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Thread: Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

  1. #1

    Question Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

    Hi everyone! I need some guidance on strings, and tuning. (& Maybe a shrink!)
    FIRST, I dont play Mandolin. lol, ( but just acquired a mandola. & am clueless.)
    I play tenor vile , alto Gamba, gourd banjo,
    dulcimer and Low whistle. ( bass fife.) & cello. Self taught, with the help of a kings ransom in books and you tube, and A-grade stubbornness.
    ( A late beginner, but get by OK.after a decade of practice )
    I like to sing and play, so I favor alto and tenor instruments, for their mellow tone range and cuddly size. HERE's the problem.
    I have the mandola and a Octave, both strung with mandola strings. ( they were in the string stash.) ( supposed to be Cgda )
    BUT neither will go there, (?) I have them in Gdae. I want to do a fingerpicking style, NOT tremolo, so I have G and d strung in octaves not unison, and a & e, strung single.
    It sounds OK.
    CAN ANYONE tell me how to get the best mellow sound and maybe get the Cgda? less finger string noise, and the best PICKING patterns for OLd -old time, and MODAL, like The Ashe Grove, The blackest crow, Pretty Polly, Darlin Corey, etc type ballads.
    I was wondering if NYLON was a possibility. sensacore? flat wound? ( Im lost! ) help.
    LASTLY.. any suggestions on easy cord, alternative tunings? Dada? etc
    Thanks a million!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

    Welcome to the cafe Miss CJ. String gauges might help. Are you tuned an octave below the mandolin? Alternative tunings are fine, but I would recommend CGCG instead of DADA as it would lower tension on the instrument. You could use lighter strings gauges and tune in DADA, but since you are already using octaves on the wound courses, not sure how light they are. Are the octave strings wound? Sorry for all the questions, but more information is always helpful.
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  3. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

    1. If you have mandola strings, your mandola should take CGDA tuning, same as a viola (or tenor banjo). You say they won't "go there," and you have the mandola tuned GDAE, which I assume is tuned down to where your octave mandolin is tuned? Whatever was in the "string stash" (?), perhaps the strings weren't mandola strings.

    2. Octave mandolin is, of course, GDAE an octave below the mandolin/violin. You can "octave tune" some of the pairs, by getting lighter-guage strings for the 2nd and 3rd courses (I do this for my Octofone).

    3. Nylon strings, as a rule, don't have sufficient tension to drive the top of more modern mandolin-family instruments, though they will surely produce a more "mellow sound." You haven't told us what make or model of instrument you have, and that information would be helpful in doing long-distance diagnosis and advice.

    4. "Finger string noise" is due to your finger calluses sliding on wound strings' windings. You can try to find flat-wound strings, which reduce that scraping sound. Might not be easy to find flat-would mandola and octave mandolin strings. Some guitarists I've worked with in the studio have put talcum powder on their fingertips to reduce string noise, and perhaps the commercial product Fast Fret might help as well -- it's a "string lubricant."

    5. While it's certainly possible to finger-pick mandolin family instruments, and some do, they're generally set up for playing with a plectrum (flat pick). The string pairs are close together, and delicately articulated finger-picking requires more precision, than on guitar or banjo, where the strings are further separated. You might investigate an arpeggiated style of flat-picking, similar to what we call "cross-picking," to achieve the same effect.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

    What is the scale size of the Mandola that you have?

  5. #5
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ancient View Post
    What is the scale size of the Mandola that you have?
    Yes, there is no fixed scale length for "Mandola" It has many, so you need to measure and describe that,
    for clarity..

    Mine was built to the Gibson 'H' style, scale, It is .4M (400mm) long.. that is the vibrating string length.




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  6. #6

    Default Re: Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

    Hmm, lots of questions. On the one hand, you are trying to invent a technique for the instrument that suits your style, rather than trying to learn from what others are doing, so good luck in having other players explain what they dont do. Nothing wrong with that of course (and a good effort from Allen in addressing those questions), it's just the hard way up the mountain. (There are plenty of challenges in learning existing techniques).
    The string question is easiest: you can put almost any medium mandolin strings on almost any mandola, the 3" difference in scale length is a lot less than the extra length on the manufactured strings. I have generally found that packaged "mandola strings" are heavier than I want.

    I agree with Allen that you should try flatpickng and look into crosspicking styles, and there is no bylaw that mandates the use of tremolo, although it is a pleasant effect when used in moderation. But since my mandola is right here I just tried fingerpicking it, with middling success. Bare fingers. I find I can do a thumb-and-three-fingers style adaptd from what I developed for dadgad guitar (because I'm kind of weird too). The big difference from 6-string guitar is you dont really have the chance to play an alternating bass and still have enough treble strings to chord on. But (CGDA) you can play a drone note on the C string and do a kind of free flow chord-melody thing, sort of. Its certainly easier than on a mandolin.

    If you got ahold of a five-course instrument like a cittern, and adapted the tuning to make it feasible, you would have two bass and three treble strings, which might make it easier to get a fingerpicking pattern going. Come to think of it, is there a reason you're not playing guitar? Because it really sounds to me like thats the ground you're trying to work on, although youre in the right place if you just like weird unusual instruments and styles.

    The only good mandolin player I've ever seen who doesnt use a flatpick is Kelly Mulholland of the stringband Still on the Hill, have a look at this. Go to "Ode to Mr Boze", he plays a bunch of different instruments.
    https://www.google.ca/search?q=Still...XkAVwSRQFYAAAA

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  8. #7

    Default Re: Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

    .strings and beyond does have flattop mandola strings--similar to flatwaound, different process--but they are heavier than I would care to use, and I flatpick. I would just try a set of the daddario flatwound mandolin strings on mandola if you want to go there. The reduced tension on lighter strings would make fingerpickng easier.

  9. #8
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with MANDOLA and tenor strings and tuning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cameron View Post
    I would just try a set of the daddario flatwound mandolin strings on mandola if you want to go there. The reduced tension on lighter strings would make fingerpickng easier.
    Interesting idea, but it would depend on the scale length of the mandola, which we still haven't established.
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