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Thread: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

  1. #1

    Default 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    Is there such a thing as a 3/4 of an octave mandolin? I turned a strumstick ukulele into something tuned in 5ths, DAEB. The D is an octave lower than a regular mandolin. The distance between the frets is a little bit greater than a regular mandolin but not very much. I've never played a mandola, but it's probably about that size. I think I invented a 3/4 octave mandolin, unless such a thing actually exists. Now I kind of want a mandola that I can tune this same way. Is that even possible?

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  3. #2
    Dave Sheets
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Buffalo NY Area

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    Well, mandolas are typically tuned CGDA, so you are a step above that. So a mandola capoed at the second fret would be in that tuning. You could probably find a set of strings that would let you tune a mandola as DAEB withouth much trouble, they'd need to be just slightly lighter than normal mandola strings.
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

  4. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Southern Maine USA

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    I've heard mandolas or small zouks tuned that way at celtic jam sessions. Also It seems to be the top 4 strings of a Baritone octave

  5. #4

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    The DAEB tuning actually works well for Irish tune-playing. If you're a mandolin player, the fingerings are the same, just shifted over one course, so it's an easy transition to make. One advantage is that you have an open string for the high B that these tunes use all the time, rather than having to reach up to the seventh fret for that note, which can be an uncomfortably long stretch on an octave mandolin. There are actually surprisingly few tunes that use that low G string for the melody, so you don't miss that G string as much as you might expect. For the tunes that do go down onto the G string, there's usually a way to work around it by shifting up an octave for a note or two, or for a bar or two, or for a whole part or even the whole tune.

  6. #5

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    Yeah, it's just like playing the flute or whistle. I'm really liking this tuning, but I can't seem to train myself to not play the B with my pinky like I always do, and it's more of a mind-twister than it seems to play one string over from normal. But I like the deeper tone of being an octave below. I can play with a bunch of fiddles and add a little depth. It sounds a little like a banjo.

  7. #6

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    I had a "big Mandolin" made some years ago, with an 18 inch scale length. A luthier friend had made some guitars for his kids and made me one with 8 strings. I recently tuned it from CGDA to DAEB and it's a great tuning & suits my voice really well. I can capo it to GDAE and it sounds good there too.

  8. #7

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    Hey, SB! I have kept a ukulele strumstick tuned as a CGDA mandola or tenor guitar for a few years, and it is a great travel instrument. I also have a long-scale chromatic Strumstick tuned in octave mandolin EADG, so I've never had a need to try to get lower on the CGDA Strumstick. However, I do occasionally capo the CGDA up to mandolin tuning, using a Planet Waves capo for mando, banjo or uke, I don't recall which.

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  10. #8
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Pacific Northwest, USA

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    I had a mandola for a couple of years, and since I play almost exclusively Irish and Scottish trad, I capo'd it at the second fret for DAEB. It finally occurred to me that I could just tune it in DAEB instead of using a capo, so I did that with some adjusted string gauges.

    It didn't last long though, because I missed having the notes below D in a few favorite fiddle tunes. Also, I had already obtained an octave mandolin by that point. A mandola in DAEB didn't seem to offer any advantage other than easier finger stretch, and I could manage the stretch on the OM. The OM had much better sustain and "growl" with the longer scale.

    So I sold the mandola. In DAEB tuning, a mandola was just too much of a compromise between the strengths of a mandolin on one side, and the strengths of a true OM on the other side. YMMV. It's worth experimenting with the idea to make up your own mind, because I know some people do use this approach with mandola.

  11. #9

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    Another advantage is that if you do play it a course lower then someone watching you who plays a mandolin can learn the tune from you by using the same fingering.
    (It’s equivalent to playing an octave mandolin with capo at the seventh fret).

  12. #10

    Default Re: 3/4 of an octave mandolin

    Hey Explorer I have a regular strumstick, the "Grand" which is tuned DAD. It's diatonic, not chromatic. It's so long it's really hard to play fast. I should just try to learn chords on it. Sometimes our jam is all violins and we need some chords. But I have a uke so I'll probably just stick to that.

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