Mandolin 101?

Fuzzy

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I'm looking for some advice. I've been playing the uke for about nine months and am really enjoying playing a stringed instrument. I'd like to learn to play the mandolin now, but know almost nothing about them, so I have a few questions;

If I buy one, what should I look for?
I'm left handed - is it hard to convert a right-handed one to left-handed, or should I spring for a left-handed one?
How hard are they to learn to play? Immediate reward like the uke, or years of hard work to play well?

I'm sure there are other questions, but I am entirely inexperienced with this instrument and so don't know what I should be asking!
Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated!
 

whetu

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How hard are they to learn to play? Immediate reward like the uke, or years of hard work to play well?

If it's any help... I recently found out that my grandfather was actually a master of many stringed instruments but stopped playing decades ago due to some stubborn feud with his sister (ok, it's a bit more involved than that but I'll spare you the details.) Having never known or thought of him as remotely the musical type, I asked him about it and he told me that in sentimental terms his favourite instrument was his mandolin, but his favourite to play was the uke.

Anyway, I hinted to him that I was thinking of picking up the mandolin and his advice to me regarding the mando was to be wary of the steel strings - "it's like playing a cheesegrater, and you will very likely come away bleeding" Then my mother jumped on the "surprise whetu" bandwagon and mentioned that she too played the uke and mando when she was a little girl. Her advice was to spread a thin layer of superglue on your fingertips and let it dry - that would give a strong but flexible protective layer against the steel strings. Sure you could probably nylon string it, but it's just not the same.

So, apparently it's not that much harder than the uke, it's just that the steel strings may cause your fingertips some damage until they harden. That'll probably be your first hurdle...
 

GrumpyCoyote

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join mandolincafe.com 's thread theyll help ya

Nice group of folks and a great place to start. I play a little mando (and a big one too :)), and they helped with all my questions.

The learning curve is steeper than a uke - the 5ths tunings mean scales are simpler, but chords shapes can be a little rough (although the key of G is prety darn easy). It's also much harder on the fingers than a uke of course. I actually bought GDAE strings for one of my ukes, so that I get the best of both worlds.

As for what to buy - well that depends. Price wise, mandos tend to be much more expensive than ukes. I picked up a nice import Morgan Monroe for about 300 bucks. And that's about as far into the low end as I can reccomend. A cheap mando will kill your passion for mandolin faster than just about anything.

Go read up on entry-level ukes over at mando cafe... plenty of resaerch over there to take advantage of. Best advice - take your time before you buy.

Here is the review of my morgan monroe
Here is a tune played on my GDAE uke and another played with Russ and Boozelele ( a brief NSF explative in the beginning)
And a tune on my Ocatve Mandolin
 
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itsme

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Sure you could probably nylon string it, but it's just not the same.
You're absolutely right. Steel strings are higher tension than nylon and the tops on instruments made for steel strings are generally thicker. Theoretically, you could put nylon strings on, but there wouldn't be enough tension to make it vibrate well and it will sound quiet and weak. Conversely, you should never put steel strings on an instrument designed for nylon because the higher tension can bow the neck, lift the bridge and even damage the top.
 

gnordenstam

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I actually started out learning the mandolin - I purchased a Kentucky KM-150 (solid top) and took lessons for several months. I broke the tailpiece changing strings. While it was in the shop I picked up a ukulele (about six months ago) and haven't put it down yet. It's so much more fun to play. The mando certainly prepared my fingertips for playing the uke. I used liquid band-aid on my fingertips when I started playing the mando - it's essentially super glue with a brush for application. You can find it in just about any pharmacy/drug store.

I'm left-handed but have been playing right handed (both mando and uke). I will probably get back the mando, but for now it's gathering dust. Definitely check out the Mandolin Cafe web site and play several instruments before you purchase. Some shops will loan you an instrument for a lesson or two.