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Thread: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

  1. #1
    A DEAD HEAD
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    Default 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    I'am thinking about getting a hard-body electric mandolin,i'am kind of dumb on these mandolin, and i get ask what kind i want 4 or 5 or 8 string? i don't know. I will be just playing it in my garage,all my jams i go to, don't allow electrics,but a like playing around in my garage. I would like to know some of the pros and cons,can you guys and girls help me out!!!
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    I don't know a lot myself, but I think I will be buying a 5 string pretty soon. Little concerned about the learning curve for the added string, but I like the chance to get a lower tone and increased range. Another reason I might be switching is the knuckles on my little finger just get sore from reaching for long chords and having to push down on 2 strings. I am hoping only having to push one string will make it easier on the finger. From what I understand, the mandolin (be it 8, 5 or 4 string) won't sound much like a mandolin anyway. You would also have to decide what type and how many pickups you want.
    Different sounds can be found depending on what kind of pickup you have or whether the pickup is closer to the frets or closer to the bridge. Check back over old threads on this site, there are links to places that help explain things.....and check with the emando site as well. I am in a situation where I can't try things out ahead of time...if you are lucky enough to live near a store that carries some of these, get down there and try them out.

  3. #3

    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    As the new owner of a custom 10-string electroMando, my understanding of the pros and cons is as follows:

    4 vs. 5 (8 vs. 10) - this is about added range, as the previous post mentioned. 5 courses will allow you to get a bit more down into guitar range, and opens up possibilities for new chord voicings. I have not had much trouble making the adjustment to the added string. I split the difference between learning a new five note chord fingering, or just keeping my old four note fingerings and ignoring one string (highest or lowest). Some people will also tune the lowest string to a "D" instead of "C" which can simplify many of the chords, though then you lose the advantage of the fifths tuning.

    Single vs. Double course (4 vs. 8) - The doubled courses no longer have the same function as they do in the acoustic mando world, where the added string is mostly about greater volume. However, what led me to staying with the doubled courses in the electric is that there is a timbral difference when you have two strings vibrating one pitch together. Slight phase and pitch differences help provide a certain "mando-ness" to the sound, which I wanted to keep. Now, I have heard that if you are going to be doing, say, heavy distortion types of effects, the doubled strings are not so good, but since my main focus is jazz, that was not so much an issue for me as keeping the mando sounding like a mando as much as I could.

    I hope this helps you in your quest for your perfect solid-body. No matter what you end up with, they are a WHOLE lot of fun!
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  4. #4
    Registered User John L's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    If you are an acoustic mandolin player that wants something different, go single string 4 or 5. No strong opinion between 4 and 5, but you can get into an import 4 string pretty cheap. I have done so, and love my Mandobird IV. With a higher budget I would buy a 5 string, and EMAS will cause me to do that some day soon.
    Johneeaaddgg

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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    Unless you are used to playing an instrument with single steel-string courses, a 4- or 5-string may cause some discomfort on your fingers. I've found a big difference in comfort between my 4-string and 8-string.
    Last edited by mzuch; Mar-21-2009 at 9:58am. Reason: corrected typos

  6. #6
    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    David Miller is, IMHO, right on the mark.
    I have both an 8 string emando and a 4 string emando. The 4 string is a slightly modified Epi Mandobird. I string it and tune it like a mandola, the way Johnny Gimbel did his Old Gibson A (Though Johnny dropped half his strings and I don't need to). I did this for 2 reasons: 1) the e string was very weak and I'm not skilled with a soldering iron 2) I wanted to get into the guitar's range a little farther. Reason #2 helps the audience "get" the instrument and it allows me to learn guitar parts more easily.

    My 8 string is a recent acquisition and is currently with Gary Vessel getting a new pearly pickguard with the hole for the pickup at an angle that will align the pickup's poles with the strings. I'm keeping this instrument tuned GDAE (or GGDDAAEE). I need it for the more mandolinistic parts I play in a rock band. Parts I wrote using my Vessel F5 before we got a kit drummer and a trombonist.

    The 8 string plays like a mandolin. Bending notes is (for me) folly unless I'm expecting to retune immediately afterward. But it's real fun to run through fiddle tunes with the amp cranked! I find the tone of the Mandocaster a bit beefier. The added strings also agitate the pickup's electromagnetic field and fatten up the tone without making it louder.

    Denny, I've been in your position and ended up with both kinds. And some day soon, I'm going to get myself a 5 string with an 18" scale tuned GDAEB. Point is, you need to examine what kind of music you'll be playing on your new instrument and get the one that fits your purpose best.

    I hope some of this helps,
    Daniel

  7. #7

    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    What kind of music do you want to play? If you are thinking something like blues, jazz or rock where you will be doing string bends and such then I'd suggest a single course instrument. I think classical lends itself more to paired strings. I'd forget about playing bluegrass standards on a solid body electric.

    There are other things to take into consideration to get the tone you are looking for which includes, string scale, tuning and pickup selection. Generally, when someone buys an instrument from me I ask them what kind of of music they want to play and who they want to sound like then I try to fit them with a scale length and pickup that gives them a range to either side of that tone. It really takes working with someone to help you to understand what you are looking for and how to find it.

  8. #8
    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    I'm thinking of buying a Mandocaster with eight strings primarily because I don't want to start playing it like the dreaded "little guitar," which could hurt my acoustic playing by teaching me bad habbits.

    I want to learn slides, etc. and use tremolo, not bends.

    I want to play mandolin style and not soprano guitar.


    Am I nuts? (I know I am, but does this make sense?)
    Eastman 605 and Kentucky 300e mandolins.

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  9. #9
    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    Yep. Eight strings then.

    Good luck!

    Daniel

  10. #10
    Is there a "talent" knob? taboot's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    Santiago - I don't think you're nuts. I practice both acoustic and electric seperately because they're related but different skill sets. When I play electric, the right hand generally gets a lighter touch, and the left hand is quite a bit more expressive - but then I *like* those aspects of electric mandolin, and generally describe myself as an electric mandolinist first.

    That said, I don't think you need to worry about forming bad habits for one by practicing the other. Your instrument will tell pretty quickly what can and cannot be done well with it. Nobody that I know really uses tremolo on the electric, or right hand tapping on the acoustic because it just doesn't work too well. I suppose you might lose practice time on one to the other, but that's more choice than habit forming.

    Ultimately, if you want to focus on more traditional mandolin sounds, stick to an eight stringed instrument. There's too much temptation to rock when you switch to four. Or, dare I say... Five!

    Christian
    Christian McKee

    Member, The Big North Duo
    Musical Director, The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra

  11. #11

    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    I have both a 4-string and an 8-string electric (along with my 8-string acoustics), and the biggest problem I have had is with the wider space between strings on the 4-string. My accuracy suffers, but I guess it will get better with practice.

    -Frank

  12. #12
    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    Quote Originally Posted by taboot View Post
    Santiago - I don't think you're nuts. I practice both acoustic and electric seperately because they're related but different skill sets. When I play electric, the right hand generally gets a lighter touch, and the left hand is quite a bit more expressive - but then I *like* those aspects of electric mandolin, and generally describe myself as an electric mandolinist first.

    That said, I don't think you need to worry about forming bad habits for one by practicing the other. Your instrument will tell pretty quickly what can and cannot be done well with it. Nobody that I know really uses tremolo on the electric, or right hand tapping on the acoustic because it just doesn't work too well. I suppose you might lose practice time on one to the other, but that's more choice than habit forming.

    Ultimately, if you want to focus on more traditional mandolin sounds, stick to an eight stringed instrument. There's too much temptation to rock when you switch to four. Or, dare I say... Five!

    Christian
    Coming from guitar to mandolin a few years back, I'd rather take out my Gibson 335 than try to play a guitar part on my mandolin. That said, my next purchase is EITHER a Mandocaster 8 OR a Taylor 12-string guitar. I formed a folk duo with my brother-in-law, and it's a question as to what makes more sense based on the direction we ultimately take with the music.
    Eastman 605 and Kentucky 300e mandolins.

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    (Formerly known here as Santiago)

  13. #13
    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    If you like the lower range that a 5-string/10-string could provide you, as an alternative you can keep your eye out for one of those longer-scaled Japanese Kent or Kingston 8-string models, or even have someone build you an eMandola. The Kents and Kingstons seem to come up on eBay somewhat frequently, so if you could find one you liked, you could conceivably tune it as a mandola since the longer scaled ones come in at about 16" -- thus giving you the lower range of a 5 course model, but without having to work with an extra course.

  14. #14
    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 or 5 or 8 string mando

    I played violin for years (before guitar), so I want to stay within my the my comfort range than have to rethink all the chords, etc.

    I'm comfortable on guitar too.

    Thanks though.
    Eastman 605 and Kentucky 300e mandolins.

    Member, Long Island Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra
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    (Formerly known here as Santiago)

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