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Thread: Octave in the Mix

  1. #1
    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    Dickson, TN

    Default Octave in the Mix

    From having a musical studio and being in a church band for the past three years, I have become more aware of an instrument's and vocal place in the mix. I came to a jam with an octave with a number of guitars and when taking a lead the octave got lost in the mid range of the guitars. I also found that when a guitar took a lead, the other mid-range instruments needed to hold back and let the lead step forward. Some of the guitars did not step back and the lead was lost. When playing an octave lead, going to a higher register could sometimes provide the separation needed to be heard. When playing mandolin, being in such a higher register, that issue did not seem to matter when playing lead. Now playing backup with the mandolin could overpower a guitar when not played respectfully. Having started playing in jams, I must admit that I was not always aware of an instruments position in the mix and often found myself stepping on other instruments territory. I was given this advice when playing banjo, if you cannot hear the lead instrument, you are playing too loud. Good advice when playing any instrument.
    Tony Huber
    1930 Martin Style C #14783
    2011 Mowry GOM
    2013 Hester F4 #31
    2014 Ellis F5 #322
    2017 Collings MT2-O #3666
    2017 Nyberg Mandola #172

  2. #2

    Default Re: Octave in the Mix

    I played in a band with a bass player who showed up with a six string bass one night. I thought that he and the guitar player would eventually kill each other that night.
    They were constantly in each other's space all night , and things got very tense.

    That said, I used to go to a bi-monthly jam that was made up of most guitar players, all of whom played chords. You could not hear yourself think, let along hear an octave mandolin, mandola, or even one lonely mandolin attempting to play melody at times. I can say the same for when I played farmers markets with three guitar players. I used to beg one of the guys to play mandolin when we played fiddle tunes. Balance is so important, and it's not cool when the singer is being drowned out by the accordion player
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

  3. #3
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    May 2007
    Pacific Northwest, USA

    Default Re: Octave in the Mix

    You've discovered the same problem of overlap that happens in Irish sessions, where there is inevitably a guitar player already present. Sometimes more than one. Octave mandolin accompaniment tends to get buried under the guitar's brighter and more clear tone with single strings. You might have a fighting chance with a bouzouki, which typically has a more "jangly" tone than an OM, but those can get buried too.

    I was in a duo for a while playing mandolin with a very good acoustic guitar player, mostly doing Irish trad. We didn't have to do much intentional arranging. The mandolin as a melody instrument just fits beautifully over guitar accompaniment. I had (and still have) a very nice Weber octave mandolin, and I was dying to use it for a few tunes in our gigs, just for sonic variety. But we never got it to work. It requires very careful arrangements to keep the two instruments out of each others' way, and it just wasn't worth the effort.

    Maybe someone else with better ears or arranging skills could have made it work in our situation, but even then, you need a sensitive guitar player who is willing to step back and let the OM shine. Check out this video for example, of Sierra Hull playing her octave in a group with a guitar player, banjo, and bass:

    The guitar player is basically doing a light "chop" strum to back her melody playing, which simulates the rhythm role of a mandolin and stays out of the way of her melody playing on the OM. A full chordal strum would bury it. She's getting help from the PA system in staying out front in the mix, but it's really the guitar arrangement that makes it work so you can hear her.

  4. #4
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    Feb 2003

    Default Re: Octave in the Mix

    I ran into this in my Irish trad trio, The primary instrumentation is concertina, guitar and bouzouki, and mandolin, tenor banjo and bouzouki (me). I found a good deal on a Peterson octave and thought it would be a nice melody voice to add to the band but it got lost no matter what we did. My bouzouki is octave strung, so between that and capo placement it works well with the guitar and even the other zouk. I enjoy the Peterson just playing on my own, which is all the time these days but was somewhat surprised it worked out that way with the band.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Octave in the Mix

    Steve, did you try stringing the G and D strings as octaves?
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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