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Thread: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

  1. #1

    Default Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Dear mandocello players,

    Perhaps you know my projects on ko-fi.com, where I write some new books for mandolin, mandocello, mandola and octave mandolin.

    I got a couple of emails asking about a new method for the mandocello and wanted to ask you about it. Would you be interested in such a method? I think that more methods for the mandocello could help the instrument to become more popular.

    My idea would be a combined method for the 8 and 10 string mandocello for beginners without any knowledge about the mandolin and it’s music. In addition to the technique, a topic would also be the notations used, from tablature to the various clefs such as bass clef and tenor clef. Since I was trained in the classical technique myself, that would be the technique that I want to teach in the method.

    What topics would you not want to miss in such a method? Would you be interested in accompanying videos? Do you have any other wishes or suggestions for such a project? Do you have a suggestion for a title?

    I have to admit that I only have one 10 string mandocello so far. Anyone have a tip for an affordable 8-string mandocello?

    Thank you for your feedback

    Florian

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    I would be interested in the approach to sustained notes - where/when to take advantage of the instruments natural sustain vrs use of tremolo.

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Florian, I do encourage you to start working on a mandocello method book, but I also want to know if you are familiar with what's already out there. The classic is the Bickford Mandocello Book, but there is also the much more recent August Watters' Progressive Melodies for Mandocello--not a "method book" but a carefully thought out series of interesting musical studies for the instrument. August will be hosting workshops at the CMSA Conventiuon, and I will be presenting some new music written specifically for the MC--not transcriptions or bowed cello. I am all about campaigning to improve the profile and use of the instrument on its own terms--not just in ensembles.
    Typical concerns are the difficulty of clean stops--the buzz on the C string in particular. A lot of players I know are in the "not so young" category, and joint pain is a frequent topic. I am with Tim Logan on the question of sustain vs. tremolo, and August Watters goes so far as to suggest minimal tremolo on the bigger strings. I believe August is also considering a method book, but it would be interesting to see different approaches. I have studied with Radim Zenkl and Fabio Giudice, and experienced two very contrasting approaches.
    Hope we can talk more on all this, and keep me informed on your ideas for a method book.
    jim

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Florian,

    The only mandocello methods of which I am aware were written over a century ago, Bickford included. I think a new method, while it would be a far cry from best-sellerdom, would be welcome. People like Jim Imhoff are having an effect on the popularity of the instrument. Having Fabio Giudice at CMSA a couple years ago and having August Watters as a visiting artist at the upcoming CMSA indicates, I think, a level of interest that can only be augmented by a new method.

    The greatest challenge in writing a new method for this instrument would be scoping out your potential audience. Will you be writing for novices in mandolandia and perhaps in music like, say a Suzuki book 1 for violin? Or will you be writing for mando and music literate folks interested sustain vs. tremolo?

    In any case, you may want to be in touch with Classicalcomp, a cafe member, who produced an updated version of Bickford a couple of years ago and ends his introduction to this with:

    Book Design by Benjamin Ash First Edition: 2019
    COMING SOON:
    2020 – Collected Works for Beginner Mandocello and Octave Mandolin – Book 1 2020 – Collected Works for Intermediate Mandocello and Octave Mandolin – Book 1 2021 – Collected Works for Advanced Mandocello and Octave Mandolin – Book 1 2022 – Bickford/Ash Method for the Mandocello – Book 2

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  9. #5

    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    That's certainly something I would be interested in. At least the outline of your approach seems sound. The one thing I might question is whether you would really want to pitch it to users who have no knowledge of the mandolin. I'm sure there are such players out there, but I don't personally know anyone who came to the mandocello without playing mandolin first.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bartl View Post
    The only mandocello methods of which I am aware were written over a century ago, Bickford included.
    I don't know if Goichberg's studies count as a "method" but they are from the 20th century and worth having, albeit difficult to find.
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  13. #7

    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    FWIW, in our local orchestra, 2 of the 4 mandocellists come from a cello background, not a mandolin background.

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  15. #8

    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Thanks for your feedback.

    @Tim: I will keep that in mind.

  16. #9

    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Imhoff View Post
    Florian, I do encourage you to start working on a mandocello method book, but I also want to know if you are familiar with what's already out there. The classic is the Bickford Mandocello Book, but there is also the much more recent August Watters' Progressive Melodies for Mandocello--not a "method book" but a carefully thought out series of interesting musical studies for the instrument. August will be hosting workshops at the CMSA Conventiuon, and I will be presenting some new music written specifically for the MC--not transcriptions or bowed cello. I am all about campaigning to improve the profile and use of the instrument on its own terms--not just in ensembles.
    Typical concerns are the difficulty of clean stops--the buzz on the C string in particular. A lot of players I know are in the "not so young" category, and joint pain is a frequent topic. I am with Tim Logan on the question of sustain vs. tremolo, and August Watters goes so far as to suggest minimal tremolo on the bigger strings. I believe August is also considering a method book, but it would be interesting to see different approaches. I have studied with Radim Zenkl and Fabio Giudice, and experienced two very contrasting approaches.
    Hope we can talk more on all this, and keep me informed on your ideas for a method book.
    jim
    Thanks for your feedback.
    I have the material you mentioned and that is a good point to start. It would be wonderful to have more people with different background writing methods for the mandocello.

  17. #10

    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bartl View Post
    The greatest challenge in writing a new method for this instrument would be scoping out your potential audience. Will you be writing for novices in mandolandia and perhaps in music like, say a Suzuki book 1 for violin? Or will you be writing for mando and music literate folks interested sustain vs. tremolo?
    Thanks Joe!
    My plan was a method for „novices in mandolandia“.In order to make the mandocello an independent instrument in the mandolin family we have to create more material for beginners. Without its own method the mandocello will always be an instrument that is also played.

    Benjamin is one of my supporters on ko-fi. I have to geht in touch with him.

  18. #11

    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scot63 View Post
    That's certainly something I would be interested in. At least the outline of your approach seems sound. The one thing I might question is whether you would really want to pitch it to users who have no knowledge of the mandolin. I'm sure there are such players out there, but I don't personally know anyone who came to the mandocello without playing mandolin first.
    Thanks for your feedback.
    You are right that there are mainly mandocello players who came from the mandolin. But the most of them I know have problems with reading a bass clef or a tenor clef. Some of them have even troubles with the standard notation. When I want to teach that in a method, it is easier to start in the very beginning.

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    I have the Goichberg Book in modern bass clef edition, puiblished 1999 by Plucked Strings. It is pretty advanced, but I believe available.

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    A modern mandocello method would be most welcome. It seems you are suggesting a more or less purely classical approach, and that would almost certainly appeal to many aspiring mandocellists (myself included). However, I get the impression that there's also considerable interest from mandolin players in other, non-classical roles for the mandocello (many of the mandocello exchanges on Mike Marshall's Artistworks course attest to this). So possibly including some material and techniques which cover that aspect might widen the appeal of any book, though you might feel that would not fit well with your approach. Just a thought.
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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Personal preference based on a career of music education: use bass clef. There will be resistance to this, but working with orchestral and choral scores I have come to believe that notation carries meaning. Putting something in treble clef and saying "play it down a couple octaves" is like having a blue picture of the color red. Even worse (opinion, but an educated one) is the transposed treble clef where you imagine you're playing GDAE mandolin notes on an instrument tuned CGDA. If we are going to promote the mandocello's future as a stand-alone, it deserves its own clef as well as its own new music. One more point, I am forging some connections with string teachers in school programs; consistent clef use will be expected there.
    Much better players than I will disagree, but I am looking at long term goals and trends as an educator. And any "method" book is an educational endeavor.

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefour View Post
    However, I get the impression that there's also considerable interest from mandolin players in other, non-classical roles for the mandocello (many of the mandocello exchanges on Mike Marshall's Artistworks course attest to this). So possibly including some material and techniques which cover that aspect might widen the appeal of any book, though you might feel that would not fit well with your approach. Just a thought.
    Thanks for the feedback!
    Since in the beginning basic things must be taught, (the notation, the orientation on the fingerboard and the signs used in the literature), I probably already have enough material for a first volume.
    But for a second volume I have already noted your suggestion.

  26. #16

    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Imhoff View Post
    Personal preference based on a career of music education: use bass clef. There will be resistance to this, but working with orchestral and choral scores I have come to believe that notation carries meaning.
    You are absolutely right!

    But:
    In my opinion, the tradition of an instrument should not be ignored for a new teaching approach. My goal is to establish a notation for the mandocello as it is used for the violoncello. This means bass clef, tenor clef and treble clef. However, in European literature for mandolin orchestra, there are many parts for mandocello, which are noted in a transposed treble celf. In the American literature there is a lot in tablature. To train new players for the mandocello, they must be prepared for "historical" notations.

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    "In my opinion, the tradition of an instrument should not be ignored for a new teaching approach. My goal is to establish a notation for the mandocello as it is used for the violoncello. This means bass clef, tenor clef and treble clef. However, in European literature for mandolin orchestra, there are many parts for mandocello, which are noted in a transposed treble celf. In the American literature there is a lot in tablature. To train new players for the mandocello, they must be prepared for "historical" notations."

    Hi Florian,

    I've refrained from commenting on this thread so far. The comments you have received have been sincere and well-intentioned. However, it is important, as you say, to be clear about the relevant history. I will make a few points here:

    --mandolin family instruments, like the lute, have notation histories. In the relevant centuries, music for the renaissance lute was written in various tablatures, such as French or Italian. It would be silly for someone playing the lute today to complain about this. Like all notation systems, it has its pluses and minuses. At the same time, a professional lutenist today also is trained to realize continuo from figured notation, or play from grand staff transcriptions of tablature, which is what musicologists commonly use when they write about lute music.

    --in the case of the mandocello, in the United States, when it was first introduced, parts were published in transposed treble clef, playing the instrument "as if" it was a very big mandolin. The vast majority of players who picked up the mandocello had first played the mandolin, and this was a natural thing to do, as it was on the mandola in C (which, in the United States, people just call the "mandola"). For a mandola (in C) or mandocello player today, it is an extremely useful skill, because it allows one to simply place such a part on the music stand and play it, without complaining that it is not in the "proper" clef (e.g. alto or bass clef). I personally know mandocello players today who can do this, and who also read fluently from the bass clef (one of them would be me).

    --Ca. 1910, the American Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists, and Guitarists (the national organization at the time in the US) adopted so-called "universal notation" for the mandola, mandocello, and mando-bass. There is much confusion about universal notation, but there should not be. It is simply the octave treble clef, with the octave varying with the instrument. For the mandocello, it is 15vb, so the music is written in treble clef two octaves higher than it sounds. When Jim Imhoff is referring to "treble clef" I believe this is what he is talking about, not the use of treble clef in modern notation for the violoncello. Ideally, in my opinion, a well trained mandocello player encountering such a part would be able to place it on the music stand and simply play it, rather than expecting someone to have transcribed it first into bass clef. (This would certainly save us a lot of time and effort in CMSA).

    --there were also players in the US historically who read bass clef (and tenor, etc) on the mandocello. These were interested in playing in so-called "classical quartets" (M1, M2, mandola in C, mandocello), which performed, for example, plucked versions of string quartets (Mozart, Haydn, and so on). The known examples in the US all played from the original string parts. Professional players at the time, such as Bickford or William Foster, among many others, routinely did this, as well as play transposed parts or from universal notation (in other words, they were fluent in different notational conventions). However, there is almost no ORIGINAL music for the mandocello from the early 20th century US published in bass clef -- the only example I have ever seen is a trio by Stellario Cambria, for mandolin, mandola in C, and mandocello (this was for his group, the Plectrio). You can find a copy in the Nakano Archive (Neil Gladd has a copy for free download on his website, http://www.neilgladd.com/Publications/). Note: I have personally never seen any published historical parts (that is, pre-WW2) for mandocello in the US in tablature.

    --as a player of the liuto, you surely know this, but perhaps others do not. When the liuto was first introduced, methods for it (this is before Calace) were in 8vb treble, because the liuto was seen as a mandola in G (or what we call the octave mandolin in the US) with an extra bass string. The liuto part in the first Munier quartet is published like this. However, fairly quickly, ensemble parts for the liuto began to be written in bass clef and the mandoloncello (I am thinking here of Embergher) and liuto were treated as interchangeable for this purpose. The second and third Munier quartets, which appeared after this transition, have liuto parts in bass clef (Calace, as you know, preferred a hybrid notation for liuto, 8vb and bass, switching back and forth frequently as he deemed necessary). By the time we get to Amadei, etc, the mandoloncello parts are always in bass clef (at least any I have seen). Salvatore Falbo's well known piece, "Spagna," has passages in the mandoloncello part in tenor clef. Thus, when you write that you want to "establish" a notation for the mandocello as it is used for the violoncello, I would politely disagree with you, as this was already the case in Italy ca. 100 years ago.

    --I will take it at face value when you say that there are transposed treble clef parts for mandocello in European mandolin orchestra music, although I have personally never seen published versions of these (I could well imagine that there are unpublished parts of this nature). What I have seen, as again I am sure you know, are many published German pieces where the mandoloncello part is embedded in the mandola in G part (mandola oder mandoloncello), for example, in pieces by Woelki and others from the same time period. These are in 8vb treble, as was also common in Austria, for example, in the two volumes of studies (really, arrangements of cello etudes, such as Dotzauer and Merk) that Vinzenz Hladky published for liuto in the mid-1960s (I do not have a copy of the Theodore Ritter mandocello method that Maren Trekel publishes, so I don't know what he is doing). Sight reading from a Woelki part is a little harder since the mandocellist must figure out which of the notes to play in the first place. But again, a useful skill to have.

    --lastly, for your first volume, I would (strongly) suggest that you spend a lot of time focusing on proper posture, left hand orientation, and basic right hand plucking. In my personal experience, these skills are all lacking in amateur mandocellists. Learning to read tenor clef is not much use if the sound is not good in the first place.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Quote Originally Posted by fkrumpf View Post
    In my opinion, the tradition of an instrument should not be ignored for a new teaching approach. .
    Yes, yes, yes, agreed, and I have great respect for scholars like yourself with the background and knowledge to talk about tradition and history. Also, I remember as a conducting student being surprised at European published scores that placed clefs on different lines and sometimes switched clefs mid-phrase. American publishers are less flexible and as a result maybe we are a bit less literate. I see your point as both historical and inclusive, and although my preference is bass clef, of course I encourage the option and ability to read others.

    My degrees and my focus are in Music Education, with an emphasis on what happens in public school music classes--I am NOT a mandolin scholar or expert. I have seen similar European vs. American differences in the use and teaching of solfege, rhythmic notation, and such.

    As my workshop title Mandocellos in the 21st Century indicates I am focused on the future, but I have so much to learn about mandolin history and tradition. I am in touch with educators connecting college and school string programs with the mandolin family, so my image of "a beginner" might be different from yours.
    I am subscribed to your Ko-fi account and will continue to support your work (and promote it at my workshop).

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  31. #19

    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Quote Originally Posted by margora View Post
    lastly, for your first volume, I would (strongly) suggest that you spend a lot of time focusing on proper posture, left hand orientation, and basic right hand plucking. In my personal experience, these skills are all lacking in amateur mandocellists. Learning to read tenor clef is not much use if the sound is not good in the first place.
    Hello Robert,

    Thank yo for your feedback.

    I want to clarify that I am very grateful for every post that is written here. That helps me very much to give the method a structure that helps as many players as possible.

    I have found several helpful things in your comment:

    - There are misunderstandings due to the different linguistic peculiarities. The best example is the "problem" Mandola and Octave Mandolin. There are different expressions for many things in music, so it is sometimes difficult to see that we mean the same. We are all on the same page.

    Incidentally, I also meant the 8vb treble clef with transposing clefs. In my education, this clef was summarized with other transposing clefs. Sometimes it is difficult to find the right term in a foreign language in the short term.

    By the way, with "historical" notations, I meant all notations to this day. I also do not think to be the first to see a notation as used with the Violoncello for the Mandocello. Nevertheless, you will admit that such a notation has not prevailed. But that's my goal to interest also composers outside of Mandolandia for the instrument. If there is a uniform notation, which is also used by other instrument groups, this step is much easier.

    - I want to underline what you wrote as last. The most important are the basic techniques for a first volume. That is clear! It can be that the topic of notation is too much for one volume. It is probably better if I start with the bass clef and the tablature. The tablature is only a help and is more and more neglected during the volume. Then I can insert another notation again in the second volume with the help of the tablature and so on.

    Ultimately, I would like to emphasize two things:

    1. My method will not become an incomprehensible work that does not tolerate a contradiction. Other opinions and new insights will only help our music. Dogmatism only stops.
    2. The same applies to this discussion. Contradiction helps me to write a method that helps as many players as possible. If I contradict you, I try to justify this as well as possible. That does not mean that I do not value your comment. Every idea helps me here. But please do not be angry, if not every idea will take it to the book in the end.

    And:
    Please forgive me some linguistic mistakes. I'm trying to express myself as well as possible in a foreign language. If I express myself unfavorably, that's not intended.

    Florian

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    Hi Florian,

    Thanks for your reply, very helpful!

    "Incidentally, I also meant the 8vb treble clef with transposing clefs. In my education, this clef was summarized with other transposing clefs. Sometimes it is difficult to find the right term in a foreign language in the short term."

    Yes, this is a linguistic problem, we are talking about the same thing.

    "Nevertheless, you will admit that such a notation has not prevailed."

    Historically, yes, there were significant differences across countries. This is a common feature of mandolin history. I certainly agree that a new, modern method for mandocello should start out in bass clef, that makes good sense. At some point, the various historical notations can be introduced, as you plan to do. Whether the player follows up will depend on his/her level of interest, as is always the case.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    As a student (with absolutely none of the background and education achieved by those who have posted above) who uses your Calace volume, Florian, I believe your work is the most useful and beneficial material I have ever come across. You seem to have a pedagogical 'sixth sense' that is of immense benefit to those of us striving to learn. Thus I trust the your proposed mandocello work will be superb. I applaud and appreciate you very much and am most grateful to you.

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    As an educator, I am thinking ahead to a time when there are not only more mandocello players, but more mandocello teachers--like you, Florian, and August, Radim, and Fabio. Nearly all my lessons have been on Skype or Zoom, because there were no local authoritative masters of the instrument. I was very lucky to have a few in-person meets with Radim Zenkl when he passed through Oregon, August Watters when I visited Boston U, and Fabio Giudice at a CMSA Convention.
    Most of the MCello discussion I see here and in other places is about notation, strings, different models and makes, and of course performances by great players.
    EDUCATION is my career and mission: I hope that your endeavor to develop a pedagogy as well as a method specifically for the mandocello will be a step in the direction of teaching us not just to play but to play well. My CMSA colleague Bob Margo urged you to focus on proper technique; hand position, posture, and such. Yes: I wish I had that kind of instruction from a true expert when I first picked up a mandocello and tried to figure out where the notes were.

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    Default Re: Are you interested in a new method for the mandocello?

    In our orchestra the parts were published in the transposed treble clef to enable mandolinists to jump in where needed or wanted. However they are also done in Bass clef. The bass clef has become the most used for a few reasons. We found that many of the mandolin and alto players were willing to make the jump in to mandola (8ve) but found the spread for mandoloncello too big a leap. So now we are mainly players with a violoncello background. Producing the scores in bass clef has drawn violoncello players from orchestras to join us, some then moving on to mandolin section playing. So the provision of the bass clef has had a positive role in attracting people to plucked string orchestra playing, where the 8ve treble would have been a double jump.

    I think the liuto cantabile is normally seen as a progression step from the mandoloncello so moving on to 8ve treble as you advance to the 5 course instrument would make sense. Whether this would be done along with the progression through the tenor/treble advance in the 'cello method, or done as a fork in the road would be something to consider. I would suggest that once advanced enough to be moving on past the tenor/treble learning the students would be in a position to consider the liutocantabile.

    My personal impression is that the way the liuto was approached by Calace treated it as a separate instrument rather than as a mandoloncello with an added course. Even the design of his compact body instruments was not so focussed on the bass sonority of the mandoloncello, and seemed designed to maximise using the singing sustain of the long scale and possibilities of multi-voicing along the full length of the instrument. The instruments he produced seem designed to reign in and control the hazards of the low end swamping the overall sound of the instrument. For me using 8ve treble when scoring the liuto makes sense from this perspective & it is an important difference we should preserve between the two instruments. It tends to be a bit obscured in some of the newer designs.

    As for instruments I bought a second hand Taiwanese mandocello like you see on ebay. I was fully expecting to be disappointed by the sound, as the instrument has more glitz and bling mother of pearl than a christmas tree. Well I have have been using it now for two years and gave up my other instrument in favour of playing that one exclusively. So if you see one second for a bargain price they are worth getting. However the shipping via ebay makes a new one excessively priced.

    I think it is high time we had a new progressive method for the mandoloncello. Drawing on modern genres along with the established pieces is worthwhile. I would like to see sections that deal with moving in different musical orbits to just orchestral or 'classical' genres. Providing skills for playing in folk, rock, modern classical or experimental music would enable the instrument to be seen in a much broader context. Perhaps a section of the advanced stages could include interviews with people who use it in non orchestral settings?
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

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