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Thread: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

  1. #1
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    Default Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    I was watching a random YouTube video on mandolin, and the poster made an offhand comment that mandolin strings going descending are E-A-D-G, and the first four guitar strings going ascending are E-A-D-G. So the mandolin is the guitar upside down.

    This quite frankly blew my mind. Does this mean that triads & open chords that work on a guitar neck will, when turned upside down, work on a mandolin?

    Is this something that I was suppose to notice on my own?

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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    While the string arrangement is as you describe, I've never heard of anyone who thinks the way you suggest, ie, turning chords upside down.

    Many folks think of mandolins are plucked violins, if they're not mistaking them for ukuleles.
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    the mandolin is tuned in ascending 5ths (as are the violin, viola and cello)

    the guitar is tuned in ascending 4ths ( except G to B that is an ascending 3rd and descending 6th)


    G to D is an ascending 5th

    D to G is a ascending 4th

    if you invert a 5th you get a 4th
    if you invert a 4th you get a 5th

    While somewhat of an advanced concept, it is foundational to Western music.
    If you figured that out on your own- you are on your way to understanding intervals which is essential to the formation of any Western melody or harmony and really helps for composition and improvisation.
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    I play both and just consider them their own instruments. I see what they’re saying, and G, C, and some other first position chords it’s easy to see why they say that. But, if I try to think about mando in the context of guitar like that it hurts my head. Mandolin is tuned like violin, as noted, not an upside down guitar. But if it helps you to think that way, by all means, proceed!
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    I remember hearing that in my early days of picking up mandolin after 30+ years of guitar. It made a kind of sense, but I never found it useful in finding chord shapes. It just seemed easier to look at common mandolin chord fingerings and working out chords from the scales in 5ths.

    There are also some huge differences in how one can finger chords on mandolin, like pressing down on two courses (four strings) at the same time with the tip of an index finger, leaving other fingers free for forming the chord. That's something that doesn't exist in Guitar World, and a reason guitarists sometimes complain about how narrow the fingerboard is, until they figure out tricks like that.

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    I was told that when I was first starting out on mando about 20 years ago. But I guess I've learned over the years that it's hard for me to imagine the two instruments being much more different. Just totally different things, particularly with the right hand. I do think I hear a lot of electric guitar influence in some modern mando players, whereas the style and players I prefer to play and listen to I hear the fiddle influence prominently.

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    I agree with CES above “ I play both and just consider them their own instruments.” even though it is upside down

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by 707erich View Post
    I agree with CES above “ I play both and just consider them their own instruments.” even though it is upside down
    Don't get me started on left handed mandolins.
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    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    ...pressing down on two courses (four strings) at the same time with the tip of an index finger, leaving other fingers free for forming the chord. That's something that doesn't exist in Guitar World...
    Not so; it's a very common practice in guitar playing. And on 2"+ width classical/flamenco fingerboards to boot (this is why classical/flamenco fingerboards are so wide - to facilitate these types of fingerings..)

    To further impress the OP - a most common oud tuning is CFADGC

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Not so; it's a very common practice in guitar playing.
    Okay, I'll amend that to say it's something I never ran into while playing Blues, Jazz, and "American Fingerstyle" for 30-odd years on guitar. Never got into the Classical world where that may be a common technique.

    I assume you're talking about a "bent" index or other finger, and not pressing straight down with just the fingertip? That may be conceptually different than what I'm talking about on mandolin. Especially with regard to the degree of freedom for the other fingers. I don't know how you'd press two adjacent strings on a Classical guitar with just a fingertip.

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    It's an interesting observation, but it really doesn't have anything to do with playing either mandolin or guitar (or violin or banjo or any other stringed instrument).

    What does matter is the note intervals for playing the scales and note sequences that are required for music, which is really what determines chord patterns. That's where the rubber meets the road.

    I do know a lefty who plays right handed instruments (in standard right-handed tuning) backwards, and marvelously well. It's pretty amazing to watch. Conceptually that turns me upside down.
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    If you are a guitar player it might give you some initial comfort to think that way, but overall I think you should just approach it as a whole new instrument and accept that learning curve.

    If you are a guitar player deciding to try electric bass, the low strings on the guitar might be of some assistance, but again, the style of playing is different.

    If you are a guitar player and decide to try pedal steel guitar, there is almost nothing similar except they both have strings. You have to learn to use your feet in a musical way....which I find forced.

    When I was 50 I bought a b-bender tele to fool around with, thinking it was some kind of a whammy bar...wrong! After 40 years of guitar playing, it felt like I was starting over as a total beginner.

    To conclude, I think some people just get it and others have to struggle with a new instrument. I remember as a kid getting a Marine Band harmonica and began to study the little paper showing how to play Turkey In The Straw. After 2 weeks of learning the "blow" and "draw" I was ready to present a clumsy version to my family. It wasn't the best. I laid the harmonica on the table, my little sister walks by, picks it up, and starts playing it like she had had one for years, so I guess it depends on the person.

    Good luck!

  19. #13

    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Okay, I'll amend that to say it's something I never ran into while playing Blues, Jazz, and "American Fingerstyle" for 30-odd years on guitar. Never got into the Classical world where that may be a common technique.

    I assume you're talking about a "bent" index or other finger, and not pressing straight down with just the fingertip? That may be conceptually different than what I'm talking about on mandolin. Especially with regard to the degree of freedom for the other fingers. I don't know how you'd press two adjacent strings on a Classical guitar with just a fingertip.
    The finger tip is used when adjacent strings must ring free. Otherwise, a bent tip can be used.

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    De rigeuer technique for classical playing. But I also use it on steel-string guitar and any other stringed instrument. Try it - I'll bet you can do it.

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post

    To further impress the OP - a most common oud tuning is CFADGC
    Catmando I picked up one of those "silent" electric ouds this summer, the CFADGC - the c-f , a-d, d-g, g-c are all ascending 4ths
    I think that's Arabic tinning and DAEBF#C# is Turkish ?
    D to A is an ascending 5th
    A to E is an ascending 5th
    E to B is an ascending 5th
    B to F# is and ascending 5th
    and F# to C# is an ascending 5th
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  21. #15

    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Ya, many tunings for oud - kinda lke OT banjo or hardanger fiddle. Tha one is just one of the most common (Arabic)

  22. #16

    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Okay, I'll amend that to say it's something I never ran into while playing Blues, Jazz, and "American Fingerstyle" for 30-odd years on guitar. Never got into the Classical world where that may be a common technique.

    I assume you're talking about a "bent" index or other finger, and not pressing straight down with just the fingertip? That may be conceptually different than what I'm talking about on mandolin. Especially with regard to the degree of freedom for the other fingers. I don't know how you'd press two adjacent strings on a Classical guitar with just a fingertip.
    It is done using the tip. Fat fingers can be a blessing. I learned it on my own in the process of relearning after a hand injury but found out later both Doc Watson and Merle Travis would sometimes use one finger to press two adjacent strings. That would leave more fingers available for other stuff.

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by phydaux View Post
    Does this mean that triads & open chords that work on a guitar neck will, when turned upside down, work on a mandolin?
    Yes.
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Fat fingers can be a blessing. I learned it on my own in the process of relearning after a hand injury but found out later both Doc Watson and Merle Travis would sometimes use one finger to press two adjacent strings. That would leave more fingers available for other stuff.
    Double Stops – Playing two notes at once on adjacent strings is a hallmark of Chuck Berry and Johnny B. Goode makes heavy use of the technique.

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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Okay, I'll amend that to say it's something I never ran into while playing Blues, Jazz, and "American Fingerstyle" for 30-odd years on guitar. Never got into the Classical world where that may be a common technique.

    I assume you're talking about a "bent" index or other finger, and not pressing straight down with just the fingertip? That may be conceptually different than what I'm talking about on mandolin. Especially with regard to the degree of freedom for the other fingers. I don't know how you'd press two adjacent strings on a Classical guitar with just a fingertip.
    When I discovered that Lightnin’ Hopkins used it, I had to give it a shot myself. Not an uncommon technique for some blues players to play an E chord with index finger at the G# on G string, and both the A & D strings fretted with middle finger at the second fret. Frees up both ring and pinky for playing blues colors, example, the b3 G note on E string with ring finger …

    Try it, I bet you find it easy enough with a little practice. Hopkins used it on Baby Please Don’t Go

    As far as "a little bent, a little tilted vs. straight down fingertip" - for me, it all depends on context of what I'm doing, on either instrument, as to whether or not, or how much, to lean the finger a bit to get a clean sound.

    ---------------

    The mandolin is not an upside down guitar though, sorry Phydeaux. :-) It's just that 4ths and 5ths are inversions of one another.
    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Aug-26-2022 at 7:46am.
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Yes. A guitar is strung like an upside-down bass guitar.

    It doesn't make improvising on the fly any easier. But if you're a guitar player (or a bassist who thinks in chords), it makes it easy to figure out chords when you sit down to practice or write.

    You weren't supposed to notice it on your own. Some do, some don't. It mostly depends on brain wiring. It's the first thing I noticed, but I love doing puzzles. On ther other hand, I'm terrible at memorizing, so learning songs takes me forever.
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    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    . . . I've never heard of anyone who thinks the way you suggest, ie, turning chords upside down. . . .
    I sure do! It made getting started on mando a lot easier. The chords are all right there. And without the guitar's half-step-lower second string to skew the scales, it makes chord patterns and scales totally logical.

    (Logical, but not necessarily easier. Going from the guitar's closed-hand thirds scales to the mando's fifths scales has been a bear!)
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    I remember hearing that in my early days of picking up mandolin after 30+ years of guitar. It made a kind of sense, but I never found it useful in finding chord shapes. It just seemed easier to look at common mandolin chord fingerings and working out chords from the scales in 5ths. . . .
    That's funny. As I posted above, we're all wired differently. I've been using my knowledge of open and barred guitar chords ever since I started playing mando. Common mando chord fingerings? I don't even know what they are!
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    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by mingusb1 View Post
    I was told that when I was first starting out on mando about 20 years ago. But I guess I've learned over the years that it's hard for me to imagine the two instruments being much more different. . . . Z
    I actually often think of them as opposites — including the upside-down tuning.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; Aug-26-2022 at 9:13am.
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    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    . . . There are also some huge differences in how one can finger chords on mandolin, like pressing down on two courses (four strings) at the same time with the tip of an index finger, leaving other fingers free for forming the chord. That's something that doesn't exist in Guitar World . . . .
    It sure exists in my guitar world. I call them mini-bars — not to be confused with hotel-room mini-bars (unless you're a very thirsty guitarist).

    But you've given me a new thought. On guitar, I flatten my finger to bar strings. Do you cover two courses without flattening your finger? If you do, thanks! I'll try that.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; Aug-26-2022 at 9:20am.
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    Default Re: Mandolin is guitar upside down?

    A mandolin is a mandolin, not an upside down guitar, not a fretted , plucked fiddle er excuse me violin; not a ukulele. If you are going to play mandolin, LEARN HOW!!! Don’t even try to learn to adapt your guitar playing to a mandolin, if that is what you want STICK WITH THE GUITAR. A mandolin is a great instrument in its own right, treat it as such

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