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Thread: Mandolin to Mandola

  1. #1
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    Default Mandolin to Mandola

    If this is a non idea it won't hurt my feelings but I have an A-style mandolin I was thinking about the practicality of converting to a mandola. First of all I don't know what that would mean as far as actual implications of the process so I would ask for advice either as to whether it can or should be done to a mandolin.

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    Dave Berry
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Mandola

    Soon after I started on mandolin, I got a mandola and played it occasionally but soon found I couldn't wrap my brain around that C string so I sold it. It also requires a very different approach especially rhythmically than the mandolin but of course, YMMV.
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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    If this is a non idea it won't hurt my feelings but I have an A-style mandolin I was thinking about the practicality of converting to a mandola. First of all I don't know what that would mean as far as actual implications of the process so I would ask for advice either as to whether it can or should be done to a mandolin.
    In order to just see if you can stand the sound, order a couple of loop-end single strings in the C-appropriate gauge, move your G, D, and A over, and try it out. The nut will bind, and intonation will be poor, but you can try out the sound without doing anything permanent

    If you like the sound, you need to widen the nut slots. Then replace the bridge saddle with either a straight one or mandola compensation. Otherwise, it is doable, although the small resonating chamber means the C course will sound shallow. Use regular mandolin strings, and I would recommend 0.050" or higher for the C. A mandola set is gauged for a longer scale, and will be too thin, with loose tension.
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Mandola

    ...... or you could simply buy a mandola!

    I suppose I should say that I bought a quality mandola (new) over 3 years ago and it’s taken me about three years to get used to the sound and get it to sound anything like I’d want to play outside the house with. The thought of a mandolin fitted with mandola strings sound to me like a most unsatisfying experience.

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    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Mandola

    I find a dola to be a nice compliment my mandolin family. Especially so when playing solo as the range accompanies some tunes better than mandolin and provides for a sometimes more comfortable vocal range.
    There are three approaches for playing dola.
    #1. Learn alto clef. (Not my approach) When playing with an orchestra our conductor transposed all pieces for the dola players that were unable to read C clef.

    #2. Play the dola no differently than you play the mandolin. This creates problems when you are not the solo instrument. Doing this method when playing with others always leaves you 1/5 off key. i.e. Playing in G fingering you are actually in Key of C, or playing in Key of A you are actually in Key of D, e.t.c. Easy enough to transpose chords to be with other players when playing rhythm. Not so easy to transpose melody or to pick on a break in key. Least way not for me and thus the reason I generally play mandola in an orchestra setting when the music has been transposed or more often when I have the solo instrument.

    #3. Have a much more developed ear than me.

    Also I found that when playing rhythm with other players the dola can get lost (blended) in the crowd while the mandolin provides a distinct voice.
    But, in spite of it's short falls resulting from my lack of skill, I find the dola to be a wonderful addition to my arsenal.
    Last edited by Pittsburgh Bill; Jul-10-2020 at 4:09pm.
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    If this is a non idea it won't hurt my feelings but I have an A-style mandolin I was thinking about the practicality of converting to a mandola. First of all I don't know what that would mean as far as actual implications of the process so I would ask for advice either as to whether it can or should be done to a mandolin.
    Sorry. I miss read your question to ask if you should also play dola.
    Can’t answer this with any real expertise. I do think that you would loose tone on the C course and the beautiful sustain you get with longer strings would be disappointing.
    But that is just a guess having no real experience to go on.
    Stiver A style Custom Build
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    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

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    Default Re: Mandolin to Mandola

    As the others have mentioned, this is going to take a lot of effort to get a result that you probably wonít like.

    I agree that the main issue is the C string. Regardless of the string gauge, I would expect it to sound really flabby on the mandolinís 14Ē scale length. You can change the nut and the saddle of the instrument, but you canít change the scale length. Even though you can move the bridge 2-3 inches further from the nut to get a mandola scale length, you would also have to change the position of all the frets accordingly. So, no way I would go there.

    The other issue is just a matter of taste. Even though the G, D, and A strings will be the same, they wonít have a mandolaís tone because the mandolinís body is smaller. In the guitar world, itís like comparing the tone of an O with that of a OOO. The notes are the same, but the tone isnít.
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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin to Mandola

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus CA View Post
    As the others have mentioned, this is going to take a lot of effort to get a result that you probably won’t like.

    I agree that the main issue is the C string. Regardless of the string gauge, I would expect it to sound really flabby on the mandolin’s 14” scale length. You can change the nut and the saddle of the instrument, but you can’t change the scale length. Even though you can move the bridge 2-3 inches further from the nut to get a mandola scale length, you would also have to change the position of all the frets accordingly. So, no way I would go there.

    The other issue is just a matter of taste. Even though the G, D, and A strings will be the same, they won’t have a mandola’s tone because the mandolin’s body is smaller. In the guitar world, it’s like comparing the tone of an O with that of a OOO. The notes are the same, but the tone isn’t.
    It is mainly the body, which will not offer a deep tone for the C course. 5-string electrics are usually 14", and my Buchanan 10-strings are 14.25", and even with a rather light-gauge .048 C it is richly toned in the low range. If Buchanan used an adjustable truss rod I would go up to .052 or so. On a 5-string I liked a .056, but after converting it to 10-string I find the light .048 as a pair is sufficient.

    But if one had a second instrument of no great quality, converting is a low-cost way to practice mandola. Students learning viola often begin with a violin-size body. Altering the nut and bridge saddle are reversible changes and not a risk in any way.
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