Saturday, December 29, 2012

How to Play the Mandolin

Just when I thought I might never get another inspiration for a GBGC song, something came in the mail. It was a box so big, I thought a person might be in it. What it was, however, was a very carefully packed mandolin. A very dear friend gave it to me for Christmas because he knew I would know how to take care of it. I had no idea at the time what an adventure it would become to make use of what turned out to be, for most, a useless instrument.

I haven’t the slightest idea how to play the mandolin (okay, now a bit more than one week ago), and it took a lot of research and help from an expert to get the thing to sound as “good” as it does here. The mandolin is a very intricate and delicate instrument. The nut and the bridge are held in place only by the tension of the strings, and if they’re not in good shape, the performance is off.

This particular mandolin, much like the Bad Guitar, also has an innate mechanical flaw of its very own. It has an extra half a fret at the top of the neck, making the half-step improbable if not impossible. When I discovered that, I knew that this instrument was Totally Flawsome! ® and that it was now my duty to do more with it than just hang it up on the wall as decoration.

And so it came to pass, that the Bad Guitar found a mate. The Bad Mandonlin has a song of its very own, a metaphor for the failing mechanics of the human body and soul and the futility of reparation. 

lyrics property of grahamophone:

How do I play this mandolin?
It seems to be in even worse shape than I’m in
Dropped by an angel right before he fell,
and while he was falling he forgot to tell me
how to play this mandolin..

The lute player said, “well, you just have to tune it.”        
That’s easy to say- why don’t you try to do it.
It’s all fun and games ‘til one loses an eye,
I turn and I turn, and I try and I try, but oh 
why do I play this mandolin?

The grooves are too deep ‘cause the frets are all worn,
just like I fret at the dawn of each morn;
The neck it is warped and the bridge misaligned,
Who knows how many more faults I will find
if I try to play this mandolin.

I’ve checked the loose nut and I’ve checked the string’s gauge,
but this poor mandolin’s really showing its age;
the eight tuning pegs are all wound up and tight,
and if I’m not careful I’ll be up all night wondering
how to play this mandolin.

The body is weak and the saddle is tilted;
My spirit is meek and my heart has been jilted.
From the head to the tailpiece and to the F-hole,
there isn’t an angel who can save my soul


So I dusted it off and I found some new strings
and I started to concentrate on other things

I tried prayers and magic and incantations
But this mandolin has its own intonation


Just like me, it’s intrinsically flawed
but that doesn’t mean that it’s not loved by God
Lucifer, Michael or Rafael
or whoever dropped it, I pray that you tell me