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Thread: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

  1. #1

    Default Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    Hi. I just bought a fun electric mandola (the Eastwood Airline model) and am thinking of messing around with the stringing: wanna see if I can give it a brighter, sparklier, 12-string-guitar kinda sound, and am considering restringing it so that the lowest strings (C & G, I have it conventionally tuned CGDA) are in octave pairs, almost like a bouzouki or something. Gonna be using it mostly for chording I think, would like that brightness when strummed.

    So: Has anyone here done/heard of anything like that? Any advice about string gauges or anything? Any words of wisdom/caution welcome. Thanks!

  2. #2
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    That style with two strings sharing a single bridge piece will make it very difficult to get those pitched an octave higher to be in tune.
    The lower pitched member of the pair requires additional compensation to make it slightly longer than the upper octave.
    The discrepancy becomes more pronounced as the pair is played closer to the bridge.

    This idea works well if the bridge has independent compensation for each string.

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    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    What Jacob said is true. But, it doesn't mean it isn't worth a try. If you are playing mostly chords, and mostly nearer the nut, you may find it acceptable.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    Well, you can use a 2nd (D) string to "octavize" your 4th (C) course, and a 1st (A) string to ditto the 3rd (G) course. The tension will be a bit slack, but you can experiment and see if you really like the sound.

    You may well have to re-jigger the nut slots, or replace and re-cut the nut. to handle the thinner strings, and the advice above about mis-compensated bridge saddle is right on.

    I have an Octofone that I've octave-strung on the lower courses, tuned GDAE as an octave mandolin. It produces a really full chordal sound, but it's a bit clumsy as a melody instrument. I like the "12-string guitar" sound of it for vocal accompaniment, though. It's bridge isn't compensated (remember, it cost $15 new back in the '30's), so I just put up with the "sour" octaves up the neck -- where I rarely play it.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    I've used octave pairs on many instruments - my 10 string mandola (on the C, G, D courses), my octave mandolin (G, D and A), couple mandolins on the G and D and on my 10 string mandocello (C, G and D). Of these only the mandocello was originally built with the bridge compensated and nut slotted for octave pairs.

    Guess what? They all play and intonate just fine with the octave pairs.

    I've been doing this many years. The simplest way to go octave is to halve the diameter of the original string. So if your original G is .046, its octave pair is .023 tuned one octave higher.

    Another method that works is buy two sets of strings. Take an A string from the 2nd set and pay it it with your G, tuned to a G one octave higher. For your octave D string use an E from a spare set (I know a standard mandola set doesn't come with an E) tuned down to a D one octave higher.

    For an octave C on a mandola use a D from your 2nd mandola string set tuned to C one octave above the regular C.

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  10. #6
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    I did it once on my old celtic mandolin. I tuned GDAD. AWESOME FUN!!
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    They sound great tuned like that.
    Another thing I’ve tried is to just tune everything down a semitone or whole note. This certainly doesn’t get the effect you’re looking for, but gives you a good idea of how string tension may affect tone.

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  14. #8

    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    Thanks for all the advice/experience, everyone. In case anyone is curious what I ended up doing: Experimented with a bunch of different gauges and arrangements of strings, ended up with something that I think sounds and plays pretty sweet. Using D string as an octave pair for the C & A string as an octave pair for the G ended up being too light. Indeed, with the deeper cuts of the nut for those strings (as I was warned above), the thin gauges felt too loose and too low to the fretboard. Ended up going with a G string as an octave pair for the C, and a D string as an octave pair for the G.

    I also experimented with order of the octave pairs, first trying a "Rickenbacker 12-string" kinda setup (which I guess is also a traditional bouzouki style setup), where the lower octave string goes on first, followed by the higher octave. I figured I'd want a more "bass forward" sound as I strummed down, to make sure that low C string really popped out. However, I found this to be a little too bass-heavy, and detracted from that sparkly sound I was going for in the first place. So final set-up, in order down the instrument, ended up being: .026/.040 - octave pair C; .016/.026 - octave pair G, .016/.016 - unison D, .010/.010 - unison A.

    Intonation indeed gets pretty wonky at about the 6th or 7th fret, esp on the C course (again, as I was warned), but I don't really see that as an issue given how I expect to use it. Attached a quick little DI recording of how it sounds, if anyone's curious. Really fun to play, imho. Thanks again for all the guidance.
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    i always thought high string on top for zouk, but I guess I've always just assumed. Sarah Jarosz plays low-high octave pairs IIRC on her OM. I always wanted the chime of High-Low tuned octave pairs.

    Sounded fine to me by the way, just listened.
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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  17. #10

    Default Re: Octave C & G courses for mandola?

    natchez,

    I've had a similar interest for awhile, but never acted on it. I am going to string up my Airline mandola today with all octaves dDgGbBdD. Looking for that shimmering 12-string sound.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    You started here:

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    Then:

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    In my opinion, the 16 & 26 may be a bit heavy.

    Might I suggest:

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    You might even try an 8 for a D octave course as well.

    Best wishes,
    Huck
    Last edited by Huck; Nov-25-2020 at 10:25am.

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