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Oct 11, 2020 - 6:51:29 PM

639 posts since 8/10/2017

In some ways fiddle is easier to play than mandolin because you don't really have to know what note to play on the fiddle. You just put your finger somewhere and if it sounds right, then it's right. The frets on a mandolin kind of remind you of notes so that triggers thinking about the names of the notes. That's all clutter you don't need to know to play a tune.

But mandolin is a lot easier because you just set the pick in motion. Down pick for down beats, up pick for up beats. Just set the hand in motion and play. The bow does not work like that at all. On mandolin, the pick can create the illusion of notes that you're not actually playing. I can make it sound like I'm doing a whole lot more than I am. I haven't not figured out how to do that on the fiddle.

Oct 12, 2020 - 3:51:36 PM

2253 posts since 8/23/2008

Originally posted by sbhikes2

On mandolin, the pick can create the illusion of notes that you're not actually playing.

I can make it sound like I'm doing a whole lot more than I am.

This must be the "Holly Grail" of mando playing.

I've been pondering this question all night and I've played for nearing 50 years, yet I don't understand how this can be done.

Care to share with us your secrets...

Oct 12, 2020 - 5:36:54 PM

639 posts since 8/10/2017

You know how sometimes in Irish music people will play rolls instead of all the notes? It's kind of like that. But then there's also where I will lift my finger and let the pick hit the open string. I guess you can say that I'm playing two notes deliberately but really I'm just letting my "lazy" fingers make it sound like I'm playing more notes than I'm deliberately trying to play.

Oct 12, 2020 - 7:08:34 PM
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2253 posts since 8/23/2008

Thanks for clarifying that, sorry I took it literately.

So you actually meant to say... 'You don't need to think about all the notes you are playing.' ?

The goal of every musician is to commit many techniques to the subconscious.

Playing 'rolls' doesn't mean notes are missed out, they are ornamentations, thus a certain 'style' or variation. Rolls are probably harder than playing straight notes, which is another 'style'.

I see you have discovered a little trick in fiddling... 'alternating the open string notes with any/all fingered notes'.

These are good fiddling techniques and not necessarily easier to play on the mandolin.

Oct 18, 2020 - 9:25:02 AM
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142 posts since 11/4/2012

Thanks everyone for all the feedback. There were too many posts to reply to them individually but they are all interesting to get different perspectives.

For me the next step is to go to a music store and try out some mandolins. I plan to do that next weekend. For now I'm still happy playing my ukulele when I can't play the fiddle, which is mainly after 10pm when the kids are in bed or when I have just a few minutes break while working or waiting for something. It's nice to just grab the uke and play a few tunes.

If the mandolin isn't too painful on the fingertips, I plan to get an Eastman MD304 or if I can find a used Eastman I'd get that but there aren't many used mandolins for sale here in France. I would get it with light strings which would make it easier to play (hopefully).

Well that's the plan, I'll post an update after I visit the music store.

Oct 19, 2020 - 6:45:45 AM
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1590 posts since 1/21/2009

While there are similarities in the tuning and range of the two, it ends there. As far as playing goes, they are more different than similar (in my opinion). I'm not saying not to pursue it, just keep in mind you're taking up a second instrument and if you're a serious student you'll be dividing your time.

Oct 19, 2020 - 7:14:23 AM



168 posts since 1/30/2018

Yes, it's a second instrument, but exploring is fun. Serious fun. This is not a get rich quick scheme, so actual seriousness may vary. (As for my mandolin, I confess that it gathers dust while my fiddles get all my attention.)

Oct 23, 2020 - 6:57 PM

210 posts since 4/22/2009

I'd suggest getting the mandolin a professional set-up [probably by a guitar repair person]. Then stringing it with light strings, and adjusting the string heights as low as possible [without buzzing]. Later you can raise the strings for more volume.

Oct 30, 2020 - 9:52:07 AM



142 posts since 11/4/2012

Diane - I agree with you on your last post. I have been learning tunes on my GDAE ukulele and then once I got the tune down I play it on the fiddle. And it's not automatic. It's definitely easier because I already know the tune (by ear). So I agree they're not completely interchangeable.

buckhenry - I agree about the finger pressure required and the callus. I like what you said "I never set progress goals, but gave myself all the time I needed". I think I put too much pressure on myself in regards to my classical lessons. I was always working hard to learn what my teacher taught me that week and then stressed about not being proficient at it at the next class. I now better realize that it was impossible to learn it real fast. Now that I've stopped lessons I don't have any pressure and I can go my own pace. PS: Pressure was mine, not the teachers.

Oct 30, 2020 - 10:05:34 AM
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142 posts since 11/4/2012

Well to keep the thread updated.. I made it to a music store and I got to try a mandolin for the first time. It was an Eastman 305. I was really surprised by how loud and powerful it was, my frame of reference is a ukulele. The finger pressure required was not as bad as I thought, and for 15 minutes I could actually play some tunes. But after that I noticed many notes weren't ringing because I wasn't pressing hard enough and my fingers were a bit sore after 30 minutes.

I really liked the mandolin, it was small, cute, and the double strings were interesting. I am not an impulse buyer so I didn't buy it. I did think it over quite a bit. Especially what several posts in this thread said about a second instrument could be a distraction from fiddle. If I were to give up on fiddle I think the mandolin would be an excellent choice. But I'm not ready to give up on fiddle just yet. And having two would divide my time. I also realized if I were going to play with others I'd probably play fiddle, so the mandolin would be for just messing around at home mainly, at least in the beginning. And for that purpose, my ukulele tuned GDAE is perfect. No finger soreness and it can be played very quietly without disturbing sleeping kids or neighbhors. I actually like my uke (Flea soprano), I just wish it had better intonation with GDAE strings and was the same scale length and neck width as violin. I can't keep the first finger down when playing a high 3rd finger on a different string for example so I have to adapt my playing a little.

So instead of the mandolin I was thinking about getting an electric violin, maybe a 5 string. That would give me a new shiny and motivate me to play more, and it would help my fiddle playing. I'm still debating this one. Maybe for Christmas.

Finally, I decided I'm going to do the Fiddle Hell this year. We just entered into a new lockdown today, which will probably last until Christmas. So I'll have more free time. I think the Fiddle Hell will give me some exposure to fiddle topics I didn't even know existed (like Strum Bowing and looping pedals). So that should motivate my fiddle practice for a few months to come and I can take it from there.

I still enjoy watching mandolin videos on youtube and playing my uke like a mandolin almost daily. :)

Thanks to everyone for all the feedback and for sharing your experiences. And keep sharing.

Nov 20, 2020 - 7:46:46 AM
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25 posts since 11/20/2020

I added the mando 9 years ago when I tore my right rotator cuff and couldn’t bow for six months. I found the callouses developed naturally in the course of practice. The hardest part for me has been learning to pick. As for finger pressure, I play way more fiddle than mondo now. Your hand seems to develop muscle memory after awhile and knows how much to apply when you pick up that instrument. The only time it’s a problem for me is for the first five or 10 minutes when I pick up the fiddle after playing mando for a while.

Dec 30, 2020 - 8:38:59 AM

4289 posts since 6/23/2007

The neck on the mandolin is relatively small. Strings aren't that high over the fingerboard either. I think a mandolin would be great for learning new tunes. Educational specialists tell us to work on as few problems as possible at the same time. A person could learn the basic melody on the mandolin. So you would not have to deal with noting and bowing problems at the same time.

I read an article where a famous guitarist was quoted as saying he composed material on the piano and adapted what he "came up with" to the guitar. He said the piano was not as physically demanding. And, he did not have to worry about intonation.

Dec 30, 2020 - 10:49:02 AM



135 posts since 9/14/2010

I have a mandolin(a cheap Kentucky instrument) and play it occasionally, Never practised evry day, but I have to say that I play many fretted instrument (banjo guitar etc) in any case I get a lot of fun when I take it!

Jan 4, 2021 - 10:16:33 AM



142 posts since 11/4/2012

Hi! Happy New Year everyone!

I saw that Magic Fluke mandolin and was surprised. The uke that I tuned GDAE is a Magic Fluke soprano. I'm not sure what advantage their "mandolin" would have over my soprano, especially since it's a lot more expensive.

Since my last post I did Fiddle Hell and it was great and very motivating for me to keep up with the fiddle. So I got a 5 string electric Yamaha for Christmas. Man I didn't realize how heavy these are. about 40% heavier than my violin. But I love the C string and I love the mellow tone and the fact it's not blaring in my ear from 2 inches away. I also got a few guitar pedals and I'm having fun with that. Which leads me to..

.. I saw a used ukulele for sale with a pickup so I am going to see it and maybe buy it tomorrow. It's a concert and so I'd tune it CGDA. But since my 5 string has CGDA there is still overlap. It's concert size and I think with the lower strings it'll sound better than my soprano, which is really pushing it with the E string. The finger stretch is hard on the concert size but I hope to get used to it. And then I got to thinking..

.. why not get a 5 string electric mandolin? I'd play it almost exclusively at home and I like being able to practice at low volume late at night, and I like experimenting with pedals. And used they're not that expensive. But I'm going to try the uke first to see how I like CGDA first. If not a 4 string electric mandolin would work.

Jan 8, 2021 - 2:30:21 PM

74 posts since 4/7/2016

Many newer mandolins have some sustain..
My new Collings has plenty.

Jan 22, 2021 - 9:00:11 AM



142 posts since 11/4/2012

I'm really loving the C string on the 5 string violin and when improvising I play it more than I do the E string. So I decided on a 5 string electric mandolin. They're a bit rare and I wasn't able to find one used here in Europe, especially one I could try in person. Today I saw a Gold Tone GME-5 on sale so I ordered it. I'll update once I get it.

Jan 22, 2021 - 4:14:48 PM

2196 posts since 10/22/2007

Not for nothing, your late night dilemma could be resolved by taking a pick to your fiddle. I recall Vassar Clement playing the Blues, with a tiny pick on the fiddle. Made me put a tiny pick in my fiddle case, but not often employed.

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