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Thread: Afterlength...

  1. #1
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Afterlength...

    ...is what fiddle players/builders call the string length between the bridge and the tailpiece fret (point of string contact). It is the vibrating length of the string behind the bridge. Much is made of getting this length correct; conventional wisdom/centuries of building experience says it should be 1/6 of the scale length. Most fiddles are in the 330 mm range, so the afterlength should be in the neighborhood of 55 mm. Apparently it affects the instrument's overall tone.

    So, on mandolins, the afterlength is often dampened to prevent unwanted vibrations with rubber grommets, leather strips or the wood nymph by Weber. I have not experimented enough to be able to hear any difference myself.

    Can anyone explain why the vibration of the afterlength is desired on a bowed instrument but not on a plucked one? Do any mandolin builders worry about afterlength dimension? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afterlength...

    There has been quite a bit about that in discussions here over the years. I thought quite a bit about it when I was designing my tailpiece, and concluded that it was impractical to make the tailpiece long enough to emulate the violin model and still have anything like a "traditional" appearance, though obviously a traditional appearance was not a major concern to me. The proportions were a consideration, though. The visual distance from fingerboard to bridge and tailpiece to bridge, how the f-holes interact visually with the tailpiece and so forth.

    "Can anyone explain why the vibration of the afterlength is desired on a bowed instrument but not on a plucked one?"

    Simply put, it's because of the bow. Bowed notes can be sustained almost indefinitely, but plucked mandolin notes are of fairly short duration. Any benefit gained from the 1/6 scale length doesn't have much time to show up in a plucked mandolin note. Also, when a note is sustained with a bow, the afterlength of the strings doesn't "ring over" after the note like it does with plucked mandolin notes, and especially chop chords. When bluegrass players want a percussive chop chord, they usually want it very concise, and they don't want the stings to ring after the chop no matter what the afterlength is.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Afterlength...

    That may be true on a bowed instrument but on a plucked one it doesn`t seem to make any difference...A Martin guitar doesn`t have any space between the bridge and a tailpiece (which it doesn`t have), also when playing guitars, dobros or banjos for that matter a capo would change that overall distance and the 1/6 of the scale length would not enter into it anymore....

    Sometimes people can get too technical it seems....but it is interesting....

    Willie

  4. #4
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afterlength...

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    A Martin guitar doesn't have any space between the bridge and a tailpiece (which it doesn't have)...
    .
    ph

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  5. #5
    Registered User TijnBerends's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afterlength...

    On my bouzouki and mandola, I don't have any trouble with the afterlength making any sound. On the banjo however, if I don't dampen those bits of string, the instrument sounds like crap. Probably due to the extremely light bridge, and the fact that a banjo's skin moves a lot ore than a soundboard, the effects of the (horribly out-of-tune) afterlength get a lot stronger.
    Also, I recently noticed that when I make a "snap" chords on the bouzouki (at the end of a song, one last loud chord and then end it by placing my hand on the strings quickly), the bits of string between the nut and the tuning machines (the forelength?:p) sometimes sound a bit. Maybe I'll have to dampen thsoe too.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Afterlength...

    Thanks Paul, After posting that I remembered that I had saw some older Martins with a tailpiece, probably still make some too, I was thinking only of the Drednaughts....My boo-boo...

    Willie

  7. #7
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Afterlength...

    Lots of mandolinners don't dampen the "afterlength". Some because its not a problem, and others because its not a problem to them.
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