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Thread: "Tight-playing" mandolin

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    Default "Tight-playing" mandolin

    I have a fine mandolin that's always felt a little "tight" to me when I play it, compared to some other mandolins of similar quality that seem to have a "loose" feel. It's hard for me to put into words what I mean by "tight-playing," but here's one thing I can describe. You know that sort of a flourish that can be applied at the end of a run or tune, kind of a very quick tremolo razzmatazz across all of the strings? Well, it's hard for me to do that on my mandolin, whereas it's much easier on some others I've played. I'd say in general the picking on my mandolin feels tight compared to some other mandos.

    My action is pretty low, so I don't think that's the problem. The mandolin is about five years old and well broken in, I'd say. I've tried different types of strings, but that doesn't seem to make a difference in what I'm talking about.

    Any ideas for loosening up a tight-playing mandolin?

  2. #2

    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    Sounds like heavy wood, less resonance, and sustaining.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    Mando-Toss, has your mandolin been inspected by a really good set up person? There may be some adjustments that can be made to help.

    To begin, how tall is your bridge?, How even is the plane of the strings as they come off the bridge? How much clearance between your strings and the first fret when fretted at the 3rd fret? What is your relief? You know, all that fiddly stuff.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    Well,isn't this strange !. I bought an 8 year old 'used' Lebeda "Special" 15 months ago. Compared to my Weber,the strings felt 'tight' in a funny way,not hard to fret, simply more 'positive' compared to my Weber Fern. Using 'slides' on the Lebeda were easier than on the Weber. About 6 months back i had the truss rod of the Weber,adjusted very slightly to bring the action down. There was only a half turn in it,but,immediately the action felt more 'firm',similar to the way my Lebeda played,which was exactly what i wanted. Over a couple of months,i found that the volume of the Weber had increased to quite a degree & now rivalled that of the Lebeda.
    Both Mandolins have an action a tad lower than 1/8" at the 12th fret & almost no 'relief' at all. They both play well & sound as good as i'll ever want.
    The reason i say it's strange,is that your wanting a 'loosened up' Mandolin.is exactly the opposite of my requirement for an 'up-tight' one. From my own experience,i'd procede with a bit of caution.It may be that like my 2 instruments,the 'tightness' that you describe,is what's giving your Mandolin it's current tone & volume. Have other players played your instrument - if they have,what was their verdict on it's being 'tight' ?,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

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    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    This might be completely off track, but how does the string length from bridge to nut compare to your other mandolins? You're probably already aware that different lengths necks/strings result in different string tensions.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    perhaps next string set change go a bit thinner, 11 to 10, 15 to 14 , 26 to 24 , 40 to 38 or 36 ..
    writing about music
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  7. #7

    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    Thanks for all the good replies. I haven't had a setup person look at the mandolin, but I'm considering that. I should also measure my string height, string length and compare with other mandolins. My mandolin is well made, very playable, and sounds great --it just seems a little tight. Not an issue of sound, but of feeling, sort of like the difference between wearing a new shoe and one that's been broken in.

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    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    Does your mando maybe have a radiused fretboard, and the others flat? I ask because you mention that a multi-string tremolo "flourish" is more difficult on your mando, and if the strings are at slightly different heights following a curved nut that might make a difference. (Strictly guessing, here, BTW.)

  9. #9
    Registered User rockies's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    When someone brings me an instrument and the complaint is it "feels tight" one of the first things I check as "part" of the setup is the nut slots. Most of the time I find the strings are not down to the proper height at the first fret. Find the mandolin that feels the best to you and with a feeler guage measure the clearance at the first fret pushing the string down ahead of the 2nd fret. Have a good repairman cut the slots for that same clearance on yours. I usually set that clearance on my mandolins at .003" to .004".
    Dave
    Heiden A, '52 Martin D-18, 2007 Martin 28-HD,

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Tight-playing" mandolin

    MTF - I really don't think that you have a problem / Quote - "My mandolin is well made,very playable, and sounds great" . Some pickers on here would kill for that ! (not literally of course). I do fully understand your point though. The first thing to do is forget other player's Mandolins.Whatever you measure isn't going to make your instrument like theirs. Concentrate on YOUR Mandolin & what works for IT.
    Here's what i would do - purely to see 'how things are' right now :-
    a) Ensure that the bridge is in the correct position - but if it's ''playing well & sounds great'' ,it already is.
    b) Check the neck relief. Weber told me that their 'factory' set-up aims for an almost 'flat' fingerboard.That's how my 2 instruments are,& i don't see that yours needs to be much different,unless you have a high fret or two.
    c) Check your action at the 12th fret for height. Unless you happen to like a high action,then 1/8" or a tad lower should be fine for most instruments.
    d) What string gauge are you using ?. Could you manage with a lighter gauge ?. I use J-74's. I've only had J-75's on an instrument 'as bought' & tight wasn't in it (for me).I thought that they were next to
    immoveable.
    I'm aware that there may be a few 'generalisations' in my points,but the majority of Mandolins are made to a well defined design, inc.scale length etc.,so the points i made should hold up for most instruments,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

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