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Thread: Very high notes on a budget instrument

  1. #1

    Default Very high notes on a budget instrument

    My teacher gave me a Paganini violin piece with make believe notes (5 ledger lines, lol, he's lost his mind). He's not expecting me to get through it any time soon. In fact, I won't have a lesson for a few weeks due to various alternate commitments, and he's told me to try for 3 lines between then and now.

    I definitely need to practice shifting, but all in good time I guess.

    My question is, what do I do up there to not sound like someone plucking on an egg slicer? Like right now if I just look and go up there just to hear that note (Bb) without trying to play the part, just literally hear the note, it sounds hilarious.

    Is there a technique solution to this, or am I limited by my bargain starter mandolin?
    Last edited by Heady; Oct-20-2019 at 3:51pm. Reason: Typo

  2. #2

    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    Sounds like a violin teacher dabbling with mandolins.
    Play it like you mean it.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    I'll try, but he's not a bowed instrument guy. Mainly guitar, but I've only played a year, so he's my guy. I'm mentally up to this because *I'm* the viola player, so I didn't need to learn to read music, which sped up the learning curve. *Now* I'm feeling a steep slope.

  5. #4
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    Most inexpensive mandolins start to give up as you go past the 12th fret.
    My decent but lesser mandolin starts to get really plinky at 12th fret, and then starts to fail to give any sort of useful tone as it goes up. .

    My Northfield Artist Series mandolin gets full beautiful resonant notes all the way up to the highest fret.
    It is as loud and full at the top as it is at the bottom.

    It is quite remarkable how different the two mandolins are at the top end.
    I think you need a better mandolin to get up there and have a functioning tone.
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  7. #5

    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    I second that, better mandolins are going to have more power in the high end, as well as the low. The same is true for better fiddles/violins--they just have that power and ringing sound even in the stratosphere!

  8. #6
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Heady View Post
    My question is, what do I do up there to not sound like someone plucking on an egg slicer? Like right now if I just look and go up there just to hear that note (Bb) without trying to play the part, just literally hear the note, it sounds hilarious.
    Neither. You need to play and hear the high notes in the musical context they are used.

    I have a mandolin that goes past 24 frets, to high A.

    I use every note on it.

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  10. #7
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    Is your mandolin set up properly? I have found that a good set up can change not just intonation but tone quality, up in the nose bleed seats.

    Another thing to consider is your pick. The pick one would use for bluegrass, folk, old time, etc., may not be the best for those higher notes. I find for classical music I like a lighter pointier pick. Something like 0.75.

    Lastly some mandolins are just not as consistent "up there". I have a great bluegrasser, that barks like a rabid dog when chopping. The lows and the highs are great, but the very highs sound stiff and tinny. On the instrument I use for classical, the tone quality is great all the way up, but the chop isn't as aggressive sounding.

    Hope that helps.
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  12. #8
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    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    I think you need a better mandolin to get up there and have a functioning tone.
    I agree. As you get better you need a mandolin that matches your abilities.

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  14. #9
    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    I know exactly what you speak of, and IMO I haven't heard many sub $1k mandolins that sound great above the 12th fret [quite a few don't sound great to me above the 7th, but I have a very critical ear].

    Those super high notes sound very differently on a violin vs. fretted instruments and if you compare the two I don't know if you'll ever be satisfied way up the fretboard .... that said, if it is just quick notes or a couple passages a little plinky never hurt anyone.

    I'm sure some will disagree with my take, but personally I am underwhelmed by many instruments once you get above 10-12th fret. Thankfully for them, most people do not have my picky ear.
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  16. #10

    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    Jeff D - I think it's set up right - my teacher is the tech at the shop so he's tweaked the bridge before when I was having trouble tuning. Whether it required something minor that he could do in the lesson, or something more involved that would require a charge, I'm sure he'd have said something if it needed to be set up better.

    I did actually just try a new, pointier pick, and I like it. I go back and forth, but I'm still so new I wasn't connecting the transient pick preference to the different types of music I play from day to day.

    - - - Updated - - -

    mle.w - Thanks. I'll be working on it

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  18. #11

    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    Thanks, Markus, maybe I'll look for a chunk of the passage that can be brought down an octave without sounding abrupt.

  19. #12

    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    A violin's effective range, because of its bowed nature, extends far further up the fretboard than a mandolin's.

    You can play up the fretboard, and a lot of music has been written utilizing the frets past the 15th or so, but I don't think mandolins work well up that high. If you want to play up there, play a violin (or guitar). Even if you nail it perfectly, it's going to sound pretty plinky on even the best instruments. I have fifteen years of classical violin training and another 20 of practice on the mandolin... and personally, I wouldn't worry too much about playing Paganini on the mandolin. Some easier violin show pieces translate a lot better... De Beriot no 9 in A minor for example. It gets up pretty high, but doesn't sustain the high notes, so it doesn't lose much. Or, play pieces written for mandolin...

  20. #13

    Default Re: Very high notes on a budget instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    A violin's effective range, because of its bowed nature, extends far further up the fretboard than a mandolin's.

    You can play up the fretboard, and a lot of music has been written utilizing the frets past the 15th or so, but I don't think mandolins work well up that high. If you want to play up there, play a violin (or guitar). Even if you nail it perfectly, it's going to sound pretty plinky on even the best instruments. I have fifteen years of classical violin training and another 20 of practice on the mandolin... and personally, I wouldn't worry too much about playing Paganini on the mandolin. Some easier violin show pieces translate a lot better... De Beriot no 9 in A minor for example. It gets up pretty high, but doesn't sustain the high notes, so it doesn't lose much. Or, play pieces written for mandolin...
    Thanks - since I'm not close to ready for a better instrument anyway - I'm going to take the thoughts shared here (by you, Markus, some others) and drop the passage with the 5-lines above the staff Bb down an octave.

    I play the viola - I picked the viola because it was loud and didn't have an E string. I am no longer afraid of the E string, but only on a mandolin, because it's nice and polite. You need to be 10 times the musician I am to do anything worthwhile with a violin E string

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