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Thread: My adventures in tenor guitar, transposing finally works

  1. #1

    Default My adventures in tenor guitar, transposing finally works

    Been a while since I did a substantive post, so I though I would post my adventures playing mandola/tenor guitar over the last six months.

    I got into this whole mandolin thing 5 years ago so I could get into our church band. I got in a year ago and have been experimenting with what works best. As the five year anniversary looms, the electric tenor guitar I bought 6 months ago (an Eastwood Airline 8-string mandola converted to a 4 string) has become my favorite.

    The mandola/tenor tuning is a perfect fit playing with an acoustic guitar player. I am high enough to stay out of their range, but still low enough to do rhythm and lead guitar work as needed. Up the neck on the tenor can get a bit mandolinny when I want it, and there is more room up there, so easier to play up high than on an actual mandolin. I own electric mando, mandola, and OM, so I can bring other ranges if needed, but the mandola tuning hits the sweet spot somehow.

    I mostly play it like a guitar player: barre chords with fingers 90 degrees to the neck. Fortunately for melodic work the 18" scale is still short enough to play it like a mandolin (I can't do this on a 20" scale). No chop chords, but I don't miss them. The barre chord shapes have a large number of convenient hammer ons and offs that really spice up rhythm playing and arpeggiation work. Lead lines work great on it too. My pedal is a Helix Stomp, it does everything I want and a great deal more if I ever need it.

    A big regret I had is that mandola/tenor tuning does not lend well to reading lead sheets. I was transposing them into mandolin fingerings for about 6 months. I would write out a part in C to be a part in G, since G fingerings are used on the mandola for the key of C. This meant an hour or more transposing every set the day before. I was getting real tired of that.

    So last week I overcame it, and was able to read C charts natively (and one in E on capo 4, that was a bit more challenging, guitarists love E though so I am happy to have found a way that works well there). This is a very happy moment for me.

    FYI: the Paige capo (from Banjo Ben's store) is the finest capo I have found for electric mandolin, love that thing. I tried them all, including the Schubb.

    Funny thing was most of the transposition practice was in my head. When I could think C when playing a G shape, I knew I was ready to give it a go. I rehearsed it in my mind each night before going to bed for about a week and I knew it was going to work.

    Melodic lines are easier somehow, thinking down one string works, either by ear or reading treble clef.

    Lastly when people see the Eastwood Airline Mandola (as a 4 string), they call it an electric guitar, and that's good enough for me. :-)

    We have bluegrass sundays from time to time, and I bring my acoustic Eastman oval hole there, plugged in it gives me the sound I want. :-)
    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.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  2. The following members say thank you to kurth83 for this post:


  3. #2

    Default Re: My adventures in tenor guitar, transposing finally works

    Awesome post. I'm tuned octave mando on my tenor because I can't transpose in my head.... Octave mando is nice but sits pretty close to guitar. Would love to over come and move to C like you did. Thanks for the inspiration!

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