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Author Topic: Mandolin octave strings  (Read 2576 times)

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Offline uncle bud

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Mandolin octave strings
« on: April 21, 2009, 05:13:10 AM »
For those who have experimented stringing a mandolin with octave strings on the third and fourth courses. What string gauges do you use? And are you tuning to concert pitch? Is this safe?

Offline mr mando

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Re: Mandolin octave strings
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2009, 05:48:03 AM »
I use a first and second string as octave third and fourth (I buy extra John Pearse unwounds singles in addition to the sets anyway, because my e and a string break frequently). I tune to A440 and guess that's safe because the tension of the octave strings is just a little bit less. I have the octave on top of the fat string, so with a dowstroke I first strike the thin and then the fat string. I'm not sure if the old time players didn't use it the other way 'round.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Mandolin octave strings
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2009, 06:18:54 PM »
Hi all,
So many of the black players of mandolin and banjo-mandolin in the Country Blues chose to string at least some of the instrument's paired strings in octave courses.  Howard Armstrong, Carl Martin, Charlie McCoy and Bogus Ben Covington all used octave courses at one time or another.  I was curious if anyone knew of any recording of white Old-Time players of the mandolin or banjo-mandolin from the same era who made recordings on which they tuned some of their instrument's pairs in octave courses.  I can't think of any such recordings off hand, but it would be interesting to know if there are some like that out there.  It would be interesting to find out if the decision to tune the pairs in octave courses, or not, prior to the modern era diverged along racial lines.
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: April 28, 2009, 12:07:17 PM by Johnm »

Offline samjessin

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Re: Mandolin octave strings
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2009, 01:42:10 PM »
All of the Doc Roberts stuff I have heard is octave strung. 
I also just picked up an Italian mandolin record which features an octave strung mandolin.
It was meant to be!!!

I didn't like playing with octave strings at first, but now I have a hard time playing without them, the sound sort of cuts through the thwacky low strings.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Mandolin octave strings
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2009, 02:51:37 PM »
Thanks for that information, Sam.  I'm starting to get more accustomed to the sound on mandolin, but admit to finding the octave courses on banjo-mandolin a trial.  They seem to reinforce the "icepick in the ear" effect.  And of course, they can exacerbate the problems that Tim O'Brien alluded to when he said, "Mandolin is an Italian word meaning "out of tune".
All best,
Johnm 

Offline frankie

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Re: Mandolin octave strings
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2009, 06:00:26 PM »
They seem to reinforce the "icepick in the ear" effect.

I kinda like the icepick in the ear thing!

Offline Johnm

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Re: Mandolin octave strings
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2009, 09:12:38 PM »
I think I know what you mean, Frank.  The first time I used that "icepick in the ear" crack, a friend of mine, Rob McGregor, who plays tenor banjo, said, "You say that like it's a bad thing, John!".
All best,
Johnm

Offline frailer24

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Mandolin: Octave Stringing?
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2013, 10:47:55 PM »
Firstly, I did a search and could find nothing on this topic. I know Yank Rachell used octave stringing in the basses on his mando, and I recall hearing at least one Charlie McCoy number where he did the same. Why did the practice start? How widespread was it, and are there any other recorded players that used it? This subject has been haunting me since I started playing blues mando almost a decade ago. Please help if you can, Larry
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline frailer24

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Re: Mandolin: Octave Stringing?
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2013, 10:50:07 PM »
Also, feel free to move this topic wherever needed. I thought this would be the most relevant spot. Larry
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline Rivers

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Re: Mandolin: Octave Stringing?
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2013, 11:08:23 AM »
You posted it in the right place Larry.

Offline BottleneckJohn

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Re: Mandolin: Octave Stringing?
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2013, 02:14:54 PM »
Interesting, never heard of this!
Like on a 12str, lighter gauge strings tuned an octave higher on the bass side?!

I will try it on one mando!!  :D
Thanks for the heads up!!!!
"All Around Man" - Re-release on vinyl LP in April 2015!!
http://www.bottleneckjohn.com/newcd.htm
BJ

Offline frailer24

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Re: Mandolin: Octave Stringing?
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2013, 02:36:30 PM »
John, I found that is about the only way to get Yank's sound.
That's all she wrote Mabel!

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Mandolin: Octave Stringing?
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2013, 12:14:59 PM »
There is an existing discussion of this topic on Weenie Campbell somewhere, but hell if i can find it at the moment. I think I originally got turned on to the idea years ago on this forum, possibly by comments made by Mike Hoffman, who posts under the name SamJessin. Outside of Yank, Charlie McCoy is another player whose sound is hard to achieve without the octave stings on the lower courses.

I play an old canted-top mandolin and have kept it strung in this fashion for a couple years now, and at this point, I find it odd trying to go back. The octave strings are also great for ragtime playing and some fiddle tunes. Fiddlin' Doc Roberts used them on his mandolin recordings like "Take Those Lips Away" to great effect.

I believe Yank strung it like a twelve string with the thin string on the bass side of the course, but after about a year of that set up, I switched them as an experiment so that my pick hits the fat string first on a down stroke, which I prefer the timbre and feel of for some reason.

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Mandolin: Octave Stringing?
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2013, 01:54:03 PM »
Hmm...
Maybe I'll try that if I get another mandolin.

Offline frankie

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Re: Mandolin: Octave Stringing?
« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2013, 03:48:44 PM »
you mean you guys DON'T string the bass courses in octaves?

weird.

 


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