Music elevated through foreign strings



John Tai taught himself to play the mandolin and uses it to compose music.

Emily Koh, Staff Writer

While the term “string instrument” might not bring up images of a mandolin to most students, freshman John Tai spends his free time playing this esoteric  instrument.

Tai has been playing the violin since he was eight and just recently began composing music. As he was looking for a unique string instrument to compose his music with, Tai discovered the mandolin two months ago and developed a knack for it.

“I bought a ukulele first and I tried to tune it like a violin, but it ended but sounding really bad. I searched online to see if there was anything I could work with and I found the mandolin it was a perfect fit,” Tai said.

Tai used his experience from playing violin to self-teach himself how to play the mandolin. While the mandolin is less common among people in America, it has visual and auditory similarities to the guitar and violin. The instrument has eight strings, and is strummed similarly in the style of a guitar.

“I really recommend that people who actually play the violin pick up this instrument. It’s a lot of fun and can help improve on aspects of the violin you don’t normally work on,” Tai said.

Although Tai originally bought his mandolin with the attention of adding new sounds to his music, he no longer utilizes it for his songwriting.

Instead, he plays the instrument as a hobby and form of entertainment and a way to escape from the stress of being a high school student.

“Every chance I get, I plug in my earbuds and write down ideas for tunes I can make, or just pick up the mandolin and play some songs,” Tai said.

Tai is involved in symphony orchestra in the Diamond Bar program as well as the Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra. He enjoys playing songs from anime and the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” along with original pieces he creates.

“I think that music plays a central role in my life. It’s literally the only thing that interests me,” Tai said.