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Thread: Classical Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Classical Mandolin

    Dear all, I know next to nothing about mandolins or playing but want to learn classical pieces that I play on violin on my mandolin. I have a Loar LM-520vs. Can I use this to play classical, and if so, what strings should I use? I think the strings on it now are from the factory. They feel a bit heavy. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Looks like an LM-520 is an F5 type. Although the Fs are beloved by bluegrassers, Gibson originally designed them for classical players. You'll be just fine. You may have to experiment a bit to find strings that feel good and sound good. A lot of classical players like flat wound strings. Thomastiks are wonderful but spendy. Pyramid, d'Addario, and a couple of other companies also make flat wounds for a little less. If you're used to paying for violin strings, any mandolin string will seem cheap.

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    I'd add to what Louise has mentioned, keep in mind that the mandolin is a completely different animal than a violin. Really the only major thing the violin and the mandolin have in common is a GDAE standard tuning. So while your printed violin music will be applicable, the technical details about how you play mandolin are going to be completely different from violin...

    While your neck/finger positions will be similar to those used on the violin, having frets and getting used to using them is going to represent a significant learning curve. Similarly, while you will be actuating the same strings with your right hand, you'll be using a flat pick (unless you choose to finger pick) instead of using a bow, and all the methods for flat picking on the mandolin, along with the sounds they produce, also will represent a major learning curve. Plus, you'll be building calluses for 8 strings instead of 4, and the postures for both hands and for holding the mandolin are completely different than those for violin.

    That said, you will be coming into this with a few big experiential advantages. Your knowledge of music in general, violin music in particular, and the intervals resulting from the common tuning, are all going to help you a lot.

    I'd recommend finding a mandolin teacher and/or a mentor who has strong mandolin experience to help you start out. I don't expect building a good foundation will take long for you.
    -- Don

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    Looks like an LM-520 is an F5 type. Although the Fs are beloved by bluegrassers, Gibson originally designed them for classical players. You'll be just fine. You may have to experiment a bit to find strings that feel good and sound good. A lot of classical players like flat wound strings. Thomastiks are wonderful but spendy. Pyramid, d'Addario, and a couple of other companies also make flat wounds for a little less. If you're used to paying for violin strings, any mandolin string will seem cheap.
    Thank you Louise! This is helpful.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Thank you Don. I am having difficulty finding a mandolin teacher (most teachers play classical guitar but are willing to teach mandolin...not the same to me). I'm looking at online lessons to get started, Catherine Licthenberg perhaps.

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  9. #6
    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Having switched from violin to mandolin myself, I was amazed that I could play it right out of the box based on the mandolin having the same left hand fingerings as the violin. There is a lot (!) you will be able to play immediately, but the point above is well-taken that this does not make you a mandolinist. The devil is in the nuanced details, but reading music and associating a note with a specific fingering will put you miles ahead of any other mandolin beginner.
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  10. #7

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Good to hear from someone else who is trying too. I have been playing lots of songs on the Mandolin, and they don't sound so great. Missing the technique for sure. Looking for a good teacher! Good luck.

  11. #8
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Marie Kathy McDonald View Post
    Thank you Don. I am having difficulty finding a mandolin teacher (most teachers play classical guitar but are willing to teach mandolin...not the same to me). I'm looking at online lessons to get started, Catherine Licthenberg perhaps.
    I play classical guitar AND mandolin - and some violin and cello.

    Unless the classical guitar teacher actually plays mandolin - or at least also plays plectrum steel string guitar - he will only be of limited help. Yes he can assist with music reading, some fingerings, etc. but to play classical mandolin requires adapted violin fingerings with plectrum right hand techniques.

    I'd go with the online lessons.

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    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    I would add that a lot of violin music depends on the very long sustain you can get from using the bow. Mandolin has a much shorter sustain, though longer than violin pizzicato. There are techniques, such as tremelo that can partially make up for it. More frequently music is transcribed to make use of the mandolin's ability to play double stops and chords. Have a great time with your new musical endeavor.

  13. #10

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Thank you so much! This helps a lot

  14. #11
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    One thing you may need to get used to is the different scale lengths. Violin scale length is generally right around 12 inches, give or take. The Loar LM-520 specifies a scale length of 13.75 inches, which means the notes are significantly "farther apart." Of course, the fretted fingerboard allows for somewhat more imprecise finger placement -- as long as your finger's behind the correct fret, you get the correct note -- but you may find your "stretches" are a bit longer on the mandolin.

    Some of the flat-top and canted-top mandolins, either bowl-back or flat-back, have scale lengths around 13 inches, which would be closer to, but not the same as, a violin's scale.
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  15. #12
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Go to the top of this site and click on the banner announcing Mel Bay's 40% off sale on books. They have about 20 pages of mandolin books, both paper and electronic. I would highly recommend Marilynn Mair's The Complete Mandolinist. It is full of etudes, scales, arpeggios, and pieces taken from both the violin and mandolin repertoire. I use it almost every day. John Goodin has put together a book of pieces taken from Telemann. They range from easy to much-less-so. Goodin has other compilations, too. There's lots of Bach. Baroque compilations. Renaissance tunes. At 40% off, stock up! NFI on my part.

    You have probably figured out that Baroque and Classical compositions are better suited to mandolin than rep from the Romantic era. Brahms or Sibelius violin concerto, not so much. Vivaldi, fantastic.

    Also, check out the Newbies social group on this site. We classical nerds are a minority, but beginners of all stripes are roundly welcomed. It's a great place to get information and support from others at the beginning of the journey.

  16. #13

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Wonderful info, thanks. I don’t feel so alone now...

  17. #14

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    I am having some difficulty, so thanks for the ‘why’. some of the chords, like Am i think, is a real stretch. Thank you

  18. #15
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    As you're coming at things without a teacher but already well versed in reading and violin playing I would recommend you use The Mandolin Companion
    https://www.astute-music.com/store/p...uavella.html#/ and see if Chris Acquavella has a slot for online lessons.
    He'll get you set up correctly and a long way down the road.
    Eoin



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  19. #16

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Thanks!

  20. #17

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Hi Marie, I am a guitar teacher and self taught mandolin picker. I used the excellent advice and resources from mandolincafe to learn a bunch of fiddle tunes and the bluegrass chop chords. This was quite a few years ago.
    Recently I got the itch to learn classical mandolin, and after a month or so of self teaching and (slowly!) reading through a couple of the Bach cello suites I found a classical mandolin teacher who is also a long standing member of a mandolin orchestra.
    Best thing I ever did.
    The right hand technique is quite different to even bluegrass mandolin. She made me slow down, analyse pick direction/orientation and listen to my tone much more carefully.
    We use excerpts from Marilynn Mair along with Bickford book 1. (Bickford really wants us to avoid tremolo until our fundamental picking technique is quite solid).
    Anyway, the feedback from face to face lessons has really helped, she has made me correct things that I probably wouldn't even have noticed.
    My teacher is a friend of Caterina Lichtenberg and has recommended her online course to former students who moved away and had trouble finding a "real live teacher"!
    Sorry for such a long reply, but this subject is close to my heart and I am really enjoying this new musical chapter. So much so that I have joined my teachers mandolin orchstra. A whole new world of fun!

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  22. #18

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Dean Gray View Post
    Hi Marie, I am a guitar teacher and self taught mandolin picker. I used the excellent advice and resources from mandolincafe to learn a bunch of fiddle tunes and the bluegrass chop chords. This was quite a few years ago.
    Recently I got the itch to learn classical mandolin, and after a month or so of self teaching and (slowly!) reading through a couple of the Bach cello suites I found a classical mandolin teacher who is also a long standing member of a mandolin orchestra.
    Best thing I ever did.
    The right hand technique is quite different to even bluegrass mandolin. She made me slow down, analyse pick direction/orientation and listen to my tone much more carefully.
    We use excerpts from Marilynn Mair along with Bickford book 1. (Bickford really wants us to avoid tremolo until our fundamental picking technique is quite solid).
    Anyway, the feedback from face to face lessons has really helped, she has made me correct things that I probably wouldn't even have noticed.
    My teacher is a friend of Caterina Lichtenberg and has recommended her online course to former students who moved away and had trouble finding a "real live teacher"!
    Sorry for such a long reply, but this subject is close to my heart and I am really enjoying this new musical chapter. So much so that I have joined my teachers mandolin orchstra. A whole new world of fun!
    I hope to be as lucky too, and think the mandolin is so under appreciated. Thank you

  23. #19

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Marie Kathy McDonald View Post
    I hope to be as lucky too, and think the mandolin is so under appreciated. Thank you
    Everyone here thinks mandolins are under appreciated, regardless of the style of music being played
    Play it like you mean it.

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  24. #20

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    I think if you take the online lessons with Caterina you will be just fine! Good luck on your journey. D

  25. #21

    Default Re: Classical Mandolin

    Thank you!

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