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Thread: Tuning up

  1. #1

    Default Tuning up

    a question for those of you with far more mandolin experience than I. We have a few songs in our list that the singer requires a capo on the mandolin ....prefers to sing it in a key, play it in another key's shape.

    Aside from the perceived shunning of "real mandolin players don't use capos", neither he nor I like using a capo on the mando for multiple reasons that only have to do with playing.

    I am not the primary mandolin player. The primary player has a beautiful Gibson Mando. I have a very nice The Loar (LM 600 VS). We were discussing tuning my mandolin up a whole step so that when we got to the songs that would normally require a capo, we'd have a mando in that tuning.

    Has anyone ever done this? I'm worried about the strings breaking, the tension on the neck, the strings being too tight to play well. We definitely want to try this as long as it won't damage the mando.

    Ed

  2. #2

    Default Re: Tuning up

    Use lighter gauge strings than you usually do, to ease the tension.

  3. #3
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Just use a Capo. It's a tool that is available to you.

    The BG police will get over it.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Quote Originally Posted by Zach Wilson View Post
    Just use a Capo. It's a tool that is available to you.

    The BG police will get over it.
    True...but mandolin is made to be played in ANY and ALL keys.

    Now, if your arrangement needs particular open strings, a capo may make sense.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    Use lighter gauge strings than you usually do, to ease the tension.
    I don't recommend tuning a mandolin up. That's just my opinion, though - technically you could use under gauged strings and tune it up. I'd use a capo first, and I rarely use capos.

    I have tuned mandolins down a step to Bb tuning to match a clarinet for Classical duet playing.

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    I don't have any advice about tuning higher, but I'm with you on capos, Ed. I couldn't care less about someone's rules about playing, but there isn't a great deal of room for my left hand on the neck of a mandolin, and I find that I have to alter my hand position myself to use a capo. I used one when I was starting out, especially since many tunes are written in C and I usually sing in D. My abilities to move around the fingerboard have developed considerably over time, so that I've stopped using a capo. Still, I might use one for a complex arrangement of a tune I've already learned, like Alabama Jubilee that I play in C, but which doesn't suit my voice in that key. So I understand your aversion to capos.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
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  10. #7
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    There is nothing "wrong" with using a capo on a mandolin. Lots of scenarios where it makes sense. And I have been an advocate of painting the capo bright green so that everyone sees it. Don't be shy.

    What I don't like about the capo is that it makes the fret markers inaccurate. I use the markers and in fact depend on them for playing up the neck.

    The other concern is how it limits the range of the instrument. But, of course I don't take full advantage of the mandolin range anyway. Not many really do.

    I have used a capo at times where it made sense. Especially where I wanted the open strings to drone an accompaniment on.

    So my first choice would be to really study the singer's preferred key and see if there is a way that it can be accommodated without a capo. It is often surprising what one can do, moving up the neck and/or down a string, or some such.

    (Learning to play in any key is, of course, the long term solution. But ok, not everyone is there yet. It is an excellent learning goal, and there are tons of resources to help, but that is not a solution. It is not what can be done right now.)

    But ultimately, nothing wrong with a capo, and I prefer it to unorthodox string tensions. The capo does not stress the instrument or the strings.
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  12. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    What key(s) are you singers requiring? Going up a step means fingering, for instance, in G but sounding in A, or fingering in D but sounding in E.

    I agree with everyone—just use a capo. Why drive yourself crazy?
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  14. #9
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Quote Originally Posted by EdInKissimmee View Post
    Aside from the perceived shunning of "real mandolin players don't use capos"
    Hi, my names Zach and I've used a Capo.

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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Perhaps you could find an experienced player to show you how to switch keys by using common moveable chord shapes. And there are many instructors online if you want formal lessons and can’t find a local face-to-face option. When you find yourself playing with folks (adjusted for COVID), having learned how to change keys without having to wrestle with a capo will serve you well.
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Q gone begging : What Key is the singer's range most comfortable in?
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  18. #12

    Default Re: Tuning up

    I wouldn't advise tuning a mandolin up a whole step. There's already a lot of string tension on the mando at standard pitch. Yes, and chord shapes are so easy to move up the neck.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    FWIW, Soprano Mandolins are tuned CGDA, octave higher than Mandolas.. they're tuned up safely by being a shorter scale ..
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  22. #14
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    FWIW, Soprano Mandolins are tuned CGDA, octave higher than Mandolas.. they're tuned up safely by being a shorter scale ..
    Yes, or get a Mandola. It has the same tuning (CGDA) as the Soprano only an octave lower. The longer scale makes it easier to Capo to wherever your singer sings.

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    Default Re: Tuning up

    & My Friend has an Irish Zouk.. its Octave GDAE long scale (fits in banjo cases) there you have a much longer scale
    my friend uses it as singing accompaniment, rather than a guitar ..

    It took him a while to know what key it was , actually, capo- fret counting , to announce it, , for jamming companions ..
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    A good friend of mine has an octave mandolin, tuned in unison, that he Capos at Mandola tuning for solo stuff. He says the lower tension is more comfortable. He's a bass player.

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    Default Re: Tuning up

    A whole step up. Ouch. You may break a string but maybe not. I have seen a mandola cracked because it was tuned up almost to mandolin pitch. I've seen Mike Compton use a capo to play in an "odd" key. Like Eb, F#or something. As a member of the bluegrass police, I don't like the capo for the mandolin in bluegrass music. But sometimes, it is just too much trouble NOT to use one.

  27. #18
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Quote Originally Posted by GTison View Post
    A whole step up. Ouch. You may break a string but maybe not. I have seen a mandola cracked because it was tuned up almost to mandolin pitch. I've seen Mike Compton use a capo to play in an "odd" key. Like Eb, F#or something. As a member of the bluegrass police, I don't like the capo for the mandolin in bluegrass music. But sometimes, it is just too much trouble NOT to use one.
    Defund the (BG) police 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

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  29. #19

    Default Re: Tuning up

    Since the consensus opinion is not to tune up and to either use a capo or learn different chordings...
    Is there a recommendation for a favorite capo that people will admit to liking?

  30. #20
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Quote Originally Posted by NDO View Post
    Since the consensus opinion is not to tune up and to either use a capo or learn different chordings...
    Is there a recommendation for a favorite capo that people will admit to liking?
    I have used this: https://www.elderly.com/collections/...ck-change-capo

    Recommend this (flat or radius): https://www.elderly.com/collections/...ck-change-capo

    And am interested in this: https://www.elderly.com/collections/...-mandolin-capo

  31. #21

    Default Re: Tuning up

    Apologies to the OP for the hijack but I noticed that for the second link (same link as the first one) you said “flat or radius”... but in online reviews I saw a few people note that the capo is flat and doesn’t work perfectly for radius fretboards. Is there a radiused capo available? A quick search didn’t find one. My current cheap mando is flat but my new Eastman will have a radius fretboard.

  32. #22
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Quote Originally Posted by NDO View Post
    Apologies to the OP for the hijack but I noticed that for the second link (same link as the first one) you said “flat or radius”... but in online reviews I saw a few people note that the capo is flat and doesn’t work perfectly for radius fretboards. Is there a radiused capo available? A quick search didn’t find one. My current cheap mando is flat but my new Eastman will have a radius fretboard.
    Sorry about that. I ment to add this link. I use this one currently for my radius fretboard Weber. I like it!

    https://www.elderly.com/collections/...ved-fretboards

  33. #23

    Default Re: Tuning up

    I like a capo when doing chordal accompaniment, so I don't have to use all barre chords.

    For melodic passages a capo is less important.

    The Paige is my capo of choice for the mandolin family, works better with flat fretboards though:
    https://store.banjobenclark.com/coll...-mandolin-capo
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    Tim O'Brien toured over here with a single long necked instrument (mandola/zouk/octave?) that he capoed up high for the mandolin tunes.

    Must have been challenging but made gigging a whole lot simpler.
    Bren

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuning up

    For some reason, no one seems to take exception to a picker using a capo on a mandola, octave mandolin, bouzouki, or mandocello.

    Yet, I'd assume that the same "you oughta learn to play melody and chords in every key" admonishment, should apply equally to other instruments in the mando family.

    Further, no one seems to criticize if you put a capo on your banjo, guitar, resonator guitar, Appalachian dulcimer, baritone uke, etc. I've seen regular ukulele players use capos, as well.

    Yet whenever someone starts one of these threads, the same critique emerges. Yes, a truly expert, virtuosic mandolinist will be able to play fluidly in E flat, melody and chords, without considering using a "cheater," as one of my guitarist friends insisted on calling his capo. Fifty years after I first took up mandolin, I'm still not that mandolinist, and will never be.

    I seldom find I need to capo a mandolin, but when I do, I attach my capo with a clear conscience. It's just another tool, no opprobrium involved for using it. Check your tuning with the capo on, don't over-tighten it and force your strings sharp, remember the fretboard dots are in different places, play-don't-worry!
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