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Thread: Having your mandolin set up

  1. #1
    mando31
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    I have a Morgan Monroe Rocky Top F style, and my question is what what exactly does a dealer do when you have your mandolin set up, and also, does it really make a big difference in the sound and the way the instrument plays? ALso, what is the normal cost associated with having your mandolin set up?

  2. #2
    Registered User jim_n_virginia's Avatar
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    A good setup is essential. If the mandolin is not set up correctly the action (string height)could be too high or low, the intonation will be off going up the neck. If the bridge is not seated properly on the top you won't get the optimum sound.

    A set up usually consists of making sure the bridge is in the right place and seated properly, adjusting the bridge for the right action in how you play. Checking the neck and adjusting truss rod if needed.

    And just checking the mandolin over to make sure everything is OK like the nut, frets etc.

    Usually if the Luthier has to work on anything else like fret leveling or working on the nut it is extra.

    The cost is different all over. Just make sure you go to a Luthier who is experienced in working on mandolins NOT the guitar tech at Guitar Center who will tell you "YEAH we do mandolin setups!"

    Around here in my area a setup will cost you around $50 if he/she doesn't have to work on anything else.

  3. #3
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    I would rather play a well set up Eastman than a poorly set up Loar (not that I have ) but I would rather own a poorly set up Loar.

    A good set up will make you mandolin easier to play, and enjoyable. You'll be able to use it to its full potential. A mandolin that's not set up well will have your fingers hurtin' and you wondering why you can't have it in tune right. A good set up is like riding a bike with tires full of air instead of flat.

    Jamie

    EDIT: I once had a Rocky Top mando that a high nut and bridge before I had it set up. IT was much more satisfying afterwards.



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  4. #4
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    A good setup will make all the difference and should consist of :

    - String change
    - Bridge adjustment for proper sound and intonation
    - Neck adjustment if necessary
    - Top cleaning
    - Action adjustment
    - Fret/fingerboard cleaning

    I would expect to pay around $60 plus strings for a good setup. I would also expect to leave the instrument for a few days to a week.

    Bring it to any boutique or high-end acoustic store that sells high quality small shop acoustic instruments (like a Mandolin Brothers or Elderly, whatever is in your area).

    Ask to meet with the technician that will do the setup to explain how you like to play (high/low action, string gauge, etc).

    Patrick
    "The majority of people are not so afraid of holding a wrong opinion as they are of holding an opinion alone."
    - Soren Kierkegaard

  5. #5
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    From a repairman's perspective I view a set up as whatever it takes to make the instrument play at it's best. That includes all the above mentioned points as well as fixing uneven frets, chasing down any rattles or buzzes, cleaning and lubricating the machines, checking for loose screws, making a physical inspection, and generally taking care of the instrument as it should be cared for, which is more than many owners do. Each one is a bit different and may well not not cost the same as the "previous" one or the next one.


  6. #6
    Mike Parks woodwizard's Avatar
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    I wonder ... how do you know if your mandolin is set up "as Michael Lewis mentions" to where it plays the best? I mean I think mine is just the way I like it and I think it's the best sounding one I've owned. Plays easy, great tone. But now I'm wondering if maybe it could be even better. I'm not unhappy with it by any means. Does that mean don't worry about it? Am I crazy? I live pretty far away from anyone I would trust to tweak it better anyway.
    I Pick, Therefore I Grin!

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    It aint rocket science, do it yourself.

    Dave H
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    One thing I do frequently is check the little tuner button screws, particulary on the south side. I have found them to unravel over time, and losing one would be a drag.

  9. #9
    Registered User jim_n_virginia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (AlanN @ Feb. 06 2008, 07:25)
    One thing I do frequently is check the little tuner button screws, particulary on the south side. I have found them to unravel over time, and losing one would be a drag.
    AMEN to that! I lost one on a friday night around a campfire picking at a Bluegrass festival!

    WHATTA PAIN!! Try tuning with pliers!

  10. #10
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    Woodwizard, if you are happy with the way your mandolin plays and sounds it probably is pretty close to as good as it can be. If you want to know for sure take it to someone you trust and have them look it over.

  11. #11
    mando31
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    Thanks for all the advice. I do have a great store in town, know them very well, and trust their advice. I think the only real problem I see is the action is a bit high, and I have a fret that's a bit too high. I'll take it in, but thought I'd ask your "expert" opinions first. Thanks!

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