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Thread: Mandocello Specific Techniques

  1. #1
    Registered User Classicalcomp's Avatar
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    Default Mandocello Specific Techniques

    Hello Friends.

    So after going through the method, I thought now would be a good time to open up a discussion of mandocello specific techniques and how best to learn them. Hereís just a few of the things Iíve picked up as Iíve been going through methods:

    1). Shifting. The Mandocello seems to work a lot like the regular cello in that its much easier and in some ways cleaner to move up and down on a string rather than over.

    2). Glissando. In with the shifting, especially in the legato tremolo, some shifting just sounds better with the glissando down the string rather than an abrupt shift.

    3). Low String/Range technique. Specifically how to keep the first few frets on the C course in check and also how best to place your left hand to cover both strings. I have large narrow hands, and find it hard at times to use a more vertical approach to the string like in the higher courses, resorting to more of a flattening of the finger to get a good sound from the lower notes.

    4). Transcribing thumb position to the mandocello. This is specifically for solo mandocello playing, but I think that there is a technique to placing the fingers in the upper register down to best get a clean sound and ease of play while also remaining loose and able to play with some speed.

    There are also a lot that are shared with the other instruments, arpeggios, proper pick technique, etc. but I would love to hear from all of you on what you feel would be helpful in terms of exercises specifically for the larger instruments. (Fair warning, this will probably end up as some exercises for the new intermediate/advanced mandocello book coming out next year).

    Thanks everyone!!
    Benjamin
    (I was) my own teacher and pupil, and thanks to the efforts
    of both, they were not discontented with each other. -- Segovia

    Lawrence Smart Stern 2-point Mandolin
    Lawrence Smart Stern 2-point Mandola
    Weber Gallatin Mandocello
    Weber Gallatin Soprano (Piccolo) Mandolin
    Breedlove Prototype Mandolin

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    I recently reluctantly turned my Cello into an OM because I couldnít handle the scale length with more traditional OM style technique. My pinkyís pretty strong and functional, but the stretch needed to consistently get clean notes on the 5th and 6th/7th frets in first position was too much after even just a few measures, even on an extremely well set up instrument from a cafe sponsor. I was using beginner cello instructional books, but didnít have an actual teacher to help me work through some of those issues. I tried shifting positions more which helped some, but I felt like I was ďcheatingĒ rather than building good technique. I thought about doing some online lessons with Mike Marshall or just meeting up with an actual cellist to get some guidance, but, at the end of the day, for the role I play in our band and the music I most often play, the OM is more useful. I do miss that low growl and just the awesome physical presence of the Cello, though.

    So, given the paucity of cello instructional materials out there, some advice about how to deal with the scale length and width would be awesome, along with the topics you mention above. Thank you for all of your work on this project, and Iím sure youíll get some better ideas from those who can actually play the darn thing, lol...
    Chuck

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    As a bowed cellist/bassist, I have used MUCH of that technique on my mandocello. #3, flattening fingers has not been a bad issue for me; many of us do it occasionally even on the bowed instruments, depending on the duration of the notes. I have experimented with both single and double C strings; on my 'cello, I prefer having both, but on a bigger cello, I think I'd prefer one. Following others takes...
    "There are two refuges from the miseries of life--music and cats" Albert Schweitzer

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    One thing to keep in mind is that the scale length of a full size violoncello is 27 3/8", whereas Gibson mandocellos have a scale of 24.75" and some mandocellos -- such as my own Suzuki -- have only 22.5". That's almost exactly the same as my Mid-Missouri octave mandolin.

    These differences in scale length make a huge difference in fingering technique. I have pretty long fingers and find that I can reasonably comfortably play my mandocello using standard mandolin fingering, i.e. third finger on the fifth fret, rather than cello fingering. As the instrument isn't as standardised as the mandocello, different approaches can be used on different instruments and by players with different physique.

    Martin

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    Registered User Classicalcomp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    Very good points. I agree, I have a 24.75” scale and very long fingers so even reaching the notes with the 3rd finger instead of the 4th sometimes becomes a question on comfort.

    I will say this working through the book, using the 1/2/4 for 5 fret stretches makes the most sense and then 1/2/3/4 for the 4 fret stretches because they do train your hands, so when you are doing the copious amount of shifting for some of those runs, your fingers do tend to get back to those basic shapes.

    I will say also, pressing down the strings in the upper part of the instrument does take significantly more strength. Would it help to have specific exercises to make sure you’re putting down all of the fingers when playing something high?
    (I was) my own teacher and pupil, and thanks to the efforts
    of both, they were not discontented with each other. -- Segovia

    Lawrence Smart Stern 2-point Mandolin
    Lawrence Smart Stern 2-point Mandola
    Weber Gallatin Mandocello
    Weber Gallatin Soprano (Piccolo) Mandolin
    Breedlove Prototype Mandolin

  9. #6
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    At least on my Suzuki, fretting higher up the neck isn't particularly difficult. What is problematic is cleanly fretting on the bass courses, because of the thicker string gauges and the resulting wider string spacing. That's why some players use a single C course rather than double. I'm happy using the fourth finger on the D and A courses, but not on C or G. In addition, clean fretting of bass notes may require flattening out the finger tips and/or having the finger vertical to the frets (like on guitar) rather than at a 45-degree angle (like on mandolin/violin) and that means more ad-hoc adjustments of hand position. It also affects double-stopping, which I find difficult on the bass courses if the stretch between the two notes is more than 2 frets.

    Tremolo on mandocello also needs some technique adjustment compared to mandolin or OM, because of the thick gauges, large string oscillation amplitude and low frequency. Bickford does have some tremolo exercises for all four courses, but I tend to use tremolo sparingly on mandocello, and mainly on the C and A courses.

    Martin

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    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    I'm just glad to hear other people see this as a difficulty (is that schadenfreud?); it tells me I'm not necessarily "doing something wrong," just struggling with a common problem. But I love my K4 and the sound of the low double C's so I just have to keep working at it. For the kind of music I play, classical orchestral (Go OMO!) solo mandocello (there's more and more out there, people) that is the sound I need. I have played other old Gibsons (K1, K2) and I know that set-up--not just the instrument itself--makes a big difference. Constant scale and arpeggio work is helping.
    ... But I do like to wail on my little Stiver F5 for some bluegrass.

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    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    I have found it best to accompany my little finger with the third finger where possible. Two cello basics help with this. always extending backwards from an advanced position where possible. For example playing from a 1/2 position and extending back towards the nut when playing rather than treating first position as some kind of home base. losing the attachment to First position was very important for my playing on 'cello. I now consider the first finger on third fret as the most natural resting point, especially when playing in keys such as Dmaj.
    Other guidelines that have helped are;
    shift earlier than necessary so you are in position and settled before the section that would necessitate the shift.
    return to your 'home base' late, there should be no hurry to shift back wait for a relaxed space before returning.
    explore the different sonority available when playing from the middle of tge length of your fretboard, often what would be difficult elsewhere can fall very satisfyingly under the fingers in 3rd to 5th position.
    don't settle too quickly into a decision as to how you will finger a section of music. I often resist writing any fingering on my music until long after I have learned the piece in a couple of ways.
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

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    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    "extending backwards from an advanced position where possible. For example playing from a 1/2 position and extending back towards the nut when playing rather than treating first position as some kind of home base."

    This works for me. Thanks for posting.
    [note to self] Burst not thy brother's bubble ~ unk

  15. #10

    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    Not being a cello player or even a player who has taken lessons from a teacher, no matter the instrument, I tend to both adapt what I find in books, and to find things which work empirically.

    One of the things I started doing when working through FFCP exercises on my Ovation mandophone (six courses, 25.5" scale length) was only using the 124 fingers for fretting scales, and sliding the finger which was covering the two notes with the half-step interval.

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    Registered User Classicalcomp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Specific Techniques

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    Not being a cello player or even a player who has taken lessons from a teacher, no matter the instrument, I tend to both adapt what I find in books, and to find things which work empirically.

    One of the things I started doing when working through FFCP exercises on my Ovation mandophone (six courses, 25.5" scale length) was only using the 124 fingers for fretting scales, and sliding the finger which was covering the two notes with the half-step interval.
    Try looking at the positions pages on the Bickford Mandocello method in the other forum post. Itís actually really good with suggested fingerings for most of the positions.
    (I was) my own teacher and pupil, and thanks to the efforts
    of both, they were not discontented with each other. -- Segovia

    Lawrence Smart Stern 2-point Mandolin
    Lawrence Smart Stern 2-point Mandola
    Weber Gallatin Mandocello
    Weber Gallatin Soprano (Piccolo) Mandolin
    Breedlove Prototype Mandolin

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