implied by the concertina? Don't see too many squeezeboxes in bluegrass, blues, old-time jams. Also the term "session," which is what the Celtic pickers call 'em, pretty much.
    I noticed the OP also posted the question over on thesession.org, so I assumed ITM.

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    Yeah I was thinkin BG jam session too. Ours around here can have 5 guitar players all strumming at once, and those that can play melody, do. Improvs are one at a time, but unison melody, and mass strumming is just part of the scene.
    Irish session dynamics are just different. A big part of that is how harmonically weird the music is, compared to Western Folk genres like Bluegrass, Country, Acoustic Folk, or Blues. In those genres, the chords are basically locked down and don't shift around too much. Everyone can be on the same page for the chord changes.

    Irish music just isn't that predictable. It can be a train wreck when two or more guitar players try to figure out the chords and rhythm timing in something weird like "Kid on the Mountain" that shifts between E dorian and G major, or a Paddy Fahey tune that's constantly shifting the modal feel with alternating C and C# notes in the melody. There are a lot more dance rhythms to keep track of too, compared to the straight-ahead time signature and rhythm pulse in something like Bluegrass.

    Anyway, that's why many Irish sessions try to limit the number of guitar players, so they don't distract the melody players. A "guitar army" can work in a Bluegrass or OldTime jam, but it's (usually) deadly for an Irish session.

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  25. #15
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by flatpicknut View Post
    I'm not sure I'm really understanding your problem. Why can't you play accompaniment on your mandolin, in much the same way you're proposing to do on the OM?
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    I would add that though I do not play an OM, I do find that the longer scale I play the faster tunes become more difficult. Mandolin usually not a problem, 17 " scale Weber mandola more difficult for me than my 16" scale Coleman mandola.
    I have never heard anyone else express this before but perhaps everyone else is more talented than me.
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Ive just bought an Ashbury octave, the 32E and I love it!
    But I have been playing mandolin for a while now, and a lot of guitar before that. I think its quite different from the mandolin, a lot of double stops and chords, all the way up the neck and theory. It makes me think more harmonically and its definitely a heavier workout with the fingers. Id recommend staying with the mandolin till your speed builds up and work on a repertoire. Work on tremolo, and some really simple rhythmic oldtime tunes.

    Playing with others would maybe involve finding a singer or two?
    The problem also is that the concertina is a wonderful instrument!

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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    I bought an OM “just ‘cuz’”. It is a lot of fun but it will never replace my mandolin.

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  31. #18
    Registered User Jim DeSalvio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    The Pono Octaves sold by the Mandolin Store are very nice, and not too pricey. I would look at those. I am very happy with my 12-fret model. I like the idea of trying to find a sound that will integrate well with others, and occupy a different sonic spectrum.
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  33. #19

    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Short answer: Yes

    Long answer: If it is just to participate in the session, then it depends on what you can add to the session. As stated before, if there is a guitar or zouk playing rhythm, then whatever you do on the OM would have to compliment them. If you want to switch off with the guitar player, I am sure that they may appreciate a break, particularly if they play another instrument.

    Another idea is to just not play fast until you are ready. There are many tunes that sound great played slower. In the session I attend, if I hear a tune played at a moderate tempo, I will ask the name and look it up (so far I havn't learned any of them, lol). Play a slow air, ballad or lament, which can be great on an OM.

    I wouldn't give up on the mandolin or concertina, keep working the tempos.
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Well I suppose you already know this if you're active on session.org but there are a variety of opinions on stringed accompaniment in a session. Some of the "six string botherer" sentiment is good natured and some of it is deadly serious! Top Irish bands have been using stringed accompaniment for decades but that may not be enough the local session curmudgeon.

    And to be fair ITM can be accompanied many different ways and clashing accompaniment really does muck things up. In bluegrass and old time most guitarists will play a sort of boom-chuck rhythm so multiple guitars are just more volume. Imagine if you had one fellow playing boomchuck, one fellow playing jazz, and another Texas swing. It cooouuuuld work...but more likely it would mess things up.

    It's been awhile since I've been to a session but I think one bodhran, one guitar, one bouzouki works best. Trade off tunes, take a break, grab the curmudgeon a beer, etc.

    If your goal is to be integrated into a specific session than you know that session better than I. If your goal is to be welcome in ITM, you might want to stick to a melody instrument.
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    How could I advise anybody against getting an OM? Go get one.
    Playing ITM accompaniment is not a trivial task, however. You have to acquire a feeling for harmonies for a tune the moment you hear it. Doublestops is what to shoot for. Practise accompaniment with recorded tunes first.
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Lots of good options out there. I ran across this video at Elderly today and thought worth sharing.


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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Scott View Post
    *** I enjoy going to the sessions, but would like to be more of a participant. I welcome your opinions about acquiring an Octave and playing accompaniment. At least then I could participate. I don’t believe there are any in the sessions I attend. If I go this direction, the concertina will be history......
    1) I've been to bluegrass jam sessions that usually had about 25 people playing and I've been to Irish music sessions with usually about 10 playing. The Irish sessions have a learning group meeting separately 2 X a month and play the tunes slower. I suggest asking to make an announcement at your group to see if there are any others there who would would like to meet separately and play the tunes slower. And see if there is any interest.

    2) Had a Weber OM a couple of years ago. Saw the Eastman copy in a store and played it. Be aware that, to my ears, they did not sound anywhere near the same. If you buy an OM, just be sure that you are happy with its tone. Also - from a tone standpoint, your OM will likely be drowned out by the guitars, unless it is a small group. Watch some of the Sierra Hull stuff and you will see what I mean.


    Good luck.

    PS - Just notice that you are in Bend. The two groups I mention above are indeed the Bend groups. One of which you are probably attending - likely the bluegrass.

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  43. #24
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    No Financial Interest.

    My only reason for posting this is to just show that a person can find some nice mid-tier Octave Mandolins on the used market. Both of these are in Denver.

    This Weber Gallatin OM is on consignment at a luthier’s shop.
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    This Weber Sage 2 OM is on Denver Craigslist.
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    Haven’t played either one. Don’t know their condition. They may accept offers. I believe that Victor Guitar will ship.

  44. #25
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should I Buy an OM

    Quote Originally Posted by flatpicknut View Post
    Interesting. The folk or bluegrass "jams" or "sessions" I've been to can have just about any instrument imaginable show up, including harmonicas and concertinas...
    Depends on how "bluegrass" your bluegrass jam is. If it's mostly veteran bluegrass pickers, they may not welcome "non-bluegrass" instruments -- harmonicas, accordions, keyboards, any type of percussion, etc. I've been to quite a few events labeled as "bluegrass jams" that had a strong mixture of "trad" country -- Hank Williams Sr., Ernest Tubb, etc. -- and they were more eclectic and inclusive.

    We joke from time to time about the "bluegrass police," but there are quite a few bluegrass musicians who want to keep the instrumental lineup to banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, Dobro, and acoustic bass. Beyond that lies chaos, I guess. An octave mandolin would arouse a certain amount of suspicion there.

    Folk jams and sing-arounds, on the other hand, are rife with whatever someone brings. Has to be acoustic, generally, but beyond that, pretty much anything goes. I know a woman who sometimes brings her clarinet to folk club sing-arounds, and she's welcome, since she's a good player, and knows when to play and when not to.
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