Playing Mandolin in guitar tuning

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Steve McGinnis, Sep 1, 2004.

  1. Steve McGinnis

    Steve McGinnis Tele-Afflicted

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    I just lucked into a "pawn shop find" of a mandolin. Sounds great, and I intend to play it for fun on recordings (mine) when I want something different. Now here is the issue. I have no intention of learning chords, licks, etc in mandolin tuning. I know Tommy Tedesco used to play mandolin tuned to 4ths and I want to also. I realize alot of the traditional mandolin sound is due to the tuning, and I am OK with losing that.

    Does anyone have any tips on what strings and tuning to use to get decent string tension and sound? I know it will be tuned to fourths, so should the lowest note be F, maybe even E?

    Any help would be appreciated.
     
  2. Zorba

    Zorba Tele-Meister

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    A mandolin is strung like a guitar - an upsidedown guitar that is.

    Guitar tuning E A D G B E

    Mandolin tuning G D A E

    The chords are are like playing a 1/4 sized, 8-string bass guitar upside down. :D

    Cheers,
    Zorba
     
  3. Bob Mc

    Bob Mc Friend of Leo's

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    I tried DGbe

    When I first tried mandolin, I used a set of medium guage
    (11s thru 40 on top) and tried DGbe. The tuning of the two low courses was approximate at best, but the high b and e held their tuning well. I did have to move the bridge quite a but too. All in all, sounded OK for single string stuff.
    I'm full time GDae now.
     
  4. BB

    BB Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well Steve, I would use regular mando strings and tune it Low to high like the top 4 strings of your guitar. D-G-B-E. I did this years ago when I first got hold of a mando. Although it did work, ( and TT was a great proponent of making "ethnic" instruments work with standard tuning ) I quickly realized the tone, soul and general feel of what makes a mando so cool was sorely lacking.

    I'll tell ya what though, ( and I apologize in advance as you said you just wanted to play in guitar tuning ) it's really not that hard to learn mando chords in the proper tuning. The online Madolin Cafe has chord's, etc. Years ago, I bough a Mel Bay book by Jethro Burns that had the coolest Dave Grisman style "Dawg" chords in it. That really opened up my playing on the mando.

    Anyway, sorry for the sermon......I hope it works out for you in guitar tuning. Good luck and have fun!
     
  5. Bob Mc

    Bob Mc Friend of Leo's

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    or, what Zorba said.

    :lol: [/quote]
     
  6. soma5

    soma5 Tele-Holic

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    Two comments. First, if you want to tune to DGBE instead of GDAE, you have to use thinner strings. The string tension on a mando is already pretty high. A typical mid-weight mando set will run .040, .026, .015, .011 in pairs from G to D to A to E.

    The DGBE set you use should look more like .026, .016, .014, .011. You could go a little lighter on the high E if you aren't used to mando playing. The D in both sets is the same note.

    The second comment has to do with the mandolin being the low 4 strings of a guitar turned on its head. I've played both guitar and mandolin for a long time and while that way of looking at it may get you started, I have not found it a very useful way to think of mandolin. Neither have I found that tuning a mando to look like a guitar to be very useful, actually. However, that's what Tommy Tedesco recommended for guitarists who were not mando players and who am I to disagree?
     
  7. Matt Plescher

    Matt Plescher Tele-Holic

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    FWIW, and I realize you said you don't want to do this, but I learned the majority of the mando chords in GDAE tuning in an afternoon. The scales are really easy too because there is no interval jump like the G to B on guitar. You can do lots with double stops on the mando too.

    Cheers
    Matt
     
  8. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

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    Mando tuned the right away is a breeze to work with - it's very logical. As said before, it'll take maybe a couple gours to learn enough basics to be dangerous.

    Tuning it like a guitar is a kind of a waste...it just doesn't sound right.
     
  9. lenny

    lenny Banned

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    my first thought was that also. the tuning prolly makes it sound like a mandolin instead of a tiny guitar
     
  10. Skully

    Skully Doctor of Teleocity

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    I'm no guitar ace, yet I was able to record some pretty tasty mandolin licks using standard tuning after only a few hours of practice. You're not going to be bending strings and you're probably not going to be playing a whole lot of chords. It's really not too hard to pick out melodies in standard mandolin tuning.
     
  11. Ian

    Ian Tele-Afflicted

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    Fifths

    I agree, fifths is the way to go. Besides, once you get that tuning under your fingertips, is opens up a whole gaggle of othe instruments like; Tenor Banjo, Irish Bouzouki,Mandola ect. They're tuned in firths as well but with different scale lengths and in different keys (Tenor Banjo tuned to "C" below the Mando's "G" for example.)
    God knows ,that little tidbit of knowledge has gotten me alot of gigs on the past. It's no different that say picking up a Baritone guitar, lower tuning, same intervals, more variety of sounds, different flavors to songs.
    My new Fender Bouzouki is on it's way here for that very reason!!
    CHEERS!!!
     
  12. Ian

    Ian Tele-Afflicted

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    Fifths

    I agree, fifths is the way to go. Besides, once you get that tuning under your fingertips, is opens up a whole gaggle of othe instruments like; Tenor Banjo, Irish Bouzouki,Mandola ect. They're tuned in firths as well but with different scale lengths and in different keys (Tenor Banjo tuned to "C" below the Mando's "G" for example.)
    God knows ,that little tidbit of knowledge has gotten me alot of gigs on the past. It's no different that say picking up a Baritone guitar, lower tuning, same intervals, more variety of sounds, different flavors to songs.
    My new Fender Bouzouki is on it's way here for that very reason!!
    CHEERS!!!
     
  13. Ian

    Ian Tele-Afflicted

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    Fifths

    I agree, fifths is the way to go. Besides, once you get that tuning under your fingertips, is opens up a whole gaggle of othe instruments like; Tenor Banjo, Irish Bouzouki,Mandola ect. They're tuned in firths as well but with different scale lengths and in different keys (Tenor Banjo tuned to "C" below the Mando's "G" for example.)
    God knows ,that little tidbit of knowledge has gotten me alot of gigs on the past. It's no different that say picking up a Baritone guitar, lower tuning, same intervals, more variety of sounds, different flavors to songs.
    My new Fender Bouzouki is on it's way here for that very reason!!
    CHEERS!!!
     
  14. TeleMark

    TeleMark Tele-Meister

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    Whoa, Deja Vu...

    Firths... Is that the interval BETWEEN fourths and fifths?

    :)

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

    TeleMark
     
  15. Steve McGinnis

    Steve McGinnis Tele-Afflicted

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    OK, OK, I give

    I'll give it a shot in regular mandolin tuning.....
     
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