View Full Version : Thin/brassy sound
I have an F5 copy built in 1981 which has never had the sound I want. #I have hung onto it all these years but have never played it much. #The sound is too thin and brassy and the mando has very little chop volume.
I have experimented with different bridges and strings with no real improvement. #The finish is blonde with varnish and checking is now noticable.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Jim, You might consider sending it to Steve Perry, owner of Gianna Violins for his "MandoVoodoo" treatment. There's a thread on this subject in the Miscellaneous section not too far down the page. I'm sure it would be worth the money as Steve really knows what he is doing, as he is also an excellent violin maker! My daughter bought the least expensive Eastman violin off him and it is a great sounding and playing instrument. He tweeks all instruments before they leave the store.
Jim, The discussion is under the General Mandolin Discussions section. I think it starts out, Has anybody tried.....
Steve, thank you for your response. #I will consider your suggestion about "MandoVoodoo". #I have in fact looked at some of the discussions regarding this process previously.
I will throw out another question for general comments. #The neck on this mandolin has dropped over the years. #As a matter of fact the builder reset the neck about 1986. #This did not affect the sound either before or after the reset. #
due to the reset the bridge height is quite low. Any thoughts about how bridge height affects tone?
Pickin&Grinning for 35 years #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif
GJ, when my action is too low, I get a thin tone. I like it at about 5/64 at the 15th fret to get better tone and more volume.
The sound on a mandolin is definitely related to bridge height. A higher one might do wonders at improving the sound. There's no guaruntee, of course, as many other factors dictate a good sound. A higher bridge means a higher string tension, thus causing the bridge to be pushed more firmly on the top of the mandolin. Somehow this increases volume and tone dramatically. However, it also causes a risky increased pull on the neck. If you've had previous neck problems, a higher bridge might cause the neck to fold up (or sideways.) It's worth having a pro look at it before you raise your bridge too high or put a new one on.
Have you tried simply using a higher string gauge? That would be a cheap experiment to see if the sound improves.
Interestingly, Gibson mandolins underwent a major shift in the early 1900's (1908ish, I think). They angled the necks more and created higher bridges to get a louder, richer sound. Most (though not all) greatly prefer these post 1908 Gibsons for this very reason. Many pre 1908 Gibson necks have been ruined by folks putting on tall bridges to increase sound; the necks weren't strong enough to support the increased tension.
Who was the builder, if you don't mind my asking?
The mandolin was built by Dan Sanford (Alabama). #This was his first F5. #The material was good quality maple and spruce and his workmanship was quite good for a first try. I think the neck problem stems from the fact that the joint was not tongue & groove but used a dowel pin. #He built from a set of plans which obviously were not up to speed in this respect and I did not know enough to advise him at that time. #He has since built several other F5's which are quite good.
I expect that some of the problem now is not playing the mando. #When it was first built I played it regularly with the group I performed with and it was acceptable.
At any rate, I will try a little taller bridge and experiment further with strings. #When money is available might go ahead with the "..Voodoo".
Pickin&Grinning 35 years #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif
James, I also had an F-5 built for me that just never fulfilled its promise. There was noticeable improvement after I installed a one-piece maple bridge; but the bass still lacks #"depth".
If you really want to hang on to it, you could ask around for a luthier who could shave down the tone bars for you. This has been done to some of the 70's era Gibsons with pretty good success, but it the cases where it worked well, it was obvious that the tone bars were built like floor joists. You could take a dental mirror and look at the height/width of the tone bars and compare to a good-sounding mandolin. It may not end up being cheap, but cheaper than a new instrument anyway, and might work well if the tone bars are too heavy.