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|The mandolin is an extraordinary instrument. It's capable of playing a wide range of repertoire. Tuned the same as the violin (GDAE), it's first cousin to the violin "the queen of the orchestra" and the folk fiddle.
Where ever you hear the violin or the fiddle, mandolin can easily go, with certain exceptions. Some pieces are simply "unmandolinable." But many styles of music are easily played on mandolin, including baroque music, duets, trios, and quartets, bluegrass, celtic music, and all sorts of folk and international music.
No instrument surpasses the mandolin's ability to contribute a percussive yet sweet-toned chordal accompaniment. Mandolin frequently serves as the snare drum of bluegrass music and "new accoustic" music.
Pitched roughly an octave higher than guitar, the mandolin can't match the deep, rich, long ringing chords of a guitar accompaniment, leaving the guitar as the favored instrument for voal accompanyment. Still mandolin accompaniment provides a perfect rhythmic compliment to guitar. In many styles of music the two instruments work wonderfully together.
Mandolin as a Second Instrument.
Mandolin is a great second instrument. If you play violin or fiddle, your left hand already knows what to do. You'll just need to make some minor adjustments to your left hand teachnique, learn chords, and learn how to use a pick.
If you already play guitar, then you're probably already confortable with the pick. You'll need to learn new chord positions, scale fingerings, and you'll find that treble clef applies differently to the mandolin.
Sometimes violinists just don't want to hear 70 decibels right under their ear. When they get home late and want to play, the violin is sure to wake other household members. But with the mandolin you can make quiet music into the wee hours, and no one's the wiser.
Mandolin as an introduction to Violin
If you're interested in playing the violin or fiddle, but aren't ready to take the plunge, try the mandolin. The logic of the left hand applies directly to the violin or fiddle.