Another newbie - viola to mandolin

  1. Dein
    Hello fellow newbies! I知 so excited to join you in learning mandolin. I had a thread on the general forum a couple weeks ago. I can play viola pretty well, but I知 not in an orchestra right now and haven稚 played it much recently. I have wanted to learn mandolin for many years and just got my first mandolin a few days ago. The first few times I played it, the double strings hurt my fingers so I could only play 15-20 minutes at a time. Luckily that only lasted a couple days and now I can practice much longer. Everything is shut down here, so I知 happy to have something fun to do from home!

    I知 having pretty good success picking simple tunes. The mandolin is similar enough to viola that I know where all the notes are, and the scale is quite comfortable for my left hand, though the frets take some getting used to. Chords and strumming are much more difficult for me, since my viola skills don稚 translate to strumming so much. Any tips on how to work on this?

    I知 working on the St. Patrick痴 day tune of the month. I can read treble clef music, but I知 a bit slow, and sometimes find myself defaulting to reading it in alto clef. I知 sure with a little more practice I値l become more fluent with treble.
  2. HonketyHank
    I've been trying to get used to alto clef after reading in treble clef up til recently. What I have discovered is that most people who play mandola don't read alto clef, they either pretend to or they admit they don't read music at all. Heck, I didn't even know that there was any such thing as an alto clef till I got a mandola.

    Anyway, welcome to the bunch.

    A lot of bluegrassy accompaniment on mandolin is closed position chords struck smartly with a down stroke on the off-beat and then immediately damped - it's called a "chop". Closed position (four finger) chords are hard for most of us beginners, but folks tell me that they get easier. Maybe so, but I cheat and play three finger chords and hope I don't hit the discordant open string or maybe try to just mute it.

    Other kinds of accompaniment could be chords strummed on the beat or maybe some kind of counter melody or descant or just harmonic noodling around in the right key. MarkG and Posterboy have some good examples in recent posts.
  3. collingwest
    Hey Dein! Another viola player here (I'm comfortable on either alto or treble clefs as I've also done vocal work and sing soprano). I had a really hard time deciding between mandolin and mandola as a result, but the decision point came when I realized that a capo'ed 5th fret on octave mandolin ~= mandola. So right now I'm working on getting up to speed on a mandolin before taking the more-expensive OM plunge.

    The breakthrough on strumming for me came from the "first chord" lesson in Mandolin for Dummies, which was a G chord. That was when the drills finally started making sense, because now instead of just straight open strings it sounded like the beginning of an actual tune. Also, I noticed that at least in that book, the downstroke/upstroke notation for strumming is identical to downstroke/upstroke notation for bowing.

    I'm not fast or competent yet by any means, but things are starting to fit together better now. For some reason, on mandolin, I'm tending to find ABC notation the easiest, then tabs, and then standard notation -- despite the fact that I've read standard for [mumble]something years. I think it's because chords on a staff just look wrong to me, after all those years of single notes and occasional double-stops.

    I had the same problem you did at first with the double strings hurting my fingers. I finally figured out that it was because I'd started out with a $100 mandolin off of Amazon, on the theory that I'd upgrade if I liked it. When I took a good look I realized it has really thin nylon strings for the A and E courses. So, today I ordered a "real" entry-level instrument and I'm hoping that will help. I'm outside of Atlanta, so there are luthiers who can check the setup for this complete newbie who used to break bridges back in her strings days, and who is thus afraid to even try it herself on a mandolin.
  4. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Life doesn't get much better than to get a couple more violists around this place! Welcome.
  5. SOMorris
    Welcome Dein!
  6. Dein
    Thanks for the welcome, everyone! I’ve had my mandolin for a couple weeks now and loving it. I’ve gotten over the sore finger now and practice for 1-2 hours per day. I think I have a pretty good mandolin, but the previous owner had the action high. I lowered the bridge and that helped. I’d like to take it to a luthier for a setup, but everything is closed here.

    I’m slowly adjusting to treble clef. I can’t read fast enough to sight read, but I can learn a tune from the written music. I learned last months tune of the month, St. Patrick’s Day, this way. I don’t have a video, but maybe I’ll make and post one.

    Making some progress with chords. I’m having trouble with chords that have two fingers on the same fret on adjacent strings - trouble getting a good note out of both strings. I think I just need more practice.

    5th fret capo on an OM to make a mandola is a cool idea. I would like to get an OM at some point. I’ll have to try this.
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