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Thread: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    I feel vulnerably simple here, so forgive me.

    I am curioous as to how you approach going from a D (or any other key) mandolin tune on to a D ( or any other key) tune on the mandola. I know , for D it would mean playing the mandola like youi were in A. But how do you proceed in that, what is yoouir process?

    If this sounds stupid, believe me, I have questions more stupid that this.

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gong from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    I took up mandola to play the instrument in a mandolin orchestra. Outside of that I used it to back up singers and instrumentalists on a few recordings. Never played the usual tunes that I play on mandolin. Not that you can’t do that, of course.
    Jim

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gong from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    Capo on the second fret of a mandola and play everything one course below OR you can even put lighter strings on and tune it to DAEB, that sometimes works well. A lot depends on scale length, the range of the tunes you like, the tunes played by friends, and the robustness of your mandolin alternative.

    Why would that be a stupid question?
    There are a lot of different tunings that can be used on all sorts of instruments to get them to be more like a mandolin.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gong from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    For me the mental transposition of chord shapes from mandolin to mandola (or mandocello) got easier the more I did it. Just look at basic two finger first position chords. A G (0-0-2-3) on mandolin becomes a C on the mandola or mandocello. Mandola strings are a fifth below the same string location on a mandolin, so the chords played in the same position are a fifth lower as well.

    To play a C on a 'dola I play a mandolin G shape (G is a fifth above C). To play a G on dola I play a mandolin D shape (D is a fifth above G). And so on.

    Similar idea when I'm playing a standard tuned ukulele - the chord I want to finger on a uke is a fifth higher when the same shape is used on a standard tuned guitar. To play a C on a uke I use a chord shape that would be a G on a guitar. To play a G on a uke I use a chord shape that would be a D on guitar.

    It takes longer to explain than to actually apply. It's like when you capo a guitar - you put a capo on the 4th fret and play a G shape and it's now a B. Same idea of mental transpositioning. The best way to learn it is to do it real time.

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    Default Re: Gong from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    I am with Mandobart here- you can play a lot of fiddle tunes on mandola in the same key as mandolin, but the fingering will be very different, you just kind of have to work it out. Writing the tune out and then trying to find the notes on the dola helps, its time consuming and not all tunes work well, but a lot do. Sometimes you have to play the B part an octave lower or something like that.
    You can also try to harmonize on the dola, and I think that was the intent of the instrument family (violin, viola, cello, bass).
    Tunes like Billy in the low ground you can play the A part same as a mandolin but then I move the B part down an octave, Whisky before breakfast is similar in that vein.
    You can also play closed position up the neck, but this also takes some practice and isn't always practical.
    I presented a dola version of Cuckoos Nest to Mike Marshall on Artist works and he encourage me to leverage the strengths of of the instrument, try to use the open notes and really let the bass ring. I often do chord in on the dola in jams and learning those shapes can be confusing ( sometimes I pick a mando and am playing dola chord shapes). Who knew it existed but I have a book of mandocello chord shapes, the fingering is the same as dola, so its a great reference, there are some free PDFs out there of basic dola chord shapes. So there are multiple ways to approach this. I attached one here.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Mandocello chord diagrams.pdf  
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gong from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    I really appreciate your responses. I think I understand the chord issues in going from mandolin to mandola. I was hoping to discover how you actually went about picking a tune say, from a D shape on mandolin to its corresponding A shapae on mandola. How do you start and go about changing the picking part?

    I did get some help from an older post; https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...ys-for-mandola

    It is getting at what I am wrestling with.

    thanks
    Last edited by J.C. Bryant; Sep-25-2022 at 5:40am.

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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    its very much like learning a tune, you have to find the note and fingerings, there isn't really a guide or method that I know of.
    i have learned to think of open string mandola as 5th fret mandolin ( actually octave is the same pitch).
    so lets take Red haired boy in A
    start on the 4th fret of the C string
    the the second fret of the G string- walk up 2- 4-6
    open D string 0-2-3-2
    6th fret G string
    open D
    and then try to figure out the rest from there.

    I don't normally work in Tab and don't have Tab software for mandola, I suppose that might be a good possible "product", popular fiddle tunes for mandola with tab for fingering.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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  10. #8
    Paul Wheeler
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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    I know what you mean when you say to play in D on the mandola, play as if you were playing in A on the mandolin . . . but I very seldom play in A (major) on the mandolin, so I never found it helpful to think that way.

    When I took up the mandola, it was with intention of learning the same tunes, in the same keys, as I already knew them on mandolin, and seeing what I could learn about internalizing different fingerings and pathways.

    So I just took tunes I already knew VERY well on the mandolin, found where the critical or starting notes happened to be on the mandola, and worked it out from there. On mandolin I tend to learn based on written materials (even if I have to notate them out from recordings); but if I have a tune down rock-solid on mandolin, it takes much less time to work it out by ear on the mandola, allowing for the larger fret spacing and the greater frequency of melody notes falling on the sixth fret (and the occasional need to go low instead of high for the B-part). It's not long before you find yourself reaching confidently for a next note across strings.

    There is a certain amount of reverse-transposition that can happen. One favorite jig is "Swans Among the Rushes" which I learned on mandolin in G, and brought to mandola in G . . . sometimes on mandolin I'll find myself noodling a "mystery tune" and realize I'm playing "Swans" in D, not as a deliberate key-change but just out of muscle-memory from playing it on the mandola.

    Hoping this helps. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself. -- Paul
    Last edited by twaaang; Sep-25-2022 at 11:17pm. Reason: afterthougbt
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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    I play small mandolin and octave mandolin at irish sessions, I tried to play a CGDA mandola, with disappointing results: lacking the high-E string, have to relearn all tunes in the low register (could be a good thing), but in the low register it gets lost in the "wall of fiddles". For weight reasons, I only bring the octave mandolin and use capo-5 when mandola tuning is needed.

    Here is my fretboard mental map, I hope you find it useful:

    mandolin, octave, fiddle:
    G
    D
    E
    A

    capo-3 (for playing F and Bf ECD tunes)

    capo-5 mandola tuning
    C
    G
    D
    A
    (E) string is missing

    capo-7 (if your axe plays there)
    (G) string is missing
    D
    A
    E
    B (nice to have)

    mandola, mandocello, CGDA tenor guitar (i.e. Kala tenor guitar):
    C
    G
    D
    A
    (E) string is missing

    same at capo-2
    (G) string is missing
    D
    A
    E
    B (nice to have)

    capo-7 (if your axe plays there)
    G
    D
    A
    E

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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    actually I see there is preset "Tenor Banjo CGDA" tab in Tab Edit., I am not used to working in Tab Edit but can give it a try if there is a particular tune you are interested in (Zappa's "The Black Page" is definitely out)

    also scales and arpeggios are great for learning the notes on a fret board, just like chords, the fingering is the same only the tones are a perfect fifth below.
    so a first position G scale pattern on a Mandolin is a C scale pattern on a Mandola.
    D scale pattern on Mandolin is G scale pattern on Mandola
    C on Mandolin is F on Mandola.


    Now there is a fair amount of Viola music with expressive melodies, but if you watch orchestras and string quartets, a lot of times the Viola is just repeating the same harmony note for long stretches.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. Bryant View Post
    ................I am curioous as to how you approach going from a D (or any other key) mandolin tune on to a D ( or any other key) tune on the mandola. I know , for D it would mean playing the mandola like youi were in A. But how do you proceed in that, what is yoouir process?
    I learned mandolin chords and inversions based on where the root note lies in the chord, G string, D string, A string or E string. Or you can think root in the bas, third in the bass, fifth in the bass position. When I started on my 5 string, I used the same process to identify the chords using the shapes I already knew. its a bit confusing as you play familiar shapes with different names, but its just a matter of time and familiarity to become comfortable at speed. Doesn't work for chords with open strings.

    I think this is the most efficient way to learn chords and it makes transposing to other keys reasonably simple. Of course, other folks have other ideas.

    Good luck.
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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    Quote Originally Posted by tmsweeney View Post
    if you watch orchestras and string quartets, a lot of times the Viola is just repeating the same harmony note for long stretches
    just saw a baroque string ensemble that was like this. basically, viola filled the gap between the bass (cello) and the violins.

    of course, this specific viola and this specific violist are capable of much more:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBAYM4ePx3o

    (100% mandolin relevant. Viola Space No. 4 - Nine Fingers, by G. Knox - Sarah Kwok)

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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    Paul Hindemith specifically composed for Viola as melody instrument (Kammermusic #5), as did Bela Bartok ( string quartet # 6 and viola concertos) and Dimitri Schostakovitch.
    While all of this is far beyond what I at least aspire to, I think the mandola has the same potential, though it has not been widely written for as a lead voice in a bluegrass or folk setting. Part of the issue being shared sonic space with the guitar which tends to blur it out. I suppose someone who focused on guitar and mandola not sharing sonic space in a tune might set a different stage entirely. I see a lot of guitar sites stating the mandolin can add to a guitar players tonal pallet, and equally I see mandolas advertised as an extension to mandolin players tonal pallet. Will we see players or composers feature the mandola as more than just an addition to other string instruments? I hope so but my expectations are not that high.
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
    Got no compassion, thinks its a sin
    All he does is sit around an play the Mandolin"

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gong from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. Bryant View Post
    I really appreciate your responses. I think I understand the chord issues in going from mandolin to mandola. I was hoping to discover how you actually went about picking a tune say, from a D shape on mandolin to its corresponding A shapae on mandola. How do you start and go about changing the picking part?

    It is getting at what I am wrestling with.

    thanks
    One thing I've noticed and incorporated into playing mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and guitar is this - the melody notes can be found in the chord shapes you're playing. Start with chord progression and pick the melody out of those shapes. Like my earlier post, it's easier to do it than to explain how to do it.

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    You can move up the neck a bit on the mandola to get out of the confusion zone near the nut.
    Then you pick two roots an octave apart. Either four string to third or fourth to second.

    So you’re working on an octave range. Now play melodic runs that are quite similar to mandolin melody but not necessarily exactly, arpeggios too. Then add double-stops. Thirds and fifths.

    Remember which notes in the octave pattern take minor third and which take major.

    Play loud in accompaniment and play simple and stately.
    You will sound (both) great!

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Going from mandolin to mandola, tunes

    i very much appreciate all your responses, thoughts and suggestions! I am working at it and believe that I will get there after much study nd practice. You know, I just love the sound of the mandola. I love the size and the way it seems to fit when I hold it. I know the best instrument for fiddle tunes is probably the fiddle and I know playing fiddle tunes on the mandola is difficult and does not fit well in playing with others, at least in the same key. Right now I am working with simple melodies and learning the fretboard. I just need to continue working with it and trying to learn. I play alone mostly and that makes it very tempting to just play it like you can and appreciate the sound and the experience. I must admit, though, at my level, the learning, itself, is fun (although, at times frustrating)

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