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Thread: Newbie question: Mandolin for other instrumentals

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    Default Newbie question: Mandolin for other instrumentals

    I just started learning the mandolin. I'm starting with some basic chords and easy picking technique with old standards ("Red River Valley," etc.). But there are a number of songs that I personally am very fond of that I wonder if I could "transpose" to the mandolin. Some of these are not mandolin instrumentals. A number of them have banjo on lead as well as guitar. Is there a simple guide or method for transposing these (for lack of a better term)? Is it as simple as figuring out which chords populate the song then just playing those chords via mandolin?

    Hopefully this question makes sense... Thanks for any suggestions.

    -Mark

  2. #2
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie question: Mandolin for other instrumentals

    The mandolin is VERY flexible, whether you want to play melody, chords, melodic-type fill. A great way to expand your mandolin learning is to just take song books with songs you like and learn the songs on mandolin. Learn the chords, then learn the melody. If you're up to it, work out some intro lines, some fill lines, and a finish. Some songs will be very easy to play - keys like G, D, and A, for instance. Other keys will require you to either learn more complicated chords or movable chord shapes, or transpose to the nearest "easy" key (that last option only works if you're playing alone and if you can still sing the song in the transposed key).

    Also, I highly recommend "The Bluegrass Mandolin," by Jack Tottle.

    https://www.amazon.com/Bluegrass-Man...gateway&sr=8-2

    The book works through popular folk songs and tunes and helps you learn to play rhythm, lead, intros, fills, and endings.
    Doug Brock
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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie question: Mandolin for other instrumentals

    Quote Originally Posted by putnamm View Post
    .... Is it as simple as figuring out which chords populate the song then just playing those chords via mandolin?....
    -Mark
    Yes.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”

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    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Newbie question: Mandolin for other instrumentals

    Just a few words of, I hope, wisdom:

    Most here started on guitar, so you're in sympathetic company.

    Some folks get excited that mandolin's tuning is the bottom 4 strings of guitar ... backward. Others find that information useless, misleading, and confounding. Where I found it helpful early on was for transferring chords, especially if you remember that the guitar's low E-string COULD be fretted (same as the high E) but is not always. Good example is open D chord: On guitar it's (2)00232; play the mirror image of the bottom fours strings and it becomes 2002 on mandolin (yep, just happens to be symmetrical!).

    A complicating factor is that, with closer-spaced frets and further-tuned strings than guitar, there are more fingering variations available, even in "just" 1st position. A C chord could be 0230, 5230, 0233, etc. before moving up the neck. Which one you chose is part of the fun.

    IF you read notation:
    - Mandolin's E & D strings are read EXACTLY the same as guitar. (Most are unaware that guitar "sounds" an octave lower than written, as was I was for 5 decades!)
    - Mandolin's A & G strings have the same notes as the guitar's, but an octave higher/lower. THAT helped the notation-reading a lot.

    FWIW: One of my earlier accomplishments on mandolin was getting a fairly good version of The Eagles' "Witchy Woman". Almost anything can be done!
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

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    Registered User Steve Lavelle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie question: Mandolin for other instrumentals

    Guidance on the correct musical teminology:
    Transposing is not the correct term for what you want to do. To transpose is "write or play (music) in a different key from the original".
    What you want to do is more commonly called transcription ("rewriting a piece of music, either solo or ensemble, for another instrument or other instruments than which it was originally intended.")
    Steve Lavelle
    '93 Flatiron Performer F

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie question: Mandolin for other instrumentals

    You know, a song is meant for the human voice. So any time you play it on an instrument ... it's still the same song. it's just on an instrument. A song played on a guitar is ... a song played on guitar. It's still the same song when you play it on a flute. Melody is like that. Chord backing? A G chord on guitar is a G chord on a mandolin or a harp or a uke or piano or any instrument that allows chords. It may sound different, but the makeup is still that of the notes that make up a G chord.

    there's no rule that says any song or tune must be played on any particular instrument or .. I dunno, one of your fingers drops off? The guitar/uke/piano/mandolin/bagpipe police will come and take your instrument away? Play what you want on your mandolin. Play jazz standards. Play klezmer waltzes. Play ITM reels and jigs. Play bluegrass standards. Play classical Beethovan (and yes, he actually wrote for mandolin, but you can play his violin sonatas on mandolin if you want). Expand your experience and don't worry about whether something "should" or "can" be played on mandolin. Because it can if you want to.
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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie question: Mandolin for other instrumentals

    As usual, putnamm, I think folks are making things much more complicated than the question asked.

    Songs and tunes are accompanied by a series of chords that fit the melody. The chords are determined by the melody and by the key in which the melody is played. The chords are NOT restricted to a specific instrument.

    So if you can accompany a tune or song on a guitar or banjo, or have sheet music listing the chords for those instruments (or any others), you simply play those chords on your mandolin to accompany. It is true that you need to know how to finger those chords specifically on the mandolin, but you can learn those from chord charts if needed.

    Now adding embellishments or solos is another matter, and more complicated. But you didn't ask about that.

    (or perhaps I am misunderstanding your question)
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”

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