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Changing the tone of my mandolin

Rogers 15 Mar 07 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,Johnmc 15 Mar 07 - 03:29 PM
deadfrett 15 Mar 07 - 03:35 PM
Wesley S 15 Mar 07 - 04:55 PM
GUEST,Jim 15 Mar 07 - 05:49 PM
GUEST,Jeff 15 Mar 07 - 08:05 PM
mandotim 16 Mar 07 - 02:22 AM
Dave Hanson 16 Mar 07 - 03:30 AM
Dave Hanson 16 Mar 07 - 03:32 AM
Spot 16 Mar 07 - 05:12 AM
Wesley S 16 Mar 07 - 08:16 AM
Scrump 16 Mar 07 - 08:44 AM
Dave Hanson 16 Mar 07 - 08:57 AM
mandotim 16 Mar 07 - 09:16 AM
Wesley S 16 Mar 07 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,Jeff 16 Mar 07 - 09:41 AM
Dave Hanson 16 Mar 07 - 10:28 AM
Spot 16 Mar 07 - 10:29 AM
Dave Hanson 16 Mar 07 - 10:32 AM
Spot 16 Mar 07 - 10:34 AM
open mike 16 Mar 07 - 11:14 AM
BTMP 16 Mar 07 - 11:22 AM
Scrump 16 Mar 07 - 11:22 AM
Dave Hanson 17 Mar 07 - 05:29 AM
Spot 17 Mar 07 - 11:06 AM
Mooh 17 Mar 07 - 12:09 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 17 Mar 07 - 09:31 PM
Songster Bob 17 Mar 07 - 11:43 PM
mandotim 18 Mar 07 - 02:16 AM
Dave Hanson 18 Mar 07 - 02:42 AM
Mooh 18 Mar 07 - 06:34 AM
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Subject: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Rogers
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 02:38 PM

I currently have a Fender FM-63S mandolin. It is Japanese made, and plays fairly OK. It is made of all solid woods, but the low end (the bass) is lacking. I have put on a solid African blackwood bridge, and a Monteleone style tailpiece. These have added to the volume and the sustain, but the low end is still not what I'd like. I'm after that big, fat bluegrass "chunk" sound. I would just replace the thing, but it was a gift, and has sentimental value. I know that decreasing the size of the f-holes will lower the resonance of the sound chamber, but I haven't figured out a good way of doing that (without disassembly). Anybody have any ideas for getting more bass out of the thing?


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: GUEST,Johnmc
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 03:29 PM

I know this is obvious but have you tried higher gauge (bass) strings tuned a half-tone down, using a capo at fret 1?


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: deadfrett
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 03:35 PM

Rogers-You might try a different guage of strings on the Bass end. GHS sells single loopend stings. You might also try different compounds 80/20 bronze, phosphrse bronze or nickel wrapped.
Cheers..Dave


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Wesley S
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 04:55 PM

I've found that I get a better tone from a thicker pick. How thin is the pick you're using? Try a heavier pick and see if that helps.


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 05:49 PM

I thought increasing the size of the sound holes would emphasize the highs.(?)
Although there seem to be a few mandolin players on here, I'd suggest that you ask your question on the Mandolin Cafe site.


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: GUEST,Jeff
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 08:05 PM

Have the same problem myself. Washburn M-3SW. All solid wood. It's got a real nice, clean tone, good volume and sustain, but lacks the 'chunk'. You've done just about everything one can do. I did the same combo of mods w/a Cumberland ebony bridge and an Allen tailpiece. Also, Gotoh tuners from the Stew-Mac catalog. An intermediate mando is an intermediate mando. You've probably maxxed it out. Resign to having to pony up a couple of grand unless you find one at a yard sale or something. +1 for going to mandolincafe.com, also.

Will Parsons from Rock, WV builds very high quality, affordable mandos. I've seen several on sessions here in Nashville. Most were under $1500 and all sounded great.


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: mandotim
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 02:22 AM

I had the same problem; what worked for me was a combination of heavier strings (D'addario J75s or 74s) plus a heavy Wegen pick (at least 1.5mm) plus paying a lot of attention to the angle of the pick as it strikes the strings. I spent hours experimenting until I felt I'd got the most out of the bass. Re the recommendation for Will Parsons; yes, his mandolins are excellent and very good value, but in my experience his customer service sucks big time. For real bang for the buck, try Eastman mandolins. Good looking, affordable and some of them are real tone monsters. Or look for a second hand Rigel A+. One other thing; Red Henry did a lot of research on the effects of using a solid maple bridge incorporating the sort of designs that violin bridges use. I thing the results are available in the archives at the mandolin cafe.
Tim


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 03:30 AM

You can upgrade it all you want with an expensive bridge, tailpiece and heavy strings but you won't give it that bluegrass sound [ chunk or chop ] unless it had it to begin with, you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear, and as for Wegen picks, bloody 'ell you can buy two dozen Jim Dunlops for the same money.

eric


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 03:32 AM

In fact if you visit the Mandolin cafe it's full of people who buy cheap mandolins and think putting an expensive tailpiece and bridge on it will make it sound like a Gibson, it don't work.

eric


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Spot
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 05:12 AM

Allo
   Wegen picks are the DB's . expensive? Well...aye, but well worth it(IMO) Try Golden Gate if you can get em..   Sorta pseudo tortoise and only a quid..very mellow... Tortis Mondo good   Very expensive. summat like a tenner apiece I think...

I agree totally re. silk purse etc (Sorry mate!)

I think you may be wasting time and effort with your Fender - there's no magic button here, I'm afraid.

          Good luck though ... Spot   :-)


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Wesley S
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 08:16 AM

Yes - you may be judging the sound of your mandolin by what you've heard on recordings. And some of those musicians pay huge amounts of money to get that "chunk" sound. Many of the professional grades of mandolins you're hearing may sell in the range of 3,000 to 24,000 dollars{US}. And some of the prized Lloyd Loars can sell in the 100,000 to 200,000 dollar range.


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Scrump
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 08:44 AM

Wegen picks are the DB's . expensive? Well...aye, but well worth it(IMO)

Getting slightly off topic here I know, but can you say why they're worth it? I only ask because I've never tried them - Dunlops are my favourites too. What is it that makes Wegens so much better than them?


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 08:57 AM

It's probably a status symbol thing Like Lloyd Loar or Steve Gilchrist mandolins, if you can afford a Wegen pick............flaunt it.

I've tried dozens of plectrums and always go back to Jim Dunlop.

eric


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: mandotim
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 09:16 AM

Wegens are different to Jim Dunlops; I've used both, and I find there are some big advantages. The Wegens have a properly made 'bevel' on the tips, so the pick goes through the strings smoothly and with less of a clicking noise (this is the reason you have to specify right or left hand when you buy them). Much better for tremelo, and superb for recording. They are made of a particularly durable material, so they hardly wear at all; I've had my current Wegen for nearly four years, and it still looks like new despite some serious abuse in that time. They come in a range of gauges, including the heavy gauges that seem to work well for bluegrass chopping. Finally, they give a good grip. The prices are not that outrageous; by my reckoning, you can buy about eight Jim Dunlops for the price of a Wegen (not two dozen, at least not around here!). The price of the Wegen tends to make me look after them, and I'm sure I would go through more than eight Dunlops in four years.
Tim


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Wesley S
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 09:20 AM

I've just ordered two Wegens. I'm looking forward to trying them out.


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: GUEST,Jeff
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 09:41 AM

Have seen and played Eastmans and agree...much mando for the money. Don't have any experience w/WP customer service, I just have been impressed w/t combo of price, punch and playability.

"...if you visit the Mandolin cafe it's full of people...etc. Guilty. He's right, it wont work. Though my mandolin's tone improved a great deal and is a great recording instrument it doesn't and wont ever sound like a pre-WW2 Gibson.

There are some great sounding Pac-Rim mandolins made in the mid 1970's. Alvarez, Aria and Washburn are three that come to mind. Most of the time they're in the 450-1200US price range. Most pro players scorned them at the time(same w/t guitars , banjos, etc.), but I would tone test them against any of the Gibson's of the era. You may want to investigate them as an option when/if you decide to upgrade. They're 30+ years old and most of those I've seen have aged very well and the workmanship is amazing for mass produced instruments.

BTW, tried the maple bridge thing and while it did improve the volume somewhat the incongruity of the appearance prompted me to investigate a solid ebony bridge. Overall, spending about 200US to improve the tone of a 500US mandolin. It was a total learning process, but would recommend to others not to waste time/money. Save up and get the one that 'barks' to your immediate satisfaction. You'll know it when you hear it because you wont want to put it back. THAT'S the one.


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 10:28 AM

The bevel edge on a Wegen plectrum merely simulates the natural wear you get on most other plectrums, it is ' put ' on Wegen picks because they don't wear naturally.

eric


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Spot
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 10:29 AM

Hallo
          ok - Wegens are good for me because

      1. I like them..
      2. My wifes like them..
      3. They feel like a well used pick fron the start..
      4. I can easily find the white ones when I drop them..
      5. I like them...
      6. They are tonally delightful..
      7. See MandoTims comments..
      8. Read them again!!
      9. I really like them....

   Eric... I'm afraid the "status" bit is bollocks!!   :-)

(BTW- My Gil never gets flaunted - I'm too modest!!)

If you've never tried one, PM me!!!

       Hope this clears up any probs!!   :-)

                        Regards to alll...Spot


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 10:32 AM

Incidently I play a 1917 Gibson and a 2005 Eastman, and I love them both
but no Wegen will ever make the Eastman sound like a Gibson.

eric


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Spot
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 10:34 AM

Understood Eric. I have a 515 and Wegen does make it sound more pleasant...Not a patch on a Gil or my MT2 but ......

                Spot :-)


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: open mike
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 11:14 AM

try a pick up
such as a mini flex
pick up microphone
see http://www.ghsstrings.com/
under accessories, sound hole mic.
and then adjusting the
balance of the electronic
sound via the controls


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: BTMP
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 11:22 AM

One thing I always do for my mandolins is dampen the strings behind the bridge before the tailpiece. I do this with a short piece of leather string, like those used for hiking boots. This will eliminate the natural ringing or resonance of these short sections of strings and give a cleaner chop. This doesn't increase/decrease the bass, but the cleaner chop may get you closer to the sound you are looking for.

One last comment on the Wegens: I use them for mandolin and guitar and like them. A complaint I've often heard is that the Wegens are too thick and heavy. Well, they now have a 1.10 version of their picks and they may suit those who prefer a thinner plectrum.


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Scrump
Date: 16 Mar 07 - 11:22 AM

Thanks for the info on the Wegen picks, guys. I'm tempted to try one just to see what they're like.

[As for dropping picks on the floor as mentioned by Spot, Scrump's Law is:

"A dropped pick always matches the floor"

(I don't often drop them, but I did last week. The pick was a red Dunlop, and guess what colour the floor was? ...it was Dunlop Red :-))]


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 05:29 AM

If I dropped a black pick on a white carpet it would still dissapear, pub floors are like the Bermuda Triangle for picks.

I'm also tempted to try a Wegen, just to see.

eric


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Spot
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 11:06 AM

Eric

If you like, Pm me your address and I'll send you one. I'll even include a SAE to return it if you don't like it!!   How's that for a deal...

                   Regards to all...   Spot


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Mooh
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 12:09 PM

I wouldn't say it's worth it unless you like messing about with such things, but shaving the braces might help some. Most such mandolins are overbraced in my experience, and though exceedingly difficult to do interior work on without removing the back, rewarding to actually do the work. Even so, you might only get the experience rather than the chop you are after, since it depends on so many other variables too.

Eastman, Gibson A9 & F9, Weber, Breedlove et al, would be better way to start, but shop around. Shop around a lot. Then shop around some more. A trip to a good shop with several kinds/brands is a real education...like Elderly.

Last week I played a Gibson A9 that just bowled me over with woody tone and sustain...half decent chop too...now, what to trade, what to trade?

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 09:31 PM

Place a cotton, silk, or polyester man's foot sock inside the "S slit" to the internal body.

Determine which one gives you the closest sound you are approximating....and keep that sock in the same bottom corner.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Songster Bob
Date: 17 Mar 07 - 11:43 PM

You put a new bridge on it, I see, but you say it is solid wood. Does it have any holes in it? I have heard a theory that mando bridges, just like fiddle ones, should have a hole under each course, so that there is no direct path from string to instrument top. Picture a fiddle bridge, and you will see that there is a hole that pretty much matches each string, so there is no direct coupling from string to top. I use a two-post adjustable bridge, so there's definitely no direct path, but if you have one of those solid, non-adjustable bridges, like old Gibson A-models had, you may get some improvement in sound with holes under the strings.

Of course, you may also turn the whole thing to shite and waste your money for a new bridge, but I have heard this theory and it seems to make sense, and is subscribed to by several players I've read about.

It's a thought.

As for changing the sound-hole size, you can put masking tape across part of the holes to see if there's enough change, and if so, find a way to do the same without using tape. How, I don't know (I can envision hard felt plugs, or rubber one, held in place by plugging the round holes on the end of the "f" holes, but Lord help you if the plug falls inside the instrument!). Good luck.


SongBob


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: mandotim
Date: 18 Mar 07 - 02:16 AM

Get a jealous lover to smash it to bits with a poker? Just a thought...
Tim;)


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 18 Mar 07 - 02:42 AM

Yeah but you can't get Charlie Derrington to re-build it any more.

eric


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Subject: RE: Changing the tone of my mandolin
From: Mooh
Date: 18 Mar 07 - 06:34 AM

Frank Ford at www.frets.com has an interesting photo essay detailing the makng of a solid but hollowed out bridge. I used his idea with good results using cocobolo (rosewood) on my flattop mandolin.

Peace, Mooh.


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