|How do you tune an electric mandolin?|
|What kind of strings should I use for an electric mandolin?|
|Do you have classified ads where I can buy or sell an electric mandolin?|
|Who made the first electric mandolin?|
|Who was the first electric mandolin player?|
|Why don't you have so-and-so listed?|
How do you
tune an electric mandolin?
Standard mandolin tuning is by far the most common: GDAE in fifths, starting at G below middle C. (On 8-string instruments, the string pairs are usually tuned in unison.) On a 5-string or 10-string mandolin, the extra course is usually a low C, giving the player the combined range of a mandolin and a mandola in one instrument. The lower course may also be tuned to D, which makes chords somewhat easier.
Plenty of alternate tunings are possible. Blues, slide, or Celtic players may want to try open tunings such as ADAD, GDGD, or GDAD (any of which will work over a low D). Maestro Alex Gregory recommends alternate tunings for some of his Pentasystem instruments (the Pentaula, for example, he likes to tune to AEBF#C#, although other tunings are certainly possible). U Srinivas, the Indian Karnatic virtuoso, plays a 5-course instrument tuned to CGCGC. John Kruth tunes his Fender Mandocaster to ADF#A. And blues pioneer Yank Rachell, in order to play comfortably in the key of E, tuned his mandolins a step and half down to EBF#C# (similar to what Pete Seeger did with his long-neck banjo).
Guitarists who want to diversify their sound without learning new chord shapes sometimes tune the mandolin like a guitar with one or two strings missing. I've seen it alleged that blues player Johnny Young tuned to DGBE (although I've also seen it alleged that he didn't); the same has been alleged of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page. (The opening mandolin riff to Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore" is reportedly a lot easier in DGBE than in standard tuning.) Jazz player John Abercrombie also reportedly uses a guitar-based tuning. Other possibilities, depending on the number of strings, are EADG, EADGB, and ADGBE.
Standard tuning for other electric mandolin-family instruments is as follows:
Bouzoukis and citterns have several common tunings—none of which is really "standard," although individual players have their favorites. If you want to know the difference between a bouzouki and a cittern—so do I! Generally speaking, a Greek bouzouki has three courses; an Irish bouzouki has four; a cittern has five. In some circles it may be acceptable to call an octave mandolin a "bouzouki." In other circles the bouzouki has a longer neck than the octave mandolin, and may have two courses where the string pairs are tuned in octaves rather than in unison. Also generally speaking, bouzoukis and citterns are more likely to be tuned in combinations of fourths and fifths than they are in straight fifths.
Bouzouki tunings include GDAE, GDAD, ADAD, and GDGD. Citterns may be tuned CGDAE, DGDAD, DGDGD, DADAD, CGCGC, CGDAD, GDAEB, GCGCG, ADADA, AEAEA, EIEIO—I mean, the sky's the limit. Use your imagination.
Finally, there's at least one instrument on this site (by Texas violin maker F. A. Thorp) that was meant for a "baritone" tuning: FCGDA, like a mandola with an extra low F string. Which is fine with me.
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What kind of strings should I use for an
It depends on how many strings your mandolin requires and what type of pickup you have. (If you have a 5-string with a magnetic pickup, you can purchase strings here.) Most acoustic mandolin strings are wound with bronze. That's ideal for a transducer or piezo pickup, but not so good for a magnetic one. If your pickup is magnetic, you need stainless steel or nickel steel strings. Here are several sets you can choose from:
Most mandolin strings are loop-ends. Kaman Music makes a ball-end set, under the Adamas brand name, for its Ovation mandolins. Since they're wound with phosphor bronze, these won't work if you have a magnetic pickup. If you have a magnetic pickup and a tailpiece that accepts only ball-end strings, you're in luck—you can order the Emando 8-string set from this site.
If you own a single-course electric, naturally a set of eight mandolin strings will go twice as far as it would on a double-course instrument. For an e-mando with a low C course, try the Emando 5-string set (you won't find a 5-string set anywhere else, honest).
To calculate string tension for particular gauges of strings, use this handy calculation tool.
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have classified ads where I can buy or sell an electric mandolin?
The best mandolin classifieds on the Web appear at Scott Tichenor's Mandolin Cafe site. I'd rather complement Scott's work than compete with it.
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made the first electric mandolin?
It depends on who you ask. The Stromberg-Voisinet company of Chicago (which later became Kay) produced an unsuccessful line of electric instruments, which were advertised in the 1929 Purchasers Guide to the Music Industry. At least one source has alleged that said line included a mandolin. I would be most delighted if anyone could produce a copy of the ad confirming this.
The earliest mention of an electric mandolin that I've seen is in the 1931 catalog published by the Electro String Instrument Corporation, better known today as Rickenbacker Guitars. Give most of the credit to Rickenbacker co-founder George Beauchamp, who developed the company's famous horseshoe pickup and apparently asked one of his engineers to slap one on a flat-top mahogany mandolin. Aside from the one prototype pictured in the catalog, I don't know how many of these were actually built and sold.
Lloyd Loar's ViViTone company built a number of electric instruments, including a mandolin, mandola and mandocello (dated 1933) as well as guitars and pianos.
The third (or fourth, if the Stromberg-Voisinet allegation is accurate) company to design an electric mandolin was National Reso-Phonic (which Beauchamp also helped to start, but left around 1929). By 1934 they had a prototype, although production didn't really happen for another five years.
In 1936, both the Gibson and Vega companies went to market with production-model electric mandolins. The Gibsons were more successful than the Vegas, but you can still find examples of both.
The first solidbody electric mandolin was the pau eletrico—one of the earliest solidbody stringed instruments, period—invented in Brazil by Osmar Macedo in 1942. In the United States, the first solidbody electric was most likely the 5-string instrument built by Paul Bigsby in 1952 for Tiny Moore. The 8-string solidbody appeared in 1954 when Gibson introduced the Electric Florentine, also known as the EM-200. Rickenbacker's 8-string appeared in 1958.
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Who was the first electric mandolin player?
That's a tough one. As far as recording artists go, the earliest electric mandolinist was probably Houston-based Western swing player Leo Raley. People often think Tiny Moore was the first, but actually, Tiny didn't start playing the mandolin until he heard Raley on the radio.
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don't you have so-and-so listed?
1. I may not have gotten to so-and-so yet. At this stage of its existence, this site is still a hobby. I don't make a living from it, so I can put only so much time into it. While I've already published far more content on electric mandolins than exists on any other site I know about, I always seem to have a bit of a backlog and I'm never quite caught up.
2. I may not know about so-and-so. Feel free to any information you think belongs on this site.
3. I may know about so-and-so without having enough detail to justify a listing. "Dude, I know so-and-so plays mandolin, I saw him do it, he was awesome" does not impress me. The more you can tell me about so-and-so's instruments, pickups, setup, etc., the likelier I am to be inclined to add so-and-so. That goes for both players and builders. Photos are greatly appreciated; in the case of players, I strongly prefer a photo of the person actually playing—or at least holding—an electric mandolin.
4. I don't list the "mandoguitars" by Vox, Phantom, or Hammertone because they are not mandolins; they are short-scale 12-string electric guitars. I don't list the Danelectro "guitar-mandolin" because it's just a guitar with an extended fretboard.
5. If you're looking for a particular builder, be sure to check both the Active and Inactive builder lists.
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