Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

I’m looking to play something a bit more traditional sounding, since this is the sort of music I’ve found myself intensely drawn towards. Ukulele is a fun little instrument, and can play anything most other instruments can play, but it’s very quiet, has a ‘reputation’ to put it mildly, and due to it’s small size (from what I’ve been told anyway) it sometimes has some really out of tune notes.

If you were to cross over, as it were, what would you pick?

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

When you say this is the music you’re drawn to is it Irish dance tunes with mostly a session style which tends toward single line melody? If mine wasn’t a loaded question I don’t know what is.

Welcome aboard!

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Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Both have volume issues, not insurmountable. Tenor guitar is the better choice for backing and does melody nicely. I think a company called Blueridge (some thing like that) makes a pretty good one for the money and Rick Felkel (who made my octave mandolin) does a really nice job too at a really good price. As an aside I prefer the tenor guitar over the octave mandolin for playing melody. Just my opinion anyway.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

"due to it’s small size (from what I’ve been told anyway) it sometimes has some really out of tune notes"

Well, you can also buy some decent ukuleles and they also come in different sizes…soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. You get what you pay for, obviously.

The Ukulele is actually closest to the regular six string guitar than any of the instruments you mentioned. In fact, the baritone uke is tuned DGBE just as the higher strings of the guitar.

So moving to tenor guitar wouldn’t necessarily be that much easier for you. You’d be as well off with the mandolin or fiddle.
The latter are also tuned differently from the Uke but these instruments will involve less "stretching" for notes and chords just as you have been used to with The Uke. You can always move to tenor guitar/banjo, octave mandolin, or bouzouki later.

If you are just interested in backing, then a regular guitar would be the obvious first choice.
Of course, it also depends on your present level as far as the Ukulele is concerned. If you aren’t particularly advanced, then you could just as easily transfer to any instrument and start from scratch.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

If you want to provide backing I’d suggest getting a baritone uke tuned DGBE, nylon strings. If you want to play tunes, get a tenor banjo or tenor guitar.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Stealing some of Reverend’s thunder. Just go straight to the dark side and buy a banjo.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

For the reasons I mentioned above, I don’t think either the tenor banjo and/or tenor guitar are the most obvious and natural "next steps" from the ukulele. Unless the OP has a particular inclination towards these instruments, of course.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Haha, Tom! You beat me to it! 😛 (But yeah, both mandolin and tenor guitar can be a slippery slope down to the tenor banjo. If you’re planing on playing in Irish sessions, you may find yourself fighting the wall of noise just to be able to hear yourself well enough to play… that’s where the banjo can come in handy..)

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

If it’s only a question of volume, you can avoid the dark path of the banjo with a resonator mandolin. I’ve been tempted, since the session I mainly attend (or used to in the Before Times) always includes at least one piper and a passel of fiddlers. My archtop F-style mandolin is loud enough to start a set, but it can get drowned out on the more enthusiastic tunes when the entire group is banging away.

What stops me from adding a resonator mandolin to the arsenal is that there is really only one choice out there I’d consider viable in terms of playability and quality, and that’s a National RM1. Readily available, but expensive. It doesn’t sound quite like a wooden mandolin, but the harshness can be tamed a bit with flatwound strings.

You can get cheaper resonator mandolins like vintage Dobros or newer Pac-Rim imports, but the necks are just about guaranteed to need major work on a vintage one, and the quality is iffy on the offshore imports. A mandolin is a fussy instrument to get right in the first place due to the short scale and high tension, so I’ve always leaned towards the higher quality end of the range to avoid problems. Maybe one day I’ll have enough disposable income to pick up a RM1 on a lark, just to give it a try.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

I don’t bother with a resonator. I just plug the mandolin straight into my Marshall stack (with volume set at 11).

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

I still think it’s a personal decision which comes down to the player who is asking. YMMV (which is why I asked my loaded (non-rhetorical) question. Lots of wonderfully, witty opinions but perhaps a wee bit distracting(?) IMHO.

Bye.

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Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

AB,

You’ve complicated the issue even more. 🙂
I’ve just had to Google YMMV…. "Your mileage may vary"?

Anyway, you have a point. The OP might wish to clarify whether or not she(I’m assuming) wishes to focus on melody or accompaniment.
Most amateur ukulele enthusiasts tend to focus on strumming and accompaniment. However, there are several other possibilities including some very intricate work on melodies, especially if you change to a lower octave G string which gives you even more scope. There’s also the "campanella" technique which is also very subtle and effective.

Anyway, maybe Aileen would like to respond to some of the advice so far?

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Thanks for the input everyone. I have a tenor uke with a low G tuning right now. I kind of want the sound of steel strings! That’s why I’m kinda leaning towards tenor guitar… tune it DGBE and everything is the same, just lower.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

That can save you some time in the beginning, as you are already used to it, but in the long run there is a lot to be said for the way the tunes fall under the fingers in the GDAE tuning that mandolins, fiddles, banjos and other tenor guitars share. Something to consider, anyway.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Tune "DGBE"

I’m not sure how well that would work as regards the different string tensions. You might even have to adjust the grooves in the nut and bridge too.

As Cheeky Elf says, GDAE tuning is probably better and more natural for tune playing…

If you really do want a DGBE tuning, why not just get a regular six string guitar? That will give you even more scope and you might even want to use the extra two sometime? 🙂
You can buy smaller compact guitars too which would be just as portable and light as as a tenor guitar.

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Johnny Jay, sorry for the YMMV. I can see now it probably was not a good phrase to use, not to mention it put you in the unfortunate position of resorting to Google. I apologise. Yet it does appear the thread is headed for a happy ending. 🙂

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Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Mandolin, My $0.02s, as a multi-stringed instrument player…
1. ‘Significantly’ louder than a Uke (A good mandolin can blow your socks off…)
2. Tuned GDAE, it puts you one huge step ahead if you ever decide to try the fiddle
3. Thousands of fiddle tunes can be played note for note on the mandolin without transposing (although some technical details don’t translate between those two instruments).
4. There are a number of very reasonably priced import mandolins available
5. It’s small, like a uke, if portability is an issue
6. You can play all styles of music on it, from classical to Irish, to Bluegrass, to Rock, etc.
7. You could also consider a mandola. It will put your voice a tad below the fiddles so that it might (?) be easier to be heard in a jam, BUT you have to cope with it’s CGDA tuning. You might be the only mandola player to ever show up at a jam, too!

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

I would be inclined to vote mandolin as well; the double strings will toughen up your fingers and you can strum chords that sound totally different from the ukulele and sets you apart in a good session

The chord shapes and scales are exactly the same on both instruments but the stretches and tones are slightly different - mandolin being more distinctive with the higher pitched tuning and double string sound.

But it also boils down to whether you can try out good mandolins or tenor guitars locally, what you can afford and if you have access to a decent tutor or mentor. It’s tougher to change strings on a mandolin!! A more distinctive sound comes with a price!!

Re: Coming from uke: Tenor guitar or Mandolin?

Mandolin seems the obvious choice to me as well, speaking as a mandolin player.

Reverend: "… mandolin and tenor guitar can be a slippery slope down to the tenor banjo."

*Can be*. I own a tenor banjo but rarely get it out of its case. In my case the mandolin has proved to be more of a stepping stone up to the fiddle – although I played it for 10 years before I ever laid my hands on a fiddle, so it is still very much its own instrument and the one that feels the most ‘natural’ under my fingers.

But even if you do end up slipping down that slippery slope, I recommend trying the mandolin first – at least, then, you have a chance of redemption.