Mandolin GDAD tuning

Mandolin GDAD tuning

Hi all,
I’ve gone mad and bought myself a mandolin. I’ve decided to go for GDAD tuning and have been looking for a handy chord cheat sheet to kickstart with, and I also want to have a go with countermelody. Please point me in the direction of any helpful materials. Go raibh maith agat ;-)

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

GDAD isn’t the best choice for traditional music. A lot of tunes go up to the high B, which is the 7th fret and reachable with your pinky in standard GDAE tuning, but becomes the 9th fret and needing a position change in GDAD.

Counter melody isn’t really used in Irish traditional music, but if it was a mandolin wouldn’t be the right instrument to do it with, an octave mandolin would be a better choice. The reason being that when seveal instruments are playing different notes at the same time the brain naturally tracks the highest pitch and hears that as the melody, so the counter melody has be pitched below the main melody at all times. If you do it with a mandolin you are likely to cross over and play above the melody, destroying it. Using an instrument an octave down keeps you safe.

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

While I agree with everything that Mark M says, nobody can stop you from experimenting on your own.

Here’s a start:
https://hspeek.home.xs4all.nl/bouzouki/gdad/index.html (starter points)
https://hspeek.home.xs4all.nl/bouzouki/gdad/gdad.pdf (a lot of chords)

Of course, you still have to know when to apply what (and to some extent, why). Maybe you’ve listened to Andy Irvine (Planxty, Patrick Street and many more). Maybe that approach has inspired you.

An old discussion:
Andy Irvine style accompaniment - https://thesession.org/discussions/35153

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

Agree with Mark M. You’ll have a difficult time playing melody by shifting the high B note up that far with GDAD tuning, and countermelody accompaniment is tricky enough even for a low-pitched instrument. Pitching that up in the same note range as fiddles and flutes, would increase the potential to distract the melody players.

I think *partial* harmony embedded in an otherwise straight melody line can work on mandolin, and I do that sometimes. A double-stop or brief chord for significant notes in a tune, and then back to the melody line. Something like the occasional blips of harmony from a button box, or uilleann pipe regulators. A constantly running counterpoint melody at the same pitch is something else again.

I don’t think Andy Irvine is a good example, because there is a separation in pitch and timbre between Andy’s voice singing something like "The Blacksmith" and what he’s doing on mandolin.

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

//A lot of tunes go up to the high B, which is the 7th fret and reachable with your pinky in standard GDAE tuning, but becomes the 9th fret and needing a position change in GDAD.//

Mark M, I know that wasn’t you’re main objection, but the hand only needs to move one fret (to 2nd position) to get the pinky to the high B.

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

@Jim Dorans
Try playing a reel at 112bpm with a high B note normally, just flicking out your pinky while staying in position. Do it again with a shift to second position, and tell me which is faster and easier. :)

Actually, that’s what I do on my GDAE octave mandolin out of necessity with the longer scale. It’s also the reason I don’t play reels on the OM, reserving it for the slower tunes. Fast tunes are on the mandolin, were the pinky flick to the high B means I can hang in there with the fiddlers (barely).

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

It is unclear from you posting why you decided to learn in an unconventional tuning. Are you influenced by some local bloke who uses that? I would suggest you use std tuning GDAE until you have learnt the basic chops…then be as experimental as you like.
Get down as many sessions during the week as you can and soak it up!!!

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

@Conical bore //Try playing a reel at 112bpm with a high B note normally, just flicking out your pinky while staying in position. Do it again with a shift to second position, and tell me which is faster and easier.//

I don’t really understand what you mean. If you’re talking about GDAE tuning, 1st position, let’s say key of Amaj, then a scale starting on open A would be fingered 0-1-2-3 || 0-1-2-3, ending on a high A. Agreed? Then a B (7th fret) would be played with 4th finger, no problem, no stretch. No need for any position other than 1st.

So, yes I agree with you that in this scenario 1st pos is easier and faster than 2nd pos. No need for 2nd pos at all.

If on the other hand you are tuned GDAD, and you wanted the high B on 9th fret, then 2nd pos would work fine - 0-1-2-2 || 3-4-1-2 || 3-4.

My main point was that if you had to reach the 9th fret, then 2nd pos would require the least movement and is most ergonomic, that’s all, because the hand only ever needs to move 1 fret, up or down. Some people think of using 3rd position - well it works too, but requires more movement, so more demanding in a fast reel, that’s all.

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

@Jim Dorans
"My main point was that if you had to reach the 9th fret, then 2nd pos would require the least movement and is most ergonomic, that’s all, because the hand only ever needs to move 1 fret, up or down."

It may be the most ergonomic just for reaching that one B note, but you wouldn’t want to play the entire tune out of 2nd position (would you?). That would make many of the few articulations available on mandolin either more difficult or impossible. They rely on open strings, double-stops, hammer-ons and pull-offs on open strings. If you jump out of first position where all that stuff works, just to hit the B note, it slows you down. Which is why trad fiddlers don’t do it, unless they have to reach something higher than B on the E string.

Mandolin is not the easiest instrument for playing Irish trad as it is, so I just don’t see the utility of either GDAD tuning (for melody) or 2nd position playing.

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

@Conical bore - just to clarify and hopefully remove all ambiguity :)

//It may be the most ergonomic just for reaching that one B note, but you wouldn’t want to play the entire tune out of 2nd position (would you?). //

I agree. That "B" note referred to is on the 9th fret, when tuned GDAD, so 2nd pos would work with that. Depends on the tune, of course, but no, you wouldn’t really want to play the whole tune in 2nd pos. Just use it for the phrase that contains the note on the 9th fret.

//If you jump out of first position where all that stuff works, just to hit the B note, it slows you down.//

This is one of the things where I think there’s a misconception - the move from 1st pos to 2nd pos is a semitone, 1 fret, so it’s not a ‘jump’ - it’s a smooth transition, and *very* easy to do, both ascending and descending. As I said earlier, I would only use 2nd pos for the phrase where the note was outside of 1st pos, not for the whole tune.

That said, (imo) sometimes a tune can benefit from being played in A rather than G, and using 2nd position the whole time. Look at Boys of Ballisodare. Right away you’ve got a double-stop on the D+G notes. On fiddle that’s two strings with the same finger. On mandolin it’s 4 strings with one finger, unless you ‘hop’. Fine if your fingertips are wide-ish, but it can cause problems with thinner fingers. That’s just life….

I play Boys of Ballisodare on fiddle, in A. First part in 1st pos (that eliminates the single finger double-stop difficulty), second part in 2nd position - so the high C# falls easily under the pinky, then the third part back to 1st pos.

//Mandolin is not the easiest instrument for playing Irish trad as it is, so I just don’t see the utility of either GDAD tuning (for melody) or 2nd position playing.//

Agreed - esp on any benefit of tuning mandolin GDAD, but to be fair, I haven’t actually physically tried it myself.

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

In reply as to why I want to tune in GDAD, I just like how it sounds. I love what Andy Irvine does, and daori farrel recently. I guess I should get a zouk instead but the mandolin sounds similar, but in a higher octave, and smaller and easier to lug around and just have laying around. Thanks for the links jeff_lindqvist ;-)

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

I wonder what Daoiri would say about his custom Joe Foley bouzouki being called a mandolin. I’ve tried GDAD on my mandolin as well as on my tenor banjo and although it’s okay on the banjo, the mandolin just somehow sounds less attractive tuned GDAD. I love the sound of GDAD but I would strongly suggest that if you want to play melody in GDAD that you get an octave mandolin or a short-scale bouzouki.

Re: Mandolin GDAD tuning

Ach, my eyes are going!

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