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Tech: Mandola Help

GUEST,Ted 20 Dec 10 - 01:20 PM
Les in Chorlton 20 Dec 10 - 02:26 PM
GUEST,jeff 20 Dec 10 - 02:34 PM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 20 Dec 10 - 02:44 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 20 Dec 10 - 02:59 PM
GUEST,Ted 20 Dec 10 - 04:37 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 20 Dec 10 - 05:43 PM
GUEST,jeff 20 Dec 10 - 05:53 PM
GUEST,SteveT 20 Dec 10 - 07:20 PM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 21 Dec 10 - 04:05 AM
michaelr 21 Dec 10 - 11:13 AM
michaelr 21 Dec 10 - 08:56 PM
Leadfingers 21 Dec 10 - 09:27 PM
GUEST,erbert 21 Dec 10 - 10:54 PM
GUEST,jeff 22 Dec 10 - 12:54 AM
GUEST 22 Dec 10 - 01:45 PM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 22 Dec 10 - 06:15 PM
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Subject: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,Ted
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 01:20 PM

I have recently purchased a Mandola with the aim of learning the instrument, but am having some trouble setting up and am wondering if anyone on here can provide some assistance.

I am fairly sure it is a Tenor Mandola, the fretboard measures just under 28cm in length.

However, I have put a set of GHS 'Tenor Mandola' strings on it (gauge 12-24-34-48) and when I tune it to CGDA the intonation- especially on the C string- is terrible, over 1/2 note out on the 12th fret.

The intonation is fine on the A string and OK on the D and G, so I don't think moving the bridge is the answer. I can't see damage to the neck, so the only thing I can think of is that I'm using the wrong gauge strings, but I want to make sure before wasting £10 on another set.

I have no previous experience with this instrument so apologies in advance if my problem is glaring obvious to those in the know.

Thanks in advance...


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 02:26 PM

Sounds like a tenor. It's a tricky balance between strings, bridge and truss rod. Mine has a truss rod and I took to an expert, Roger Fiskin of Manchester - now mostly in France.

He adjusted the rod and the bridge. I always use light gauge strings mandolin I think. it plays well up to the seventh fret at least

L in C#


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,jeff
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 02:34 PM

Sounds to me by your description that the fingerboard has swollen a/t 12th fret. There's a tendency in older instruments of the mandolin family to need a good shaving of the fretboard every hundred years or so. :-) Losts of string tension w/o a lot of bracing or in cases of older/cheaper, but good sounding instruments no truss rods.

I play all the mandolin family instruments and it's been my experience that 'celtic' style, round hole examples have this problem more than the bluegrass style f-holes. Though that's not always the case.

One instrument I purchased is from the 1860s and looks like a large version of a celtic mandolin. The bridge is too low for single string work, but as a rhythm instrument in addtion to the guitar it just sings. I've strung it up as a mandola. To make it playable for single string I'd have to invest in a neck reset so I decided to live with it as it is and use it for what it can do.

Sorry to drift. Again the neck may be fine. My guess is the fingerboard. But, have someone who works on mandolin family instruments take a look. They'll be able to tell you what the problem is w/very little effort.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 02:44 PM

Oh boy - this is exactly why I get so cross with people who won't use the correct names for these instruments.

If you want to read my rant (when you've solved the problem) then you can have a laugh at my expense here

There is of course technically NO SUCH xxxxx THING as a Tenor Mandola, and no-one should be selling you strings with that name on! That said, some good luthiers and specialist shops, who are otherwise splendid people, are perpetuating this confusion, shame on them.

The fretboard length is irrelevant.

The Mandola is an alto instrument, so if you ever did want to qualify the word you would use Alto Mandola, but this is wrong, because this is the parent of all the Mandola family (Mandolin means little Mandola) so should never be insulted with an adjective.

The Mandolin is usually about 35cm, and carries strings around the 10-14-24-34 mark (there are variants in all these cases). GDAE

The Mandola usually has a scale length of about 43cm, and is fitted with strings around 12-20-30-42. CDGA I suspect you have one of these?

The next size up is the Octave Mandolin, usually around the 54cm mark. I don't have one (well I do, but I string it and tune it all wrong) but I think gauges would be 14-22-34-50. GDAE (or often GDAD).

It looks like you've been sold strings for this tuning - if so and your scale length is nearer 43, they'll be no good full stop. If, however, you have the longer scale they can probably be tuned to GDAE (the G being the bottom G on a guitar), but not CDGA.

The shop have got it doubly wrong. The fictitious title Tenor Mandola is usually wrongly applied to the Mandola, to differentiate it from the fictitious Octave Mandola, but they should NOT be selling strings under this name because people buy in error,as you did.

Octave Mandola for the Octave Mandolin is equally wrong by the way - because that would imply an octave BELOW a Mandola - which is, of course, a Mandocello.

(You would be technically correct if you called an Octave Mandolin a Tenor Mandolin, however, because it IS in the Mandolin family and it IS in the Tenor range, the same as the Tenor Banjo or Tenor Guitar. But no-one ever uses this term for this instrument unfortunately).

The next size up is the Mandocello (a baritone instrument), one octave below the Mandola. Size about 63cm, strings about 19-32-46-64? CDGA

The Bouzouki is a bit of a hybrid (Bouzouki is Turkish for 'A thing badly done'). Usually the same scale length as Octave Mandolin or Mandocello but strung in various other ways, including octave courses. Citterns are somwhere in between. Mandobass is even bigger and rare as chocolate rocking horse teeth.

Teas ready

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 02:59 PM

Sorry- should have clarified.

The fretboard length is irrelevant - you need to measure the scale length, from the saddle of the bridge to the nut. That's the only one that counts.

Those are the dims I refer to above.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,Ted
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 04:37 PM

Thanks to everyone who answered, especially Tom- your advice was very helpful.

I have been rather bewildered by the number of different names that seem to exist for this instrument and its cousins and how they vary depending on where you look. It also seems that there are different names for them in the US and UK.

The scale length is about 41 so it sounds like the strings I have are of no use, I shall try a set at the gauge you recommend.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 05:43 PM

Hope I wasn't too complicated!

The foolproof names based on size and sensible pitch for the size are (going down):

Mandolin

Mandola

Octave Mandolin

Mandocello / Bouzouki

Mandobass

ends

'Tenor Mandola' is wrong by any definition.

'Tenor Mandola' is wrongly applied to Mandola, Octave Mandolin and even Mandocello.

'Octave Mandola' is wrongly applied to both Octave Mandolin and Mandocello.

So

Avoid, or question when buying, both 'Tenor Mandola' and 'Octave Mandola' and you'll be ok.

The US generally get it right. The UK generally get it wrong, I believe because someone back in the 60s got it wrong and everyone over here copied them.

Buy from Malcolm Newton, he knows his strings and his Mandolins.

Tom


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,jeff
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 05:53 PM

What he said. ^^


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 20 Dec 10 - 07:20 PM

Tom

Thanks for all this information on the correct names. I've been trying to work out why my instrument was called an octave mandola ever since I bought it. When people ask what it is (as they do with unerring frequency) I usually say "Well I bought it as an octave mandola but it isn't an octave below a mandola it's an octave below a mandolin, so I don't really know." Now I can just say "It's an octave mandolin" with confidence.

Now I just need an answer to their next question "Why don't you know how to play it properly?"

It really is a fantastic instrument though (a Freshwater); ideal for sessions as it can be used for melody, rhythm or song accompaniment with a lovely mellow tone.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 21 Dec 10 - 04:05 AM

Yes the Octave is very versatile. I have one instrument that I tune almost as low as a Mandocello, DAEB and then keep capo'd up to GDAE for tunes, with the option of going lower when I want to (in fact I'll be taking delivery of a brand new Buchanan in this tuning as soon as I can go and fetch it).

Going back to the names thing...

IF no-one had ever started using the name Tenor Mandola for the (Alto/proper) Mandola, one could make a case for calling the Octave Mandolin a Tenor Mandola, because all of the family were once defined by their relationship with the Mandola, not the Mandolin, and this pitch is indeed in the tenor range. But sadly the most common use of the Tenor Mandola name is to describe the Mandola, so it's best to just avoid both TM and OM.

Just to confuse matters further Show Off Hams (as they sometimes call themselves) refer to their David Oddy instruments as Mandocellos, when they are also in fact Octave Mandolins tuned GDAD (Tom Napper tunes his Sobel OM this way too).

That idiot Tom Bliss also calls his identical David Oddy instrument a Mandocello, becase Steve and Phil did, and when he made his first album he knew no better, but even worse he tunes his ADGC - in 4ths, which makes it, according to Tom Napper a Picolo Mandobass!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: michaelr
Date: 21 Dec 10 - 11:13 AM

Ted -- I recommend you look into the Yahoo groups Cittern and Fretted Friends, where you will find knowledgeable players and builders who can tell you exactly what string gauges and tunings are appropriate for the scale length of your instrument.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: michaelr
Date: 21 Dec 10 - 08:56 PM

refresh for our Guest


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Dec 10 - 09:27 PM

Tom - I LOVE the PicoMandoBass Idea but I'll stick to what I've got !


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,erbert
Date: 21 Dec 10 - 10:54 PM

when I used to be punkfolkrocker
I would and still cannibalise & modify all and any cheap electric guitars
to play as GDAE mando thingies..

Depending on neck scale and body shape
I currently call my favourite gigging tools 'vandalin', 'vanjo',
and 'noisy 2 hot humbuckers 8 string bastard'

String gauge is an on-going experiment of whatever is left in the spares box and don't snap under the tension.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST,jeff
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 12:54 AM

Just to further confuse things, I've heard the 'Octave Mandolin' referred to as an 'Irish Bouzouki'. W/t tuning the same as a mandolin an octave lower. Regardless, once one can play one they all become accessible as the chord forms are the same. Same w/a tenor banjo.

The 'Greek Bouzouki' has a tuning like the top 4 strings of a twelve string: D-G-B-E w/the D&G having octave strings and the B&E tuned the same. So, one would approach it from the perspective of the top four strings of a six-string guitar. Using the same chord forms and scales.

What Nashville studio players have been doing the last few years is adding a couple of tuners to the headstock and re-configuring the nuts and bridges of inexpensive, vintage F-hole guitars and turning them into Mandocellos for a different rhythm sound. Keith Urban uses this trick alot. One has to listen close.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 01:45 PM

The difference between an octave mandolin and a bouzouki, at least for those of us who stick to GDAE because we don't know any better, is that the octave's scale length is just short enough (about 21.5") that it's practical, with some stretching and adaptation, to play tunes which were designed for fiddle/mandolin fingering. The bouzouki plays in the same register, but the scale length is about 25-28", which puts those fingerings out of reach for most mortals.

To get back to the original question about strings for what we now know is a mandola pure and simple: I recommend you try medium-gauge mandolin strings. Easy on the instrument and your fingers, sound fine, and they make them plenty long enough for the extra 3 inches of scale length. Works for me. My experience with strings that were supposed to be "mandola" size was not at all positive--way too heavy.   

Most important, have some fun with it! Don't be afraid to push the bridge around a little to get the intonation set--if its fine on the top string, "OK" on the two middle ones (I'm guessing that implies "not quite right"), and way off on the bass, I'm sensing a trend here.

W-O


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola Help
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 22 Dec 10 - 06:15 PM

Well I'll admit to defeat on the Bouzouki front. Louis (de Bernieres) explained the history to me, but it went over my head rather. The modern instrument has yet to settle down in terms of tuning IMO.

People choose to call short scale instruments (which might be Octaves) Bouzoukis, perhaps because they tune them differently (DGBE etc), and people tune the long ones (which might even be Madocellos) lots of ways too - including DADA, CGCG, CDGA, DAEB, and GDAE.

Certainly playing tunes in 5ths on the long ones is impossible if you have small hands like me, and tuning them GDAE is asking for trouble re strings. It's a straight matter of physics getting a decent tension on a string of a given thickness over a given length. This is how the 'conventional' pitches were arrived at - but some people seems to prefer the unconventional - specially fans of the Sitar!

I wouldn't use Mandolin strings on a Mandola (at least not in the same places). They'll be nice and soft to the fingers, but slack as knicker elastic.

The 'true' Bouzouki is Turkish (not Greek - though they've been playing them a long time) and is very distrinctive - plus it originally only had three courses. The Irish Bouzouki (© D Lunney) seems to be anything you choose to call by that name.

I tend to use the B word for any octave-strung 'modern lute' instrument, because a lot of them are.

Tom


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