The value of a good setup

  1. rcerbone
    I bought an Ibanez M522S from Guitar Center online during Covid and have been teaching myself to play - slowly. It's been a challenge and I have built up some really thick callouses. In fact, I could only play for about 30 minutes before my fingers were in pain. After reading some posts here about getting a good setup, I embarked on a journey to find a local luthier. I found Marc Glickman out of Frederick Maryland through the House of Musical Traditions in Tacoma Park. Marc does work on violins, badges and mandolins primarily. I dropped by instrument with him while I was away for a week on vacation. Wow! What a difference!

    Before the professional setup, I had some buzzing on the G and D strings, because the string pairs were too close together. The action was also almost 3x what it should have been. This is why I couldn't play for long periods of time, it really was hard to press and hold the strings because the tension was too high. Marc and his assistant refitted the bridge, lowered the action, respaced strings after restringing the instrument. It is like a whole new world, It is easy to play, not a chore like it had been prior to the professional setup. I now know what they mean by playability. I really cannot believe the difference. I am looking forward to playing the night away!

    My mandolin sounds great and I am not so anxious to buy a more expensive model. At the same time, my practice is more enjoyable. I highly recommend getting your mandolin setup, even if it is a beginner instrument, it makes a huge difference.

    I highly recommend Marc Glickman in Frederick. He is a straight shooter and made a world of difference in the playability of my beginner mandolin!
  2. HonketyHank
    Fine words of wisdom there, rcerbone.

    Some dealers will do a good setup free on an instrument they sell. Some won't. And some may say they will but they don't really know what they are doing. That's one reason I recommend Rob Meldrum's free ebook on cheap and easy DIY mandolin setup. Even if you don't want to do the work itself, it is important to know what is involved in a good setup, how it is done, and how to recognize what in particular needs to be done. And besides, the stuff Rob describes is cheap and easy if you want to tackle it yourself.

    Just send an email to with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).
  3. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    A good setup is more important than any other consideration on playability of an instrument.
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