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Thread: 4 string mandolin?

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    I was just wondering, has anyone ever seen a four string mandolin (one E string, one A string, one D string, and one G string). #It would have only 4 tuners, not 8.

    Seems like it would have a unique sound, but I've never heard of such an instrument being made/played.

    Next time I change strings I may try it out and see how it sounds/plays. Of course, an instrument built for 4 strings could have some lighter bracing due to the decreased string tension and that could be utilized to modify the tone.




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    Registered User Trip's Avatar
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    I restrung my Fender acoustic/electric with TIs as a four string and it sounds pretty thin unplugged, but does give a good showing as an electric with effects.....some of the volume is probably killed by not having much pressure on the top for acoustic play

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    There were a couple historic versions of 4-string mandolins: the mandolino Cremonese and its descendent, the mandolino Bresciano. They were strung with gut, but played with picks. The latter persisted into the 20th c. You can download Paganini being played on a mandolino Bresciano here. Check it out.

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    The Fender Mandocasters are 4 and 5 string. I'm sure that there are other 4 and 5 string mandos (electric) out there.
    What The ....

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    I have two 4 string electric mandos (a Schwab and a Epiphone) but the nicest 4 string accoustic I have seen is this one owned by Michael Lampert. It is from the ukraine and has a beautifully bowled back. He makes a wonderful tone with it, but then he gets far better tone from my own instruments than they ever make for me.
    John
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    The four-string Russian bowled single-strung instrument is a domra.

    Check out the playing of
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    I'm not sure if Tamara plays a 3 or 4 string domra, but you can hear her play at: http://www.amazon.com/exec....4323267
    John

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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    The four-string Russian bowled single-strung instrument is a domra.

    Check out the playing of
    Tamara Volkskaya.

    Jim
    The 4 String Domra Prima is a Modernized Steel String Circular Bodied version of the Cremonese Mandolin. The 4 String Electric Mandolin is really an Electrified Cremonese Mandolin.

  10. #9

    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by s11141827 View Post
    The 4 String Domra Prima is a Modernized Steel String Circular Bodied version of the Cremonese Mandolin.
    Again, the domra actually comes from the dombra.

    From where are you getting the misinformation which you're spamming in your necrobumps?

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    I owned a Breedlove "Zenkl" model 4-string mandola for a while. It was actually set up for fingerstyle playing, with slightly wider spacing between strings towards the bridge, and a humbucker pickup attached to the end of the fingerboard. Otherwise it was built like the other Breedlove mandolins at the time; a hollow body with F-holes. Here's what it looked like:

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    I think they only made a few of these. I bought it because at the time, I thought I might be doing more Blues and Jazz on mando-family instruments (before I fell down the rabbit hole of Irish/Scottish trad), and I was a fingerstyle guitar player so thought it would be fun to experiment with.

    As it turned out, I didn't find it all that useful for a couple of reasons and eventually sold it. With only 4 metal strings instead of double courses, it didn't have much acoustic volume even when played with a flatpick. It really needed some reinforcement from that humbucker pickup.

    The second reason was the tone through the humbucker. It sounded too similar to playing an electric guitar a bit further up the neck. I already had that available with my electric guitars. The 5ths tuning was something of an advantage, but again, I already had some fingerstyle chops on guitar, so it just seemed like too much of a duplication.

    This is the only 4-banger I've ever played, but I think the one common drawback for instruments of this type, is going to be low acoustic volume with a scale this short and only 4 strings to drive it. It may not matter if you'll always be using a pickup, but there's a reason why double course strings were developed for acoustic mandolins.

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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    8 string EM 150 converted to 4 CGDA strings, Johnny Gimble , Texas Swing, any one?
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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    I'm guessing you didn't see there was a giveaway raffle for one just last week. Ironically, it began the same day as your post. (It's already ended, too.) These have been discussed a bit over the last year or so. I'll grant they're shaped like a guitar, but they're tuned like a mandolin.

    I've had some single-string electrics. What they lose in that jangly sound they make up for in the ability to bend the strings. I'd expect the same would be the case in an acoustic instrument - I suspect less successfully, though.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I've had some single-string electrics. What they lose in that jangly sound they make up for in the ability to bend the strings. I'd expect the same would be the case in an acoustic instrument - I suspect less successfully, though.
    The string tension on that Breedlove mandola 4-banger I had was too stiff for for deep Blues-style bending, but it was possible to do some finger vibrato.

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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Did you try light gauge strings? I got the tip do that for my electric, and it made a big difference. I can get a full two-fret bend, which opens lots of possibilities. I don't know if that will work on an acoustic; you might lose too much volume. On the electric, you can just turn it up.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    8 string EM 150 converted to 4 CGDA strings, Johnny Gimble , Texas Swing, any one?
    I was going to mention Johnny, who played with the Texas Playboys. I saw him sitting in with the Hot Club of Cowtown. Great player. Made excellent use of bending strings, which isn't generally done with an 8-string (I can't imagine it working at all, but then again, great players always astound me with the things they can do.)

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Johnny used pretty light gauges for his CGDA tuning.
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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Red Valley Mandolins make a 4 string mandolin but the strings are nylon. They sound quite decent, judging by the Youtube videos:
    http://www.redvalleymandolins.com/mandolin-amw-nylon

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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    There's the aforementioned KR Strings mandolindo—in videos it sounds pretty sweet. Not cheap. There's also Magic Fluke's Flea Mandolin. They're primarily a uke company, but their mando is 4 strings with a solid spruce top and a thermo-plastic body. Good for travel and such. I have no first-hand experience with either of these, but the videos I've seen sound pretty good.

    I've toyed with the idea of getting a 4-string for doing cross-tuned fiddle tunes. Not really in the budget at the moment. In my research, I've seen some 8-string to 4-string conversions, but they have issues. One is that string spacing gets wonky. More importantly, the bracing and top on a standard mandolin are designed for 8 strings. reducing that to 4 means it's now over-braced, and the strings can't really drive the top. Tone and volume will suffer. It's a good argument for a purpose-built instrument, I'd say.

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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Joined the forum just to mention the Arrow Jazzbo that come in both 4 and 5 strings. Stunning instruments to play. The top and back are carved thinner to create more volume with less strings, and I am constantly amazed at how loud and clear it is to play. It has this wonderful crystalline presence without ever being harsh.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by exfish View Post
    I've toyed with the idea of getting a 4-string for doing cross-tuned fiddle tunes. Not really in the budget at the moment. In my research, I've seen some 8-string to 4-string conversions, but they have issues. One is that string spacing gets wonky. More importantly, the bracing and top on a standard mandolin are designed for 8 strings. reducing that to 4 means it's now over-braced, and the strings can't really drive the top. Tone and volume will suffer. It's a good argument for a purpose-built instrument, I'd say.
    Right, the top needs to be thinner and braced lighter for the lower tension.

    I think that may have been the problem with the relatively quiet tone of that acoustic-electric Breedlove 4-string mandola I had for a while. The bridge and nut were spaced differently and the peghead set up with 4 tuners, but otherwise it was probably the standard build off the production line with arch top thickness and bracing for 8 strings.

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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    Right, the top needs to be thinner and braced lighter for the lower tension.

    I think that may have been the problem with the relatively quiet tone of that acoustic-electric Breedlove 4-string mandola I had for a while. The bridge and nut were spaced differently and the peghead set up with 4 tuners, but otherwise it was probably the standard build off the production line with arch top thickness and bracing for 8 strings.
    I have an Arrow G which is pretty nice loud instrument. The Arrow Jazzbo mentioned above is pretty much the same volume. I say pretty much because one plays a four string less aggressively so it might be perceived as quieter. I would agree with the Breedlove's assessment though and add in that I have tried other electric model of acoustics which seemed to be braced for less feedback which muffled the acoustic sound.

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    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Single strings sound different than double courses, and magnetic pickups sound different than piezos or mics or unamplified instruments. Single-string electric instruments also lend themselves less to tremolo and more to string bending.

    So four-string electric mandos make the most sense for mando players who don't play guitar as well but want to come close to an electric guitar sound.
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    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Single strings sound different than double courses, and magnetic pickups sound different than piezos or mics or unamplified instruments. Single-string electric instruments also lend themselves less to tremolo and more to string bending.

    So four-string electric mandos make the most sense for mando players who don't play guitar as well but want to come close to an electric guitar sound.
    The 4 String Electric Mandolin is essentially an Electrified Cremonese Mandolin as far as the Tuning goes.

  26. #24

    Default Re: 4 string mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by s11141827 View Post
    The 4 String Electric Mandolin is really an Electrified Cremonese Mandolin.
    Quote Originally Posted by s11141827 View Post
    The 4 String Electric Mandolin is essentially an Electrified Cremonese Mandolin as far as the Tuning goes.
    Advice so nice he told us twice... and that's just in *this* topic!

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