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Thread: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Hi,
    Here's my first message on this wonderfull forum. I have a low grade English and hope you'll be able to understand me.

    I have an unusual question about mandolins. I'm a tenor banjo player and decided to play the mandola. I think that the transition will be easy because both tuning is CGDA.

    The problem is that I'm quite obsessed by those old Gibson blackfaced instruments. Really love the famous F2 Gibson mandolin with its beautifull inlaid pickguard and stripped binding. H4 Gibson mandola is pretty rare and expensive and never saw it in black finish. Saw on internet some reproduction of F Style mandola with oval hole but can't find something that I really like.

    Here is my question. Can I find a gorgeous F2 mandolin, tune it in CGDA with changing thickness of strings and get a correct sound and neck and how can I do that, I mean what kind of strings should I use. Maybe I can switch GDA from mandolin strings set and buy low E guitar string low tuned in C.

    I know that it wont be a mandola neck and body but in your opinion is this possible and correct to do?

    I know, I know I look really lazy but I don't want to learn new chords chart and I'm playing chords 99% of the time.

    Thank you for your attention, hope you'll be able to help.
    Best regards

  2. #2

    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Welcome to cafe. Be careful about applying increased string tension than instruments--especially older ones--are intended for.

    Quote Originally Posted by safeasmilk View Post
    ...I don't want to learn new chords chart and I'm playing chords 99% of the time.
    Consider that you wouldn't need to learn any new chords, but only rename the ones you already know (transpose up a 5th).

    But, I understand some of the challenge though--for me, the real problem is trying to remember which one (cgda or gdae) I'm playing...

  3. #3
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Why not get a H1 or H2? They are A-style oval holes and you can definitely find them with a black top. I believe there is one currently in the classifieds on this site.

  4. #4

    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Thanks for both answers,
    Well as I said I much prefere the F-Style mandola (H4 if I remember well).
    Maybe I'll learn mandolin chords with 5th transposition but I like the deep bass tone of the mandola. At this point I can't see solution for my problem. I think that tuning a mandolin in CGDA is dangerous for the neck too. Or maybe I can find a H4 replica and try to add some fancy stuff on it. Anyway, I'll check for this H1/H2 on this website, price can change my opinion

    Do you know if Gibson released blackface H4 in 10's/20's? And do you have any idea of the price for an H4 whatever colour.
    Kind regards

  5. #5
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Texas swing fiddler Johnny Gimble liked to play electric on a mandolin strung CGDA. Ideally you would get a bridge with the appropriate staggered compensation.

    You would not have to worry about tension, since the short scale will be less tension than a mandola at the same string size. There are 10-string mandolin designs out there, both mandolin-scale and some hybrid longer-scale ones. Most have slightly larger bodies for the extra bass response. A normal mandolin would be weak in bass response.

    I play 5 and am waiting on a 10, and I use standard mandolin sizes for GDAE, and I like .056 for the C.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Maybe the first step is to find your F2. Once you have it, you may soon become a convert to mandolin (vs. mandola).

    There's no reason not to try a mandolin tuned CGDA. This won't necessarily increase the tension; the C string will be heavier but tuned lower. You'll have to work out the total string total tension and try to keep it equal, or less, than for mandolin tuning.

    If you are enamored of getting an F2, you may want to consider the minimal alterations that would be needed. At the least, you will need to modify or replace the nut, and modify or replace the bridge saddle for good intonation with the shifted string weight/type.
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  7. #7
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    I don't recall ever seeing a black topped H4. A few of the early ones were blonde and all the ones I've seen have been the reddish sunburst that was standard on the F4. There have been some H1's around for about $2500ish, ebay is a good place to look as well. the H2's usually cost a little more, ~$3000k. The H4's get into some serious money due to their rarity. Probably in the $7-8K+ range if you can locate one.

    There is nothing to keep you from experimenting but mandolas have a longer scale for a reason, because they sound better. A vintage Gibson is ~15 3/4" which most people agree is about as short as you want to go. I have a 16" and a 17" mandola and like them both. Someone mentioned Johnny Gimble above. He does play a mando in mandola tuning but it's an acoustic/electric and I believe he uses 4 single strings.

  8. #8

    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Thank you for all answers. Actually I don't have an F2. Those instruments can be really hard to find in France. We have many European and Italian Baroque mandolins and mandola. The difference between Mandola here and the American one is that our mandola is tune like octave mandolin for you.

    The only way for me to find an F2 is on internet like eBay, Gbase etc.. I don't know other websites to find it. Saw some sites selling replacing part like nut and all. So as you said, the main problem now is to find the F2 Saw that the price can be between 2500 to 3500/4000 for a black one. The question is what's the difference between an amazing 1908/1910 F2 with inlays and a 20's one with less fancy decoration. I mean except those details. I tried a simple 20's F2 but never try those very old models that I like. Is the same neck, action and all?

    In last point, do you know some Mandola H4 replica with oval hole in blackfinish? Maybe I'll be able to add some inlays by myself or will just love it in a simply finition.

    Thanks again for answers, forgive my English..
    Best.
    Last edited by safeasmilk; Mar-03-2011 at 5:20am.

  9. #9
    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    I have re-strung standard mandolin scale to CGDA (heavier strings) but the C doesn't really sound good, you need a longer scale, at least 15" in my opinion.
    Trevor
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  10. #10

    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    I'm with Andy Irvine. Even 16" isn't ideal for CGDA. I really don't like having to go up to the kind of gauges that you need to get low notes on short scale instruments. Tone is rarely what I'd hope for.

    Just my personal taste. YMMV.

    The same issues arise on tenor banjo when tuning to "Irish" GDAE - especially on the short scale versions. The low G is often borderline useless for anything more than the occasional note. floppy and sounds like c*#p.
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    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    I agree that 16"+ is ideal but 15" is the minimum that works in my experience.
    Trevor
    The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England
    Over 100 mandolins in stock.
    www.theacousticmusicco.co.uk.

  12. #12
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Texas swing fiddler Johnny Gimble liked to play electric on a mandolin strung CGDA
    True, it was an EM 150, but only had 4 strings, I've done similar, .050'' C bumps the others over,
    so you need a different set of bridge offsets, fabricate a new upper section,
    and a re notched nut to place the strings in an even spacing.
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  13. #13

    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Been there and done it with mandolas tuned to mandolin and vice versa. I'd recommend buying a black Gibson A shape mandola. The scroll model mandolin or mandolin will cost a heck of a lot more unless you are extremely lucky. Tuning the mandolin UP to Mandola means very thin strings and loss of tone and everything really. Tuning it down 7 to Mandola means heavy strings and no doubt a strange sound.

    Get a cheap mandola and then save up for a scroll model Gibson mandola.

    Jimmy
    UK

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  15. #14
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    ...Get a cheap mandola and then save up for a scroll model Gibson mandola...
    In the intervening six years, perhaps OP's taken your advice...
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    Registered User varmonter's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    I have a highly modded kentucky solid body 5 string . It is cgdae. Sounds a bit like a les paul.

  17. #16

    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    You can do that without harming the instrument, but I dont think that low C string will sound very good. Mandolins are made to sound best at high-tension, not too far from breaking point.

    Its an interesting rationale to get your head around--the thing is, most mandolas dont get played too much, or are abandoned in favour of octave mandolin, for the precise reason that You want to play one--they are tuned a fifth below fiddles/mandolins.
    Since most fiddle tunes are designed to fit on a fingerboard with GDAE tuning, it tends to be a lot harder and sometimes unnatural sounding to bring them onto the CGDA map without a lot of cumbersome octave and position switching, or playing them in an atypical key which other players wont know. Thats what us GDAE folks think anyway (which is why we cheat the tenor banjo into GDAE!).

    But honestly, tune mandolas like mandolas and mandolins like mandolins. Its what they're built for. Mandola players just tend to be a solitary lot.

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  19. #17
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: CGDA Tuning for Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    Been there and done it with mandolas tuned to mandolin and vice versa. I'd recommend buying a black Gibson A shape mandola. .....
    Get a cheap mandola and then save up for a scroll model Gibson mandola.

    Jimmy
    UK
    this is the right way. Get the instrument meant to tune CGDA!

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