January 29, 2008


If you're coming back to check for new tab postings, don't fret... You should know that more will be coming out by the end of February. Check back periodically for postings for Beatles tunes, simple classical music melodies and traditional Latin American music!

December 9, 2007

Basic Music Lessons?

This site on music theory offers a very clear explanation of musical basics which should be helpful to beginners and those interested in a refresher. It's developed by Ricci Adams.

An excerpt of the thread from the last post on Guitar-to-Mando Tab Conversion...

The mandolin generally occupies a different role in harmony than the guitar. However, if you have a chord chart for the mandolin, you should be able to just play chord of the same “name” on either the guitar or the mandolin. Because the mandolin’s strings are tuned in ascending 5ths and the guitar’s are tuned in ascending 4ths, you’ll probably end up playing a different inversion of the chord, meaning that the intervals of the notes in the chord will be arranged differently. Example: on the guitar, the notes in a major D chord, in ascending order, are D A D F. On the mandolin, the notes are in ascending order as A D A F. To play a guitar melody on a mandolin, you can just play the same note values. I’ll see if I can translate the first few phrases of your linked song:




This may be wrong. I don't have either my guitar or mandolin in front of me. posted by ijoshua at 7:40 PM on April 3 It *seems* like there should be some easy way to convert between tabs (every note on the guitar has a similar note on the mandolin, more or less), but the problem is that fret x on the guitar does not equal fret x on the mando. As others have explained here, the difference in tunings between guitar and mando means that there are different intervals between strings. Thus, if you tried to "auto convert" a guitar tab you could well end up with fingerings that at best don't make sense, and at worse are impossible to play, on the mandolin. People advising you to just learn the music, or figure it out by ear, are of course offering good advice, but I know that's not what you're looking for. You just want to try and pluck out this tune on your new instrument. (I read music and play several instruments, but the first thing I did when I got my new banjo was pull up some banjo tab so I could start hacking away!) ijoshua has the best advice so far - you'll have to convert the tab yourself. I imagine the best way to do this is to compare the guitar tab to a diagram of the notes on the guitar frets. Write the notes out on the guitar tab. Then look at a map of the notes on the mandolin neck, and mark off the equivalent notes, converting *that* into tab. It won't be easy, but you should learn a bit about the notes on your mandolin. Once you're happily plucking out your tune, you can start thinking about learning chords and scales. posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:02 PM on April 3 Okay dhruva, here's how it would work. Take the first six notes of the guitar tab:
(all on the B string). If you check out the guitar neck at a site like this, you can convert the frets to notes. -B-C#--E-F#-E-F# Then take a peek at the notes on a mandolin. Start on the A string (closest to the B string your guitar piece starts on). That same progression of notes would look like this on mando tab:
You'll just be writing down the fret number of the notes that you converted from the guitar tab. Of course (and here's why an auto-translation wouldn't work), when you hit the E note you don't need to keep going up the neck, you'd move up to the E string. So your mando tab would look like this:
Exactly what ijoshua came up with. Does that make sense? posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:15 PM on April 3 Banky_Edwards summarized my translation technique pretty well. Here’s a shortcut: All the notes on the high E string on the guitar can be played on the same fret on the E string on the mandolin. Moving down one string, you have a B string on the guitar and an A string on the mandolin, so all the guitar notes on this string would need to be transposed by adding 2 frets on the mandolin to achieve the same note value. Down another string, you have a G string on the guitar and a D string on the mandolin. To play the same note on the same string, add 5 frets on the mandolin. Finally, notes on the D string of the guitar can be played on the same frets on the D string of the mandolin, or on the G string of the mandolin by adding 7 frets. As Banky_Edwards mentioned, this direct translation will probably result in some awkward movements up and down the neck. You can fix this by finding the same note on different strings by adding 7 frets and moving up one string, or by subtracting 7 frets and moving down one string. For example, the B note on the 9th fret of the D string is the same pitch as the B on the 2nd fret of the A string. posted by ijoshua at 5:23 AM on April 4 Example: on the guitar, the notes in a major D chord, in ascending order, are D A D F. On the mandolin, the notes are in ascending order as A D A F. Nitpick: that's D minor. D major has an F#. And dhruva, trust me that it will take you much longer to go through some process of converting tab to music to tab than it will for you to learn enough music to figure it out that way. You just need to think of what you're playing in terms of notes or intervals rather than just frets. It's pretty trivial. Every fret is a half-step, on guitar or mandolin. There is a half step between E and F and one between B and C. There is a whole step between all other letter-named notes. So you get C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A#. Alternatively, C# (C sharp) can be written as Db (D flat), and so on. Which is technically correct depends on what key you're in and some other obscure things which you don't need to worry about. So if you know that and the names of the strings you can figure out the pitch of any note on the guitar or mandolin. You can also think in terms of intervals: major seconds, minor thirds, perfect fourths, and so on. Check out the lessons at musictheory.net for an introduction. A given interval will involve a different fingering on the two instruments because of the different tunings, but it will sound the same. Learning a bit of this stuff also provides the benefit of a far easier time communicating and playing with other musicians. posted by ludwig_van at 9:20 AM on April 4

Converting Guitar Tabs to Mandolin Tabs

This link will lead you to a good discussion of opinions regarding conversion of standard guitar tab to mandolin tab. The short version: it ain't easy...

November 17, 2007

Vintage Mandolins: Made in USA

If you are interested in a history of vintage American-made mandolins, this website will float your boat. It contains historical and technical discussions as well as photos of mandos that are more works of art than musical instruments.

Blank tablature sheets

Basic, blank tablature sheets for the mandolin are available to print out here, in pdf format

The mandolin fret board

This diagram should help beginning players develop tabs from standard notation. It's taken from the wikipedia entry for the mandolin.

Tablature for the "Ave Maria"

This is not the usual Ave Maria commonly heard at weddings and funerals. That's Schubert's version. This version is attributed to an anonymous author from the 13th century. Standard notation for this version can be found in Cantate et Iubilate Deo, along with many other traditional and Gregorian music that go well with the mandolin.





A – ve Ma - ri – i - i – a, gra – ti – a ple – e – na





Do - mi - nus te – cum. / Be – ne – dic - ta tu i - in





mu - li - i – e – ri – i - bus / et be – ne – dic - tus





fruc - tus ven - tris tu – i - i, Ie – e – su - us





Sanc - ta Ma – ri - i - a, Ma - ter De - e – i,





o - ra pro no – o - bis pe – ca – a – to – o – ri – bus





nunc et i – in ho – o - ra mor - tis no – o - strae. Amen.

You might notice that the tabs did not align well with the lyrics: blogger can be quirky that way. Basically, each syllable of the words corresponds to a note. By shifting the words a little to the right, they should each line up with the tab notes.


Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women,

et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus. and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei. Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, Holy Mary, Mother of God. Pray for us, sinners,

nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen. now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

November 9, 2007

Step-by-step guide to building a mandolin...

Kathy Matsushita, an amateur luthier, shows us how she built an F-style bluegrass mandolin. Do try this at home!

November 2, 2007

Mandolins on a budget...

For a spontaneous discussion on selecting a mandolin for those on a budget, see this interesting conversation from the Acoustic Guitar Forum!

Wondering how to start a luthiery? Here's how Jennings Chestnut did it!

A fun article from Sandlapper Online, a South Carolina publication, tells the story of Jennings Chestnut and Chestnut Mandolins...

October 29, 2007

Tips on tuning the mandolin

Helpful advice from the Mandolin Cafe! Getting Tuned Up Tuning is a subject you'll rarely see covered in depth in the many books and articles written about mandolin. Yet month after month it's consistently one of the top search terms that gets typed into the Mandolin Cafe search engine. When was the last time you actually read anything extensive about tuning a mandolin? Maybe you need a little help in that area. Unfortunately, all of the books we've seen barely touch on the subject, if at all. It's a brief mention in the introduction and then off they go. After all, who's going to buy a book on the subject? The Easy Way? We could just say, "buy an electronic tuner" and we'd be done, or so you might think. While an electronic tuner is desirable to own (for reasons we'll soon discuss), there are real benefits to learning to tune by ear, and it's the mark of a good musician to have that skill. We spend hours practicing individual pieces. Why wouldn't we devote a few minutes to one of the most important aspects of our music (that of actually being in tune)? Why is an electronic tuner important? Because if it does nothing else, it serves the purpose of keeping your instrument tuned within the range it was meant to be played. Most mandolins are meant to be tuned within the E-A-D-G range. Tuning lower than that probably won't hurt your instrument, but start going higher over a long period and you risk potential damage to the instrument, although it might takes months or years before it's noticed. Most builders don't recommend the use of heavy gauge strings for the same reason: for most it's too much added tension that the instrument wasn't designed to withstand. The higher the tuning, the greater the tension. The point is that most mandolins are built to be played within the (high to low here) E-A-D-G range, and keeping them tuned within that range optimizes their performance. In the past, tuning forks were used (and still are by some) to gauge the appropriate pitch. A piano can serve that same purpose but now we're starting to get into use of the ear, which is the focus of this article. A Tuning Exercise Here is a demonstration of tuning without a tuner by building a comparison from a single note to the extension of that note into a chord. Building that comparison around a chord simply makes good sense because if your chords are in tune, the notes of the scales will likely be in tune as well. Tuning boils down a comparison of two or more notes against each other. I tend to use a "G" chord, or parts of the "G" chord to get in tune. While you may choose another chord, play along here and use this as a guide. Example: play the low "G" string open and simultaneously play the fifth (5th) fret on the "D" or the third string. Those are both "G" notes. Now play those same two notes but also play the second fret on the "A" string. You should now have a three note chord that looks like this: E String --X-- (don't play yet) A String --2-- ("B" note -- part of the "G" chord triad) D String --5-- ("G" on the "D" string) G String --0-- (an open "G" note) Compare the low "G" on the bottom to the "D" string "G". Now compare the low "G" to the "B" note on the "A" string. Compare them slowly. No, I mean SLOWLY throughout this exercise. For now, use the low "G" as your reference point and assume it's in proper range even if you didn't use an electronic tuner, tuning fork, piano, or something else to verify. Now to your "G" on the "D" string. Listen carefully. Is it higher or lower than the open "G" on the bottom? A very slight wavering sound in the comparison of two strings is a sure sign you're out of tune. Adjust the "G" note you're fretting on the third string until you're satisfied. I've observed and discussed with many players that when you have trouble getting one string in pitch with the other, it's easier to tune down lower and then SLOWLY bring the low string up in pitch until you get a match. Now compare both low "G" notes to the "B". If you were satisfied with the two "G" notes, then any variance you're unsatisfied should be directed towards the "B" note. Now add the high "G" note by fretting the third fret on the high "E" string. You've now built the basis of a "G" chord as follows: E String --3-- ("G" note on the "E" string) A String --2-- ("B" note on the "A" string) D String --5-- ("G" on the "D" string) G String --0-- (an open "G" note) Now compare both low "G" notes to the new high "G". If you were satisfied with the two low "G" notes, then any variance you're unsatisfied with should be directed towards the new "G" note. Over time everyone will develop what works for them. All I'm showing is a sensible approach of comparing notes to each other. Basing your ear turning around a chord gives you a foundation for your comparisons. I've seen players tune well who only compare the open notes. Others compare octaves. What they almost all share in common is a comparison of a series of notes that together build some type of chord or other logical framework. Other Causes of Tuning Problems Your ability (or inability) to tune can be impacted by other problems will ultimately have a negative impact on your music. Any of the following can and should be taken care of. These include: Improper Bridge Alignment If your bridge is only slightly in front of or in back of its proper placement or tilted in any direction, you're going to have intonation and tuning problems. To test your bridge placement, first tune each open string with a tuner. Then, fret the 12th fret (or preferably, play the 12th fret harmonic) and re-check with an electronic tuner. The result? If the 12th fret is sharp your bridge is closer to the fretboard than it should be. If the 12th fret is flat your bridge is further away from the fretboard than it should be. Worn Frets Take a good look at your frets. Those deep grooves (if you have them) can create serious intonation problems for an instrument that otherwise might be in perfect tune. Think of having an occasional fret re-dressing as an oil change for your car. You really need one from time to time. You may go a long time without one but your instrument will probably be screaming for help if you do. And, good frets are easier to play and easier on your hands. Tuning is just one benefit. Old Strings Most musicians will agree that old strings are difficult to keep in tune and harder on your fingers. It doesn't make sense to buy a nice instrument and then change your strings once every three years. That's like buying a nice car and then driving around on bald tires. Warped Neck You'll probably be able to visually see this. If you have an adjustable truss rod this can probably be easily fixed but I'd recommend letting a professional do the work. The Bottom Line A mandolin is simply a tool built out of wood and metal. Heat, humidity, cold and general wear and tear will eventually have a negative impact on the structural health of your instrument. Instrument neglect needn't be a burden to tuning or other aspects of your music. Take your instrument to a qualified professional once a year for a check-up. It's well worth the time and effort. To Improve Your Tuning... * If you're having problems or are new to the instrument, a few minutes spent learning to tune each day will work wonders. * Ask for a second opinion from someone you trust. "Am I in tune?" You might be surprised at the answer. * An electronic tuner is good for keeping your instrument in the proper pitch, but it's a critical possession if you're going into a recording studio recording to do overdubs. * An electronic tuner with some type of attachment to the instrument is essential for gigs where you need to tune while competing with a lot of background noise. * A quality case cover will keep an instrument protected from the natural elements. An instrument transported or left in a cold or hot car and then opened in a temperature controlled room is a guaranteed recipe for a half-hour of tuning problems. * You may be a great technician, but let's face it, if you can't do it in tune then people probably won't want to listen. * A cheap, inexpensive mandolin that's in tune with good strings and good frets can sound like a million dollars in the right hands. * Even the pros have difficulty tuning from time to time so don't get discouraged.