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Thread: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    I've recently had the opportunity to acquire a really amazing mandolin. However, I find that I'm struggling with right hand technique in a way I haven't before. Something about the way this instrument is configured makes it so that I have a hard time picking in the sweet spot just below the fretboard without damping the strings a bit with the heel of my palm. I have a McClung armrest on the instrument (I have used these armrests with all of my mandolins), but I find myself wishing it held my forearm higher off the top of the instrument. I should note that this mandolin has a flat fretboard (I'm primarily used to radius) and a pickguard (which I've never played with before). I've tried a bit of planting my pinky to try to keep my palm away from the strings, but I'm not used to this technique and it feels pretty awkward (and I'm not very good with it at this point).

    Any insights or tips?

    Thanks a lot!
    Thane Glenn

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    You may have to adjust your playing for this particular mandolin. Try taking off the pickguard. I would think that that would affect your right hand more than a radius fretboard. No one says you have to play with a pickguard.

    The only thing that usually affect my playing for some reason is the width of the fretboard. I prefer 1-1/8". I have one that is 1-1/4" and that throws me off. A thicker neck doesn't bother me much.

    BTW is there any reason you don't want to tell us what brand mandolin you acquired?
    Jim

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  4. #3
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    It’s hard to guess withour seeing you in action, but my initial reaction is to say I’d try angling the mandolin neck out from the left side of your body a bit more, to see if that relaxes the right shoulder & forearm. If you’re not trying to reach around the mandolin then you should be able to control the wrist and forearm more. Try to carry no weight of the upper arm which should allow you to let your elbow drop to your side and give more control.
    Eoin



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  6. #4

    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    Thanks for the thoughts! It's a Nugget A5 Jr (#277). I didn't consciously omit that info, but maybe subconsciously I didn't want to say anything that might reflect badly on the instrument. Certainly nothing wrong with the mandolin--just my technique in relation to it. I've been thinking about removing the pickguard. It's so beautiful (a wonderfully crafted piece of ebony) that I have wanted to really give it a fair shot playing with it on, but tone and playability trump all else, so I'll probably decide to take it off soon. Thanks!

  7. #5
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    Thane, judging from your post, you're already doing what you need to do - experimenting with adjustments to your playing style and technique. Honestly, that's the most important thing and that will carry you through. Just know that when you start to experiment (ex. "pinky planting" or "floating palm off the strings/bridge" or removing pickguard) your willingness to try a new technique will invariably be clumsy and not well executed at first. IMO it's usually unreasonable to think you can make a technique adjustment and pull it off immediately. So I'd say to keep experimenting, playing and practicing, and the less you worry about it the better. Your body will find the necessary micro-adjustments over time if you're not afraid to experiment and consequently to struggle a bit from time to time.
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  9. #6
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    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    Maybe you're more conscious of the sweet spot now, and wasn't always playing that close to it before?

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    Thanks! I'll try angling the neck out more and see if that helps.

  12. #8

    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    With this particular mandolin, I am picking closer to the end of the fretboard than I am accustomed to doing, simply because it makes such a notable difference in tone.

  13. #9

    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    Follow-up... Just to see what it would do, I cut a piece of Styrofoam and taped it to the top of my McClung armrest to see how it might change the feel of playing, and it actually made a huge difference. Is there anyone who makes custom armrests that might be able to craft one that sits extra high off the mandolin? Would the leverage of the extra height put too much pressure on the clamp? On some other Café threads, I've seen Spencer Oliver and Dan Voight mentioned, but I didn't see anything about possibilities of different heights. Thoughts? Thanks a lot!

  14. #10
    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    Time to sell. To me. For cheap

  15. #11
    Registered User Steve VandeWater's Avatar
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    Default Re: Right Hand Problem with New Mandolin

    *I'm not trying to sell anything here*
    I've made a couple of extra tall armrests for my personal use because my McClung felt too short. I had the same observation as you as to dampening the strings.
    One of them I accidentally sold with the mandolin it was on. The guy who bought it messaged me to say he really liked it and asked where I got it. That's why I made the second one: to replace the one I accidentally sold.
    I made them from a cherry board my brother had cut years earlier. The board is about an inch thick, so that's how tall it is compared to about 1/2" for the McClung.
    It was pretty easy to make. I'm sure you could do it. Only tools I used were a jigsaw and a dremel-type carver fitted with sanding drum.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Steve VandeWater; Feb-26-2018 at 7:09am.
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