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Thread: Where are the Mandola Books?

  1. #1
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Where are the Mandola Books?

    My husband would call this "grousing" and perhaps it is.

    I've been having lots of fun with my "new" Mid-Mo M-15, learning to play it at the same time I learn to play my mandolins. I have dipped my toe into music theory, and my whole foot is currently immersed; soon I will venture into the deep end. I wish there was no covid and I could find a live instructor to sit in the same room with, but there it is.

    With the mandolins, there is such an abundance of potential self-study materials that my problem is choosing the most personally effective ones. Sometimes the choices seem overwhelming.

    With the mandola.... nuthin. I got nuthin. Nothing at all with a picture of a mandola on the front of it. I've got a couple tenor banjo books, but somehow that doesn't seem exactly right. I thought I found a DVD (Intro to the Mandola by Wisdom of the Woods), but it turned out to be out of print and unavailable.

    How come? Do all the mandola players already know how to play?
    Where are all the mandola books?

  2. #2
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    There is this...

    https://www.amazon.com/Tenor-Mandola.../dp/1906207240

    BTW Sue, my Wife and I no longer have a cat but if we did I would jump on one of those mandolin shaped cat toys you are making! Very cool.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  4. #3
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Thanks for the complement on the cat mandos

    I saw that book. It looks like it's just a big compilation of chords. He's got one for almost every fretted instrument under the sun, so I wonder about how useful it would be.

  5. #4
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    My old friend Niles offers this...

    https://www.elderly.com/products/the-mandola-sampler

    I would recommend any of his mandolin books too.

    I think the tenor banjo books would be fine too.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  7. #5
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Yeah, maybe I could get one directly from Niles, I will PM him. Elderly wants $10 for shipping.

    I think the tenor banjo book will be pretty good, (and it will be good to have in case I am ever tempted by a tenor banjo), but it looks (from the pictures) like the neck is alot longer and so I wonder about the fingering. Also, they show holding your fingers perpendicular to the neck with the thumb braced on the back vs. at an angle like a mandolin. I wonder if that is correct.

  8. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    It also depends on what kind of music you are playing. Many years ago I switched from 1st mandolin section to mandola in the New York Mandolin Orchestra. The repertoire was predominantly classical music and I spent the summer training myself to read alto clef. If you read alto clef then you can access viola literature. The high point of my mandola career was playing one of the Mozart violin-viola duets with a friend of mine—no, not for performance, just for fun. And we also had a short-lived quartet in which I played mandola.

    If you want to play Bach on mandola and stay with treble clef you could play one of the Bach Cello Suites (available on IMSLP) for *violin* giving you the same fingering as a cellist would use and even in the correct key. If you can read the alto clef then you can get it transcribed for viola.

    Let's face it: mandolin is a minority instrument compared to guitar and piano. Mandola and mandocello are even more minority instruments.

    If you stay with treble clef you can certainly use the same etudes and other study pieces and exercises on the mandola but you will be playing in a different key (one fifth down), so duets with a mandolin player wold not work.

    As Charley noted the tenor banjo books would work as well but the technique would be closer to mandolin. I doubt very much that tenor banjo books would bother too much with tremolo.
    Jim

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  10. #7
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Thanks for the inputs, Jim. I don't read the alto clef, but will probably try to learn it later. At this point I don't really know what kind of music I might gravitate toward. The tenor banjo book is written in treble clef one octave down, learned about this just the other day in another string. I plan to just keep that in mind for now, and learn which chords are which on each instrument. I have the two charts sitting next to each other on my desk. Good mental exercise, I think. I don't think I want to play it like a mandolin and be in a different key, because I want to be ready to play with other people when covid is over.

    Right now I only know one tune on the mandola, Arkansas Traveler. I moved the A part up a string and figured out how to play the B part an octave down.

    And you're right about tremolo. I see slurs, trills, and grupetto toward the back of the tenor banjo book, but no tremolo.

    It's all workable, I think, but not as straightforward as I'd like. Thus the urge to grouse

  11. #8
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    I went to TablEdit and transposed down a fifth. I very quickly got in over my head, but I did get some tunes with which to practice.

    And if anyone has comments or criticisms on this approach, I am all ears. When the lovely Mrs TJ bought me a mandola for my birthday, I looked all over for videos or books and, like Sue, I ended up with bupkiss.
    those little wires are like cheese cutters.

  12. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Do all the mandola players already know how to play?
    Where are all the mandola books?
    I played mandolin for at least 10 years before attempting mandola. For me the main barrier was having to learn that clef. Also, the additional fun stuff is that for most viola repertoire they also switch to treble clef for the upper registers. Of course, in orchestral scores the violas usually have the simplest parts so there was that advantage.

    I would hazard a guess that close to 100% of mandola players played mandolin first (just like you). Since the fingering is really the same, with only the exception of a longer scale, all the techniques for learning mandolin are applicable to playing the mandola.

    That is why I suggested you can play any of the etudes or exercises in a mandolin or violin book. In fact viola methods are usually the same as the ones for violin with the same fingering and notation changed. That was why I mentioned that you could play the Bach cello suites using a violin transcription. On a violin/mandolin it will be in a different key from the cello but using that fingering you will play in the same (correct) key as the original cello, just one octave higher.

    As far as playing fiddle tunes or songs you may just need to learn what key you are playing in. You may not need to learn alto C-clef unless you are planning on playing in an ensemble that uses scored published music. If you can learn tunes by ear you can do that on mandola.

    In my humble opinion, the tenor banjo books would be less valuable than mandolin or violin books. One good thing you could get from those books would be how to read transposed treble clef on the mandola. That way you could read off sheet music in the correct key. The other thing would be to learn chords. I don't have a tenor banjo book in front of me but I would guess that the beginning ones would mostly teach chords to accompany songs.
    Jim

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  14. #10
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    There are some collections out of folk music written for viola, maybe a Mel Bay book or two of celtic tunes. You'll have to adapt to picking instead of bowing and learn to read alto clef, but otherwise, they might be an option.

    Have fun!
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  16. #11
    working musician Jim Bevan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Hi Sue. It'd be no sweat for me to transpose the exercises you've been doing down a fifth and send 'em to you, but I'd need to know: Do you want everything in alto clef, or would you prefer one of the below?

    Click image for larger version. 

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  18. #12

    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Hi, Sue!

    I've been in your position.

    I actually started on mandola, a Flatiron 1SH bought new, but I ran into a lack of mandola-specific learning materials. I tried to teach myself, using mandolin books and chord books, but it didn't really come together other than a few tunes.

    Over time, I did internet searches on "mandola," but other than a few videos here and there of people playing unadorned tunes, there still weren't any resources.

    Then one day, instead of doing a search on "mandola," I instead searched for "CGDA."

    And that's how I discovered the vast world of tenor banjo books.

    Tenor banjo has been around a long time, and even if one isn't into the kind of repertoire one might hear from a player wearing a striped shirt and a straw hat (I'm not, but no judgments here), there was still obviously a lot of knowledge to be had.

    After doing a lot of reading and research, I ordered a few books. They taught me to read music on mandola, and the rudiments of chord-melody style, as well as giving me a place to start on chords.

    The three books which I found most useful for mandola were

    Mel Bay's Complete Tenor Banjo Method
    Mel Bay's Tenor Banjo Melody Chord Playing System
    Mel Bay's Deluxe Encyclopedia of Tenor Banjo Chords (now titled Tenor Banjo Chord Encyclopedia)


    The Melody Chord Playing System is a follow-up to Complete Tenor Banjo Method, so one should work through Complete Method before going to Melody Chord Playing System.

    I worked them slowly and patiently with a metronome, starting slow and only speeding any given exercise once i could play it *perfectly* at the current speed. That way, I only learned to play perfectly, although slowly, and never fossilized any errors into my playing through repetition.

    Typically I would work on about a five-page range at any given time, dropping the oldest page and adding a new one when i could play the oldest perfectly at speed. I'd work for around 20 minutes a day on these "lessons sessions," no more, although I allowed myself to play for pleasure outside of that.

    As I got better, I could dive into all kinds of music in my free time, freed from the tyranny of needing tablature.

    On the plus side, I not only learned to play, but also got comfortable reading and writing music for mandola. This skill will open a world of music to anyone who follows it.

    Also, there are quite a few amazing players of the tenor guitar (also traditionally tuned CGDA) who have posted on Youtube. Often the hands are very visible, and with a decent grounding in the basics, anyone can use the videos as tutorials for further ideas.

    Should you decide to follow any of these paths, good luck, and happy playing!

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  20. #13
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    I've been thinking about this a fair portion of last night (partly due to coffee I had with my son at 4:30PM) and all day today while I did other things. I think part of studying this stuff is so that you have the right language to discuss it with other people, and I'm definitely not there yet. I want to see if I understand this correctly, though, so pardon any incorrect use of terminology. I sure wish I paid more attention to the music theory piece back in my student clarinet days.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    That is why I suggested you can play any of the etudes or exercises in a mandolin or violin book. In fact viola methods are usually the same as the ones for violin with the same fingering and notation changed. That was why I mentioned that you could play the Bach cello suites using a violin transcription. On a violin/mandolin it will be in a different key from the cello but using that fingering you will play in the same (correct) key as the original cello, just one octave higher.
    Last night I went to the website and looked at the violin transcription of one of those Bach cello suites, Cello Suite No.1 in G major, BWV 1007. It was written in key of D (2 sharps). This morning I looked at the original cello score, key of G (1 sharp). So are you saying, that if I read the music and play it on the mandola as if it were a mandolin (as if the lowest note were a G, even though it's really a C), that it will shift the music back to the original key of G (difference of a fifth)?

    I think this piece is intended for one musician to play. So I'm thinking it doesn't matter if the violin version is in a different key than the cello version, and the way it was transcribed was to make it musically expedient for the violinist. If they were playing together and the cellist played the original score in G and the violinist played the transcribed one in D, it wouldn't sound right. I think if it were intended for the cello and violin to play together, the violin part would have had to have been transcribed differently to stay in the same key. But if the cello played their part in G and the mandola played the violin transcription as if it were a mandolin, they would both be in G and it would sound right.

    I would really appreciate knowing where my thinking is right or wrong here.

    Jim B, I'd love to take you up on your offer, but I don't know the answer to your question yet.

  21. #14
    Paul Wheeler
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Sue, you're correct. If you play on your mandolin according to the violin transcription you started with, you'll be in D. If you pick up a CGDA mandola and use the same fingering, you'll be in G. -- Paul
    He joyously felt himself idling, an unreflective mood in which water was water, sky was sky, breeze was breeze. He knew it couldn't last. -- Thomas McGuane, "Nothing but Blue Skies"

  22. #15

    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Last night I went to the website and looked at the violin transcription of one of those Bach cello suites, Cello Suite No.1 in G major, BWV 1007. It was written in key of D (2 sharps). This morning I looked at the original cello score, key of G (1 sharp). So are you saying, that if I read the music and play it on the mandola as if it were a mandolin (as if the lowest note were a G, even though it's really a C), that it will shift the music back to the original key of G (difference of a fifth)?

    I think this piece is intended for one musician to play. So I'm thinking it doesn't matter if the violin version is in a different key than the cello version, and the way it was transcribed was to make it musically expedient for the violinist. If they were playing together and the cellist played the original score in G and the violinist played the transcribed one in D, it wouldn't sound right. I think if it were intended for the cello and violin to play together, the violin part would have had to have been transcribed differently to stay in the same key. But if the cello played their part in G and the mandola played the violin transcription as if it were a mandolin, they would both be in G and it would sound right.

    I would really appreciate knowing where my thinking is right or wrong here.
    Yes.

    The original is in the key corresponding to the second string/course, from low to high (CGDA).

    The mandolin version is in the key corresponding to the second string/course, from low to high (GDAE).

    Playing the mandolin version on mandola, as if on mandolin, will have the piece centered on the second course, which would be G. The piece is transposed up a fifth to D for mandolin, and playing it on mandola transposed it down a fifth.

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  24. #16
    Paul Wheeler
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    . . . and to speak to some of the rest of your questions: correct, the two instruments playing together in their respective D and G settings wouldn't work, since they'd always be a fifth apart. Noting that the violin/mandolin range goes from a low G (open 4th string) to a high D (10th fret, first string) -- if the mandola player were to shift up to play in unison with the mandolin, he'd have to be able to reach the 17th fret to get the same high D on his first string (and the fourth string would go unused). Of course Bach would have written different parts for the two; you might enjoy looking at the Two-Part Inventions. -- Paul
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  26. #17
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Let me see if I can simplify/clarify what I was saying above.

    Playing technique for mandolin and mandola should be very similar.

    Without having to bother with learning a new clef you can play the exercises, etudes, pieces, etc. for *practice purposes* with the same fingering. So, for now that would be the easiest way of playing that instrument. Later on you can learn the alto clef if you are playing written music, but not really needed right now. And otherwise you will get confused learning mandolin and mandola simultaneously.

    There are lots of viola method books but those are usually violin books rewritten in alto clef but the fingerings are generally the same (as if you were reading the violin books).

    If you want to play with others, say, fiddle tunes, then you could try learning the tunes by ear. If that is too hard then have someone like Jim B transpose to the proper key so they play correctly. Or learn to do it yourself.

    Is that at all any clearer?
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Dec-10-2020 at 7:58pm.
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  28. #18
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    It's clear now. I'm pretty left brain, and have been accused at times (ha ha, pretty often) of over analyzing things. That said, I am *really* glad you pointed me to those cello suites, because I feel like a lightbulb went on in my head after I looked at them and thought about it. You guys who have been thinking this way for years, it's second nature. Then, some people can just go with the flow and it's natural; I somehow have a need to figure it out analytically. I'm looking forward to my hard copy Garage Band Theory book to come in so that I can flip through it for things I want to know.

    I get what you're saying about practice purposes. But my analytical brain wants to line up the note on the music sheet to the sound being produced. If not, I feel like I need to understand why. It was astounding to me to learn last week that when I played a C on my childhood clarinet, everyone was hearing a Bb! Even though I don't even play clarinet any more, I had to go look up why.

    I think if I know the tune I can figure it out some by ear, it needs to start on a D or an F# or whatever and then go from there. I'm thinking it's probably just a couple intellectual steps from there to doing the transposing. I'm getting to where I also feel like there are a couple of epiphanies waiting in the wings close by about patterns that are common to both instruments.

    So you're probably right I don't need to learn alto clef right away, but now that I know about it, my brain is already kind of working on it in the background.

    In the mean time, that was a pretty intimidating bunch of 16th notes in that cello piece.

  29. #19

    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Just as an observation, the two method books I recommended above, and the various older tenor banjo books I've looked at, are in treble clef with the correct pitches, but written an octave higher to fit on one staff. The mandola (and tenor banjo) sound an octave below the written pitch, just like written music for guitar.

  30. #20
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Yeah, thanks. I have that Mel Bay Tenor Banjo book. That's what I've been using so far. Once you get in a ways (further than I am) the notes are flying pretty high off the top of the staff. I'll probably write in the names above them.

  31. #21
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Sue, if you are interested in learning to read alto clef get a copy of Harvey Whistler's From Violin to Viola. Although written for bowed strings most of the pieces work fine on mandola.

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  33. #22
    working musician Jim Bevan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Sue, here's a mandola version of the Scales 1st Position you've been working on:

    Scales 1st Position CGDA

    The fingering's a little different from what you're used to pinky on the sixth fret is more practical for this scale-length.

    (The link takes you to bottom of my Theory page, where I've recently started posting miscellaneous forum-related freebies. In line with the Cafe's laudable "It takes a village to raise a child" philosophy everyone's invited to download it in the spirit of monitoring Sue's progress. Clicking on the image of the pdf will give you a full-size view of the first page.)

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  35. #23
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    Sue, if you are interested in learning to read alto clef get a copy of Harvey Whistler's From Violin to Viola. Although written for bowed strings most of the pieces work fine on mandola.
    Thanks Louise. I'm going to write the name of that book in the list of books to remember in the back of my journal. Then, when I'm a bit further along and the idea has percolated around in my head for awhile, I will find a copy of it to read

  36. #24
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    woops responded to wrong post

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    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Where are the Mandola Books?

    Ondrej Sarek, who is a member here on the cafe, has written a lot of books for CGDA tenor mandola. I have not seen them all but those I have are very good.

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