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Thread: Learning Octave mando as a regular mando player.

  1. #1

    Default Learning Octave mando as a regular mando player.

    Hi. I imagine this has been posted many times but a quick search didnít throw too much up so......
    I got an Octave!! Having fun experimenting but I need a plan to give me some direction in a way that doesnít stunt the growth of my regular mando playing.

    What suits the OM best IYO?
    fingerings - Iím torn between stretching for the 5th fret or using my pinky.
    Right hand technique - Quite a different feel on the strings.
    Tuning - interested in GDAD possibly
    Tune types - Irish in Em sound great straight out of the box. What else would you recommend?
    Books and websites?

    I have played regular mando intensively for a year in lockdown (intermediate) . Celtic and Appalachian fiddle tunes mostly.


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  3. #2

    Default Re: Learning Octave mando as a regular mando player.

    I find they both help the other to a point. But time on each is the important part.

    I like short(er) scale octaves for melodic work. For chords, barre chords are your friend.

    Definitely will have to use pinky more. :-)
    Davey Stuart tenor guitar (based on his 18" mandola design).
    Eastman MD-604SB with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: THR-10, Sony XB-20.

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  5. #3
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Oct 2009
    Ardnadam, Argyll, Scotland

    Default Re: Learning Octave mando as a regular mando player.

    Re fingerings - your hand size (and octave scale) will help determine the fingering you use. I came to mandolin and octave from guitar, so was used to the "finger per fret" left hand and had to adapt my mandolin playing to start with. On octave I vary, depending on the tune I am attempting.

    I use "standard" GDAE tuning, an octave below mandolin. I have not tried GDAD but know players who use it, especially for accompaniment. Used on Bouzouki a lot.

    For tunes, loads of great Scottish bagpipe tunes adapt well to the octave. Many you may already know from fiddle tunes! Scottish players, especially in what we call the West Coast Tradition, play lots of pipe music on fiddle and accordion, generally sharpening the G of the pipe scale when adapting the tunes. The octave suits those tunes, and also Scottish (and other) slow airs as it has more sustain than the standard mandolin. I have a YT channel with lots of Scottish material on both octave and mandolin and the link is in my signature below should you want to have a look or listen.

    Have a look at The Session for mainly Irish stuff in abc and standard notation, and Nigel Gatherer's great site The Gathering
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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  7. #4
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    Sep 2002

    Default Re: Learning Octave mando as a regular mando player.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kelly View Post
    For tunes, loads of great Scottish bagpipe tunes adapt well to the octave.
    If you're interested in that, tuning the bass up to A works very well, giving you ADae.
    I only ever use that tuning, and I can play in any key. It also lends itself to song accompaniment, especially using a capo. The video here is a tune in E major.

    Another guy who uses that is Murdo Cameron (Yogi) from the Scottish band Diamh. They're really good.
    I'm sure there are others, but I don't see so many octaves around these days. I've a vague notion that Brian McNeill might, but perhaps that's not right at all.

    David A. Gordon

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  9. #5
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    May 2007
    Pacific Northwest, USA

    Default Re: Learning Octave mando as a regular mando player.

    Welcome to the OM club! I play mostly Irish and Scottish trad melody on my octave. What I've found works best for me is to segregate my tune repertoire into the faster dance tunes on mandolin and the slower tunes like marches, slow reels, and metered airs on the octave.

    My mandolin "speaks" more quickly under my fingers with the stiff strings and compact fingering, so I can keep up with the alpha fiddlers at local sessions. The octave responds more slowly due to the heavier gauge strings and more extended fingering and has far more sustain, so that's perfect on the slower stuff.

    With all that sustain available, I make more use of double stops and partial chords inserted within the melody line. On mandolin I do that occasionally, but the tunes are usually flying by so fast there is no room for it. On the octave I can really milk the sustain.

    FWIW, I use a modified mandolin fingering on my 22" octave, with more use of the pinky below the 7th fret. I used to use straight mandolin fingering but then I got older. The 'ol fingers aren't as flexible as they used to be, but it's still manageable on the 22" scale. I very seldom use a capo, it's mostly first position playing. Although lately I've been working on a tune in G dorian where I have a partial capo at the third fret that leaves the bottom G course open. Just something new to fool around with.

    I tune GDAE because I'm mostly playing melody, just occasional backing for my S.O.'s fiddle. It's probably sacrilege to say this in a mandolin forum, but I prefer guitar in Drop-D tuning for backing Irish and Scottish tunes. On the octave, I miss that big fat D note on the bottom that I can hit on guitar.

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  11. #6

    Default Re: Learning Octave mando as a regular mando player.

    20 1/2 inch scale for me, I play mandolin style fingering but now, after about two years I don't use the pinky on the seventh fret. I found it much easier just to learn how to do fast and accurate slides using the first and second fingers. It's just go slow and use a metronome, then gradually speed up.

    My two cents of advice would be to use the capo much as possible! Use it to get used to the different spacings as you go up the neck.
    Then learn the FFcP system combined with sudden position changes practising.
    Good luck!

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  13. #7
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Sep 2020
    San Tan Valley, Arizona

    Default Re: Learning Octave mando as a regular mando player.

    I am using John McGann's A Guide to Octave Mandolin and Bouzouki. It's a Mel Bay publication. Also, the "CBOM" section of the forum here has plenty of helpful people with information to share.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT
    Fiona, My 2021 GSMonroe Guitar-Bodied Octave Resonator Mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 Violin
    Rich, my 1959 Husband

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