Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 48

Thread: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Arkansas
    Posts
    52

    Default Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Former electric lead guitar player, but I saw the light.

    I've been trying to play mandolin about 3 months now, and I'm having trouble getting what I consider a "good sound". I'm unsure if it's my playing technique, my instrument (admittedly, one of the cheapest ones from Elderly) my setup, or perhaps even my recording technique. Please listen (about 50 seconds) and offer me some advice?


  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,900

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    In my opinion, the good news is that basic musicianship is not a problem. Your phrasing, execution and time seem good. The tone you're getting does sound a bit brittle and buzzy. The first thing I'd want to know is what you're using for a pick. We tend to use MUCH heavier picks that you would use for electric guitar (which I play as well). It's not uncommon to use a rounder vs. pointier pick as well. It's hard to tell if you might be hitting the strings too hard but I'm thinking that's not the case. If you're playing close to the bridge, you may want to move a lot closer to the neck as well.

    I'm also curious about action and string gauge. Mandos just don't feel like a Les Paul with Super Slinkies on it. You may need to have a higher action than you might initially like. I'd get a good mando tech to check your instrument over (People who can work wonders with guitars may not be so good with mandolins) and check the frets, nut slots, neck relief, etc.

    So, I don't think your PLAYING is bad but your instrument might need some help. Good luck!
    Steve

  3. The following members say thank you to Steve L for this post:

    Erok 

  4. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Central Illinois
    Posts
    2,354

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    I think you are doing fine ! At three months I was playing Twinkle, twinkle ! And not good !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain

  5. The following members say thank you to yankees1 for this post:

    Erok 

  6. #4
    acoustically inert F-2 Dave's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Halfway, MO
    Posts
    1,997

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Sounds ok to me, especially for just being three months in. Practice and patience.
    "Mongo only pawn in game of life." --- Mongo

  7. The following members say thank you to F-2 Dave for this post:

    Erok 

  8. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Conneaut Lake, PA
    Posts
    3,489

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    You call that bad? Lots of people would aspire to sound that good! Most of your notes sound clean with a characteristic tone. Occasionally, there is a “missed” note that doesn’t sound clean.

    It’s hard to offer advice when all we do is hear you without seeing you. How did you learn mandolin? On your own, or with lessons? Describing yourself as a former lead electric guitar player offers some clues, perhaps. A lot of players who switch from guitar to mandolin p,ay it like it’s a little guitar, which it’s not. One common problem is pressing on the fret board too hard. I call players like that “grinders” because they wear away frets like crazy. I bought a mandolin once from a “grinder” that had serious groves in the first five frets after only a few month. Fortunately for me there was still enough that re-level and dress took are of it. Make certain you are using a light touch. Just enough pressure to fret cleanly, and absolutely no more than that. Actual contact with the wood of the fret board is not necessary or desirable. Also, most guitar players try to finger the frets like they did on the guitar, with left hand fingers at a right angle to the fret board. It is much better rotate your left wrist so that your fingers are aporoaching the fret with “above” the fret. Think of the fingertip pointing towards the fret. Rather than being a little guitar, I have found it more useful to think of the mandolin as a violin that you pluck. Violin fingering technique serves mandolin very well, in my opinion.

    Am I right, that you mandolin has laminate back and sides? I have played those models and didn’t think much of the tone at all. You really do get much better sound from an all solid body instrument. You just do. Something like a Kentucky KM-150 is an affordable all solid, all carved option.That instrument limits what you can achieve tone wise. If I am wrong, and you do have an all solid model there, my apologies.
    Don

    Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    Weber Bitterroot A
    Fender Octave Mandolin

  9. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Arkansas
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    You call that bad? Lots of people would aspire to sound that good! Most of your notes sound clean with a characteristic tone. Occasionally, there is a “missed” note that doesn’t sound clean.

    It’s hard to offer advice when all we do is hear you without seeing you. How did you learn mandolin? On your own, or with lessons? Describing yourself as a former lead electric guitar player offers some clues, perhaps. A lot of players who switch from guitar to mandolin p,ay it like it’s a little guitar, which it’s not. One common problem is pressing on the fret board too hard. I call players like that “grinders” because they wear away frets like crazy. I bought a mandolin once from a “grinder” that had serious groves in the first five frets after only a few month. Fortunately for me there was still enough that re-level and dress took are of it. Make certain you are using a light touch. Just enough pressure to fret cleanly, and absolutely no more than that. Actual contact with the wood of the fret board is not necessary or desirable. Also, most guitar players try to finger the frets like they did on the guitar, with left hand fingers at a right angle to the fret board. It is much better rotate your left wrist so that your fingers are aporoaching the fret with “above” the fret. Think of the fingertip pointing towards the fret. Rather than being a little guitar, I have found it more useful to think of the mandolin as a violin that you pluck. Violin fingering technique serves mandolin very well, in my opinion.

    Am I right, that you mandolin has laminate back and sides? I have played those models and didn’t think much of the tone at all. You really do get much better sound from an all solid body instrument. You just do. Something like a Kentucky KM-150 is an affordable all solid, all carved option.That instrument limits what you can achieve tone wise. If I am wrong, and you do have an all solid model there, my apologies.
    Yes, it has laminate sides. But heck, many people sound great on mandolins even with laminate/pressed tops. I'm saving up for a better instrument, but I have what I have for now. I'm basically just learning by ear from mandolessons and other sources on youtube.

  10. #7
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    DFW, America.
    Posts
    2,859

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Clean notes (which is hard to do) but the tone is a little harsh (a lifelong endeavor that slowly gets better). But for three months, Iíd say youíre way ahead of the game.

    Iíve been playing about ten years (mainly grab a few minutes here and there and never very focused) and my right hand tone is probably better than my left hand execution. I think I have subconsciously worked on that because Iíve always been an acoustic tone junkie. But I still canít play very fast and likely wonít ever be able to.

    Youíre doing a great job.
    ...

  11. #8

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    I like your playing now..........time for a upgrade, treat yourself to a new Mandolin.
    Best/R

  12. #9
    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Chattanooga, TN
    Posts
    175
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    It really sounds quite "normal" for a mandolin, and I mean that in a good way. There are a few things I'd suggest from a technical perspective:
    • Sustain: Try to let the individual notes ring as long as possible. It sounds a bit like you're relying on your left hand to end notes early and create your attack, rather than letting your right hand do the work. Which leads me to.....
    • Pick attack: I find that most people get a more pleasing sound by using a slightly angled pick attack. The nature of mandolin amplifies pick noise much more than on electric guitar. Try angling your pick 15 degrees and/or getting a thicker, beveled pick.
    • Dynamics: Emphasizing the highs and lows of the phrase would go a long way toward making even a basic melody seem more "professional"

  13. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Drew Streip For This Useful Post:


  14. #10

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    I am also an electric lead guitar player, who has spent the last few years trying to become a passable mandolin player. From what I heard, you are doing great after only 3 months. But I understand your questions, and concerns about tone. I struggled with what I considered "thin" tone for quite a while. I have found that many things can contribute to this. For me, I wanted a warmer, dryer, more "woody" sound. I was playing a Pac-Rim mandolin (Eastman), and some of what I was hearing was just inherent in the instrument. I have upgraded a couple of times, and find that I have better luck with Weber or Gibson mandolins. But it's not all about the mandolin. As mentioned above, picks make a huge difference. I use Fender Heavy guitar picks, and they still aren't thick enough to sound good for mandolin. The mandolin picks I now use are probably twice that thick, and less pointy. And another thing I learned is to not let too much pick protrude through your fingers. Your pick doesn't need to go very deep into the strings, and your fingers that hold the pick should be almost touching the strings. Oh, and force yourself to make the pick hit the strings with no angle. This was a hard guitar habit for me to break.

    So, get a good mandolin pick, and work on your string attack technique. These will alter your tone. Use your ears, and take note of what sounds good. After a while, you will develop techniques that help you get the tone you are after. And when you get the chance, go and play some higher quality mandolins. It's good to hear the difference, even if it's only for future reference. The good thing about being an accomplished guitarist learning mandolin, is that you bring useful knowledge and finger control. The bad thing is that you also bring a seasoned ear, that understands great tone. That last part will eventually cost you.

  15. #11

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Not bad at all...

    That said, I am hearing something (through good headphones) going on with the attack. Could be picking, could be fretting. There is a hint of something that is taking away from the tone.

    The important thing here is that you are able to hear that something isn't quite right. I can't "pick" out the cause, but if you mess with pick selection and technique, then try some different fretting techniques, I am sure you can can pull better tone.
    Robert Fear
    http://www.folkmusician.com
    1-800-493-4922

    "Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.
    " - Pete Seeger

  16. The following members say thank you to Folkmusician.com for this post:

    Erok 

  17. #12

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    You sound good.

    And, so does your mando, via my tablet speakers.

    I too started mando after electric and acoustic guitar.


    My first mando was a used, bargain / mis marked ? priced gibby fern, and full and had sustain and a sweetness. It was still an aural shift for me. Its intonation was great.

    Mandolins are shockingly pricey. And, i have mixed thoughts. Pricey often means great sound. Through a mic, waaaaay less so. X bracing sounds more guitar bassy than tone bars. Many entry mandolins have a distinct metallic shrillness to them, but not always. And, loss of clarity and projection in the upper registers.

    The easiest way to decide if its you or the instrument is to go and test drive an expensive upper model.

    Btw, after a year, my ear began to hear mando tonal subtly that i couldnt before, despite believing i had a discerning ear for guitars.

    Heres what i think i hear.
    You are playing very deliberately. Perhaps youre seeking sustain and clarity, and working hard at it with aggressive attack, harder down strokes? Cant be certain.

    No dynamic variation, no phrasing variation.
    That's perfectly good.


    I hear every note, thats great.

    I hear a bit less fluidity, and, i think I hear slight timing changes in the more demanding passages, ie the upper B part. Ie legato is lacking, tough at those bpms.

    So.....another guess
    Youre ear is likely attuned to the range and fullness of guitar. Mando take a bit of time to integrate into your ear. 8 years later, i still feel mando lacking for solo vocal accompaniment. I still seek that guitar bass support and chord fundamentals.


    And, speaking for my own method, i have to play songs a lot, before things not only smooth out, but become musical, and, embellishments and melodic and phrasing variations flow.

    Be patient with yourself.
    You play cleanly and sound really good.

    If you want a rounder sound, and more ease in tremolo, try a D'Adrea pro plec. Thick, partially rounded, inexpensive, and worth trying. It will give a tubbier sound, less cut. As your technique changes, so may your pick choice. I wasnt as attuned to picks until i dug into mando. For guitar, i used fender heavy 351's almost exclusively. Not anymore; not even close.

    As for mandos dont play like a les paul, i used tomastik mittle flatwounds for five years, and my mando came close. But, there are trade offs, like brilliance, seemingly volume or projection, and price (although they last 7-9 months played daily, hard.)

    You are expecting to play like youve been at it a few years, and, its tough, which is why we all rever our mando heros.
    Last edited by stevedenver; Dec-14-2017 at 10:12am.

  18. The following members say thank you to stevedenver for this post:


  19. #13
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    19,928

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    My friend Ed Connors, a mandolin player for well over 70 years puts it this way. The guitar will give you something. On the mandolin you have to go in and take it. There is a learning curve but I will add that the pick and strings you use on a given instrument can greatly affect the way it sounds as well.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  20. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to MikeEdgerton For This Useful Post:


  21. #14
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 pc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,159

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    I can't hear anything unusual either - from a mandolin point of view, that is.
    From an electric guitar point of view, of course, all the dreamy complexity of tube amp compression sound and sustain is suddenly gone, like a hung-over cold silent monastery morning after a wild night at the club. Welcome to unplugged sobriety. Welcome to a whole world of possible new sounds.

    That does not mean, of course, that you have to leave one world to enter another; I frequently travel between them.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  22. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Bertram Henze For This Useful Post:


  23. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    3,341

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    like a hung-over cold silent monastery morning after a wild night at the club.
    There must be a song in there somewhere.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  24. #16
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    1,740
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Yup .... not horrible tonally ..... sounds normal for someone starting out .... the action and setup on your instrument may need to be tweaked ... check out the free setup book here on the Cafť from Rob Meldrum .... picks and strings are to be experimented with as part of the process ... you will like some better than others both tonally and playability wise.... pay attention to your technique ... how far your fingers are from the fretboard .... use your pinky ... are you holding the instrument in the most advantageous angle and position ..... a few actual lessons from a mandolinist at this point in the process would help cement good technical habits for the future of your mandolin journey..... Luck .. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  25. #17

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    I can't hear anything unusual either - from a mandolin point of view, that is.
    From an electric guitar point of view, of course, all the dreamy complexity of tube amp compression sound and sustain is suddenly gone, like a hung-over cold silent monastery morning after a wild night at the club. Welcome to unplugged sobriety. Welcome to a whole world of possible new sounds.

    That does not mean, of course, that you have to leave one world to enter another; I frequently travel between them.
    Geez bertram, perhaps a bit more harsh an analogy than i would use, but "unplugged sobriety", gives the idea that non sobriety is bad thing.., LOL



    or that acoustic music is sparse, (which is why CFM invented the dreadnought) imho.



  26. #18

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    I think you sound great for only 3 months of playing...

    Are you playing from the wrist and not the elbow / forearm?

    Are you holding the pick like a mandolin player and not a guitar player?

    Bad mandolin technique / habits are miserable to “unlearn” if you learn ‘em the wrong way... ask me how I know, lol!

    I think someone else said this first, but it’s definitely been true for me:
    “It’s taken me ten years to sound like I’ve been playing the mandolin for ten years!”
    2015 Silverangel F
    2014 Stiver F
    2001 Flatiron Festival F

  27. #19
    Registered User Al Trujillo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Southern Colorado
    Posts
    452

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    From where I'm sitting I think you sound really good! And I think you may be ready to try picking a higher grade of mandolin.

  28. #20
    Registered User MontanaMatt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Bozeman, MT
    Posts
    327

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    That's great for just starting! I didn't read everyone's full reply, so I might repeat some advice...pick click is part of the sound you can easily adjust, with gear and technique. Also Arkansas Traveler has room for lots notes played with a second, open, droning string. It's old fiddle technique where you finger one string while sawing on two. It has to be an open string that is part of the chord. This will give the piece much more mass and sustain.
    Happy pickin, welcome to mando land!
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
    Deering Classic Open Back
    Too many microphones

  29. #21
    Registered User bjewell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Mendocino Coast, Ca
    Posts
    381

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    This is a great thread for me. Thanks for bringing this up. You are doing great. Be patient and you will be amazed at how great you sound in a few months.

  30. #22

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Erok View Post

    I've been trying to play mandolin about 3 months now ... offer me some advice?
    Keep playing and studying.

    The world of acoustic music and sound will continue to reveal itself. Enjoy the ride.

  31. #23
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Location
    Arkansas
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    I appreciate all the feedback. I'm not around other mandolin players, so this like gold to me.

  32. #24

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    I've found it helpful to play scales using a metronome to clean up my playing. Most lead guitar players would be horrified listening to themselves on a Telecaster played clean when they have been playing a Les Paul through a bunch of effects. Those blazing runs are just mush covered up.

    So I'd buy some 1.4 and 1.8 picks, slow way down and play scales concentrating on fretting cleanly with the left hand. Pick alternately with the right and listen for evenness on the up and down stroke, and picking in the sweet spot which can be just an inch or so along the string before sound starts to degrade. Hold you pick light enough that you loose it once in a while.

    Gradually build speed. Do this and go slower if you notice flubbed notes and clean things up. I find Wegen picks to be not too expensive and very good, but this is subjective.
    Silverangel Econo
    Michael Kelly LSFTB

  33. #25
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    San Diego CA
    Posts
    208

    Default Re: Why does my mandolin playing sound so bad?

    From a tonal standpoint the wood of course has an impact - but there are some really easy things that cost little that you can do to change tone

    Strings, pick, and intonation setup go a really long way. Try lining up 5 - 10 picks of different types and playing the exact same phrase (probably want to record it) and you'll hear the differences - personally I really like Wegan Bluegrass guitar picks for mandolin (they have speed holes - so you go faster hehe).

    For strings, I love the lighter side (I play elixir 10's) but if want a heavier tone, get heavier strings. Also try out different brands as there is a significant difference in tonal quality (and how that tone degrades) between string makers.

    Bad intonation can make anyone sound bad. If chords don't sound "right" - that might be the case. Adjusting the floating bridge is easy. I recommend checking the intonation after every string change.

    The action and connection with the bridge and body are also important but require a little more work. If the action is too high, it becomes difficult to sustain any note. Too low, it's just difficult to play haha. The connection of the bridge to body also has an impact on how much sound energy is transferred to the body - which will impact volume and some tone. On my first mandolin ($50 special from Musician's Friend) I had to sand the bridge down significantly to get good action / contact. It still was a beast to play - but better than out of the shop haha.

    After all is said and done - it's the musician that makes the music, not the mandolin. While nicer mandolins and good setup etc make sounding good easier - ultimately it comes down to you. How much you practice, what you practice, and what you need to practice. If you want to get better - find a person you really like to listen to, figure out why you like their playing in as detailed of a way as possible (do you like the sustain, the phrasing of breaks etc), read interviews with that person if possible, and design a regular practice method around what you want to imitate (i.e. if you like their phrasing, practice a few of their "signature" phrases in every key, then practice your own phrases in that style - imitate then innovate).

    Practice slow. Practice often. Practice with friends. Practice with people better than you. Practice with purpose.

    Good luck! Keep rocking!

  34. The following members say thank you to mbruno for this post:

    Erok 

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •