Mom gifted me a mandolin she never got around to playing.

Voran

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2021
Messages
2,776
Reaction score
3,091
OMG. Super fun mellow instrument. First one ever I've actually written some happy chillout music on.

I downtuned it 7 semitones though. CGDA instead of GDAE. The sensation of cranking the strings up to E5 was just so ick and wrong and nope. I felt like I was torturing the poor thing.
 
I love it, so mellow. Very fun instrument.
 
I always thought of them as angry little things at the designated tunings. A little ball of tension.
 
I always thought of them as angry little things at the designated tunings. A little ball of tension.
I felt like I was torturing it. Nopety nope.
 
That's mandola tuning. Same tuning as a viola. I have a few mandolins. It was my primary instrument right after the turn of the century.
My Eastman (f holes) is in standard GDAE, My Washburn (oval hole) has the two lower courses tuned in octaves. I like it for jug band and blues. I also have an octave mandolin that I usually tune GDAD.
couch mandos.jpg

I did a recording 20 some odd years ago where I put a capo on the 7th fret of the octave mandolin to play a mandola part. With the capo it was tuned CGDA, like yours.
What a lovely gift from your Mom. I have gifted several instruments to friends and family and have received a number of instruments as gifts from friends and family as well.
 
On the Mandolin Cafe there is a guy named Aaron Weinstein who takes one of his mandolins and puts a single set of mandola strings on it (not double courses, just one string for each note CGDA). He does some nice jazz standard arrangements on it. Sounds really good. (of course, he can make anything sound good)
 
The other day, I picked up my old mando (which I'm selling) for the first time in 10 years. I was shocked at how thin the nut width was, how did I ever play that thing? I had a few over the years, and really enjoyed them, but to me, they're really more of an ensemble instrument, compared to ukes, which can sound great played by themselves.
 
... I was shocked at how thin the nut width was, how did I ever play that thing?
Thus, why I have 4 sopranos strung GDAE; that, and I don't have the patience to keep 8 strings in tune. I love the sound of mandolin, but I cannot play one.
 
Thus, why I have 4 sopranos strung GDAE; that, and I don't have the patience to keep 8 strings in tune. I love the sound of mandolin, but I cannot play one.
What strings do you use to tune a soprano in fifths? This appeals to me since I own 3 sopranos now, and used to play the violin. All my sops are strung low G.
 
That's mandola tuning. Same tuning as a viola. I have a few mandolins. It was my primary instrument right after the turn of the century.
My Eastman (f holes) is in standard GDAE, My Washburn (oval hole) has the two lower courses tuned in octaves. I like it for jug band and blues. I also have an octave mandolin that I usually tune GDAD.
View attachment 138045

I did a recording 20 some odd years ago where I put a capo on the 7th fret of the octave mandolin to play a mandola part. With the capo it was tuned CGDA, like yours.
What a lovely gift from your Mom. I have gifted several instruments to friends and family and have received a number of instruments as gifts from friends and family as well.
Nice collection Jim, I had an Eastman F Style oval for a few years but to be honest I never really liked the feel of it, it was beautifully made but I just couldn’t get on with it. I now own a J Bouvier A style oval which I love. I don’t play it as often as I’d like, but knowing it’s there for when I need it is enough.
 
On the Mandolin Cafe there is a guy named Aaron Weinstein who takes one of his mandolins and puts a single set of mandola strings on it (not double courses, just one string for each note CGDA). He does some nice jazz standard arrangements on it. Sounds really good. (of course, he can make anything sound good)
Thanks so much for this information. Inspirational:
Aaron Weinstein

Bluesy.
 
I bought my Eastman in 2005. I had never heard of Eastman before, but I liked the look of them, so I took 4 of them in the back room at The Twelfth Fret music store in Toronto and played the same thing on each. There were two 605s (A style) and two 615s (F style). One of the 605s blew the others away, so it became mine.
My son, Clayton, has a 515 (F-style) that he loves as well. Here's his mando. I think it's a 2011 model.

Clay's Eastman MD515.jpg
 
Last edited:
I'm primarily a guitarist, but I've got 3 tenor ukes that I greatly enjoy playing. However, I got an Eastman MDA315 F-Style Mandola about a year ago, and I can't seem to keep my hands off it!
My MDA315.jpg
 
What strings do you use to tune a soprano in fifths? This appeals to me since I own 3 sopranos now, and used to play the violin. All my sops are strung low G.
Patty, here's a good starting point. LaBella .016" is the only way to go on a soprano scale to get that high open violin/mandolin E. Make sure the ramp-off (toward the 1st fret) of the nut is not sharp as that is where it will break. Otherwise, they are very durable.

E .016 LaBella RN016* Check/smooth the "ramp off" at the nut
A .024 D'addario NYL024
D .0318 D'addario J3002
G .028w D'addario J6801 ...or Aquila Red Low G... or Fremont Black Line Low G

*on all these: Caramel CS419, Flight TUS-55, Ohana VK-70R, Luna VMP (not tattoo), Kamehameha Sp-10
I have worked out a spreadsheet of "playable" mandolin chords for soprano, but that would require e-mailing. Do a "start conversation" if you what that. Here's a sample: ("o" means optional fingering for different voicing)

<edit>My main source for working out playable fingerings was a Jethro Burns "method" book, and https://www.scales-chords.com/chordid.php, and chord boxes in ozbcoz.com/songbooks (He has one for mandolin.)

Bill1 suggested an Aquila set; the newest set is: New Nylgut AQ-30 Soprano Ukulele Strings in Fifths - GDAE
(I have never tried them so have no opinion.)
 

Attachments

  • GDAE Chords.JPG
    GDAE Chords.JPG
    72.7 KB · Views: 4
Last edited:
Patty, here's a good starting point. LaBella .016" is the only way to go on a soprano scale to get that high open violin/mandolin E. Make sure the ramp-off (toward the 1st fret) of the nut is not sharp as that is where it will break. Otherwise, they are very durable.

E .016 LaBella RN016* Check/smooth the "ramp off" at the nut
A .024 D'addario NYL024
D .0318 D'addario J3002
G .028w D'addario J6801 ...or Aquila Red Low G... or Fremont Black Line Low G

*on all these: Caramel CS419, Flight TUS-55, Ohana VK-70R, Luna VM (not tattoo ) Pineapple, Kamehameha Sp-10
I have worked out a spreadsheet of "playable" mandolin chords for soprano, but that would require e-mailing. Do a "start conversation" if you what that. Here's a sample: ("o" means optional fingering for different voicing)

<edit>My main source for working out playable fingerings was a Jethro Burns "method" book, and https://www.scales-chords.com/chordid.php, and chord boxes in ozbcoz.com/songbooks (He has one for mandolin.)

Bill1 suggested an Aquila set; the newest set is: New Nylgut AQ-30 Soprano Ukulele Strings in Fifths - GDAE
(I have never tried them so have no opinion.)
Thank you, Wiggy & Bill1. Great info! I will probably pursue this sometime in the future. Right now I’m still trying to determine which strings work better in regular linear tuning. At some point, I’ll work up the courage to devote one of my 3 sopranos to fifths tuning, then resurrect all my old violin music, now getting mildewed in the garage. I think Daniel Estrem plays his Bach transcriptions in fifths. So many musical possibilities … so little time!
 
Top Bottom