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Thread: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

  1. #1
    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Main difference between a mandolin and a tenor mandolin

    I just happened to buy a tenor mandolin without ever being interested in one, let alone researching one.

    I will get it in 3-6 weeks, so a few questions:

    What are the main characteristics and what is it usually used for?

    Is it just a 12 string guitar with 8 strings?
    Last edited by poul hansen; Feb-25-2021 at 10:24am.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    In Europe, what we on the Cafe generally call a "mandola" is often called a "tenor mandola" -- as opposed to the "octave mandola," which we call "octave mandolin."

    I've never heard one called a "tenor mandolin," but what you're getting may be a mandola, which is tuned CGDA; the top three string courses being the same as the lower three string courses on a mandolin.

    Very few mandolin-family instruments are strung with octave courses, like a 12-string guitar's four lower string courses. It's not unheard of, but it's not common.

    If you could furnish us with more info about the instrument you've bought, such as its scale length (from nut to bridge saddle), we could be more informative. A pic would be nice, too.

    As to what it might be used for, my analogy would be it is to the mandolin, as a viola is to the violin. It can play melodies, counter-melodies, harmonies etc. around the mandolin's generally lead melody. Because of its lower register, it's also often used for vocal accompaniment. Over the past few years, I've been playing mandola as much as, even more than, mandolin. Of course, this is based on the assumption that what you have is a mandola, or at least like one.
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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    That was my first thought, it’s probably a mandola.

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    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    It's not a mandola, which I already have. After searching I suspect it is an octave mandolin.
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    Kentucky KM-805
    Hora M1086 Portuguese II
    Hora M1088 Mandola
    Hora M1087 Octave
    Dean Tennessee Acoustic-Electric
    Richmond RMA-110-VS
    Noname (German?) mandolin

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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    Where does the term “tenor” come from then?

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    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    The seller sold it as a "tenor mandolin"

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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    Think you're right, an octave mandolin -- or "octave mandola," as it's sometimes called in Europe (dunno why).

    Usually tuned GDAE an octave lower than a mandolin; not usually with octave pairs in the lower courses like a 12-string guitar, although I do have an Octofone that I've strung with "octaved" 3rd and 4th courses.

    Used for a lot of things: rhythm playing, melody/harmony work (though the longer scale and more-widely-separated frets tend to make it less agile than a mandolin or mandola), vocal accompaniment. Often used with a capo, unlike the mandolin.

    Looks like it could be Romanian made. Enjoy!
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    ..............
    Looks like it could be Romanian made. Enjoy!
    Yes, a lot of searching let me to the Hora site, where I found one almost identical.

    It was kind of strange to land there, as I within the last 2 months have bought a mandolin and a mandola from Hora ;-)

    But as I have been very satisfied with the price/ performance of their products, I'm looking forward to receiving the octave.

    It was a private sale but at 30$ for a Tennesee mandolin with pickup including a hardcase and 50$ for the octave, it was an offer I couldn't refuse.

    I have heard a few demo's on youtube and like the tone so much, I have given up the search for a Gibson or Martin A type for that mellow tone and will give the octave a try for now.
    Kentucky KM-805
    Hora M1086 Portuguese II
    Hora M1088 Mandola
    Hora M1087 Octave
    Dean Tennessee Acoustic-Electric
    Richmond RMA-110-VS
    Noname (German?) mandolin

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    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    ..............Looks like it could be Romanian made. Enjoy!
    Yes, a lot of searching let me to the Hora site, where I found one almost identical.

    It was kind of strange to land there, as I within the last 2 months have bought a mandolin and a mandola from Hora ;-)

    But as I have been very satisfied with the price/ performance of their products, I'm looking forward to receiving the octave.

    It was a private sale but at 30$ for a Tennesee mandolin with pickup including a hardcase and 50$ for the octave, it was an offer I couldn't refuse.

    I have heard a few demo's on youtube and like the tone so much, I have given up the search for a Gibson or Martin A type for that mellow tone and will give the octave a try for now.
    Kentucky KM-805
    Hora M1086 Portuguese II
    Hora M1088 Mandola
    Hora M1087 Octave
    Dean Tennessee Acoustic-Electric
    Richmond RMA-110-VS
    Noname (German?) mandolin

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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    So what's the difference between this instrument and a bouzouki - is the latter tuned in 4ths rather than 5ths?

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    So what's the difference between this instrument and a bouzouki - is the latter tuned in 4ths rather than 5ths?
    Good, if somewhat complicated question. Originally, "bouzouki" referred to a long-necked Mediterranean instrument, with either three or four courses of doubled strings, generally tuned in a fourths-and-a-third tuning somewhat similar to guitar. A few decades ago, Celtic musicians started taking four-course bouzoukis and stringing them in GDAE fifths tuning an octave below standard mandolin tuning. This produced what we call the "octave mandolin" (sometimes called "Irish bouzouki"); companies started building them to respond to interest in a low-range mandolin-style instrument (although octave mandolins had been made, in very limited numbers, off and on since the early 20th century). Many octave mandolins are made with shorter scales than the original bouzouki scale, but otherwise the two instruments are almost interchangeable in most styles of US and British Isles music.

    This is not to say that "Greek bouzoukis" in the original style and tuning are not still made and played; they are. But most references to "bouzouki" you find in the current environment, are talking about a long-necked octave mandolin -- like the Flatiron "bouzouki" I've owned since the 1980's, a long-scale (24") octave mandolin. The instrument the OP is showing may well be a long- or mid-scale octave mandolin, but could be called a bouzouki in the Hora catalog. The Mediterranean instruments tend to be bowl-backed, but most of the more recent octave-mandolin-tuned bouzoukis are flat-backed.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Main difference between a mandolin and a tenormandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Originally, "bouzouki" referred to a long-necked Mediterranean instrument, with either three or four courses of doubled strings, generally tuned in a fourths-and-a-third tuning somewhat similar to guitar.
    .....
    Thanks for the post..a few additional comments:

    A few decades ago, Celtic musicians started taking four-course bouzoukis and stringing them in GDAE fifths tuning an octave below standard mandolin tuning.
    The original Greek Bouzoukis were 3 courses tuned various ways (like the current Turkish baglama saz) but long ago settled to DAD; the later-developed 4 course bouzouki is tuned CFAD, like the "Chicago" tuning DGBE but down a step.

    Many of the British Isles players also use GDAD and other tunings.

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