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Thread: Why the connection?

  1. #1
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Why the connection?

    So, one day not too long ago, I was sitting in the Paris airport waiting for a flight, so I got out my mandolin and played a few tunes. When I finished, a guy near me asked "well, since you can play that thing, you must be able to play banjo?" I happen to be able to play the banjo, but what's up with that assumption? Then later I was watching some mandolinist on YouTube, and in the comments someone says, "hmm, you play that well, can you play banjo?" And the person in question plays tenor banjo. Have any of y'all gotten that? And why is there an assumption that mandolinists play banjo?
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Maybe the link is the fact that the tenor banjo can be tuned GDAE like the mandolin (though an octave lower)? Or maybe just that it is an instrumnet with strings but does not look like a guitar, so must have a connection with other odd stringed instruments. OR - if we play mandolin, then we must be able to play ANY other stringed instrument.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Yes I've been asked if I play banjo, well and the other type of grass instruments, I can a few tunes on banjo-haven't kept up with it, but can play guitar pretty well-well used to I should say as I'm not up on my guitar chops as mandolin has gotten the attention for over 20 years!

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    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Well, I don't play banjo, so they would be wrong in making that assumption with me. However, it seems that when I read the Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, many of the musicians mentioned play several of the 'bluegrass instruments'.
    "All of us contain Music & Truth, but most of us can't get it out." - Mark Twain

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    As someone who also plays both and also some other instruments, I think in bluegrass circles people see a lot of multi-instrumentalists and assume banjo and mandolin are easy to switch between...

    But for a person who may know even just a little bit about them, tenor banjo and mandolin normally share the same 5ths interval (violin family) tuning and are both used in Irish, Celtic, some old jazz, roots and even some classical circles, making the potential of moving from one instrument to the other pretty easy. And just by looking at them, most people don't recognize the difference between a tenor banjo and a plectrum banjo so that difference doesn't usually come to mind.

    Of course I screw that all up because I tune (and uniquely string) my mandolins to 5-string banjo interval GCEg tuning, but most people don't recognize that by watching or listening to me play. Adding to the confusion, I also tune my banjo uke to cCEG open C tuning, and I tune my tenor banjo to F-Bb-D-f open Bb tuning, my 5-string cello banjo to octave gDGBd tuning and my long-neck banjo to e-B-E-G#-b open E tuning. I do tune my normal 5-string banjos, my double bass and my square neck Dobro normally though.
    Last edited by dhergert; Aug-28-2019 at 5:55am.
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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Hmm, interesting conclusions. I'll wager that the general populace doesn't know that a tenor banjo is tuned in fifths, (or even what one is, or what that means) I have noticed the frequency of multi instrumentalism, and I think probably the string instrument that doesn't look like guitar theory is probably close to the truth
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    I find a 50/50 split of people thinking that because you can play one instrument, you can play another.

    Some folks are surprised that I can play another instrument besides (whatever it is that I am playing at the time); while others just naturally assume that because you can play one instrument, every other instrument is pretty much the same thing - only with perhaps just a different shape.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    If I make the assumption that if I can play the mandolin I can obviously play the violin because they are tuned alike I'm totally wrong. I've tried and I can't.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    You know, I think sometimes people are just trying to make conversation and really aren't thinking that much about the connection between instruments that may or may not exist. I've been asked all sorts of strange things while traveling and usually (but not always) welcome the diversion. That may be all the other person is looking for.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Guitar is mainstream. All other instruments get crammed together in backwaters - there is the connection.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    Guitar is mainstream. All other instruments get crammed together in backwaters - there is the connection.
    Exactly, as in, "Since you play the concertina I assume you play the bagpipes".

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Maybe it was the music selection? If it was a Bluegrass or OldTime tune, some people might think of it as music "normally" played on banjo. If it was a Classical piece, maybe not so much.

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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    It could have been the music selection, but considering my repertoire, and what I may have been playing, it'd be more likely to associate it with concertina or fiddle. Although, my goal is to be able to play any instrument anywhere. So someone could say, "oh you play piano, can you play the bagpipes?" And I could say as a matter of fact, yes I do!
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Gunnar, That's quite an ambition. I should think it would provide acumen for arranging, composing, producing, session work, etc. shouid your inclinations go that way. Of course there's the gratification of experience and exploration as well - I'm a bit addicted to that. While I have no particular goals to learn (more instruments - hdgfl was the last one I hope - I'm going to resist sitar/dilruba) - I've simply been obsessed with musical instruments since I can remember.

    The pipes (prbly uilleann or small pipes) are something I would have loved to take up - having experience with horns and droney things hurdy-gurdy, squeezeboxes, et al.. But by that time I had instruments and sounds I loved refined enough to be able to resist. Still, if I didn't have loads of woodwinds around to blow and accordions to squeeze, I probably would have got right into it.

    One of the most evocative things Ive found in music is playing pipe tunes (on wire harp in my case). But I also experience this depth in other trad (old) forms. One of the best things Ive found with studying widely is - well, I like variety, and there's this richness everywhere..

    *BUT, it's messy. From descriptions I've read, my place is a lot like David Lindley's - with instruments scattered everywhere..
    Last edited by catmandu2; Aug-28-2019 at 3:07pm.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    I play fiddle as well as mandolin, but did not find the switch easy, though I think switching the other direction would be harder.

    My pet peeve is everyone who sees me with a mandolin assuming I play bluegrass, although I do understand the association of the two.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    I'm curious why banjo was named specifically. If someone is a multi-instrumentalist, i'd think the go-to question would be "do you also play guitar?" or "do you also play piano?" so my thought is that it's a bluegrass-related question. I think of banjo as a bluegrass/folky kind of instrument even though I play ITM and have played with banjoists for years. Banjo still seems, in my mind, wedded to bluegrass. So I'll say that whoever was asking knew more about bluegrass or bluegrass-style music than other genres and was making that link between mandolin, bluegrass and that iconic bluegrass instrument, the banjo. My 2 cents.
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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why the connection?

    Catmandu, that is the general idea, I already play several instruments, and I've always loved the bagpipes, so I'd love to get some whenever I can afford it....
    Randi, that's likely, I probably was playing a bluegrass tune (it was probably red haired boy) but it kind of seemed like a weird question. And then I perpetuated the assumption by the fact that I do play banjo
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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