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Thread: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

  1. #26

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

    The sustain is great.
    I’m trying to learn how to hit a couple of strings as a double stop on all of the third beats for example. Not easy. It gives a feeling of accompaniment.
    Another is to play, especially in the key of G, double stops on the first two strings around 12th, 15th fret, alternating with really bass notes on the third and fourth strings open G and D.
    Sometimes it’s difficult because, during a fast tune the open strings will ring over a chord change, and clash, that’s where playing notes at the seventh fret helps but slows things down.
    Another exercise that really helps me is using the first finger only to play a scale all the way up just one string. Practice sliding to each note too.

    In terms of playing with others, I’ve found it really good to play the Octave in bass guitar style by alternating notes eg. 1, 5 then 4, 1 then 5, 2 etc with some riffs while singing with others who sing and play ukulele. My bass ukulele tuned in fifths makes a good contrast instrument too.

  2. #27

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

    For me, mandola was a gateway to tenor guitar.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
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  4. #28
    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    What is your experience with an Octave Mandolin after having a Mandola? I think I'd like one for many of the reasons mentioned, however scale length is a concern. (And I'm thinking of selling / trading my guitar because it is just 'too big'. Alas, I have small hands too.)
    My usual 'mandola' is actually an Arrow G5 hollow body electric 5 string mandolin with a 15" scale length. It solves a lot of stretching/fingering issues.

    My 'real' mandola is a Weber Alder #2, made when Bruce was still running the company. 17" scale length. I put octave mandolin strings on it, and the CGDA tuning works fine. DAEB and EBF#C# work as well with those strings. Fingering can be difficult if playing melodies. I would not attempt Kathryn by the Delaware (above) on it without a capo in the second fret or tuning it up (as above).

    I have an octave mandolin made by Paul Hathway (London, UK). It has a 19" scale length. If I work up to it, I can manage simple fiddle tunes with standard mandolin fingering. (I used to play Temperance Reel on it.) Then, of course, if I capo up to the 5th fret I have the CGDA tuning, and it's a shorter scale than either the Arrow or the Weber.

    I record with all three, but leave the Weber at home when gigging.

    The point of these instruments is not to play mandolin on them, but to play them for what they are. I use the octave and mandola mostly as a rhythm instruments to accompany my voice. They get to play tunes when the tune calls for it, and if the fingering is possible.

    Having said that, playing a fiddle tune on the mandola using the mandolin fingering (ie playing Salt Creek in D instead of A) will help with finger strength. And if you play Salt Creek in A on the mandola, you'll have to work your brain by going up the neck.

    So it's all good!

    Daniel

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  6. #29
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I use my mandola mostly for melody lines and now I'm learning chords and bass lines. Although I have been doing bass lines on the mandolin for years in the range of violin which seems pretty silly because the pitch is so high. Ha, ha. Actually this brings me back to wanting a lower 'voice' which is why I got the darned mandola in the first place!
    ARGH! Maybe I should get an electric mandolin with huge Marshall Amps and do da Blues.

    The guitar does a very good job on chords and bass lines. I don't play it much as I had quit for a number of years. And now I have to re-learn that stuff when there is so much to do on the other instruments.

    So the 'argument' goes on inside my head like this: A small OM may save time and frustration by being tuned in fifths as well as being tuned the same as a mandolin. This way I avoid EADGBE as well as CGDA. I don't do 'open tunings' on mandolin and I used to do DADGAD but my memory is pretty muddy. e.g. too much to learn again.

    Choice of repertoire according to the instrument's 'sustain' makes sense. I'll play jigs and reels on the fiddle and save the O'Carolan tunes for the mandola, for example.

    What to do? Sell the beautiful guitar? Sell everything and start over??




    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    More OMs are being made now in 20" scale lengths as an option, instead of what used to be considered 22" as a standard (more or less). Personally, I wouldn't go shorter scale than 20", because one of the cool things about an OM is the sustain, and that's directly related to scale length.

    I think the key to avoiding frustration with the finger stretch on an OM compared to mandolin, is choice of repertoire. Especially if you're using it to play melody lines and not just chordal backup. I play mainly slower tempo tunes on my 22" scale OM like marches, "metered airs" and O'Carolan tunes. You can really milk the sustain of an OM with these tunes that leave some space between the notes. I save the fast stuff like dance speed jigs and reels for mandolin, which "speaks" more quickly than the OM with stiffer strings and faster note decay.

    A mandola sits somewhere in the middle of those two approaches, a bit more nimble for the faster tunes, a little more sustain than mandolin but not as much as a good OM (talking in generalities here; there are differences in individual instruments).
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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Lots of good info here but I still have a lot to learn about the mandola. Example: I keep seeing references to capoing the second fret which changes the pitch to this or that, or using an octave mandolin and capoing the fifth etc etc. Does capoing the fifth on an ocatave mandolin basically give you a mandola then? All new to me.

    I had a TC octave years ago and traded it off. It was pretty quiet and overall underwhelming, and the big stretches made tunes impossible for me.
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  8. #31
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    If you capo an octave at the fifth fret it will play the same pitch as a mandola, but probably will be a shorter scale length.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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  9. #32
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I don't capo. (I don't tango either, ha ha). But on an OM at 5th fret a GDAE becomes CGDA, so yea, it becomes a mandola.
    Capo on the 2nd fret becomes one step higher G=A, D=E, etc.

    Roger Tallroth has big hands BUT he's doing melody and chords that ring. Just what I like to play. What's the scale length of that Northfield he's playing?





    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    Lots of good info here but I still have a lot to learn about the mandola. Example: I keep seeing references to capoing the second fret which changes the pitch to this or that, or using an octave mandolin and capoing the fifth etc etc. Does capoing the fifth on an ocatave mandolin basically give you a mandola then? All new to me.

    I had a TC octave years ago and traded it off. It was pretty quiet and overall underwhelming, and the big stretches made tunes impossible for me.
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  11. #33

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

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  13. #34

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

    I have a 1921 Gibson H2, and love it.

    Did you add one to your stable and find that you neglected it after a time?
    I'm neglecting it at the moment only because I'm a touring musician, and I decided on having other mandolins (two electric 5-strings and a Collings MT2-O) with me.

    Did you get one and it ended up replacing your mandolin?
    It did, for a while – I toured with the Gibson exclusively (kinda – I had a Rigel 10-string for work), hitting Irish sessions as I went.

    Did you have a hard time playing your favorite mandolin tunes on the mandola?
    No – I moved the B part of most of the IT tunes down an octave.

    What did you end up mainly using it for?
    Irish Trad.

    Did you get one of the cheap flowery ones on eBay and regret it? Did you spend a ton on one and regret that?
    The Gibson wasn't cheap, but wasn't all that expensive either, and no, no regrets.

    The only difference from playing a regular mandolin is in my technique: I use my pinky for the sixth-fret notes (which has affected my mandolin playing – I find myself doing that on mandolin now a lot more than I used to). And I shift up to my first finger on the E-string for G-to-B passages (which I also find myself doing on mandolin these days).

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  15. #35

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

    Yes my Octave with a fifth fret capo would play CGDA at the ‘open’ position, and the scale length at the fifth fret is 15.35 inches.

    It’s the versatility that prevents me from thinking about getting a good mando, if I want to play something a bit more challenging I just put the capo on. I guess if I played a lot with others then I’d have to buy a mandolin too.


    I did play a mandola in England one time that was really big and heavily built, but had a short scale length, about 14 inches, not much more than a mandolin. In fact when I saw it I thought it was a mandolin.
    It was tuned CGDA I think, and really bass-like, with heavy strings and hard on the fingers but also very sort of reactive, I liked it, though not a lot of sustain.
    Last edited by atsunrise; Sep-19-2019 at 3:45pm.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I've played mandola for about 35 years now (holy cow -- that long?!). I own several: a Washburn bowl-back from the late 1890's that I use in historical programs (and as a phony "lute" at one Ren Faire), a Sobell that was designed, I think, as a short-scale OM, but that I have strung CGDA and use as a 'dola, and most recently a Stahl instrument made by the Larson brothers.

    I've found mandola very useful as a harmony instrument in Celtic and klezmer tunes, working against a fiddle or a mandolin. Here's an MP3 of my band Innisfree with the Sobell playing against Mark Deprez's mandolin-banjo. (Other musicians: Barbara Jablonski on hammered dulcimer, Kathleen Cappon on 12-string guitar.) You can see how I try to work out harmonies, occasionally octave doubling Mark's lead. Tunes are Irish Washerwoman, Swallowtail Jig, Saddle the Pony.

    Recently, I've been taking the Stahl to sing-arounds and jams, and have found that singers like the less "shrill" register of the mandola for song accompaniment. The Stahl has an amazing bass down on the C string, and it's interesting to play mandolin-style accompaniments, but in a different register. As someone who started on mandolin, I have to keep my head in the game as far as transposition is concerned -- the song's in D, but I'm playing "A positions" if it were a mandolin -- but after all this time, I can shift gears without too much effort. Or so I think...
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I have an Eastman DGM3 (i.e. Lyon & Healey knockoff) mandola. It gets played less than my mandolins, but enough to keep it around even after I get an octave. To my ears, the mandola meshes better with the guitar while still having a different voice. If I were going to play a mandolin family instrument as accompaniment for solo or duo vocals, there's an excellent chance it would be the mandola as often as not.
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  20. #38

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

    I taught myself guitar in high school, and then bought an old Harmony mandolin for $25 at a pawn shop. I eventually discovered a music store which had a new Flatiron mandola, and I've owned it ever since.

    At first I just went with chording, then got more confident with melody, and some mixing of the two. Eventually I discovered that mandola is tuned the same as tenor guitar and tenor mandola, and there are some pretty amazing players of both on YouTube. That inspired me to pursue chord melody on mandola, which led to my purchasing and using the Mel Bay Complete Tenor Banjo Method, and then the Mel Bay Tenor Banjo Melody Chord System. Working my way through both of those pushed my playing far ahead of what I accomplished just through experimentation.

    For what it's worth, I also wrote myself a chord book which followed certain rules, like always having either the root or the fifth as the lowest note. That made it a better accompaniment instrument. I also worked my way through Mick Goodrick's amazing The Advancing Guitarist on mandola, as the book is about exploring a fretted instrument and isn't terribly guitar-specific.

    I do occasionally play mandolin, and have an octave mandolin set to arrive on Monday (the price was *very* right, and it even has a scroll!), but CGDA is where I've spent a lot of my time over the last few decades....

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    Guitar tab would be great, if that’s ok. It’s those blues sounding scales that I would have difficulties to get down.

    I’ve found I can often write it out as an .abc text file and then use mandolintab.net to covert it for mandola or Octave mandolin or even Irish whistle, or sometimes when I want to use a capo (the Octave is much warmer and richer around the fifth fret) then I use a program to increase/decrease the whole tune by 5 or 7 semitones and when it’s converted it’s in a different tab pattern but still the right key.
    There are many books out there for blues guitar, a few for blues mandolin, but only one I've seen for CGDA tuning: Blues for Tenor Guitar by Chip Jones. The print quality isn't great, and the CD is of MIDI playback instead of an actual fretted instrument, but the material is decent, and again I'll note, it's the only book of its kind I've seen.

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    For me, mandola was a gateway to tenor guitar.
    I've considered getting one, but mandola's size, shorter scale length and portability keep me from straying.

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    I've played mandola for about 35 years now (holy cow -- that long?!).

    Recently, I've been taking the Stahl to sing-arounds and jams, and have found that singers like the less "shrill" register of the mandola for song accompaniment. The Stahl has an amazing bass down on the C string, and it's interesting to play mandolin-style accompaniments, but in a different register. As someone who started on mandolin, I have to keep my head in the game as far as transposition is concerned -- the song's in D, but I'm playing "A positions" if it were a mandolin -- but after all this time, I can shift gears without too much effort. Or so I think...
    I sometimes still have to translate from mandolin, and it's been just as long for me.

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  22. #39

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

    And another thing, though it’s been said many many times before!

    If you put the capo at the seventh fret of a GDAE Octave mandolin then you can play any mandolin tab AS LONG AS the tab doesn’t go onto the fourth string as written. That is you read, and just play everything one string down (towards the sky).
    So if it’s written 1st string second fret (F#), you play with capo at VII, second string second fret (F#) etc.

    Of course if you have a mandola tuned in CGDA then you put the capo at the second fret, and as before, just play everything one string down (towards the sky).

  23. #40
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I don't get the comments of the mandola occupying the guitar's range but the mandolin doesn't. A mandola shares 3/4ths of the mandolin's range. I play violin and viola, as well as mandolin and mandola. In each case the main sonic difference is due to the body size. The longer, deeper body yields more sustain, presence and deeper timbre even when playing the exact same notes as you can play on the smaller bodied violin/mandolin.

    If you read notation there's dealing with the alto clef as a new skill.

    I've found I truly love 5 course C-G-D-A-E instruments - I now have three 5 string violas, a 10 string mandola and a 10 string mandocello. I have fairly large hands so the longer viola/mandola scale is a plus for me. My 10 string 'dola is a custom A4 built by TJ at Cricketfiddle.

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

    I heard a mandola in a band at a recent concert. I thought I wanted one, so I went and tried one out in a local store. The feel and sustain was great, but it seems like the it is limited key-wise to get that effect. I was having a hard time imagining how to fit it in with my band where we play in Bflat etc.
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  25. #42

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    ...The longer, deeper body yields more sustain, presence and deeper timbre even when playing the exact same notes as you can play on the smaller bodied violin/mandolin...
    Yes, but if the mandola in question is residing with of a bunch of English hippies the sustain can suffer.
    One lovely hippy in particular:
    ‘It’s so hot this summer, and now we are blessed with warm rain! Let’s go out into the forest and play beautiful music in the tempest. No, really it’s ok, you worry too much, mandolas are made of trees and trees love rain too...’

  26. #43
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by RobP View Post
    I heard a mandola in a band at a recent concert. I thought I wanted one, so I went and tried one out in a local store. The feel and sustain was great, but it seems like the it is limited key-wise to get that effect. I was having a hard time imagining how to fit it in with my band where we play in Bflat etc.
    I would imagine Bb would be less miserable on 'dola than mandolin, and other keys like F or Eb
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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  27. #44
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I think that people who play a mandolin or guitar, or fiddle (for that matter), arrive at a point where they understand music enough to 'take on' the challenge of going from GDAE or EADGBE to CGDA. For me buying my"pre-owned" but amazing Collings mandola opened up a whole world of possibilities. It is not only a delight to play it, it's challenged me to think of better ways to approach music. I'm sure my mandolin stuff has improved as a consequence.
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    it's challenged me to think of better ways to approach music. I'm sure my mandolin stuff has improved as a consequence.
    I agree, I had a musician doctor friend tell me that the process of transposing and interpreting for different fingerings was very healthy for an ageing brain, I'll admit I don't feel that much smarter after switching back and forth between Mandolins, Mandolas, Octave Mandolins and Mandocellos, but I do believe I have a better understanding of the Key of C.
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  31. #46
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by RobP View Post
    I heard a mandola in a band at a recent concert. I thought I wanted one, so I went and tried one out in a local store. The feel and sustain was great, but it seems like the it is limited key-wise to get that effect. I was having a hard time imagining how to fit it in with my band where we play in Bflat etc.
    Oh for crying out loud! How do you suppose symphony orchestras, with violas and cellos all tuned C-G-D-A manage? You think having an E string vs a low C makes a difference in the keys you can play? Where does such fiction/fantasy/folklore come from? Not actual playing experience!

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  33. #47
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    Oh for crying out loud! How do you suppose symphony orchestras, with violas and cellos all tuned C-G-D-A manage? You think having an E string vs a low C makes a difference in the keys you can play? Where does such fiction/fantasy/folklore come from? Not actual playing experience!
    Well, I agree. But not as emphatically as Mandobart. I Rob's defense I'll say that players without much experience only see the basic 'open string' chords. Basic patterns don't get you very far in going from mandolin to mandola. I once knew an Irish band who called themselves the Hi B's because experienced players could use that fourth finger to play one on the e-string. They thought that showed how cool they were. Sheesh, what a world of ignorance.
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  34. #48
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    I guess I'll go ahead and show a bit of my own ignorance when it comes to musical terminology, etc. It's relevant to this discussion trying to figure out what makes a mandola a mandola, a mandocello a mandocello, etc, etc.

    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.

    All that to say, when someone says an instrument is "tuned in fifths," I still have no idea what that means. You might as well say firsts, seconds or thirds and it would all be the same thing in my mind. Same goes for people talking about additional C strings or E strings. It all sounds like talk of space travel or computer codes to me and means absolutely nothing.

    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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  36. #49
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    Default Re: Please talk about your experience with the Mandola.

    Haven't studied "music theory" since junior high, but have picked up enough through 50+ years of playing, to give me some insights that are useful to someone who's basically a by-ear musician. Learning how chords are made, how a minor scale differs from a major scale, what chord patterns are common in the music we play -- things like that are helpful. I learn, as you do, mostly by assimilating tunes and songs through watching and listening to others play them. Nothing wrong with that.

    A lot of "theory" is pretty simple. You say you don't understand what having an instrument tuned in fifths means. Well, you tune your mandolin GDAE, right? Start with the lowest note, the open 4th string G. Count up: G=1, A=2, B=3, C=4, D=5. The third string is tuned a fifth above the fourth string, D above G. Similarly with the other strings. Compare your guitar, starting again with the lowest note, the open 6th string E: E=1, F=2. G=3, A=4. The fifth string is tuned a fourth above the sixth string, A above E.

    You already know, instinctively, the common 1-4-5 chord progression: you play in the key of C, no sharps or flats, and the chords are often C, F, and G (or G7). So, C=1, D=2, E=3. F=4. G=5. You have the "one chord," "four chord," and "five chord."

    What I'm getting at, is that by playing music you've assimilated a fair amount of music theory, whether you recognize it as such. And there's no truth, IMHO, to the contention that learning theory somehow keeps you from improvising or "making up tunes and things." Classically trained players are used to working from printed standard musical notation, and many are more comfortable playing that way, but that has nothing to do with learning or not learning principles of music theory.

    Knowledge is almost never your enemy. You may not need to organize your experience and acquired knowledge into formal "theory," but that doesn't mean you don't recognize the concepts, or apply them when you play. There's sort of a "reverse snobbishness" that by-ear folkie musicians can have: "I don't know that stuff, and if I took the trouble to learn it -- which I won't -- it would interfere with my playing." I've found the modest level of "theory" I've picked up over the years, has generally been useful rather than detrimental. YMMV, of course.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Haven't studied "music theory" since junior high, but have picked up enough through 50+ years of playing, to give me some insights that are useful to someone who's basically a by-ear musician. Learning how chords are made, how a minor scale differs from a major scale, what chord patterns are common in the music we play -- things like that are helpful. I learn, as you do, mostly by assimilating tunes and songs through watching and listening to others play them. Nothing wrong with that.

    A lot of "theory" is pretty simple. You say you don't understand what having an instrument tuned in fifths means. Well, you tune your mandolin GDAE, right? Start with the lowest note, the open 4th string G. Count up: G=1, A=2, B=3, C=4, D=5. The third string is tuned a fifth above the fourth string, D above G. Similarly with the other strings. Compare your guitar, starting again with the lowest note, the open 6th string E: E=1, F=2. G=3, A=4. The fifth string is tuned a fourth above the sixth string, A above E.

    You already know, instinctively, the common 1-4-5 chord progression: you play in the key of C, no sharps or flats, and the chords are often C, F, and G (or G7). So, C=1, D=2, E=3. F=4. G=5. You have the "one chord," "four chord," and "five chord."

    What I'm getting at, is that by playing music you've assimilated a fair amount of music theory, whether you recognize it as such. And there's no truth, IMHO, to the contention that learning theory somehow keeps you from improvising or "making up tunes and things." Classically trained players are used to working from printed standard musical notation, and many are more comfortable playing that way, but that has nothing to do with learning or not learning principles of music theory.

    Knowledge is almost never your enemy. You may not need to organize your experience and acquired knowledge into formal "theory," but that doesn't mean you don't recognize the concepts, or apply them when you play. There's sort of a "reverse snobbishness" that by-ear folkie musicians can have: "I don't know that stuff, and if I took the trouble to learn it -- which I won't -- it would interfere with my playing." I've found the modest level of "theory" I've picked up over the years, has generally been useful rather than detrimental. YMMV, of course.
    Allen, great post, though the tuned in fifths things still makes no sense, and I'm ok with that. Just wanted to say, I hope you didn't read the reverse snob thing into my post, because, believe me, none is there. I admire the heck out of people who read music and understand theory, but I understand what you are saying and have ran into people like you describe. They think they have more "soul" because they aren't a "slave to the page." All nonsense in my experience. My grandmother was taught by a harsh old lady who thought it pretentious to "make up tunes" when you could be playing the music of the Masters. I think I'd be a better musician, or a musician at all (I've always considered myself just a player), if I'd learned all that stuff.
    "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

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