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Thread: Develping good tone

  1. #1

    Default Develping good tone

    I am curious, does anyone have recommendations for getting the best tone out of the mandolin? I am curious about things like how the strings are struck, pick types, how the pick is held, the angle that it strikes the strings, the grip etcetera. I could also add a series of questions about the fretting hand, all with the goal of getting the maximum quality tone out of the instrument.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Try reading past posts on the Mandolin Cafe! There are countless threads on the subject of your question, which is not a new one. Strings, picks, and playing technique have been all been discussed at length. You have some homework to do! Don't worry: it will make for some entertaining reading.

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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Yes, every aspect of tone bone has been discussed here, by many strong peeps. Grab a cuppa jo' and go to town.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Develping good tone

    I have been. I spent a lot of time reading about pick choices, especially from classical mandolinists. Now my heads hurts!

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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian560 View Post
    ... Now my head hurts!
    Especially because here comes the eternal "Yeah, but ..."

    Yeah, but you're not gonna get six folks around here to agree on what "good" tone actually is! Maybe if you specified good bluegrass tone, or good classical tone, or old-time, or Celtic, gypsy, new age, disco (!), you might get some agreement on what the recognized typical tones are, but any single "good" is just way too subjective for a finger-typed discussion like this.

    I suggest concentrating on, and maybe asking about, some almost-recognized "standard" that you'd like to match, like maybe a "Bill Monroe" tone. Meanwhile, I'll get back to arranging the break on that last Iron Maiden tune ...
    - Ed

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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Time in the chair....and don't rush anything. You'll know your tone when you find it. Regardless of instrument, strings, picks.

    Have fun.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Develping good tone

    This is helpful for how to hold the pick.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdhVC0DzfFY&t=93s

  9. #8
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    1) A good sounding mandolin (personal preferences abound)
    2) Good strings (I think EXP74s rock, but opinions vary per person, and per instrument).
    3) A great pick (IMHO at least 1.5mm, and BlueChip if possible. (See countless pick threads for dissenting opinions)
    4) Learn the correct way to hold a pick and strike the string at a proper angle (See the countless references here or on videos)
    5) Learn to play with a floating right hand (IMHO the weight of the hand behind the pick makes for better tone).
    5) Play a lot, so that you become comfortable with all of the above.
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    A nugget I got from Lou Martin long ago:

    Let your right and left hands hang for that ancient tone.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Lots of ways to change the tone:
    String material
    String guage
    Type, i.e., round or flat wound
    Pick material
    Pick thickness
    Pick shape
    Grip tension
    Pick location (toward bridge or nut)
    Pick angle to string
    Depth of pick striking string

    And probably other factors.

    But good tone is ONLY in your ear, unless you can't tell which way the wind blows. And if you could maintain that tone across tempos and volume, I'm sure you'd be a very fine player, if you're not already.
    Play it like you mean it.

  12. #11

    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Yeah, I know everyone won't agree on good tone. Sometimes I do get a good sound with a dead note sounding in the middle of a measure. I am trying not to think of the mandolin as a little guitar, and guess that attacking double strings has its own technique. One of the things that got me to ask the question was watching a small video of a classical mandolinist playing, that style was totally different from guitar.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Sometimes I do get a good sound with a dead note sounding in the middle of a measure.
    How's your fretting hand? Mandolin is a lot more critical than guitar on finger placement and timing between the hands, The proper fingering is different than guitar and should be like a violin, with fingers more laid down in line with the strings rather than the tips of the fingers. Getting both strings in the pair pressed down is sometimes an issue also.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian560 View Post
    was watching a small video of a classical mandolinist playing, that style was totally different from guitar.
    Yep.
    Indulge responsibly!

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    sometimes it helps to buy another mandolin!

    f-d
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Good technique both left and right hands. A quality instrument with a good setup. A search through available picks and strings to find your ear's "perfect" accommodation. Time putting these disparate elements together. Read, listen, play both with others and alone and be patient all while remaining hungry for the next step...... It can last the rest of your life. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Brian - Being able to produce a 'good tone' on a mandolin is a journey in itself. So many factors effect the tone of the mandolin as an 'entity'. String brand / gauge - pick material / thickness / shape - you can spend a couple of years experimenting with those alone to produce the tone that you like from your specific mandolin. Then it's down to your playing style ie. how you hold the mandolin / how you hold the pick in relation to the strings / where on the strings do you play ie.over the fingerboard = a more mellow tone / close to the bridge = a brighter,more stacatto tone.

    Other than that,it's down to practice - it's as simple as that,
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Often thinking more of how and when you release the notes will dramatically improve the quality of sound and overall musicality of a piece. Think of how, when and whether you lift each finger. You mention the dead note between the others. This can be caused by removing the finger too early through a lack of confidence that you'll get to the next note in time. It can also be due to removing the finger when there's no need to do anything at all with that finger & it could just as well stay put. Have a think about playing some familiar pieces, but do them leaving each finger fretting as lond as you can and lifting them cleanly but without tension.
    Another part of good tone is fretting as lightly as you can which helps avoid tension in the palm of the hand, enabling more legato releases and more relaxed movement and placement of the fingers.
    Basically a relaxed, leisurely left hand should be the aim, even while your right hand is going at 90 to the dozen.
    Eoin



    "Forget that anyone is listening to you and always listen to yourself" - Fryderyk Chopin

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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
    A nugget I got from Lou Martin long ago:

    Let your right and left hands hang for that ancient tone.
    TBH I'm not sure what ancient tone is, but I've been using this trigger to remind myself to to relax my hands and it works bigley. thx for sharing

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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    I have never been a particularly good guitar player, but I have manged to get lots of 'Wow' reactions from people, simply based on my tone. I think UsuallyPickin pretty much hit the nail on the head in post #15. Essentially, do LOTS of experimenting and someday you will find your self suddenly surrounded by a glorious sound that is coming from your own hands. As a guitar player, it took me about 17 years to find that tone . . . but as a bass player and mandolinist, it still eludes me . . . .
    Five mandolins, ten electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, one electric bass, two lap steel guitars, one ukulele, one electric keyboard, a handful of percussion instruments . . . zero talent.

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Something that I think doesn't get said enough, and what I have to periodically remind myself of, is to keep the fretting fingertips down on the string longer, until you're ready for the next note. I so often tend to pull off of the note just a tiny bit too early and lose a lot of good tone because I'm being impatient.
    Just a tiny thing.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”

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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Sometimes I'm playing and I think, "Why does my tone suck today?" and then I realize I'm in a different room, or turned away from the wall or near the ceiling fan or any of a large number of factors. My mando sounds better to me in some rooms than others. I read to try playing in front of a smooth surface and see the difference. Just sayin, if someday you wonder why your tone sucks, maybe it's because you are playing in a different place.
    Eastman MD-315

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    Registered User MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Quote Originally Posted by talladam View Post
    Sometimes I'm playing and I think, "Why does my tone suck today?" and then I realize I'm in a different room, or turned away from the wall or near the ceiling fan or any of a large number of factors. My mando sounds better to me in some rooms than others.
    Excellent point - especially in summer when fans, air conditioning window units or any other 'white noise' machinery are running, it might seem like some of the tone spectrum has suddenly disappeared.
    Five mandolins, ten electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, one electric bass, two lap steel guitars, one ukulele, one electric keyboard, a handful of percussion instruments . . . zero talent.

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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Yeah, but you're not gonna get six folks around here to agree on what "good" tone actually is!...
    This is a huge issue. The warm creamy gibsonny sound bluegrassers crave is too deep thungy for classical, in my opinion. For classical I like the higher scintillating tones, which for bluegrass are too brassy.

    But I find that this can be accomplished with a pick change. I go from a 1.4mm triangular to a 0.75mm pointy and, for how I hold an how I play, it accomplishes the transition.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  27. #24
    Troy Shellhamer 9lbShellhamer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Develping good tone

    I like using a larger pick, like a CT55 bluechip.

    I like doing exercises to find tension in my forearms. I start slowly playing a scale or arpeggio or tune. I speed it up on the metronome 5 or 10 bpm at a time.

    When you find tension start to show up, work to free that tension. Slow the metronome down and speed it back up.

    Tension kills speed and tone.

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  28. #25

    Default Re: Develping good tone

    If you are a beginner it's probably a simple matter of making sure your fretting hand is pressing cleanly and precisely and that your picking hand and fretting hand are synchronized.

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