Rob MacKillop

Mandolin

This page is devoted to my exploration of the classical mandolin. There are many types of instrument, each with its own repertoire, but I will explore the different styles with the use of mainly one instrument.

A big influence on my appreciation of the mandolin is the work carried out by Alex Timmerman, and his Dutch mandolin and guitar orchestra, The Het Consort [website]. Alex has a website devoted to one mandolin company, Embergher, and his consort play mostly instruments made in the Embergher workshop, or high-quality copies. Do visit their YouTube Channel, when you get time. I’d also like to mention the great work carried out by Ralf Leenen, and his orchestra, La Napolitaine [website]. Ralf is another leading expert on Embergher mandolins.

I was lucky enough to purchase an Embergher-style mandolin, made in the late 1960s or early 1970s by the Danish luthier, Yngve Braslev, who is mainly known for his archtop jazz guitars. This mandolin has such Embergher-like features as a very narrow and slightly curved fingerboard, with a distinctly vee-shaped neck, not to mention the beautifully-scalloped bowl:

Back
Front

Head

Heel

label

nut

Side

 

Here is an unusual piece for scordatura mandolin – a mandolin with an altered tuning, in this case: eg  dd  aa  c#e, by Marlo Strauss. It’s a technical study for the Glide Stroke – the right-hand goes down, down, down, up:

 

 

One of the greatest of all Embergher endorsees was Silvio Ranieri, who published at least four volumes of a mandolin Method in the early 20th century. His school relies heavily on the tremolo technique. Here’s an attempt at his Study 26, Volume I. I am using a mandolin by the de Meglio company, loaned to me at the time by Andrew Burnside.

 

James Oswald published 18 Divertimentis for two Guitars or Mandelins in 1759, though we are not 100% sure what mandolin he had in mind. I recorded a CD of his 12 Divertimentis For The Guittar, and John Goodin arranged them for solo mandolin. See publication on the Mel Bay website. Here’s number six of twelve:

 

The afore-mentioned Andrew Burnside also loaned me a Wappen mandolin, probably by Herwig, mid 20th-century Germany. I made a quick video, but found the instrument very hard to play fluently. The action was high, and the strings high tension. It is tuned an octave below a regular mandolin:

 

Finally, I am also a member of EMGO – the Edinburgh Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra, and amateur group of enthusiasts who are worth supporting. Here is their website. Our repertoire covers everything from baroque to modern, and is always on the lookout for new members..

 

More to follow.

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