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Thread: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same song

  1. #1

    Default Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same song

    Hey, all, I've just been hired by a country artist to be part of his live band. He had several tracks recorded in Nashville and the Nashville guys layered a ton of mandolin and electric slide guitar into the tunes.

    While he knows that I'm just one guy and obviously can't cover everything, he would like for me to cover as much as possible. There are places in these songs, however, where a mandolin lick is back to back with a slide guitar lick and I'm trying to figure out how best to cover these. I'd also be switching back and forth multiple times for every song. The biggest concerns are as follows:

    1) Physically switching instruments in a quick fashion. I've considered wearing the mando over the electric guitar and swinging the mandolin out of the way when it's not needed. I've considered mounting the mandolin to a stand of some sort (would the MBrace stand fit an A-shape mandolin?), and of course I've considered using effect pedals to make the electric sound like a mando or a mando sound like an electric (I will admit that it's really hard to play slide on a mandolin as the targets are much smaller).

    2) Constantly dealing with my slide. I've always played with a full finger slide - a glass slide for a long time until I bought a steel slide and really liked the tone of that. If I have to go directly from slide to no slide, I just flick my wrist and throw the slide on the floor. If I have a quick riff or chord that requires fingers, I use my pointer, middle, pinky to play (I wear my slide on my ring finger). This is a lot more challenging while playing the mandolin since the shapes are smaller. I'm considering one of those spinning half slides or bars - I guess I'm just asking if anyone here has used one to great success, as I tried one last time I was slide shopping and didn't like it.

    3) Electronics. I have an HX Effects by Line 6 that can handle the different input and output needs of switching between electric guitar and acoustic mandolin with a single switch. It just means that, barring a wireless kit purchase, I'll have two cables hanging off of me at all times to manage. It also means that in the space of only a few beats of music, I'll need to physically change instruments (either by swinging one into place or by walking up to a mounted mandolin), hit a switch to mute one instrument and unmute the other, and manipulate a slide on my finger. I know with practice it will get easier, but right now it seems daunting.

    The band does have a lead guitar player who can cover some of the recorded slide licks on regular guitar, and the lead singer does play rhythm right now (though he's trying to get away from playing guitar full time), so I don't have to get EVERYTHING, but I'm trying to see if I can remove as many hurdles as possible so I can cover as much as I can.

    Thanks in advance for any tips!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same s

    I think you need to prioritize a solution which does not require you to quick-change physical stuff. You're going to tear up your gear, wear out yourself, or both. Plus, what happens if your instrument gets snagged while you're doing this death-dance of switching instruments around? You'll miss your entrance and be even more stressed out. And then think about it from the audience's perspective, they're going to be distracted watching you do all this stuff. And if you look stressed, you'll telegraph that to the audience.

    Some things you could do

    - Pre-record a solo onto a looper pedal. Still play both instruments, but use the looped one to give you time to transition. If your guy isn't willing to hire two players, that's as close as he's going to get to the recorded track.

    - Or if you want to do it really live, have your band let you play and record a solo earlier on as an intro, then build and kick off into the full mix, and do your back-to-back stuff off the one you just recorded in the intro.

    I think some combination of conversations and gear will get you there.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same s

    Have you considered playing slide mandolin? You can pop a loose full finger slide on/off into your mouth (assuming you are not singing). This actually can work pretty well, but it more-or-less precludes open tunings for the slide part....

  4. #4
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same s

    How bout a lap steel on a stand?
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

  5. #5
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same s

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Sheets View Post
    How bout a lap steel on a stand?
    That was my initial thought too. Get a small lap steel and mount it on a stand. Some come with stands, without being a full-size pedal steel. Use a clamp-on shelf to hold a Stevens Bar or Bullet Bar to play overhand-style, which isn't that hard to learn if you already play bottleneck style.

    Then you can play the mandolin on a strap as usual, and stand near the lap steel for swapping licks between the instruments. It will be much faster to pick up and put down a steel bar than getting a bottleneck on and off your finger.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same s

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    That was my initial thought too. Get a small lap steel and mount it on a stand. Some come with stands, without being a full-size pedal steel. Use a clamp-on shelf to hold a Stevens Bar or Bullet Bar to play overhand-style, which isn't that hard to learn if you already play bottleneck style.

    Then you can play the mandolin on a strap as usual, and stand near the lap steel for swapping licks between the instruments. It will be much faster to pick up and put down a steel bar than getting a bottleneck on and off your finger.
    I'll run it past the client, but I know he specifically didn't want a pedal steel player. I don't know if it's aesthetic or if it was sound (I'm honestly more of a blues and rock slide player, so I'm learning country licks as fast as I can), and I know a lap steel isn't really the same thing as a pedal steel, but he definitely wanted a slide guitar.

    That said, you're absolutely right - it will be infinitely easier to do it with a lap steel. If I don't have one of the two instruments mounted, I'm afraid my ability to cover both parts will be severely limited.

  7. #7
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same s

    Perhaps this could be of assistance?
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    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

  8. #8
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
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    Default Re: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same s

    You certainly could set up a Tele or Strat up on a stand flat and play it overhand with a bar. Put strap locks on the mandolin. It is likely that you can pick up a lap steel with a P 90 ….. it may be the tone of a pedal steel or the sliding between tunings your new employer wants to avoid. Standard tuning will likely solve his issue.... unless they are visual then a stand that holds one or the uther ar splaying angle is your best bet.... Luck. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  9. #9
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips for playing mandolin and electric slide... on the same s

    Quote Originally Posted by dkerwood View Post
    I'll run it past the client, but I know he specifically didn't want a pedal steel player. I don't know if it's aesthetic or if it was sound (I'm honestly more of a blues and rock slide player, so I'm learning country licks as fast as I can), and I know a lap steel isn't really the same thing as a pedal steel, but he definitely wanted a slide guitar.
    Okay, the basic idea could still work if you mount an acoustic guitar horizontally on a stand, and play it overhand slide with a Bullet or Stevens Slide Bar. You'd get more sustain with a squareneck Dobro or National resonator guitar, and that should look "Country" enough.

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