Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Octave Mandolin Tuning

The octave mandolin, as you would think, is tuned an octave below the mandolin, GDAE, in Helmholtz notation, Gdae'. It shares the scale and apreggio layout and symmetry with the mandolin,  the frets are farther apart, requiring different fingerings. Where the scale starting on the open string on mandolin is fingered open, 1, 2, and 3,  on the OM it is fingered open, 1,3, and 4. The next string on the mandolin can be played with the 4th finger, i.e. D on the G string, A on the D string, and E on the A string, but that is not possible on OM. The B on the E string can be played with the fourth finger on the mandolin but requires shifting to a higher position on OM, and the finger I use is determined by the course of the melody. If going higher, I may play it with the first or second finger, but if it is just a brief foray to the B I will jump up and back with the third or fourth finger.

The OM provides a wealth of chord voices and offers a good droning bass owing to its strings tuned in fifths. I long ago left behind the simple major and minor chords one finds in a mandolin chord book and have developed a repertoire all over the neck to play chords suited to Celtic music. I especially favor five chords, which use only the tonic and dominant, or first and fifth, notes of the scale to create a droning bagpipe sound. On a D chord, for example, I play only Ds and As, and I can play that type of chord in different places to create movement in the bass rather than just sitting monotonously on the same chord.
Tom Perkins playing his James Jones octave mandolin.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.