View Full Version : 3rd string, 5th fret (G)

Jan-06-2006, 9:36am
Hello, everyone,
I'm one of the many, many, thousands ( http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif ) of people out there who got a mandolin for Christmas and while I'm not sure if my wife is trying to tell me something about my banjo picking, I love this instrument. I'm having a blast learning it and I feel like I'm picking it up fairly well.

I'm only having one problem that I haven't been able to work through: the third string at the 5th fret sounds absolutely awful. And there's a lot of songs in my Mandolin Primer that use that note all the time.

I feel like I'm fretting it properly as I have pretty good luck with the other strings (and some experience with other fretted instruments), but I feel like I'm doing something horribly wrong.

Is there some secret technique that I'm missing? I'm not sure of the strings I have, but should I have them checked and maybe switch to lighter gauge? So far I like the medium pick--would something heavier help?

Is this something every mandolinist is familiar with or does this point to set up problems? I'm almost certain it's my technique but do you have any tips or is it one of those things that just come with time?

Many thanks, and I appreciate your help (and patience with the avalanche of questions).


Jan-06-2006, 9:44am
I bet on the set up problem.
I suspect a set up with a fret level and re-crown will fix it.

Celtic Saguaro
Jan-06-2006, 5:24pm
I'd try moving your picking hand one way or the other from the spot where you have been picking. #Most mandolins have sweet spots to use the pick at and unfortunately some of them have sour spots as well. #If the bracing is tuned to one of the notes, or worse, tuned just off one of the notes, it can magnify any minor problems you may have with overtones from playing the strings at a particular position. #It's not necessarily your problem, but it might give you a very inexpensive fix.

Jan-06-2006, 6:01pm
Tighthead, is it only on the third string at the 5th fret? Check all the frets, strating on the G string going up fret by fret. Play the string fairly hard. They only reason I am asking because the truss rod(if there is one) may need adjusting.

But John is probably dead on there. My first mando(el cheapo) had the same problem.

And nop, doesn't sound like technique. The string is hitting the fret wire causing the buzz and just not too sweet of a sound. If there is an adjustable bridge, raise is up a bit and see if it goes away...that will give you a pretty good idea.

Jan-06-2006, 10:32pm
Evening, all
Thanks for all your suggestions. I tried moving my picking hand, no dice. I raised the action up to no avail. I lowered it down using a tip I read somewhere (not sure if it's good) to use a nickel at the 12th fret and have the strings just touching the nickel. That's about where it was when I got it.

I'm going to take it in to the music shop where my wife bought it--they're a small shop and seem to like to work with their customers.

In the meantime, though, I still can't shake the feeling that it's a technique thing. When I really go slow and sort of wedge the lower of the two strings under my fingernail, then I can get decent tone out of it. But when I just use the tip of my finger to fret the strings that's when I have my problems. Something similar happens, but not nearly as much, when I fret the 4th string from 3-5 or so. Could it be the thickness of the strings, and fretting two at a time, would cause this? It seems like I can't fix it--pressing harder doesn't work, and pressing 'lighter' doesn't work, either.

My wife says when she bought it the guy just pulled it off the wall and put it in a case for her. Would you suspect that the strings are just really old? Would really old strings cause this? This shop says that they set up every instrument in the shop before putting out for sale, but who knows how long this mandolin was sitting out there, eh? But then why would strings 1 and 2 sound good but 3 and 4 don't?

I really appreciate your help--I am having a great time learning this instrument but I'm starting to not want to practice because it sounds so terrible.

Martin Jonas
Jan-07-2006, 11:37am
Well, that latest bit does sound as if your mandolin urgently needs to have its setup checked by someone who knows what they are doing. I would also strongly recommend restringing with new strings. I would never trust a music shop, regardless of what they say, to have the instruments on display properly set up, and many mandolins have terrible strings put on for display.

If you're a banjo picker, you may well know some experienced mandolin pickers in your area. Ask them to help you with the setup, or ask them where they would bring it for setup. There is no point in learning a new instrument unless it's set up properly: learning is hard enough without struggling against your tools.

You haven't told us what make your instrument is. The lower-range Asian imports, in particular, often benefit dramatically from a good luthier setup.

If nothing else, you should urgently verify that your bridge is in the right position: many display mandolins have the bridge in entirely the wrong place, and you will never be able to play in tune without moving the bridge. You bridge is in the right place if the fretted note at the 12th fret is exactly one octave higher than the open string, for all four strings.


Jan-09-2006, 1:42pm
Sorry for the delay over the weekend.

The mandolin is an a-style made by Indiana, which I was somewhat surprised to learn is owned by the same company (SHS) that owns Morgan Monroe and Bean Blossom. I like it and it's been a great first mandolin, but it would probably be considered little more than a "mandolin shaped object" by those in the know.

Over the weekend I put a new set of strings on it, super light D'Addario J62's. I thought they would probably be too light for my liking, and I was right (especially the .034 G). But I wanted to see how lighter strings would affect the sound. I'll probably go to J74's after I play these for awhile.

I notice some difference in the buzzing so maybe there's something to it. The new strings are more enjoyable to play, that's for sure.

The shop my wife bought it from employs a guy named Chris Warner who I understand is a pretty good luthier who has played for Audie Blaylock and Redline, Jimmy Martin, Jim & Jessie, Del McCoury and others. I'll see if I can get him to take a look at it.

Many thanks for all the suggestions, and I'll post an update when I get some answers.


Jan-17-2006, 12:46pm
Wanted to take a minute to thank everyone for your suggestions.

I saw Chris Warner today and he said that the 5th fret was too high. He was able to fix it while I waited and now the only problem I have is my technique, but that I can fix (in time).

I was glad that he could fix it while I waited because I couldn't really bear the thought of being without it for more than a few hours. Chris is a nice guy and was very helpful and patient with me and I appreciate that as well.

Thanks again!