So as we all know I play a ukulele. But what we may not all be aware of yet is that I now also play (by using a particularly broad definition of that particular word) a mandolin. So I thought for my first review post of the new year I’d speak a little about a beginners viewpoint on mandolins as an instrument. I think that I’ll leave the review of my actual mandolin until a later time, like when I can genuinely play it, and not just scales.
Okay so off the bat a mandolin is that sort of teardrop shaped stringed instrument you saw once in a music shop, and thought looked sort of cool. They’re not just cool looking, if you have a little luck, or are choosy when you pick up your own one they can actually be breathtakingly beautiful. Sinuous and sensuous looking. A mandolin is also stringed with four double courses of steel strings.
Yeah that’s right steel strings.
But let’s talk about how a mandolin sounds, and why you might want to pick one up before we get to the gory details about those strings. Well after starting my musical journey on a ukulele I was kind of stunned by the volume. For a hollow wooden tear drop that’s not really all that much bigger than a uke a mandolin can really throw off a lot of noise. The first time I plucked a pure note on mine I nearly dropped it from fright. I did drop it, on to my bed, when my dog barked behind me to complain about the noise. As a sound it’s hard to describe, I guess it’s sort of like a cross between a steel stringed guitar and a piano that you pluck…I did say it was hard to describe. Look it’s the most beautiful sounding instrument I’ve ever heard. Look up some solo pieces on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. But to start you off try the video below for a taster.
What else to say about the mandolin as an instrument? Well it’s extremely comfortable to hold, fitting well into a player’s body. It’s light, not as light as a ukulele, but not as heavy as even a childs guitar. So if the day should arise when one day you are forced to defend yourself against a zombie horde, you’ll find yourself well able to beat at least one head in. Though you may find yourself better served by using one of the E-strings as a decapitating garotte from then on. Ah yes the mind of the rare lesser spotted Amanda is a wild, and wonderful place.
Oh yes those strings. When I started to play my uke my fingertips killed me for weeks. They screamed every time I touched anything hot or cold. But that passed, my fingertips toughened, and I thought to myself “Hey at least I won’t go through that again.”
Boy oh boy was I wrong. What that uke did to my fingers is nothing in comparison to what my mandolins strings are currently turning my fingertips into. They haven’t bled, yet. But I did make the mistake of trying a slide a few days ago, and I’m pretty sure they heard the scream two counties over. But someday soon my fingertips will adjust, the Sun, Moon and stars will align, Athena will bless my fingers with the right type of dexterity, and boom! I’ll play my first, error free, musical number on my pretty new mandolin.
That I have to say will be one sweet, sweet moment. So stay tuned, there’s more coming up on this.