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Thread: Why Mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default Why Mandolin?

    For me, the size of the neck and the fret spacing fits my hand. When I first picked up a mandolin, I remember thinking, "Wow, this thing really fits." I've played other string instruments over the years and have always struggled to get around.

    I enjoy the sound of the mandolin and love its role in fiddle tunes.


    What brought you to the mandolin?

    Peace.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    My wife was trying to learn banjo. I already played guitar and a little bit of banjo. She was struggling. Her banjo instructor suggested she try mandolin. She tried it and liked it but needed help. I sat down with it one day while she was at work and figured out Angeline the Baker. She came home and said that sounds easy, show it to me. So I did.

    Finding melodies is a lot easier and more logical than on guitar and banjo so it brings out a lot more melody in my playing and has improved my ear a lot.

    On the other side a singer friend had a mandolin. It would not tune one day. The nut had broken so I fixed it for her. I looked it over and decided I could probably build one so I did. I am working on number 4 now though I have been slowed down a lot by clean up from our inland hurricane last month.

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  4. #3
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Fiddle first, starting at age 11.
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  5. #4
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Love the sound, fits my hands (big hands but short fingers), light (bad back), and portable. ( i used to travel a lot) - and there were already too many guitarists when I started off.

    But mostly, I love the sound.
    Bren

  6. #5
    Registered User Isaac Revard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Bill Monroe

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    there were already too many guitarists when I started off.
    This was it for me. Pure happenstance. The jam I was going to (not bluegrass at all, basically just folk music) was an all-guitar orchestra, so I got it just to have something different in the mix. Another fellow there was a mando picker, and he showed me how to play "Angeline the Baker". It was all down the slippery slope from there.
    Mitch Russell

  8. #7
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Bill Monroe and Lorraine Duisit.

    D.H.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Sounds good with guitar

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    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Chris Thile
    Sam Bush
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    Tuned in fifths, with easier learned chord shapes.
    Wonderfully happy tone
    Eric Hanson
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  12. #10

    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Wanted to try something different and learn an instrument at almost 50yo.

    Too many guitar players.

    Liked a bunch of bands that featured mandolin and thought it looked and sounded fun.

    Had a school in town that I knew could give me lessons.

  13. #11
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Playing catch & release on guitars for a few years on EBay, bought an old bowl back on whim - looked cool and was cheap and over a hundred years old. Then the mandolin sound began to haunt me.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    I've shared this story before, but its been a while. I picked up mandolin completely by accident.

    My neighbor across the street and I had been getting together to pick tunes for a few years. I was mostly a guitar player at the time (as was he). I grew up playing classical violin and bluegrass fiddle. But for the previous 30 some years I just played guitar, not really great, and pretty infrequently. I've also always been a handyman/fix it guy.

    One day he pulls out this old cheapo "Fransisco" A style mandolin that was not playable and asked to look at it. All I knew was it was supposed to be tuned like a violin. I cleaned it up, changed the strings, adjusted the bridge. Once it was tuned up and ready to go I started noodling on it.

    I swear all the old bluegrass tunes I used to know just fell right out of that mando. I didn't even have to think about it. I was pretty much hooked. I bought my own cheapo Ibanez mandolin from a local guitar store.

    I started attending jams put on by a local traditional music club. I met a guy who wanted me to play with him at an open mic. We went and the host really liked my mando picking. He asked me to sit in with his band. I started playing mandolin all around the area. I found there was a greater demand for a mediocre mandolin player than for yet another mediocre guitar player. Then I discovered mandolincafe....

    This was all over 12 years ago, and since then I've gotten into mandola, octave mandolin, banjolin, resonator mandolin, mandocello....and got back into fiddle and guitar. I've progressed more musically during this time than I did in the previous 3 - 4 decades. I think of mandolin as my main instrument, but it really improved all parts of my life.

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  17. #13
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    When I moved to the States in '08 I went from living in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in Ireland to a studio apartment in a building in Oakland, CA, something which seriously hampered my tenor banjo playing. I'd bought an old Harmony Monterey mandolin for a friend for their birthday and restrung it and cleaned it up beforehand and found it really fun to play. It dawned on me that mandolin would a quieter option than tenor banjo, so I started scanning craigslist and eBay for a mandolin of my own. First attempt was a '60's Gibson A50, but then realised that I preferred the oval hole/round hole sound so sold it and got a wee Flatiron 2M. The rest is history, a slippery slope, and a happily depleted bank account on numerous occasions!
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  18. #14

    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Always loved the sound of the mandolin (Vivaldi concerti, Bill Monroe, ...).
    I kinda play the guitar. I used to fingerpick Mississippi John Hurt, JS Bach and other stuff.
    But I forgot most of it. I just remember some flatpicking (Off to California) and a couple
    of Carter-style picking (Wildwood Flower, John Hardy).
    I took up the ukulele a few years ago, at first just strumming songs. Then a few Irish instrumentals
    (Larry O'Gaff, The Irish Washerwoman), Tarantella Napoletana...

    I got me a mandolin a few days ago. I wanted an F-model but I settled for an A-shape (Eastman MD 305).
    I know I should do scales and other exercises before learning to play a piece.
    But I am too impatient. Trying to learn to play Chicken Reel and Buffalo Gals...

  19. #15
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by randybrown View Post
    For me, the size of the neck and the fret spacing fits my hand. When I first picked up a mandolin, I remember thinking, "Wow, this thing really fits." I've played other string instruments over the years and have always struggled to get around.

    I enjoy the sound of the mandolin and love its role in fiddle tunes.


    What brought you to the mandolin?

    Peace.
    My introduction to the mandolin was somewhat on a whim. My family went to a botanical garden (Longwood Gardens in PA) and after walking around for hours we stopped for a beer at their beer garden. A bluegrass band was setting up. I really enjoyed the sounds of the mandolin. The next day I was just looking around on Amazon (with a adult beverage or 2)) and next thing I know a mandolin just shows up 2 days later. My first mandolin was a not so great Ibanez but it was good enough to get me started. 2 years later I am still going string, just with a better instrument

  20. #16
    MN Mandolin Orchestra Benjamin Gieseke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    I think the first time I ever saw mandolin be played was the Goo Goo Dolls performing on some talk show, their guitar player had a mandolin that he wore up high and a Gibson SG slung low so he could switch back and forth during the song, which I thought was pretty cool. Fast forward a few years and my sister gave me a bunch of Nickel Creek albums which led to my grandparents loaning me their old Gibson mandolin to try out. I already played violin and guitar a little so it was a pretty easy transition to start strumming chords and playing simple songs. I gave it back after a few months because it was hard to play (very old strings, very fretworn) and I thought that was just how mandolin was (I was about 14 at the time).

    Fast forward to my senior year of high school, I traded a guitar amp for a cheap (also very fretworn) Fender mandolin to play at camp/church. A lot of my other friends played acoustic guitar, and it was a convenient way to add something "different" and, frankly, it was much more portable than a guitar. This scenario kept repeating itself and soon I found myself playing mandolin more often than acoustic guitar. Over time I just found myself in the position more and more often of thinking it would just be really nice to only ever play mandolin-I loved the sound, it was relatively unusual, my violin background translated nicely to the fingerboard, and its just so compact! A few upgrades later and its unequivocally my main instrument. It still brings me more joy to play than any other instrument I have ever tried, so glad I discovered it!
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  21. #17
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    It was Mando or banjo. My Dad played mandolin and my grandmother played frailing banjo. It’s an Appalachian thing
    Play it like you mean it

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  22. #18
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hicks View Post
    Bill Monroe and Lorraine Duisit.

    D.H.
    Now that's a slightly unusual answer. I remember her from Trapezoid. You need to tell us more, I think.
    David A. Gordon

  23. #19
    Registered User Christine Robins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Like a number of others, I played fiddle first. Started around age 10; played in my high school orchestra.

    In my 20's, I spent many years trying to learn guitar. It never felt comfortable. Barre chords hurt my bony fingers, and the chord fingerings didn't make any conceptual sense.

    About 10 years ago, I wanted to have an instrument to accompany my singing. The mando was an obvious choice, since my fiddling LH already knew what to do for single-note playing, and the chords were much easier than guitar chords.

    I love doing tremolo. No other instrument can do it anywhere near as well.

    These days, for doing solo performances of my own original songs, I use a baritone uke tuned GDAE.

  24. #20
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    I played violin from elementary school through high school. Then in college I heard Bill Monroe and the Dawg. I was hooked!

  25. #21
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dagger Gordon View Post
    Now that's a slightly unusual answer. I remember her from Trapezoid. You need to tell us more, I think.
    I taught at Oberlin for a couple of years in the early 80s. The college had a great, somewhat folk-oriented concert series, and Mr. Bill played one year and Trapezoid the next. I still think of the 'zoid concert as one of the best I've been to (the audience sang Amazing Grace to them as an encore.) I was impressed by what one little instrument can do. (Though Lorraine might have been playing a mandola.) However, the Trapezoid-branded hammer dulcimer hasn't been played for a while.

    D.H.

  26. #22

    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by randybrown View Post
    What brought you to the mandolin?
    There was one in the house when I was a kid. My dad played, but he did that tremolo stuff (pretty waltzes and such) and strummed chords for singing. Nice to listen to, but I didn't feel the bug to learn to play it.

    But I was already playing fiddle, and one day my dad cleverly let it slip that mandolin was tuned exactly the same as fiddle, so of course I was like "Really? Well I better try it then."

    As far as playing tunes, the mandolin left hand (fretting hand) didn't involve any additional challenges, because all the notes were in the exact same place as fiddle.

    But my right hand (pick hand) was terrible at first, the pick kept slipping around, I was like "How in the world does anyone play one of these things anyway?" I thought it was ridiculous that the pick wouldn't stay put.

    My dad provided the classic answer, which turned out to be just what I needed to solve the pick-slip problem. He said:

    "Hold the pick so loose that if you turn your hand sideways, the pick *almost* falls on the floor."

    That worked. I was surprised, because it didn't seem logical. In more recent years, I suspect that the reason that works, is because it allows for micro-adjustments while playing, so the pick never gets very far out of alignment to start with. The pick micro-adjustments happen without even realizing you're doing it, you only notice it if you see yourself on video.

    Anyway, nearly everything else I've gotten into since then, has been fifths-tuned (GDAE or variants thereof). One time I tried to be normal and bought an electric guitar, dutifully tried to learn normal guitar stuff like everyone else already knows how to play, but regular guitar tuning didn't hold my interest and I eventually retuned it to CGDAEB (when capo'd at 5th fret) and that's how it's been tuned ever since. Much better!

  27. #23

    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Christine Robins View Post
    I love doing tremolo. No other instrument can do it anywhere near as well.




    I started on mndln because it was easy to get into - being a guitar and fiddle player.. But after my BG interest waned, so did my mndln playing.. (I actually play hammered dulcimer more than mndln these days).

  28. #24
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    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by randybrown View Post
    What brought you to the mandolin?
    In my jam group, I play acoustic guitar, dobro, bass, and fiddle, so I thought it would be fun to add another bluegrass instrument to my arsenal. I had a choice between mandolin or banjo. I chose mandolin because it seemed like it would an easier path to take.

    As Carl mentioned above, I don't know why, but I find that I playing melody and doing breaks on the mandolin just flows naturally for me, even when jamming on a song that I had never heard before. I can't do that on guitar. Maybe because the mandolin is tuned to fifths?

  29. #25

    Default Re: Why Mandolin?

    I was a guitar player in an Americana/BG band with two guitar players.
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