The mandocello is a unique and singular voiced instrument which originated in Europe and gained popularity during the early 20th century. The lowest voiced instrument in the immediate Mandolin family, It has eight strings in four paired courses and is tuned CC-GG-DD-AA (low to high). What the cello is to the violin, the mandocello is to the mandolin; with it’s deep rich resonant tone that many describe as having a certain piano like chime. As is typical of the mandolin family, mandocellos can be found with either a single oval soundhole or a pair of "F" soundholes. A good you tube demo see Joel Mcdermott
The Morgan Monroe Mandocello pictured above is built in the great tradition of classic archtop with F-hole construction. Mandocello opens up new sonic possibilities and is an instrument you won’t be able to put down!
Although usually associated with late 19th and early 20th century artists,the mandocello also has a role in modern folk music, such as bluegrass or Celtic music. Some contemporary artists who have used mandocello are listed below.
Rick Nielsen of the band Cheap Trick has a stringed instrument collection that includes electric mandocellos custom made by Hamer Guitars. Such an instrument was used for the title track from their LP Heaven Tonight, while their song "Mandocello", released on the band's debut album
Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora used a mandocello on the song "Lay Your Hands on Me" from their acoustic album This Left Feels Right.
Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood has been known to play a mandocello
Jaco Pastorius overdubbed a mandocello on the Weather Report hit "Birdland."
Mike Marshall played a mandocello on his collaboration album Uncommon Ritual with Edgar Meyer and Béla Fleck and plays it live occasionally (for example with Darol Anger on violin).
#1 Shapes and Sizes: Perhaps you have wondered why there are different shapes and sizes of acoustic guitars. Of course some are simply made small for kids and come in the following sizes, ½ / ¾ / 7/8 while some are sized for the purpose like Parlor, grand Auditorium or Dreadnought etc..
The body size will greatly affect the sound, the smaller the body the brighter the tone. Finger style players typically like smaller body guitars for their clarity of tone while players that strum tend to gravitate to larger guitars such as Dreadnought or Jumbos due to the greater bass response, fuller sound and more volume. Guitars with cutaways make access to the higher register of notes easier. Some have built in pickups, some don’t. There are of course differences in scale length, string tension and other defining factors. However, the novice only need know that they are all tuned and played the same way. Therefore as a first guitar, your choice should come down to what is comfortable for you to play, what sounds good to your ear and what you can afford.
#2 Materials: Guitars come in a wide variety of materials including composites (plastic). Most however are made of wood and are offered in the three following formats:
• All laminate meaning that the wood is manufactured rather than milled, and is made by applying thin layers of wood veneer held together with glue. This guitar will be the less expensive of the three but does come with some advantages. One advantage of course is price and the 2nd is durability. Laminated wood is less prone to cracking and warping that can come with solid woods. It will be less susceptible to harm in extreme heat or cold as well. The tone of the guitar will not improve with age like a solid wood guitar, but if it sounds good when you get it, it should sound good for years to come. If you are looking for a guitar that you can leave out of its case, play by the campfire or leave in the trunk of your car on cold nights, this one will work fine.
• Part laminate, Part solid wood guitars. Some guitars are offered with solid tops but have laminate back and sides. This is a great compromise between an all laminate and an all solid guitar because the most noticeable difference with be from the top or “Sound Board”. The back and sides are of less importance. The tone of most solid woods like Spruce (a commonly used guitar tone wood) will improve with age but will require more care than a laminate.
• All solid guitars will be the most expensive of the three and you will need to protect your investment from the elements by keeping it in your case when not in use, and making sure it is properly humidified to avoid drying and cracking etc.
#3 Most new guitars need to be adjusted. If you buy your guitar from a local music shop, ask them if they will adjust your guitar before you take it home. Most stores do this for free and if not, the charge should be minimal. If you buy your guitar on line don’t expect it to be fully adjusted. You might get lucky and receive a guitar that is ready to go but it is more likely that you won’t. Remember, your guitar is made of wood; it can swell and shrink causing problems as it does. As the seasons change, the wood can shift, making adjustments necessary. You made need a fret or two tapped back in place to avoid string buzz, or perhaps a neck or bridge adjustment. This makes a strong case for picking out your guitar by hand at your local store. With the exception of some nylon string and some children’s guitars, your new guitar should come with an adjustable truss rod. This is a threaded mechanism inside the neck that can be adjusted to correct any warping your guitar may experience due to climate conditions or abuse.
Follow these guidelines, trust your ear and enjoy your first guitar!
We will address the basic difference between the A-Style and F-style and the common question “which is best’’. When faced with a choice of which to buy, first understand that they are similar in tone when constructed of like materials. Also note that while one style may be more prevalent in one genre, they are tuned played the same. You will see many A-styles, commonly called “Tear Drop mandolins “ because of their shape, are widely used in Classical, Celtic and Folk music but you will also see F-Styles as well. Conversely, the F-Style, sometimes referred to as a “Florentine Mandolin” is the favorite among Bluegrass musicians and is common in Country and Americana Roots music as well. Again, you will also see both styles cross pollinating all genres. The term “Florentine” is a reference to a geographic area in Italy where a lot of mandolin characteristics evolved. Today’s mandolins are based on the Gibson mandolins of the early 1900s.
Generally most manufactures will offer similar models in both Styles with the A-Style being less expensive as it is easier to build. Consider the Morgan Monroe MM-550A A-style and the MM-550F F-style. The F-Style is more labor intensive because of the lavish scroll work and is usually more expensive. F-styles, are also more comfortable when playing seated as the point at the bottom will rest on your leg. While you should consider all of this information, ultimately you should play as many different mandolins of both styles in your price range until you find one that speaks to you personally.
For those of you who practice your instrument alone, or maybe don’t have time or the inclination to practice with a band, you should consider practicing with Backing Tracks. If you are learning Licks (and I use the term generically for all instruments) nothing will help you cement them into your repertoire like playing against a track. Another major benefit will be to your timing. If you are learning cover songs, Back Tracks are as good as a band, they really help you get into the DNA of the song. I might add to that as long as my computer boots up, the band members are never late and there is no baggage.
#1 Know where to get the tracks:
Finding tracks is easy, they sell them in most music stores Via CD hardcopies, ITunes has many ready to for you to download and there is an unlimited supply of pay for and FREE tracks for you on youtube. Here is an awesome site that is 100% free! http://www.guitarbackingtrack.com/
#2 Know your format choice in advance:
Some sites give you a choice to leave out vocals or certain instrumentation. I play guitar and sing so I want mine minus the lead guitar and lead vocals. When downloading, try many formats. My son plays bass, usually I get a version with bass and without for when he visits!
#3 Try some Karaoke Sites:
Sometimes the best tracks are available as Karaoke tracks. When I have to play a song in a different key I can’t always readily find a track in my key. Here is a site that will let you create your own mix, which instruments go, stay, etc and what key you want it in. http://www.karaoke-version.com/ Be aware that this one is a pay site but it’s very cool.
#4 Record yourself:
The best way to track your progress, especially if you are learning solos , is to record yourself with a back track. Listen today, then listen each week or so and compare your progress.
#5 Set yourself up for success:
Try to create a space where your instruments, computer, audio equipment etc is close at hand and hopefully in a place you won’t be distracted. My space is a bedroom at the opposite end of the hallway from my bedroom. As long as both bedrooms doors are closed my wife can’t hear it. For me that is important because I usually practice at 4:00AM before I go to the GYM. Remember the term “Wood Shedding?” Well if you got one…