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Mandolin Tutorial - Lesson 1.8




There are a number of bits and pieces which you can buy to go along with your mandolin, some more necessary than others. I'd say you needed something to help you tune, but it could be as simple as a tuning fork. What you choose to buy is up to you. Here's what's available:

Electronic tuner (from £16.00 to £65.00).
Some people swear by electronic tuners, others swear at them. If they help a beginner to get in tune, then they're worth something. It is desirable, however, to acquire the skill of tuning by ear.

Tuning Fork (about £5.00).
Get an "A" tuning fork. See the Tuning page.

Pitch Pipes (about £4.00).
As the mandolin has the same tuning as a fiddle, violin pitch pipes are what is required (EADG). See the Tuning page.

Strap (about a fiver).
Not strictly necessary, although a strap can help to steady the instrument even if you're sitting down. If you wish to play standing up, a strap really is important.

Picks (from under a pound upwards).
Which pick or plectrum you use is a matter of some debate, but in the end it will come down to your preference. As a guide, I would recommend somewhere between 0.8mm and 1.2mm. See the Plectrum page.

You can get a vinyl mandolin bag for about a tenner; it'll keep it dry, but it can can knock your tuning out every time you take it out. A hard case is perfect, but pricey (about £45.00).

If you're playing a round-backed mandolin, it can wobble about somewhat, and a footstool of some description is helpful. A round-backed mandolin isn't suitable for playing standing up. Peg-winder (couple of quid)
This is a device designed for use when putting new strings on to relieve the tedium of turning your machine heads. They can also be useful for providing extra leverage if you're using an older mandolin with stiff pegs.

I've had a look at some of the "teach yourself mandolin" books on the market and I'm not very impressed. However, if they get you started with the basics then that's fine. The best I've seen is Simon Mayor's The Mandolin Tutor available from Acoustics, PO Box 350, Reading RG6 7DQ (Tel.0118 926 8615, or visit their web site).

As for tune books, there are loads on the market. If you can find Kerr's Merry Melodies you'll have access to hundreds of Scottish reels, strathspeys and jigs, although you may ruin your eyesight at the same time! For Irish tunes, there are two excellent books, "100 Essential Session Tunes" and "100 Enduring Session Tunes" both published by Mallinson Publications, 3 East View, Moorside, Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire BD19 6LD (Tel. 01274 876388). I've seen a book called The Mandolinist's Fakebook, a companion to The Fiddler's Fakebook published by Oak Publications, New York. This gives hundreds of excellent American, Irish and Scottish tunes in mandolin tablature.


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