Mandolin Self Instructor, online tutorial - Page 14

A simplified self learning system for the Mandolin with tuning instruction, song folio, chord diagrams, sheet music and PDF for printing. By ZARH MYRON BICKFORD

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For the purpose of developing the ear it is well to experiir^at with each pair of strings, attempting to bring them
to the same pitch if they are out of tune with each other, or to put them out of tune and then bring them back.
When tuning, both the instrument and right hand should be held in the regular playing position, the left hand being
used to turn the pegs.
To test any two strings, the pick is held very lightly and pressed or pushed gently across them, not too quickly,
in order to determine, first of all, whether there is a difference in the pitch. If there is a difference, no matter how slight
it may be, for the purpose of the present experiment, the lower or outside string may be left as it is and the second of
the pair made to sound exactly like it.
Before this can be done, it must be determined whether the string is too high or too low. Should it be too low, or
flat, the peg to which the string is fastened is to be turned slightly so that the string is wound tighter on the peg.
In this connection it is well to see that the third and fourth strings (D and G) are wound on the pegs in such a man-
ner that they lay inside the four pegs on the side nearest the performer. They should also be put on the pegs in conse-
cutive order, that is to say, the outside G string on the first peg, nearest the body of the instrument, the other G string
on the next peg and so on with the D's. With the strings adjusted in this manner, each string will be easy to locate
and the pegs will always turn to the left to tighten or make them higher in pitch and in the opposite direction to make
them lower. The A and E strings are also wound from the inside of the pegs, so that, being on the opposite side of the
head, the pegs will be turned to the right (with the instrument still held in playing position) to tighten or make them
sharper, and to the left to make them lower in pitch. The four strings on this side of the mandolin should also be ad-
justed consecutively, that is, the outside E on the first peg nearest the body of the instrument, and so on in regular order.
The two important operations in tuning are, first to listen carefully to determine whether the string is too high or too
low and then to listen just as carefully to determine when it is exactly in unison with the other.
In tuning, it is important that the pick glide gently across the two strings, always from the G string side. After
having set the strings in vibration in this manner, the pick should not touch them again until after the peg has been
turned, so that the ear may catch the final vibrations or waves as they die away.
This is a much less nerve racking process than to continually strike the string while it is being tuned. After the
ear has learned to detect the difference in the vibrations, the instrument may be tuned to the piano or another instru-
ment. This is done by first sounding one of the notes to which the open strings are tuned, preferably A, on the piano,
pitch pipe or other instrument, and after the ear has thoroughly digested the pitch of the note, gently picking the A string
nearest the D, by sliding the pick across it and dropping it between the two A strings. This will sound but one of the pair
of strings and will prevent the vibration of the other. The ear must determine whether this A string is higher or lower
than the note struck on the piano and the peg then turned, as explained above. After the string has been made in
unison with the piano, the second A of the pair is then tuned to the first, in the manner described above. The other
three strings can then be tuned to their respective notes in the same manner. After each pair of strings has been put
in tune temporarily, it is advisable to stretch the strings by pulling or pushing very forcefully on them with the pick,
for the same reason that the piano tuner "thumps" as hard as possible on the keys when tuning, and that the violinist
pulls and stretches his strings, especially when new ones are put on. This method takes the "slack" out of the strings
and makes them stay in tune. After this stretching the strings must again be brought back to pitch.
Another method of tuning is to get the A from the piano, as above, or from an A pitch pipe, after which the A string
is stopped or pressed down at the seventh fret and the E strings tuned to the note thus made. This is done by first
comparing them and then tuning the E next to the A string, after which the outside E is tuned tc its mate.
The process is then reversed and the D string stopped at the seventh fret, the note thus made (A), being tuned to
the open A string. The G string is then tuned to the D in the same manneróby being stopped at the seventh fret and
this note tuned to the open D string. All the strings are tuned by first making one of them in tune with the next string
or the piano, and then tuning the second of the pair to the firstónot to the adjacent string or the piano.
Still another method is to tune by octaves. After having tuned the A string, as a starting point, the E string is
stopped at the fifth fret, the note thus made being tuned exactly an octave above the A. The fifth fret of the A string
is then stopped and the D string tuned an octave lower, after which the G string is tuned an octave lower than the fifth
fret of the D string. It is suggested that this method be used more as a test, than as a regular method of tuning.
Still another method, and preferred by the author, is that employed by violinists, who of course do not have the
advantage of frets by which to tune. This method is to get the A in the usual manner, from piano or other instrument,
after which the inside E string (nearest the A) is sounded or "chorded" with the A, the effect being what is known as a
fifth. If the E string is perfectly in tune, it is a "perfect" fifth, and if not, it must be made so.
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III