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Thread: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

  1. #51
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I learned the same way as Caleb and I'm sure a ton of other players have gone the same route. (O.K. I did have some choir experience in high school.) But my point is that inspiration and self exploration, with little help, went a long way.

    Now fast forward a few decades and one finds that their musical tastes have matured but the ability to 'stay with them' has dwindled considerably.

    My wife and I met over the issue of classical vs. folk music. She was playing in an Irish trio and thought she "sounded like a classical stiff". I was mentioned as the guy to learn Irish fiddle from. And even today she marvels at how I can memorize tunes and I marvel at how she can look at a bunch of dots on a page and play amazing stuff.



    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    My first instrument was guitar over 25 years ago. I learned by having a friend show me where to place my fingers to make chords. I eventually figured out what most of those chords were called (though some I still don't know), but even that took a long time of stumbling over information here and there, and to this day I have no idea why a G chord is called a G chord, etc.

    I figured out or was shown "patterns" and learned how to play guitar solos in certain keys (whatever that meant) by memorizing places on the fretboard. I never learned to read music but figured out tab because I think anyone could do that. When I came to the mandolin it was much the same. I just figured stuff out by ear, or by watching someone else, or by tab where available.


    I bet there are a lot of other players like this out there. And I'm sure that is VERY hard for people trained in music to relate to. My own grandmother was a classically-trained pianist and it would absolutely blow her mind that I could play guitar and mandolin. It especially blew her mind that I would make up tunes and things. She never made up a tune in her life, or ever played anything not written on a page. She would sit and listen to me and always say, "How in the world are you doing that?"
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  3. #52
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Intriguing but none ! Maybe in the future !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    And even today she marvels at how I can memorize tunes and I marvel at how she can look at a bunch of dots on a page and play amazing stuff.
    So true about classically or formally trained vrs vernacular learning!
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    So true about classically or formally trained vrs vernacular learning!
    I love that term "vernacular learning". Since early childhood I could sing 'on pitch' and memorize tunes. My grandfather played 1930's jazz on piano by ear and could improvise like crazy. Obviously I had spent a lot of time with the guy as a toddler and youngster. He could read music but mostly 'had the tunes in his head'. Now I wish I had learned more from him but he moved to Florida when I was old enough to start lessons. His name is Reinhardt and I've always wondered if we are related to Django. (Probably not ,after some research. Reinhardt is a common name.)

    Fast forward about 50 years and you'll find that kid still boogie-woogies but is working hard at reading and music theory.
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  6. #55

    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I like to use mandola when playing blues and swing tunes. It took a little bit of practice to get the swing style chords sounding good - all strings playing clear.
    It is especially satisfying when playing 20's blues numbers - Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out for example. The sustain and depth of tone of the mandola really work for these tunes.

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  8. #56

    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    That’s a great song, QuakeCity, did you do a vid of yourself playing it? Song of the week?

    Scrapper Blackwell - Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=626pNZB8xXE

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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Really interesting thread, @all, touching on some stuff I think a lot of us think about in relation to OUR relation with music. @Caleb, I especially like your distinction between player & musician.

    I picked up an Eastman mandola last year after having played mandolin for a couple of years, knowing I wanted its sonority, but with a lot of trepidation of not being enough of a musician to understand how to transpose, how to chord, etc. My advice to you, Caleb, is - jump in. The mandola opened up a whole new world of how to think about the songs you know, how to learn new tunes and to music in general. I especially like it to accompany vocals, or as a layering instrument when recording, with tempos where its tonality & sustain can carry things. Playing it has made me a better player technique-wise and mentally for sure.

    You can approach it as a bigger mando, nothing wrong with that, but it really comes into its own when you can adapt the song to the instrument and vice-versa. That headspace isn't too hard to get to - take it from another player!

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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by bbcee View Post
    Really interesting thread, @all, touching on some stuff I think a lot of us think about in relation to OUR relation with music. @Caleb, I especially like your distinction between player & musician.

    I picked up an Eastman mandola last year after having played mandolin for a couple of years, knowing I wanted its sonority, but with a lot of trepidation of not being enough of a musician to understand how to transpose, how to chord, etc. My advice to you, Caleb, is - jump in. The mandola opened up a whole new world of how to think about the songs you know, how to learn new tunes and to music in general. I especially like it to accompany vocals, or as a layering instrument when recording, with tempos where its tonality & sustain can carry things. Playing it has made me a better player technique-wise and mentally for sure.

    You can approach it as a bigger mando, nothing wrong with that, but it really comes into its own when you can adapt the song to the instrument and vice-versa. That headspace isn't too hard to get to - take it from another player!
    Indeed a great thread, and very helpful to me.

    Yes, when I say musician vs player, I'm not splitting hairs but see a genuine distinction. To me, people who can read music, compose (i.e. filling in notes on a staff with a pencil), and actually understand how music fits together like a math equation, are actual musicians. Then there are people like me who just follow the sounds and feel of it all and *play* music. The ins and outs of it all, the _WHY_ it all works, have always been a holy mystery to me. But even understanding all of that would not make it any easier for my fingers to do what they already have a very hard time doing. All said, I really am content to just play a few tunes and enjoy myself. I just want to be able to play them all better, and that's all in the fingers and the hours it takes to get them to cooperate. Enough of my autobiography...

    bbcee, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on your Eastman mandola. I have searched the Cafe and probably read every post about a mandola here by now. I noticed a few comments about the sound and depth of the Eastmans being somewhat underwhelming. I used to own an Eastman 505 mandolin, and while it was pretty much flawlessly built, the sound was a bit "thin."

    While my eye leans heavily towards the simplicity of a Big Muddy (et al flattop A-styles), I have to admit that the Eastman MDA315 mandola looks very cool. I like the look of it better than the one with the gloss (MDA815), but some of those look nice too (just hard to justify the $1000 price difference for a gloss finish and better tuners?). Eastman made an oval hole F-syle mandola (MDA814) a while back and those are super rare now. I'd be tempted to buy one of those if I ran across one because I really like the design, though the Hobbit in me will always like the lute-like Big Muddy. All said, I'm still trying to figure it all out, but can definitely see myself getting a mandola at some point.
    "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly
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    Favourable conditions never come."
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  12. #59

    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    If you want to indulge your inner hobbit and go for one of the flat top mandolas, I would highly recommend Davy Stuart. The price range on his website is in NZ dollars and the exchange rate is pretty favorable for US customers.
    http://www.stuart.co.nz/pagex.asp?bioid=4259
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Leyda View Post
    If you want to indulge your inner hobbit and go for one of the flat top mandolas, I would highly recommend Davy Stuart. The price range on his website is in NZ dollars and the exchange rate is pretty favorable for US customers.
    http://www.stuart.co.nz/pagex.asp?bioid=4259
    Thanks for the heads up. I'd never heard of this builder and really like what he is making. There is also a definite Hobbit connection with New Zealand that's pretty cool as well.
    "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly
    that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable.
    Favourable conditions never come."
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I'd had an interest in learning mandola for a while, too, so when the opportunity arose recently to acquire a Pono prototype tenor-uke-bodied mandola at a good price, I went ahead and bought it, figuring that I probably wouldn't play it as often as my mandolin but that having it would likely, at the very least, motivate me to work on my transposition skills. Granted, because mine is a hybrid of sorts (a Dolalele?), the body style probably contributes something to its tone and performance, too, but my mandola has proven a very versatile instrument, and to my surprise, it's the one I now find myself reaching for first and playing longest every day.

    Why? The size and scale length feel just right, the tone is hauntingly lovely and rich, the sustain is amazing, and while it is as well suited for melody as my mandolin and octave, it has proven to be a better accompaniment instrument for me than either of them, so I use it a lot when singing. It does, as someone else mentioned, occupy a similar 'sonic space' to guitar, but I am not using it in a situation where it needs to compete, so that's actually been a plus for me.

    And my dog has very strong opinions about the high e string on my violin and mando, and she doesn't leave the room in a huff when I play my mandola...so, you know, there's that.

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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Been playing my Octave for about 5 months now. One of the (many) challenges that I’ve had, and just about sorted out, is to pivot the left wrist as seen from above in a clockwise direction as I jump down to the third and then fourth strings. Basically trying to move smoothly from a mandolin shaped hand to guitar shaped.

    It’s cool too, to use a capo moving up the neck and feel my style become less three dimensional, more resonant for individual notes and richer, more melodic and more direct in some ways.

    I’ve found that at each step the mandola is a very satisfying instrument to learn, and especially when beginning to use more double stops and full chords during tunes.

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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post

    I’ve found that at each step the mandola is a very satisfying instrument to learn, and especially when beginning to use more double stops and full chords during tunes.
    I did the Artistsworks Mike Marshall lessons for a bit, the video I submitted was Cuckoo's Nest on mandola.
    Mike's main point to me was -try not to do what you would on a mandolin when playing mandola, but leverage the strengths of the instrument, so less trills and quick runs on the lower courses and more emphasis on double stops and open strings.
    atsunrise I think you are on the right track!
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

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  22. #64
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I've been working on chords. The thing I noticed last night was that the mandolin is small, and some four note chords really required some effort to fit my SMALL hands into place. That's not the case with the mandola.

    Also regarding the search for a good value. Some instruments are made to 'look cool' in order to increase sales and save money in manufacturing. The quality is inside, where you can't see it: better and time consuming detail work costs money. So find someone who cares about making instruments....
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Been cruising eBay and seeing some of the Greek-made, bowlback mandolas. Some of them look nice (even if a bit too much bling for me), and with prices ranging from $500-$900 or so, I figure the quality is probably pretty good. Anyone have experience with any of these Greek instruments? The whole bowlback thing is something I’ve not given much thought to.
    "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly
    that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable.
    Favourable conditions never come."
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I like the Greek ones too, maybe in darker wood (less contrast). They do ring a lot, for me that is, and I’d need to improve my slides because I still find that if I play full neck, one or two string style then my fingers start to hurt. I’m probably doing something wrong.
    I actually really like the quite narrow bodied ones, with either bare dark wood or ‘well used’ matt finish, not sure what they’re called, there’s an example on the photo here:


    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bsUYqF...&index=14&t=0s

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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    Been cruising eBay and seeing some of the Greek-made, bowlback mandolas. Some of them look nice (even if a bit too much bling for me), and with prices ranging from $500-$900 or so, I figure the quality is probably pretty good. Anyone have experience with any of these Greek instruments? The whole bowlback thing is something I’ve not given much thought to.
    I have a Greek Sakis mandola that I am happy with, I was playing it in a group last night. I have mine strung as an Octave but it was built to be CGDA. I think it was one of the cheaper models, and it's a little rough and ready in places but a perfectly good, and good sounding instrument. I play mostly light classical and arranged folk pieces on it, so generally a melody or harmony line rather than chords and lots of ornamentation, and it works well for that. It's well within my bling tolerance zone -but I have never been accused of having too much taste.
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Neapolitan-...AAAOSwzANanW5Z

    ^^^

    This one looks interesting, though I swear the price went up $10 since yesterday. Odd. Not sure why it’s a few hundred less than the other Greek-made mandolas on eBay. Wish they’d list the name of the maker. That bit being a mystery is somewhat troubling for me.
    "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Great thread! I have enjoyed reading. I really love the sound of a mandola and have tried it more than once. I am preparing to make the dive again with a Sawchyn mandola. I suppose I just enjoy trying to learn and the post awhile back a while about it being good for the mind of older people fits me well. I'm older and will never be a "real" musician but I go forth and enjoy trying to learn. To me (I keep reminding myself) it has to be about the journey. Thanks for the thread.

  30. #70
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. Bryant View Post
    Great thread! I have enjoyed reading. I really love the sound of a mandola and have tried it more than once. I am preparing to make the dive again with a Sawchyn mandola. I suppose I just enjoy trying to learn and the post awhile back a while about it being good for the mind of older people fits me well. I'm older and will never be a "real" musician but I go forth and enjoy trying to learn. To me (I keep reminding myself) it has to be about the journey. Thanks for the thread.
    Great thread indeed, and one I continue to learn and benefit from. I'd never heard of this maker before, so it's been yet another avenue to explore. Thank you, J.C. Bryant.

    I've got a few hundred bucks stashed away in my rat hole right now and have been tempted to pull the trigger on a mandola just to get started playing it. But mid-life has brought on at least _some_ wisdom and I'm pretty sure I'll be disappointed with a super cheap instrument. There is an Ashbury for around $400 that seems simple, Hobbit-like, and interesting: but they also offer another model and the price goes up around 3 bills more. I contacted Hobgoblin and was told this was mainly cosmetic. If I found one of these (or a Big Buddy) used, I'd probably jump on it in a hurry, knowing I could likely sell and recoup if I wanted something different. I really like the Davy Stuart stuff too. Pretty sure there'd be a nice wait on that. And then there is the Eastman line, while not simple and earthy like the oval-holes, surely are beautiful and get good press.

    The ovals, for the most part, don't seem to have adjustable truss rods, though I'm sure there is some steel in the neck for stability, and I wonder about this for setup purposes.

    For now I'm content to play mandolin and wait for a great deal.
    "The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly
    that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable.
    Favourable conditions never come."
    -C.S. Lewis, Learning in Wartime

  31. #71
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    My experience with mandola has been this. I was definitely attracted to the lower pitch. And I found that - playing by myself - mandola is very enjoyable because the longer scale and lower pitch produce a mellower (for want of a better word) sound. Also for the rare occasions when I try to sing by myself - I prefer the mandola. However, when playing with other musicians (read - at least one guitarist), which is mainly what I do, I find the mandola competes with the guitar's sonic space - so I don't use the mandola at all playing with others. It's my occasional on-the-couch instrument.

    Great instrument though, no doubt about it.
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  33. #72
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I suppose it depends on your situation regarding other instruments. I play (mandola) with one or two violins and it sounds great.

    Sometime I'd like to play(mandola) with a mandolin and mandocello but it would be classical or klezmer music, or dawg jazz which I think would be really cool.

    Or this would be a great group to join...from Belgum


    Last edited by DougC; Oct-10-2019 at 1:41pm.
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    ...
    Last edited by atsunrise; Oct-10-2019 at 4:09pm.

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