Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

Of those of you who own both a mandolin and an octave mandolin, which do you use more when playing melodies? Which one do you like more? If you forced to give up one, which one would it be?

My reason for asking is quite simple. I have and play a mandolin and I am considering buying a real OM as I have a small four string guitar tuned to GDAE on which I use to play fiddle tunes. However, the guitar doesn’t have right sound.

So before I make the plunge to buy a new OM, I would like to have
some experienced opinions as to the ease of playing and differences between the two instruments.

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

Playing fiddle as well complicates matters further.

I play both fiddle and mandolin as melody instruments, and OM mainly for vocal accompaniment and backing. So if I were forced to give one up, it would be the mandolin. But if I didn’t play fiddle, it would be the OM. For pure melody playing, the mandolin wins hands down.

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

If it’s any help, I played mandolin for years and have migrated to tenor banjo which I now prefer. I did get an octave mandolin a few years and played melody on it - it’s very nice but like the mandolin itself it suffers a bit from low volume in sessions although you can buy high quality mandolins with more powerful sound

Also to consider: I changed fingering from mandolin to octave mandolin so it can be a little confusing at first

Are you able to have a go on an octave mandolin for a while to see what you think?

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

If you don’t mind the reach on your guitar you might like the OM just fine. Plus it has the advantage of sounding much better than the mandolin if you decide to do any backing.

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

One of the problems I have is I can not find a shop locally that has an octave mandolin where I can sit down and play for a few hours. Which is why I converted a small 1/2 size six string guitar to a four string, reducing the width of the neck and making a new bone nut. The four string with a 22 inch scale length works quite well but it doesn’t have the correct sound.

The fingering works OK with a capo at the second fret, thus reducing the scale length to 20 inches and keeping the GDAE tuning by detuning a whole step.

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

I agree, the tunes sound very plain picked out on a guitar. Double string courses are where it’s at in my opinion. It’s a very fitting sound.

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

My vote would definitely be for the octave. I wasn’t forced to give it up but I hardly ever touched the mandy again after I bought an octave. Having said that I later went one step further, up to a bouzouki, and I’ve since given the octave to a friend. My mandolin and guitars just hang on my wall now.

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Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

I doubt whether this comment will provide practical information that would be acted upon by many (if any), but for the sake of completeness…there is a way in which you you may have both!

I have a short-scale, 5-course cittern from Oakwood Instruments (no affiliation). It’s a fine-sounding instrument, tuned like an octave mandolin on the lowest-piched four strings (GDAe), and the highest (first) string is tuned to a b - everything is in fifths: GDAeb. Some of you will discern that a capo on the fifth fret would allow the instrument to have the same tuning as a mandolin on the highest-pitched four strings (though with a C as the lowest-pitched string: CGdae).

This instrument works as both an octave mandolin and as an ordinary mandolin, though it does take some getting used to the relatively wide neck (to accommodate the five string courses).

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I prefer to play an old 1920 Vega cylinderback mandolin as I agree with Skreech that ‘For pure melody playing, the mandolin wins hands down’ and I like the smaller instrument with a narrower neck. However, the Oakwood has very nice tone, sounds the notes clean and clear, and is quite loud.

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Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

Hi Cape cod struggler,
I played tunes on Mandolin for 12 years, then a few years ago I made a transition to Bouzouki (tuned GDAD). Melody was a bit difficult with that particular tuning so I bought a short scale Cittern (21") and tuned it GDADA. I have never gone back to Mandolin, I love playing the Cittern and with the high A, tunes are no longer a problem, yes it is more of a stretch than Mando but the sound is so rich and as cheeky elf comments, "OM sounds better if you decide to do any backing"
I’ve heard from a few people that Oakwood are very nice. I have a Davy Stewart, a Fylde and Sobell, for volume the Davy and the Fylde are great for sessions. I would reccommend Davy Stewart for price and wonderful instruments, you can’t go wrong….
I made a youtube clip a while ago to demonstrate the sound of Davy’s instruments on melody:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUdo7nUElgQ


As it happens, There’s one on Ebay right now with 4 days to go, (not mine, I would never sell it).
A friend just told me about it yesterday.
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Davy-Stuart-Octave-Mandolin-/181115255419?pt=AU_Musical_Instruments_Instruments&hash=item2a2b4f7a7b&_uhb=1#ht_717wt_932

It doesn’t appear to have a reserve and I think you could probably get it for the starting price, which would be a bargain.

Andy

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

But it’s only for sale in Australia……..
…also I want one of his 5-course bouzoukis.

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

I have a Stuart OM which I love love love, but only for backing. I feel like the large scale double course instruments give you all the difficulties of dragging a pick through two strings combined with the tougher stretches of a longer neck. I think the banjo is a far easier instrument for tunes.

that being said, if I could only have one, I’d go for the OM since you *can* do both on it. Mando is kind of a tough one for backing, being in the same range as the melody & all. And Davy Stuart is a super nice guy and if the exchange rate is in your favor, it can be the best deal in all of fretted instrumentdom.

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Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

I play OM, Mandolin and banjo for tunes. Mandolin is easily transported, banjo is good for noisy sessions and acoustic gigs but I much prefer the depth and richness of the OM.
As for relative difficulty banjo v OM, I think it comes down to what you practice(play) with most often. I find I get more fluent triplets for example, on the OM which is my main instrument. I put this down to my inadequacies rather than the instrument’s.

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Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

No one can really advise and I expect your answer will come down to personal preference, not logic. I’ve played banjo and OM for years but have gravitated to mandolin and guitar. Guitar I will use for playing tunes ( if its not too large a session ) or chords. For backing, guitar harmonies can be more rich and complex to my mind than OM. The mandolin is a Fylde and it does have good volume for a session.

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Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

That’s funny. I was the opposite as above. Started on guitar, got a mandolin but found the frets too close together for my big hands and now prefer banjo for melody and bouzouki for backing (I only back listening to recordings in my house and never play the zouk in public)

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

Don’t be ashamed, sir. Don’t feel a fish out of water. Take your ‘zouk out and display its charms to the public.

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

Hiya captain cod, I have an OM, they’re weak for tunes due to the lower register its tuned in. For accompaniment they lack the depth of a guitar. They are good for learning tunes indoors when you don’t want to upset the neighbours or even be heard at all. If I had some spare dosh I’d go for a nice upper end mandolin, they’re far more versatile and can be heard instead of being drowned out

Re: Mandolin vs Octave Mandolin

Hi- Just to mention another option, I play melodies on a 1995 Flatiron mandola strung with Thomastik 174 heavy flatwound and tuned to GDAE, the octave below the mandolin. It has a wonderfully rich, delicious ring with the easy reach of a 17 in scale. Flatiron was made by Weber, and I think their current mandolas have the same scale.