Mandolin Accessories: The Staid And The Special

Shopping for accessories for your mandolin is almost as much fun as buying the mandolin itself – 'kid in a candy store' is the expression that gleefully springs to mind. There are so many accessories that a complete and comprehensive collection will cost you about three or four times what you paid for the instrument. Fortunately, the standard ones are limited, and a decent kit can be very reasonably priced. Specialties and novelties, on the other hand, are as numerous as they are expensive.

The Run Of The Mill Mandolin Accessories

Standard accessories include capos, pitch pipes, electronic tuners, stands, cases, and sundry items such as straps, picks and spare strings. Each of these is available in a variety of price bands, and of varying quality. The right one for you may not only be a question of the right price or the right feel, but also a question of whether they're necessary at all. Capos, for example, may not be necessary unless you're going to be playing in different keys and registers, and stands won't be required unless you're a regular player.

Mandolin Accessories: Pitch Her Perfect

Pitch pipes or electronic tuners are an absolute essential if you're going to be playing in a band. Perfect harmony is hard to achieve if each instrument is tuned differently. For this reason, this should be an integral part of your kit. Manual pitch pipes are the older kind, and lots of players still swear by them. They are essentially pre-calibrated pipes that you blow into to get a note that you then tune the corresponding string to. A clip on electronic or chromatic tuner will do the job just as well, also giving you micro-adjustment options that are lost on all but the most highly trained ear. The difference between an electronic tuner and a manual one is the difference between flying an airplane by instrument and by the seat of your pants. And if you're really old school, then a tuning fork is what you need.

Mandolin Capos: The Head Of The Family

A capo is for the true professional or for anyone in transition between amateur and 'player'. There are some good quality capos available from Dunlop, Shubb, Kat Eyz and Kyser. These do what a capo should – give you a new bridge position without any alteration in sound quality. Standard types include the U and the V capos. The price range is unusually big, with the cheaper ones around $15 and the 'Capo di tutti Capi', around $90.

Mandolin Accessories: Strings For Every Occasion

Spare strings are a must-have. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of sets spare if you're touring or doing daily gigs. There's no such thing as a bad set of strings, only different types for different sounds, needs and budgets. Strings are generally sold in sets, but over a period of time, you'll know if you need an extra set of just Ds or As, and you can buy accordingly. Naturally, the thinner the string the more likely it is to break during a heavy rocking session. Ernie Ball is a premiere brand of strings, as are D'Addario, Elixir, and Gibson. The right set of strings will give you the tone you're looking for, so take your time before you settle on a 'favorite'.

Non-Conventional Mandolin Accessories: Strange Helpmates

There are also some 'out there' Mandolin accessories. Try the Tone Guard, a wire-mesh like structure that goes on the back of the mandolin to keep it from touching your body when you play. Apparently, the mandolin's tone is unadulterated when you use this. Another is an armrest for playing really long concerts. Although it is used by come classical professionals, it's not standard garb, and most mandolins wouldn't be seen dead in one. From the standard to the special; no matter what the accessories, buy wisely and use properly – after all, the safety of your mandolin is as stake.