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Thread: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    I'm a tenor banjo player, and still learning, so I am very comfortable with the CGDA tuning. My tenor is a 1970's pence and pretty heavy. while I love the instrument (not to mention I got it for free minus the repairs), I would like to invest in a mandolin or Mandola, but Mandola's are pretty hard to come by and I think learning the GDAE tuning may become confusing. I love the portability and lightenss of the mandolin, but I read on a thread that tuning it to CGDA may be too much on the neck because of the C string. However, the people on the thread were talking about a vintage mandolin, so it makes some sense. I was wondering if tuning a mandolin to CGDA would be safe for it and, if so, what mandolin would you think is best for it?

  2. #2
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Get a mandola. Contrary to what you wrote, they are not THAT hard to come by. On the contrary! I just went to the classified section of the MC and I counted over 20 of them for sale, right now! Take your pick.

  3. #3

    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    My apologies for not specifying, but I am not into the Irish/bouzouki mandolas, but more of the ones that look more like mandolins.

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    What's your price range - nice Eastman mandola below:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157651#157651

    I've haven't heard of "irish/bouzouki" mandolas (and I'm Irish) so not sure what style you're referring to. By "Irish/bouzouki" mandolas are you referring to A style instruments with oval sound holes vs. F style instruments with F holes?
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    I would not tune a mandolin up that high.

    That's why they make mandolas. There are plenty of mandolas to choose from that "look more like mandolins." Jim's suggestion just being one of many currently in the classifieds. Many more new in stores. In the classifieds now:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157694#157694

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157520#157520

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157426#157426

    http://https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157235#157235

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157117#157117

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/156918#156918

    http://https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/156853#156853


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  6. #6

    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    from what I've seen, the Irish ones are flat with oval holes and the bouzoukis/greek ones are usually oval holes with bowl backs

  7. #7

    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    they do look very nice, but a little too expensive for me. I am only a tenor banjo player, and by no means am I a professional musician. I would prefer something no more than $850

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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    It seems you don't prefer the looks of a "Irish/bouzouki mandola" which I'm assuming to you means A-style oval-hole, but if I was just starting out looking to get my first mandola, I'd be all over this deal:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157017#157017

    Just a suggestion.

    And well in your price range!
    Chris Cravens

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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kajetan View Post
    they do look very nice, but a little too expensive for me. I am only a tenor banjo player, and by no means am I a professional musician. I would prefer something no more than $850
    Then here is your instrument:

    http://https://themandolinstore.com/product/eastman-mda315-f-mandola/

    Seriously, even if a mandolin neck could handle tuning up that far, you would have to use such thin strings to prevent them from breaking at that scale length. The sound would be pretty wimpy.
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus CA View Post
    There you go. Two great choices, both within your price range. The Eastman probably suits you best. It sounds great also.
    Chris Cravens

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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kajetan View Post
    they do look very nice, but a little too expensive for me. I am only a tenor banjo player, and by no means am I a professional musician. I would prefer something no more than $850
    Then here is your instrument:

    https://themandolinstore.com/product...315-f-mandola/

    Sorry about the double post. I can’t see where to delete this one.
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    +1 for the Red Valley mandola. I bought one from Elderly about a year ago and it's solidly built, sounds excellent and is reasonably easy to play (considering the longer scale than mandolin, which will be true of any mandola).

    I would definitely get a mandola if you are already well versed with the tenor banjo, as the difference in scale length would be more noticeable between tenor banjo and mandolin (even if you manage to string a mandolin for CGDA tuning).
    Jim


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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Yes, you can redo the mandolin as a mandola. No you are not going to increase the loads on the neck by anything appreciable. You are still using the same strings and pressures on six of the strings....the hard part is to get a set of C strings that are not too floppy so you will need to experiment with a few gauges to find what works on that instrument. But it can be done fairly easily. You will have to replace and rework your bridge saddle to get proper intonation....and will need to resize your nut slots. I have done it on a couple of mandolins with no issues at all. If you want more info you can PM me......I don't want to get into an online "disagreement". Also keep in mind that it will retain most of the voice of the mandolin....and not revoice as a mandola. They do sound different because of the scales and body sizes.

  14. #14
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    It has been done, but usually for electric mandolin. Johnny Gimble comes to mind. The thing is to find C strings heavy enough that they aren't too floppy when tuned up at that scale length. Probably the heaviest Mandola C strings you can find.

    I tried that on a 4 string electric mandolin and was just barely able to get the string saddles back far enough to intonate.

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    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Or learn to play GDAE. Part of the fun o learning new instruments is realizing that tuning is something your head and fingers will rapidly figure out once you spend a little time with it. The different instruments were made to sound different. Take a minute to understand why that has been true for 450 years plus then embark on the journey into broadening your playing field.

    Steve

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    I've got an old National that has a slightly longer scale than standard for a mandolin and tune it with single mandola strings CGDA, similar to Johnny Gimble. It's a hoot to play and bend strings. Definitely NOT bluegrass!

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kajetan View Post
    from what I've seen, the Irish ones are flat with oval holes and the bouzoukis/greek ones are usually oval holes with bowl backs
    There is no such thing as an "irish" mandola - what you describe is simply a flat top mandola with an oval hole. A bouzouki is an entirely different instrument from a mandola, so any mandola with an oval hole and bowl back would simply be a bowl back mandola. Not trying to be a smart aleck, just clarifying because it will be easier for you to hone your search down/eliminate things from your search if the common terms are utilized so everyone offering tips is on the same page. Re: more affordable mandolas, you might keep your eyes peeled for a second hand Eastman 315 mandola - they go new for $850, so a used one would come in under that price. Here's a new one that will be arriving at The Mandolin Store soon:

    https://themandolinstore.com/product...315-f-mandola/
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by ajh View Post
    Yes, you can redo the mandolin as a mandola. No you are not going to increase the loads on the neck by anything appreciable. You are still using the same strings and pressures on six of the strings....the hard part is to get a set of C strings that are not too floppy so you will need to experiment with a few gauges to find what works on that instrument. But it can be done fairly easily. You will have to replace and rework your bridge saddle to get proper intonation....and will need to resize your nut slots. I have done it on a couple of mandolins with no issues at all. If you want more info you can PM me......I don't want to get into an online "disagreement". Also keep in mind that it will retain most of the voice of the mandolin....and not revoice as a mandola. They do sound different because of the scales and body sizes.
    I went back into my notes.....I wound up using the D'Daddario J72 mandola set in the end. 14/23/36/49. The pressures were 21#/24#/24#/22# per string respectively (I do not recollect which calculator I used at the time). Another thing to mention is that if the outer C string is too close to the edge and you have a tendency to push the string out instead of straight down you may need to adjust your string spacing. Also....on the instrument I still have, I had the builder rework the instrument. I did not do the work on that one myself. Note that this is using all 8 strings on a standard scale acoustic.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Yow. Well, let's go to the computer and see: a 0.049" diameter C string at a ~13-7/8" scale length (the standard mandolin scale length, not the mandola scale length) will be under just 16.4 lbs of tension, according to the D'Addario String Tension Pro calculator. That's pretty darned low, esp. when you consider that mandolin strings tend to run about 20 lbs of tension. You will hear a C being played, all right, but I would bet that the C note is "wonky." Hit it too hard, and it will sound out of pitch. Fret it too hard, and it will also sound out of pitch. And the timbre may be quite a bit off, too, compared to the other, higher-tension strings. This arrangement might work out just fine for an electric instrument, like the C string of a 5-string electric mandolin, but I am personally skeptical that it would work out very well on an acoustic mandolin (~14" scale) being set up for mandola tuning. Of course, this is the underlying REASON why actual mandolas tend to have longer scale lengths (say, 16" and up) than mandolins. The lower you go with those open string notes, the longer scale length you'll require, in order to get good tones with stable notes from the strings. This is Acoustic Instrument Construction 101. So, I repeat my original suggestion to just buy a mandola, if you want the tuning to be CGDA. There are plenty of these available, if you look, in both the A and F styles, as well as variants with oval holes, flat tops, etc. Good hunting!
    Last edited by sblock; Jul-24-2020 at 2:49pm.

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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Yow. Well, let's go to the computer and see: a 0.049" diameter C string at a ~13-7/8" scale length (the standard mandolin scale length, not the mandola scale length) will be under just 16.4 lbs of tension, according to the D'Addario String Tension Pro calculator. That's pretty darned low, esp. when you consider that mandolin strings tend to run about 20 lbs of tension. You will hear a C being played, all right, but I would bet that the C note is "wonky." Hit it too hard, and it will sound out of pitch. Fret it too hard, and it will also sound out of pitch. And the timbre may be quite a bit off, too, compared to the other, higher-tension strings. This arrangement might work out just fine for an electric instrument, like the C string of a 5-string electric mandolin, but I am personally skeptical that it would work out very well on an acoustic mandolin (~14" scale) being set up for mandola tuning. Of course, this is the underlying REASON why actual mandolas tend to have longer scale lengths (say, 16" and up) than mandolins. The lower you go with those open string notes, the longer scale length you'll require, in order to get good tones with stable notes from the strings. This is Acoustic Instrument Construction 101. So, I repeat my original suggestion to just buy a mandola, if you want the tuning to be CGDA. There are plenty of these available, if you look, in both the A and F styles, as well as variants with oval holes, flat tops, etc. Good hunting!

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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    Put a capo on the fifth fret of an ordinary mandolin.
    -Newtonamic

  24. #22
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA tuning on Mandolin?

    You didn't specify whether you're tuning up to CGDA -- an octave above your tenor banjo, like the discontinued Weber "sopranolin" -- or down to CGDA, the same as your tenor banjo. The first alternative, produces a sound similar to what Larry mentions above, a mandolin capo-ed at the fifth fret.

    I'd recommend the second, and concur with the above recommendations to get a mandola, rather than converting a standard mandolin to CGDA tuning. For one thing, the longer mandola scale will be much closer to what you're used to with the tenor banjo, than the shorter mandolin scale. Second, you can buy standard sets of mandola strings, rather than having to customize your string sets to avoid the too-low tension of mandola strings on a mandolin scale.

    There are quite a few choices available for you, flat-top and carved-top, oval-hole and f-hole. The Eastman "300" series are well-made, no-frills instruments. Even though you aren't drawn to the "Irish" (for want of a better word) flat-top, oval-hole instruments, makers like Gold Tone and Trinity College offer decent-quality mandolas well within your price range.

    As a confirmed stick-in-the-mud, I generally advise to accept instruments the way they were designed, to get optimum performance -- rather than converting your ukulele into a mandocello, or something similar. If you restring a mandolin like a mandola, what you get is an undersized mandola that requires a fair amount of re-jiggering to accept stringing for which it wasn't designed, and which may well disappoint in terms of playability and sound.

    Just my 2.
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