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Thread: Beginner Mandolin help?

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    Default Beginner Mandolin help?

    Hi! I'm a high school junior living in a little town on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I've played violin (classically) for 2 years and recently started playing more fiddle tunes thanks to a friend of mine. I've really been enjoying it so I've been saving my money from work for a mandolin. It happens that my parents surprised me with an Ivory Ibanez M510E A style mandolin. While I know its not top of the line, I'm excited to learn the mandolin but I have a few questions.

    Upon further inspection I noticed nicks and rust on the strings that my parents were unaware about. I ordered 80/20 Elixir medium phosphor bronze strings (I've been told they won't work with my pickup but will have better acoustic?)

    Being experienced with violin I know the bridge must match the top and I've sanded my own violin bridges. Should mandolin bridges be fit? The one on currently I can see light through (which is bad for a violin).

    I've heard several opinions on oiling fret boards?

    I don't know anyone who can work on my instrument local so I just plan on doing it myself. (Yes I know a professional should do it) Does anyone have any suggestions on the earlier questions? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Greetings. As long as your mandolin will hold tune and is comfortable to play, you've got a good one. Check out this thread on setting up your mandolin: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...Meldrum-E-Book

    And as far as I know, Elixirs are fine to use with a pickup. I used to use them on my guitar when I played out a lot with a pickup. No problems.

    I usually oil up my fingerboard with lemon oil, but last time I realized I had run out and used the olive oil from our kitchen. Worked.
    ...

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    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Yes, Welcome Sam!
    With your experience in setting up your violins it seems like you should easily be able to make it work. I too hope the one you have is a great starter for you. It will be cool to hear back froom you on our findings after you get it set up.
    We look forward also to seeing a few videos. Your skills on the violin should transfer well. Enjoy!
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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Yes. You'll want the top of you're instrument and bridge to fit without any space between.

    I like to try and run a piece of paper between the bridge and top while strung up. If it slips in than I take off the strings, place a piece of sand paper on the top (tape it down with painters tape) and sand the bottom of the bridge to cause a nice fit. It will help your tone and playability.

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    What Zach said.

    I have an Ibanez 510 Iíve been using for travel. I have those same Elixir strings on it. The original strings are garbage. If set up well, it plays easy and sounds pretty darn good. I use a Dunlop Primetone pick on it. Oiling the board is OK imho. Have fun with it.

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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Playability is what you need to be most concerned with in an entry level mandolin. Rob Meldrun's set up book , as recommended above, with get your mandolin there. As Zach wrote fitting the bridge feet to the mandolin top will give a boost to your instruments tone. Welcome to the cafť and enjoy your journey in fifths .... advice .. a pick is not a bow ....R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Welcome to Mandolin Cafe! Nothing to add to the above, just wanted to give you a shout.
    New to mando? Click this link -->Newbies to join us at the Newbies Social Group.

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

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    en kunnskapssÝker James Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zach Wilson View Post
    Yes. You'll want the top of you're instrument and bridge to fit without any space between.

    I like to try and run a piece of paper between the bridge and top while strung up. If it slips in than I take off the strings, place a piece of sand paper on the top (tape it down with painters tape) and sand the bottom of the bridge to cause a nice fit. It will help your tone and playability.
    Am guessing with a slight space in there it could cause odd noises?
    ē Seagull S8 ē Weber Y2K6 ē David Hudson Bloodwood Didgeridoo (C#) ē

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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Welcome to the world of mandolin! You've gotten great advice; the cafe is a great resource. The setup is the most important thing for getting started: bridge fit, bridge height, bridge placement for intonation and the nut slots cut to the right depth for comfortable action. All these things will be covered in Meldrum's book and there are also many excellent online sources with pics and/or videos to help you. The main differences between mandolin and violin setup are: bridge height adjustment, a beefier nut that is probably not cut deep enough from the factory, and a truss rod. Take your time and be careful with the setup and you should do just fine.

    Enjoy the journey and don't be a stranger here. Happy New Year!
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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Also, setting up the intonation is very important on a mandolin (and other fretted instruments) so each fret plays the right note when tuned. I like to check this by tuning the string, fretting that string at the 7th fret, fretting that string at the 12th fret and making sure all those notes are in tune. The distance between the nut and the 12th fret should be equal to the distance between the 12th fret and the bridge. You'll have to make small adjustments to your bridge (either forward or backward) to 'dial' your intonation in.

    Also, also, welcome! It's good to have you here.

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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Thanks everyone and Happy New Years!

    Caleb: I'm glad to know Elixir strings work! From their reviews they seemed the best. I'll be sure to pick up some lemon oil!
    Eric: There are some pretty decent videos of me playing violin but will definitely be some mandolin videos once I figure out what I'm doing.
    Zach: That's how I fit violin bridges so I'll get to to work on that. Setting the intonation isn't something I thought too much about. Thanks for bringing that up I'll be sure to watch for that.
    Mike: Glad to know that Ibanez plays! I placed an order for Dunlop picks when I ordered my strings!
    UsuallyPickin: I'm going to struggle a bit adjusting to not having that bow!
    Hank: Hey! Thanks!
    Mark: I'll be careful. I definitely won't be a stranger because I know I'm going to have a whole lot of questions.

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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Lots of good set up info at frets.com as well. Welcome!
    Chuck

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    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Welcome! Setup is key! Use the method in Rob Meldrum's e-book and you'll be good to go!
    I prefer D'addario EFW74 flatwound strings for use with a magnetic pickup.
    https://www.stringsandbeyond.com/dmaflme11fw.html
    The G and D strings are wound with stainless steel and will have better response than bronze wound strings that you'll have with the Elixir, or most other acoustic mandolin strings.

    You can also get a good set of nickel steel strings from emando.com
    http://emando.com/shop/strings8.htm

  16. #14
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Welcome to the board and to the world of mandolins. First of all, I congratulate you on having the courage to attempt to change strings and work on your instrument. Lots of folks are intimidated at first, but it's really no big deal. At the very least, a player should be able to change the strings, set the intonation, and inspect the instrument for other problems; such as a bowed neck.

    The only other advice I would give you is to look closely at the nut and tuners when you change the strings. I usually change the strings one pair at a time. With the strings off, the tuners should turn easily and not be in a bind. If they are, let us know and we can possibly help. Also, the strings should fit into the grove on the nut, and not bind. Sometimes a little but of pencil lead can help lubricate the nut and that helps the instrument to stay in tune.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    welcome to both the mandolin and the cafe! the only other thing i'll offer is you'll need to change strings way more than with a violin -- like every two, three or four months, depending on weather and how acidic your fingers are. And the pick goes down up down up down up; best to start out the right way from the beginning. you're in for a great time!
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Thanks everyone! My strings and picks arrived tonight so Iíll probably work on setting it up tommorow. One thing about the string replacement (if anyone happens to see this). I live like right on the ocean and I typically change my violin strings about every 3-4 months (I play roughly 3 hours a day indoors and 1-2 hours outside oops). Should I change mandolin strings even sooner? Iíll probably order a spare set of strings soon (I plan on getting a different set so I can compare) because I know I lose quite a few E strings on a violin so Iím expectig the same with the mandolin. Hopefully not.

  19. #17
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    I play about 1 hour a night on weekdays and 2-3 hours a night on weekends. I change my strings every other month. I don't like the sound of brand new strings though. I keep a number of sets around.

    Here's a link for some simple setup advice from Weber... but it works on all mandolins.

    https://webermandolins.com/support/playability

  20. #18
    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    I play about the same as Zach and go about 3 months on a set. I probably should change more often, but it is such a pain.

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    Registered User George R. Lane's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Just wanted to say hi, HI
    2010 Weber Yellowstone

    I maybe wrong, but it is highly doubtful.

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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Thanks! So Iím cutting down this bridge (so far Iím pretty happy with it, not perfect yet but a little longer!) I oiled the rosewood and thatís looking great, another bridge question. Where the bridge is also made of rosewood, should they be oiled? And if so why? (I have no idea the question just hit me) Also, is there any possible way to fix a too loose tuner?
    Last edited by Sam_Renee; Jan-03-2018 at 4:54pm. Reason: Another question

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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Welcome to our wild, wacky world. You have a tremendous leg up with knowing the violin/fiddle. You will have gobs of fun, sore fingers, frustration and joy. Best of luck.

  24. #22
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    So I want to thank everyone for their advice! I just finished the setup today! It took me longer than expected but with this snowstorm Iím glad it gave me something to do. The action is still pretty high but my bridge matches the curve of my mandolin perfectly so I donít know if Iíll change it anytime soon (the bridge is adjusted all the way down). Iím loving how loud it is now and I seem to find myself playing more with the rounded end of a pick than the point? The calluses on my fingers from the violin seem to be holding up alittle but I can feel them start to get tender again. So far Iíve been able to pick out Summertime (Gershwin), Amazing Grace, the mandolin part from Maggie May, and alittle bit more but I plan to properly learn to read tabs. Just gotta find a good one for Wildwood Flower.

  25. #23

    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Good advice from everyone here. In the past when the action was too high on a bridge that was well-fitted to the top, I have removed the top part of the bridge and sanded a millimetre or two off of the underside, where the two bridge halves meet. This gives you a little more adjustability in a downward direction, lowering the action. Sometimes when you do this the heads of the screw posts stick out of the bridge top, creating a sharp, rough point to interfere with your right hand. If that happens, be sure that the screw posts are screwed as far into the bottom half as they will go, then use a file to smooth off the tiny piece that still sticks out of the top of the bridge.

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  27. #24
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    A lot of mandolin music includes tab and the internet is your friend for sheet music ... but i'll just suggest that you might consider learning to read standard notation on the mandolin from the beginning -- I sort of assume you already read standard notation for the violin -- If nothing else, you can use the music you already have hanging around since they're tuned the same. Much more music is in standard notation than in tab and, ergo, easier to get what you want. my 2 cents.
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    Default Re: Beginner Mandolin help?

    Don't worry now about differences in oval or f holes, flat or radiused boards, thin or thick frets. You just need a well built, well setup mandolin that will be worth keeping when you upgrade. The KM 150 bought from our sponsors meet all those criteria.

    Later, having spent time playing, you will have a reference as to the direction you want to go, and own a mandolin you can take camping.
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