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Thread: Curious about mandola nomenclature

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    Default Curious about mandola nomenclature

    I thought I knew about this stuff, but evidently not. A fellow in the classifieds is selling a (very nice) Sobell instrument that he describes as an "octave mandola." It looks like a mandola, as far as size, scale length, etc. Where I come from, and octave mandola gets you a mandocello (that being an octave below a mandola). Is this maybe European terminology?

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Octave mandolin (US) tuned GDAE one octave below a mandolin = octave mandola (UK & Europe). Mandola (US) tuned CGDA I believe is called the alto mandola in UK & Europe.
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    You're correct on it being European terminology, an octave mandola is known as an octave mandolin in North America. As for that Sobell in that add it does look like its on the short side for an octave....

  5. #4

    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    It *is* confusing. Hopefully this might clarify just a bit.

    US mandolin - UK mandolin. GDAE. Also sometimes soprano mandolin. Scale length around 14"

    US mandola - UK alto mandola. CGDA. Scale length usually centered around 17".

    US octave mandolin - UK octave mandola. GDAE. Scale length starting around 20", but sometimes up to 25..5" or more. Also occasionally referred to as tenor mandola.

    Then you get Monticello (CGDA), Irish bouzouki (4-course) and cittern (5-course)ith no set standards.

    So, a lot of times one is left looking for tuning and scale length information.

    Good luck!

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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Ward View Post
    I thought I knew about this stuff, but evidently not. A fellow in the classifieds is selling a (very nice) Sobell instrument that he describes as an "octave mandola." It looks like a mandola, as far as size, scale length, etc. Where I come from, and octave mandola gets you a mandocello (that being an octave below a mandola). Is this maybe European terminology?
    I know nothing except this quote from the Hobgoblin mandola page:

    "The Tenor Mandola (or Mandola) is tuned as a Viola, CGDA, one fifth below a mandolin. Octave Mandolas (also known as Octave Mandolins in America)...tuned GDAE, an octave below a Mandolin"

    But... you said the instrument is regular mandola scale length, and yet the seller describes it as "octave". So I dunno what to think.

    I agree with you that it would be more logical if an "octave mandola" was an octave lower than a regular mandola, i.e. mandocello range.

    The Hobgoblin definition seems irrational anyway - why isn't CGDA a "tenor mandolin" instead of a "tenor mandola"? And besides, as Jim and Explorer mentioned above, I thought that was alto range (written in alto clef, right?) and yet it can also be tenor too? And if everything is based on the root word mandola, rather than the word mandolin, then why don't we refer to a mandolin as a soprano mandola? (or whatever human vocal range that would be, dunno, I'm not a singer)

    But I guess no one ever said that musical names had to be logical. I'm assuming "traditional" is the culprit in many of these inconsistent naming discrepancies.

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    Still a mandolin fighter Mandophyte's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    As Mr Churchill said: "Two countries divided by a common language.".
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    Then you get Monticello (CGDA), Irish bouzouki (4-course) and cittern (5-course)ith no set standards.
    I assume you were the victim of autocorrect above and meant mandocello (sometimes archaically called mandoloncello). Scale for that is generally 24" (Gibson) to 25.5" (more or less) and tuned one octave below the tenor mandola (or same as a violoncello). From my current interest in octaves and bouzoukis I have surmised that bouzoukis scale is longer than octave more like ~25" or so and for Irish traditional playing often tuned GDAD and sometimes with octave string pairs in the bass (so really: Gg-Dd-aa-dd or Gg-Dd-aa-ee).
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Thanks to all. I consider myself educated. Possibly even enlightened.

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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I assume you were the victim of autocorrect above and meant mandocello (sometimes archaically called mandoloncello).
    I can't turn off this device's tendency to autocorrect *after* hitting the submit button, which is frustrating. I also had the word "overbuilt" 'corrected' to "overheated" with regard to mandolin construction.... *sigh*

    Thanks, though!

  13. #10

    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Then you get Monticello (CGDA),......with no set standards
    .

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    It has been said that Thomas Jefferson played one and was quite good at it.

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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    This has been the case for a long time and is so confusing. To me a Mandocello is an Octave mandola. C G D A. I dont know why anyone thought of the terminology Mandocello all these years ago. Why didnt they just call it an Octave Mandola. Leave the cello term for the violin family.

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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    I’d agree that it’s confusing but, to me, the terms mandolin, mandola, mandocello and mandobass are direct equivalents of the violin, viola, violoncello and bass and, therefore correctly named. I’m OK with the term “octave mandolin” as there is no “violin” family equivalent for it. Why someone on this side of the pond decided to confuse matters by referring to an octave mandolin as an “octave mandola”, I’ve no idea, but the confusion could explain why some people over here then started to refer to the mandola as the “tenor mandola”.

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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    This has been the case for a long time and is so confusing. To me a Mandocello is an Octave mandola. C G D A. I dont know why anyone thought of the terminology Mandocello all these years ago. Why didnt they just call it an Octave Mandola. Leave the cello term for the violin family.
    The violoncello and mandoloncello is actually a diminutive form, which seems strange until you are told they are the "little" version of their origin instrument the violone and the mandolone. Violone comes from "big viol", of which there were several sizes and tunings (including the octave violin)
    Nowadays we tend to think of them as being the big low bass instruments, so we kind of loop out and back in size with everything centring on the viol/viola sized instruments for the root word/instrument.
    However in the mandolin world the mandola equivalent instrument which the terms centre on is historically tuned GDAE, with the little mandola, (mandolin) being an octave above. The mandola (CGDA) more normally known in the US was a relatively recent addition around the turn of the 20th century to give a better approximation of the violin family and allow the repertoire to be more easily accessed by mandolin based ensembles.
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    A few years back, whilst on a quest to figure out the octave’s place in the mandolin/violin family relationship and attempt to dispense with the confusion, I learned that the octave mandolin has an orchestral ancestor that’s been ignored for some time - “tenor” violin. Since it’s really about range and voice, this “family arrangement” makes the most sense to me:

    Soprano - Violin - Mandolin
    Alto - Viola - Mandola
    Tenor - Tenor Violin - Octave (Tenor) Mandolin
    Baritone - Cello - Mandocello
    Bass - Double Bass - Mando Bass

    I’m sure it’s incorrect from a language/culture perspective, but for musical purposes, it’s far more logical than “octave mandola”. The vocal equivalent of that odd line would seem be “octave alto” instead of “tenor”. Not that any of this really matters .......
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    And just to add confusion and complexity (always my forte), I purchased a Weber Gallatin "sopranolin" that's tuned CGDA, an octave higher than a mandola. I guess the violin equivalent would be the violino piccolo, an instrument for which Bach and other composers of his era wrote some concerti.
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Adding to Allen's Nomenklatura .. the Irish Zouk is also an octave (8va) lower , longer scale , thinner strings, fits in a Banjo case.
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    Default Re: Curious about mandola nomenclature

    Which brings us onto Gazoukis, Mandotars, Gitterns, and Octave Gandolas?

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