Got my new mandolin today, string spacing

  1. CMB
    Hi, everyone. I'm new to the forum. A month or so ago I posted a question looking for advice in picking out a first mandolin, then lo and behold I was given a free oneóno indication of the model, I assume it's worth $100 new. The free mandolin is a Hohner, and I've been practicing about 20 mins a day on it. Last week I ordered an Eastman MD505 from Elderly. It just came today and I like it a lot. (It's a small thing, but it smells awesome!)

    One thing I noticed immediately is that the two G-strings on the Eastman are spaced out quite a bit more than on the Hohner. In fact, if I use my pinky, sometimes the strings seem to separate and my pinky goes down between them onto the fretboard. I suppose the folks at Elderly know what they're doing and I should just wait and see if I get used to it and like it better? The free Hohner I was given probably shouldn't be used as a touchstone! Still, I'm a little concerned, so I figured I'd ask about it here. I took pics to compare the two:

    Hohner image:

    Eastman image:

    What do you think?
  2. NDO
    That DOES seem a bit wide…it might impact the ability to barre an A chord with one finger. It might be worth a call to Elderly.
    My MD605 has the opposite issue, the G strings are a bit to close together. If I ever take it to a luthier I’ll have it re-cut but it really hasn’t affected playability at all. But it does cause some buzzing when the strings occasionally touch.
  3. SOMorris
    The spacing looks a little wide to me also, CMB. It could be that when they strung the mandolin while working on the setup, one of the G strings wound up mis-located on the saddle, or even got pushed out when they were packing the mandolin. The small grooves aren't real deep and it would be easy to get one pushed out of the groove. If that is the problem it would be an easy fix for you.
  4. CMB
    Thanks, all. I'll give them a call. I don't live anywhere near Lansing, MI, so I hope they can help me fix it over the phone.
  5. HonketyHank
    Yeah, a little wider than usual is better than closer together than usual but that looks a little wider than a little wide. Some luthiers do like to put them a bit far apart in case the player likes to play LOUD. And like SOMorris said.

    To look on the bright side, it will help teach you correct hand position so that your fingertips come straight down on the strings.

    I suspect Elderly will bend over backwards to make things right. What that might be, I don't know. But now is a great time to get a copy of Rob Meldrum's free Mando Setup ebook if you haven't already in case you end up having to cut a new nut.
  6. CMB
    I do have Rob's ebook, but I honestly just want it set-up right so I don't mess anything up. The G strings look a tad wider than the other strings on the nut, but the spacing between each of the pairs on the nut looks consistent—it might just look wider because the strings themselves are thicker. Maybe the spacing could be fixed if one of the G strings was moved over a little on the bridge, because at the bridge the G strings are obviously further separated than the other pairs. At some point I want to go through Rob's ebook to do a setup of the free Hohner I have. I think that'd be a good instrument to practice on.
  7. TTT
    Hi @CMB
    I have an Eastman 504 and I just had it adjusted to make the strings closer and have a lighter set put on. Has made a world of difference - I was hitting a wall in what I was able to do.
    Highly recommend you have a good luthier set it up properly for you
  8. CMB
    I purchased the mandolin from Elderly for the pro set-up. Perhaps it was bumped when it was packaged or in shipping? I don't know. I'll call them next week.
  9. TTT
    I thought I'd post a photo of what my strings looked like before and after the setup.

    I couldn't match up the images perfectly and the angle is different, but it should give a pretty good idea of the improvement in string spacing.

    Note right at the dot, the D string no longer touches it. And you should be able to notice a big change with the G strings. Before my finger would go right between them And I found myself pushing the D strings together in order to get a good tone on an upstroke.

    Such a tiny difference, but it really made a difference for in holding down both strings, picking and strumming and upstrokes. I also had a lighter set of of strings which made a world of difference.

    I'm guessing set up is different for everyone. For instance, the place I bought mine from (mail order) sent me a video of the luthier playing the instrument and he had no problems with it. But I could tell he was a bigger guy than me and obviously more experienced, so the set up was likely fine for him.

    Elderly has a good reputation, I don't think they did anything wrong. Same for the place I bought mine from in August. But it was worth it to me to have it set up specifically for me.

    Good luck!
  10. CMB
    That's instructive, TTT - the idea that a setup can benefit from being individual-specific. I think mine is setup fine except the spacing between the G strings. And I'm so new to this, I suppose I wouldn't know the difference yet anyway. Give it some time and I'll develop some personal opinions.

    I do have a new question now, though. Sometimes part of my left hand, or the base of my index finger, rubs up against and mutes one of my E strings. I went ahead and compared the distance from the edge of the neck to the string and the new Eastman is closer to the edge than the free Hohner. That must be why I didn't experience this problem with the Hohner. Maybe I'm holding the neck incorrectly?
  11. HonketyHank
    Nice visual aid, TTT. Pretty dramatic difference.

    CMB: I think most of us have had and sometimes still have the problem you describe. One video that helped me a lot was Pete Martin's freebies on left hand and pinkie technique where he emphasizes hand position that will allow you to fret with fingertips straight down perpendicular to the face of the fretboard.

    They are here: .

    ps: I tried a wider nut mandolin for a while but that didn't really help a whole lot. Maybe a little. But I do know I have less of a problem now compared to when I started out and I am using a mandolin with standard 1-1/8" nut.
  12. CMB
    Thanks, HonketyHank - I'll check out these videos!
  13. HonketyHank
    I just realized another coupla things that can influence how well you can fret one course and get a decent tone out of the adjacent course.

    Nut slot height - as low as possible without any buzzing.
    Finger pressure when fretting - as light as possible while still getting a clean tone.
  14. CMB
    I've watched all those videos, except the last one (on the pinky) so far.

    I have noticed buzzing on my G string, too. My free Hohner seems to do it more, but it happens on the Eastman, too. I'm not sure what causes that--even when I'm very careful about my finger placement on the frets, it still happens. Should there be no buzzing at all if it's setup correctly? Or will there always be the potential for a little buzzing?

    Hopefully I'll have time to call Elderly next week.
  15. SOMorris
    I am a newbie player (likely always will be) so take this with a grain of salt. That being said, I think if you have a buzz when you are careful about finger placement, it is a problem with setup. You might need to raise the bridge just a fuzz.
  16. HonketyHank
    I think the lower pitched strings need more room to vibrate than the higher pitch strings. So it is normal to have raise the bass side a bit higher than the treble side to avoid a buzzy G string.
  17. CMB
    I called Elderly today. They suggested I find a luthier to check it over and, if any repair work is done, to have that communicated from the luthier back to Elderly.

    How do I find a respectable mandolin luthier? I live in Raleigh, NC.
  18. HonketyHank
    There should be good mandolin luthiers around in the Raleigh area. Me, I would call somebody who is well known for selling good mandolins. Like maybe MandoMutt (Kevin Douglas), over in Graham, NC. He's gotta either do good mandolin luthier work or he knows who does.
  19. CMB
    Great, thanks for the tip - I've got an email out to MandoMutt!
  20. CMB
    MandoMutt is not a luthier and doesn't know of any in the area. But I found an old forum post that recommends Hanson and Crawford (now in Durham), so I've got an email out them.
  21. JeffLearman
    I highly recommend Hanson and Crawford, who did quite a bit of work for me, back when they were located in Raleigh. They're now in Durham, which is nice since that's where I live. I've been meaning to give them a visit with some new work. Sadly, all the work they did for me in the past was lost when our house burned in one of the CA fires. Fortunately that was not a tragedy, just a loss of things. Some treasured things, but just things. And a tip of the hat to AAA insurance who did us solid.

    H&C were recommended to me by a pro mando/fiddle player and I've since heard best recommendations for them from people whose opinions I trust. The work they did for me included a neck reset of a hand-made archtop where the neck joint was "novel" (a great instrument built by one of the guys who stayed in Kalamazoo after Gibson left) plus neck reset of a 30-yr-old Martin DH28 (paid for by the factory) plus other work on that, and bridge/saddle work on a Guild classical built in the 60's. All results matched my highest hopes. They also educated me on a few things; some of the repairs I thought were necessary turned out to be fixed different ways because the underlying problems weren't quite what I thought.
  22. CMB
    Thanks for the info, Jeff. I've got an appointment with H&C set for the beginning of March (yeah, they're booked out that far), and Elderly is fine with that. In the meantime, I've just been practicing as I'm completely new to playing.
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