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Thread: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

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    Real Life D&D Bard MollyMarieMandolin's Avatar
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    Default Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    I just got my first mandolin, and I know the Rogue is as starter instrument as it gets, though I've been enjoying myself so far. I bought replacement strings when I picked the Rogue up but I figured I'd try out tuning and setup changes a bit before I put the better strings on. I've gotten the strings tuned up and after having set the bridge as low as possible it's definitely way easier to fret now. When the action was way too high though, it was a lot of strain on my fingers but I wasn't getting any buzzing and now the strings sound fine open but there's horrible buzzing as soon as I push ANY fret down.

    I'm sure the strings that came on it are low quality and maybe the fact that I've tuned it up and then kept lowering the tension to mess with the bridge, tuned it up again, etc. made the low quality strings stretch out too much. Would switching the strings to the better quality ones drastically improve the sound or should I try some more setup changes before I put new strings on? I really want to practice more but the buzzing is so terrible right now I can't play it.
    Screw it. I'm a bard now.

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    Real Life D&D Bard MollyMarieMandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Oh I have tried making the bridge slightly higher since I figured maybe it was TOO low, but it didn't help much. I got Rob Meldrum's setup book and it's proving helpful, and I'm fine with learning to tinker with all the setup stuff myself, wondering what my next step should be right now though.
    Screw it. I'm a bard now.

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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Get a good set up first, then play with different kinds of strings. Good luck.

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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    Get a good set up first, then play with different kinds of strings. Good luck.
    what denny says...

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    Real Life D&D Bard MollyMarieMandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Thanks for the replies. I kinda figured it would be better to go for the best possible setup first. Guess I was hoping for an easier fix because I'm impatient to be able to play more! Well good things come to those who wait, as they say. I'm finding plenty of things to try out between Rob Meldrum's book, old threads I've found searching these forums, etc. I do want to learn how to do setup properly, too bad it's the only mandolin I have right now though so I don't have another one to learn on. I see why collections of instruments grow.
    Screw it. I'm a bard now.

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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Rob Meldrum's e-book says the distance between the 12th fret and the closest part of the strings should be 0.050" or more to not have buzzing. Maybe you got the action a little too low? You can measure the clearance with a feeler gage from an autoparts store or Walmart if you don't already have one. When measuring, the feeler gage should just barely rub without pushing the strings up.

    As others have said, I would get the setup right before changing strings.

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    MollyMarieM - I've read in several places that you have read old threads about setup - and you now have Rob Meldrum's ebook in hand - so I'm wondering whether you've read anywhere about, and paid any attention to, the action at the nut? If I could afford to wager, I'd bet good money that your real problem is there.

    When lowering the bridge, all you can really do is get it close at first. Then, you have to pay attention to the nut. Most of your early days of learning will be spent at the first 5 or 7 frets! Who cares how low the action is at the 12th fret if the action is too high at the nut? That will not do. I cannot believe that a Rogue will ship from the factory with a good action at the nut.

    You don't even need a book or a ruler to check this. Here's how to do it.

    1. Press and hold down a string at the first fret with index finger. While holding it down, press the same string at the second fret. Keep holding first fret down, and repeatedly use your middle finger to let up and then lower the string touching the second fret. Watch how far the string has to travel to touch 2nd fret while first fret is being held down.

    2. Now, let up on string. With your index finger, press the same string down and let up repeatedly at the first fret. Watch how far the string has to travel to touch the first fret.

    If the string moves way more to fret at 1st fret than it does to fret from 1st to 2nd fret, then you badly need to have the nut slots lowered. This is probably the case with all low end mandolins from the factory (and maybe with some high end ones too).

    The fact is that if the nut slots are cut too high, you can easily lower the action way too low at the bridge . . . so it will feel more comfortable (barely) on open strings, but it will be so low that the strings will buzz when you fret the mandolin.

    As others have intimated, no amount of changing strings, etc. will help until you get the action set properly.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    MollyMarieM - I've read in several places that you have read old threads about setup - and you now have Rob Meldrum's ebook in hand - so I'm wondering whether you've read anywhere about, and paid any attention to, the action at the nut? If I could afford to wager, I'd bet good money that your real problem is there.
    That's certainly a possibility, but I'd be more willing to bet that it's a fret problem. Rogue mandolins are notorious for unlevel frets. If it does not buzz when playing a open fret but buzzes when fretting it most likely has a high fret somewhere further up the fingerboard and if you press the string at any fret below that high fret the string can slightly touch the high fret and cause buzzing. I've had a couple of Rogues for my kids and they both had the same problem. Found the high frets, filed them down and the buzzing went away.

    I agree that the nut slots should be lowered, but I don't think the nut being too high would cause buzzing.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    A point - unless you're really conversant with lowering the action at the nut - don't - at least,don't do it yourself. Regardless of the quality of the mandolin,nut slot adjustment should always be done by a pro.,purely because if you go 'too low' it's a new nut job !.

    Yes - you can certainly do it yourself by very carefully adjusting each slot in turn to very fine limits, & always err on the high side. I'd be very tempted to have a decent mando.conversant luthier take a look at it before anything is done,& Larry might just have hit the spot with his comment about high frets.

    As for strings,when you've got the problem sorted out,try a set of GHS A270's on your mandolin. They're very sweet toned strings,
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    Real Life D&D Bard MollyMarieMandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    A point - unless you're really conversant with lowering the action at the nut - don't - at least,don't do it yourself. Regardless of the quality of the mandolin,nut slot adjustment should always be done by a pro.,purely because if you go 'too low' it's a new nut job !.

    The nut is made of plastic and I could buy a replacement. I'm not afraid to mess around with it and would rather learn to myself. I've tried lowering the slots a little, though just with a pocket knife for now because I don't have anything better at the moment. I'm definitely not bothering to take this 60 dollar mandolin to a professional and possibly spend as much as the instrument cost. I have so little money at the moment even buying myself a 60 dollar mandolin was a rare splurge (really not kidding about that), so any suggestions that cost any decent amount of money are just not going to happen. And yeah it'd be best to get the setup perfect first, and I could have the patience for that...if this wasn't the only mandolin I own and I'd rather be able to play it more asap. If I mess something up with the bridge, I can buy a new bridge. Ditto with the plastic nut. I'm not afraid to tinker as I go.

    I appreciate the various suggestions but I feel like some of you are ignoring that I said in my initial post there was NO buzzing before I lowered the bridge, so those of you saying I probably lowered it too much are likely the most correct. The thing that was weird to me though was I raised the bridge again several times and the buzzing continued. That's why I wondered if it could be the strings.

    Please realize that, as nice as it is you offer advice to newbies, the amount of really technical advice you're giving is A.too technical for both my knowledge level and price range B. comes off as insulting my intelligence when you repeat the same advice several times.

    I wanted advice, but please don't phrase anything as "You MUST do it this way/You MUST not do this." I know by this point in my life that I'm free to ignore any advice, especially if it's phrased as an order. I know you're trying to be helpful here but you're not going to help any newbies like me phrasing things in ultimatums and insisting on your idea of a proper way of doing things.
    Screw it. I'm a bard now.

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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Quote Originally Posted by MollyMarieMandolin View Post
    ....... I know you're trying to be helpful here but you're not going to help any newbies like me phrasing things in ultimatums and insisting on your idea of a proper way of doing things.
    Actually, an awful lot of newbies --probably just like you--have been helped a ton by the people on this forum. The folks who answered you so far told you pretty much exactly what you needed to hear--

    1- it is almost certainly a setup issue

    2-while it could be a bridge issue, it could also be an uneven fret issue --and this uneven issue could easily appear ONLY when you have lowered the action--- and that it is worth your while to check on this

    3- it COULD involve the nut, but unlike the bridge, the nut is much harder to adjust properly, not in the least because some of your alterations are not "undo-able".

    No one is trying to insult your intelligence. And no one is "insisting" that you do it their way. You asked people to provide you advice, and they did. Now, as a final piece of advice--- I will offer this:

    I don't believe it is possible that the "strings stretched out too much".

    I think you have an action problem, that might also be masking uneven frets. These are easy to check and Rob's book tells how.

    If you alter the nut without REALLY knowing what you are doing, you may have to replace it. You indicate that you feel this will not be a problem. I "advise" you that removing and replacing a nut, and fitting it so that it does its job properly, is much more complicated than it appears.

    Good luck.

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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    You could try Frank Ford's Buzz Diagnosis Page from his website www.frets.com
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    Real Life D&D Bard MollyMarieMandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Quote Originally Posted by jshane View Post
    Actually, an awful lot of newbies --probably just like you--have been helped a ton by the people on this forum. The folks who answered you so far told you pretty much exactly what you needed to hear--

    1- it is almost certainly a setup issue

    2-while it could be a bridge issue, it could also be an uneven fret issue --and this uneven issue could easily appear ONLY when you have lowered the action--- and that it is worth your while to check on this

    3- it COULD involve the nut, but unlike the bridge, the nut is much harder to adjust properly, not in the least because some of your alterations are not "undo-able".

    No one is trying to insult your intelligence. And no one is "insisting" that you do it their way. You asked people to provide you advice, and they did. Now, as a final piece of advice--- I will offer this:

    I don't believe it is possible that the "strings stretched out too much".

    I think you have an action problem, that might also be masking uneven frets. These are easy to check and Rob's book tells how.

    If you alter the nut without REALLY knowing what you are doing, you may have to replace it. You indicate that you feel this will not be a problem. I "advise" you that removing and replacing a nut, and fitting it so that it does its job properly, is much more complicated than it appears.

    Good luck.
    I'm not complaining about advice. I'm complaining about the wording of it, though I apologize for being a bit overly defensive about it. I've had too many people in my life tell me what to do. If no one's actually insisting I do it their way, that's fine, because even if somebody insists on something I'm free to ignore it. If I end up needing to replace something on my instrument because of my own choice, I will deal with it. I take responsibility for my own actions. If it's complicated to replace something, I am completely okay with that. I feel much better messing around with setup on this mandolin knowing it's an inexpensive one. I am finding helpful advice here. What is not helpful is telling me to go see a professional when I'd rather do it myself. What is not helpful is warning me away from doing what I'm perfectly okay with doing. So don't do that please. I'm sure you've probably seen threads on here of people who give up on fixing the action because it's too difficult for them. If I want to do something, I don't give up.

    It's looking like it's mainly that a fairly high action at the bridge is better for me. I get that the setup has a lot of personal variation so there is no one right answer. I'm getting no buzzing after putting the bridge height up quite a bit. Maybe I have a pretty strong plucking action. I found a thread on here somewhere saying the action should be higher if you pluck strongly. I guess I have strong fingers. My husband always tells me I "type furiously" because I type on keyboards pretty hard. Maybe that helps with finger strength for stringed instrument playing? And I thought I wasted too much time on the Internet.
    Screw it. I'm a bard now.

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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    A pocket knife is not the best tool to lower the nut slots. The string needs to touch the very edge of the nut or it will cause problems. NOT to worry if you screw it up, you don't need to buy a new one. It can be taken off and a shim put under it and it will still work fine. A small file may be a better choice of a tool, or a set of torch tip cleaners. Neither is expensive, tho the torch cleaner will be slow, but can be accurate. Good luck.
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    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Lots of good advice here for getting a good setup. But, in fact, it could be bad strings. Here's how I know. I bought a $50 Rogue about three years ago just to see what they are. It came out of the box so buzzy that it was unplayable. I left the strings on it and proceeded to give it my best professional full setup. Nut slots were too high and too tight. Saddle slots were not well cut. After that adjustment, raising the bridge action to the height I like removed the buzz except for two strings. I spent about two hours going over it and everything checked out perfectly. Frets were level and not loose. Even the strings looked good. It was a mystery. Finally, I changed the two strings. Buzz gone. I changed the rest of the strings just to be safe. This mandolin has sat by my desk ever since and is my daily beater. It's a good beater and a pleasure to play. The only problem if you change the strings now is that you may break one or two when you adjust the nut slots, so you'll want to have a spare set to replace what you break.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Quote - "The nut is made of plastic..". Is it ?. I remember replacing a 'plastic' nut on a banjo once,only to find that it was actually a bone nut. It had been varnished over & looked for all the world like plastic.Try this - get a large needle & heat the point until it's red hot. Then touch the end of the nut with it. If you get some smoke,it's plastic,if you don't then it's most likely bone,
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    Real Life D&D Bard MollyMarieMandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Better strings for Rogue ASAP or try better setup first?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    A pocket knife is not the best tool to lower the nut slots. The string needs to touch the very edge of the nut or it will cause problems. NOT to worry if you screw it up, you don't need to buy a new one. It can be taken off and a shim put under it and it will still work fine. A small file may be a better choice of a tool, or a set of torch tip cleaners. Neither is expensive, tho the torch cleaner will be slow, but can be accurate. Good luck.
    I know a pocket knife obviously isn't the best tool and a file would be better, just didn't have a file on hand and was impatient to tinker a little. I didn't do much with it, barely made the slots deeper, kinda wanted to see how it would work. Definitely showed me it is made of plastic, with the little strips of plastic coming off! Though I doubt a nice bone nut would be on an entry level instrument anyway...Well the bridge is rosewood, guess that works out because it's small and mass produced though, I don't know enough about things made of bone to know price ranges. But the nut is most definitely plastic.

    I'm about halfway done replacing the strings with nice D'Addario ones right now. I'm getting used to mandolin string replacement, seems a bit more difficult to get used to than guitar strings which I've replaced a few times before though it's been a long time. I guess the higher tension than guitar strings makes it a bit of a trickier operation, plus I think I've seen comments on the Rogue's tuning pegs not being too good. It does seem to take a LOT of cranking of the tuning pegs to bring strings up to tension. I think one of those tools for doing it faster is somewhere, I forget the name of it, the metal crank thing to go over the tuning peg. I don't mind doing it by hand though.

    Did anyone bother to read the part where I said I'm getting no buzzing now with the bridge up fairly high and I think a problem might be I strum too hard for a low action to be good for me? I tried different things, and the bridge being up high again seems to have solved the problem. Scientific method! I had plenty of classes on that with my psychology degree, after all.
    Screw it. I'm a bard now.

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