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Thread: Unlocking the upper octave

  1. #1
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    Default Unlocking the upper octave

    Iím putting in some hard work work on my octave mando to play up the neck. The penny dropped that I shouldnít need to compromise and choose between 2 mandoís as I have the full range available on my octave mando.
    First I was playing in different positions/patterns mostly between the 7th and 12th fret. Now I have found some tunes are easier just to play like 1st position but up past the 12th fret.

    Any preferences here?
    A mandolin

  2. #2

    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    I think I find myself in a similar position as you are in right now. I have a really cool OM that I just had some work done on. My main jam group consists of a claw hammer banjo player and a amazing fiddler. Kind of odd to not have a guitar player but I am trying to improve my rhythm playing with new chord voicings all the way up the neck. I am trying to do what you mentioned by playing leads or melodies in different positions as well. I am doing a experiment to make myself commit to the OM, I am leaving my mandolin in the case and only practicing on the OM (for a few weeks at least). The OM is such a relatively newish, wonderful, and versatile instrument. The OM is somewhat uncharted territory. I like the idea that there are several amazing professional players doing really cool things (Jarosz, Hull, OíBrien) but I still feel like the OM is a relatively untapped and underutilized instrument. Sorry this post did not really address your question but I am feeling rather enthusiastic about the OM. 🤠

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    you certainly can do that if it works, to me there is something about the open ringing strings that give the mandolin its charm.
    I find my self going there on mandola - but I'm never really happy with my left hand up there, that of course does not mean you should not do it.
    While I'm not a huge fan of capo (even on guitar) it could be easily used on an octave - or just playing closed position (the open A on the octave is equal to the 2nd fret of the G string on a mandolin)
    I usually bring a mando and one other alternate - like a mandola or octave or cello, I understand the problem with transporting back and forth, if you're not going to play it why bring it, and then keeping an eye on it, and it of course it takes up case space in small enclosures.
    So I do go up into the upper registers on mandola, octave and cello, I generally don't play entire melodies up there (there is no reason you can't or shouldn't) I do find the tone to be somewhat diminished up there at times.
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  4. #4
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    I don't use much of the upper fingerboard real estate on my OM because I'm playing Irish/Scottish trad and the melodies sit in first position. There is also a feeling that I bought this thing for the sound of the lower pitch, so might as well stay down there and get my money's worth in the tone, milking the long sustain of the open strings whenever possible.

    There are a few exceptions though. I play a couple of O'Carolan tunes that move up the neck a bit to cover the extended range of the tune, like "O'Carolan's Welcome." Or "La Partida," a nice Venezuelan waltz that climbs up the neck a bit.

    I also play a few slower tunes with a chord-melody approach on OM where a capo makes the fingering and note choices easier, like "Farewell to Nigg" in B dorian with capo at the second fret, "Galway Bay" (hornpipe) in G dorian with capo 3rd fret (actually a cut-away capo that lets the bottom open G string ring out), and "The J.B. Reel" in F# dorian with capo 4th fret. So I'm using that upper range on a few tunes, but I'm cheating with a capo to get there.
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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    not much upper octave playing in irish session tunes, other then when avoiding string crossings. in a bluegrass jam, tunes like "Old Joe CLark" are fun to play in cosed position up the neck. To get real comfortable up there, play "playford stuff", tunes used for English Country Dances. For example, in Freeford Gardens, the quick run of high notes look scary, but up the neck they and the following 3 bars just play themselves trivially. Also play Hambleton's Round-O in Cm in closed position.
    https://phantomplayers.com/wp-conten...heet-music.pdf

  6. #6

    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    In Irish/Scots tune playing on harp it's a standard device to repeat the A section, on the second or third playing, in the upper octave (and vice-versa). I do the same on cello. It provides more variety to the simple structures. I would think, if one wishes to play melodies or solo on mando-cello, upper octave playing is essential - it's half the instrument.

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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    I concur with you carmandu2. I donít see this as being relevant to genre. Although Iíll admit English is easier than Irish (which are the 2 I play the most) The same melody is there regardless, itís just harder up the kneck. Iíve put in a few hours today and my tendons are on fire!
    Loving the variation when it comes off though, especially when I can switch octaves between phrases go give a kind of call-and-response feel.

  8. #8
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    So I think of up the neck playing in two ways. FFcP inspired, and position play.

    I first learned FFcP and well I have deviated some from orthodox FFcP, but the idea is still there. It is the more rootless way of playing up the neck, as one plays finger configurations and not notes.

    The other is learning third position. In my classical studies I have learned to play and even to read in third position. It is a very strong way to go, though it is not as flexible as FFcP. It is more like hauling anchor and moving up the neck and redeploying a (mental) anchor. Where FFcP is more like flying free above the terrain.

    Both are excellent, and both have their limitations. So best to learn both.


    Hope that helps.
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    I find it remarkable that one can see the fretboard in different ways. There are whole worlds of seeing the fretboard. Many players see the big divide between first position and 'up there' somewhere. Oh my! Is that scary, uncharted territory. Ha,ha.

    Others see the fretboard just as a whole and there is not an issue in playing three octave scales. Still others see the upper strings for melody and the lower strings for bass notes.

    And then there are skills learned that 'only went so far', partitioning off parts of the fingerboard. Oh, if only I had learned more, the all to common lament. (mine too.)

    What are the names of the notes? What notes are in that key?? What chords are in that Diatonic scale??? Where do I put my fingers! Oh my, Toto, this doesn't look like Kansas any more...

    O.K. This seems a bit sarcastic and condescending. That's not my intent as 'I'm in the same situation, the same background with the same instruments.

    If there is one thing I learned from classical music and music theory, is that there are levels of skill that partition off parts of the fretboard, (fingerboard in violin) however the attitude there is to 'do whatever it takes to make that sound. Look at the whole thing and have a reason for doing it 'there'. (there are alternatives e.g. easier fingering or a similar tone vs an open string timbre.)

    I'll play some Irish tunes up the neck for variation but the genre needs drone sounds. Many tunes sound pretty cool in octaves, so if you're playing with someone, do the upper or lower octave. Here is where an O.M. has some capacity to shine.
    Last edited by DougC; Jan-31-2023 at 2:28pm.
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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    Jeff,
    Whatís FFcP? Iím sure my google results for the Future Farming and Countryside Programme is an admirable scheme but imagine your FFcP will help my playing more.

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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    FFcP is a movable-shape closed-position playing method (the normal method of playing guitar). I think it works well on mandolin, but it requires a 6-7 fret reach (i.e. from E to A on the D string) and on the octave, it's "a bridge too far". you can still/should play octave mandolin in closed position, just there is no "one pattern fits all" and every tune one has to figure out separately. ("closed position" == without using open strings). FFcP references: https://www.mandolincafe.com/archives/eschliman1.html and https://jazzmando.com/ffcp.shtml

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  13. #12
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Unlocking the upper octave

    jazzmando.com very cool site.
    Oh, beat me to it!

    I’d add that jumping to the fifth fret and up a string (towards) the ground can be very rewarding.
    It’s because with the jump to fifth fret then fiddle tunes can be played up an octave, but more importantly they have a very similar pattern of finger movement to open position.

    Capo at fifth or even seventh has similar repeating patterns.

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