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Thread: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

  1. #1

    Default Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    I have a Rogue RM100 (yeah, I know; but fingers crossed I'll be able to get a better instrument soon). It's not set up properly either, just "as-is" from when I it bought online several years back from some instrument warehouse. I have only picked it up a couple dozen times. The current strings on it are probably at least 2 years old (although they're not the ones it came with). And for a pick, I've been using a "Big Stubby" 3.0mm.

    I picked it up recently, and tried to do a simple 2 octave G scale. All the open strings can be tuned just fine. However, when I start pressing down between the frets, all the notes on the D, A, and E strings come out a bit sharp. The really big issue is the G string. Any notes on the G string are very harsh. While the open G is a warm, rich sound (relatively), by the time I get to B it is a very harsh metallic/tinny sound.

    What can I do to make the most out of the instrument? I know it's never going to sound great, but it should be able to hold up enough to produce stable, tuned notes for basic practicing. My first thought was to replace the strings because I imagine they wear over time, even if the instrument isn't being played regularly. Any other suggestions? Is it just bad technique?

  2. #2
    Registered User Willem's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    New strings would definitely help. In addition, a full set-up is needed. Adjusting nut height and slots, saddle height and slots, bridge placement, and likely some attention to the frets. Rob Meldrum has a free set-up book available to Cafe members. His test insruments were the same Rogue you have. He has before and after set-up videos up on You Tube.

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  4. #3
    Registered User Lane Pryce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    Take a look at Rob Meldrom’s ebook that walks one through the set up of a mandolin. It’s no charge and there are a couple of threads here about the book. Sounds like it will get you headed in the right direction. Feel free to ask questions too. There are a lot of knowledgeable folk here that can help you out. Lp
    J.Lane Pryce

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  6. #4
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    Another vote for Rob's book. See my signature, below. Nut slot depth, bridge placement, bridge height, and truss rod adjustment are all possible (probable, even) culprits and all are covered in his book. The nice thing is that you have a great instrument for trying out all the setup tricks - it will respond well to a good setup and it is inexpensive if you totally mess it up (unlikely).
    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).

    My website and blog: honketyhank.com

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  8. #5
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueNewgrassFox View Post
    However, when I start pressing down between the frets, all the notes on the D, A, and E strings come out a bit sharp.
    Quote Originally Posted by Willem View Post
    In addition, a full set-up is needed. Adjusting nut height and slots, saddle height and slots, bridge placement, and likely some attention to the frets.

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    Nut slot depth
    I wonder if the nut slots are not cut deep enough. This will cause notes on the first few frets to be sharp.

    It's very common, too.

    Anyway, all of these issues need to be checked at some point - hopefully the maker's shop - to make any mandolin play in tune.

  9. #6
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    I agree with the recommendations to learn to set it up yourself using the useful and generous Rob Meldrum book. Even if you get a better mandolin in the future, it might need little tweaks from time to time and if you can do them yourself you'll save a lot of money.
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  10. #7

    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    I recently set up my new Rogue using Rob's ebook, and it's proving to be a great little instrument that I can take most anywhere. I got Rob's book before the mandolin so I knew what to expect. I really like that he shows how to make nut files with the feeler gages. I've since replaced the tailpiece with a simple one piece design that won't have the cover falling off all the time. Other than that, it's great. The tuners work well enough, and intonation is fine from one end to the other.

  11. #8
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    A few days ago I ordered a Rogue for a loaner when friends and family get the tentative urge to to try mandolin. (I'm thinking about gifting out some of these Rogues, too, since they're so inexpensive. I can see buying one for each of my three sons.) I had Rob's book a few years ago but don't know where it is now (a couple of laptops ago). I need to request another copy! (Thanks, Rob!)
    Doug Brock
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  12. #9
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    Quote Originally Posted by flatpicknut View Post
    A few days ago I ordered a Rogue for a loaner when friends and family get the tentative urge to to try mandolin. (I'm thinking about gifting out some of these Rogues, too, since they're so inexpensive. I can see buying one for each of my three sons.) I had Rob's book a few years ago but don't know where it is now (a couple of laptops ago). I need to request another copy! (Thanks, Rob!)
    I'm still sending out the ebook for free! Just email me at rob.meldrum@gmail.com and put Mandolin Setup in the Subject line.

    FWIW, the Rogue, once set up properly, is a perfectly fine entry-level instrument. :-)

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  14. #10

    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    And while the tools to do the setup will likely cost as much as the instrument did, they will last for a lifetime, those skills will come in very handy on any future instruments. I practiced on cheaper instruments too, and still haven't learned all the tricks, sanding a bridge to match a top isn't something I've done yet, but most of the rest of it I have. I have it dialed in the the point where I can take any mandolin and make it feel about the same to me, that's priceless.

    For string heights I suggest the string height gauge from stewmac, a bit pricey, but if you can afford one is vastly superior to feeler gauges.
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    I think its would be really interesting to visit (or see a video of) where the Rogue's are made. Its amazing they that can produce a workable wood instrument for $50

  16. #12
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Meldrum View Post
    I'm still sending out the ebook for free! Just email me at rob.meldrum@gmail.com and put Mandolin Setup in the Subject line.

    FWIW, the Rogue, once set up properly, is a perfectly fine entry-level instrument. :-)
    I wimped out on buying the $300 Kentucky mandolin that I had my eye on, since I have never played the instrument. I ordered one of the Rogues when they dipped to $42.99 on EEBay. I should arrive Wednesday, next week. Thank you Rob for sending me the eBook. I am excited about setting it up and learning to play it. I've set up guitars and ukuleles so hopefully I will muddle my way through it. If I like playing it, I'll sell it on CL for $30 or something and move up.

    Larry Brockman (Smyrna5)

  17. #13

    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    I see those $50 Rogues all the time selling for $100 used at pawn shops, believe it or not! I guess people don't do research before buying.....

  18. #14
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    I see those $50 Rogues all the time selling for $100 used at pawn shops, believe it or not! I guess people don't do research before buying.....
    I've seen that too on my local CL. What was really weird on the one I bought from MF was that the price jumped around all week in the same EEBay listing, from $42.99 to $49.99.

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  20. #15
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    I see those $50 Rogues all the time ...
    Just as encouragement to the OP and others, my $35 Rover, a blem w/ solid top, while obviously less wonderful than a $20K or even a $2K instrument, does sound pretty much like what you'd expect a playable mandolin to sound like. File them nut slots down, y'all!
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  22. #16

    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    I have found that the eBook setup guide will get you 75 % if the way there, but a fret level is needed in order to play optimally. It isn't that hard, but more expensive tools needed. I've found a good setup not only feels better, it sounds better.

    Probably best for you to live with the eBook setup and save for better mandolin.
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  23. #17
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    The UPS man delivered my Rogue today (Monday). Pretty fast free shipping on a $42.99 mandolin that i just ordered Thursday last week. I tuned it up and played a few tunes (mostly GCD chord stuff, but picked out a few melodies too.) I read up on the basics of tuning and playing the animal this weekend, but didnt expect it to arrive so soon.

    Action doesnt seem too bad out of the box, but Im sure that and the intonation can use some work. I also notice some light coming under the middle of the bridge, so ill seat that with some sand paper and perform Rob’s setup on it. I will check the fret level as a well and level and dress them if need be. Ive got several big hand planes, one up to 22” long that should make a good enough surface to glue some sandpaper to do that. Of course there are also big flat files in the workshop. Some new strings have been ordered. The cover plate on the tailpiece doesnt want to stay on.

    To be honest, its rather dull sounding compared to my solid wood guitar and ukuleles, but I think it will be good to learn both set ups and playing on. Ive also got a few spare soundboard ukulele pickups laying around, so I may install one for giggles. Hey, for the cost of a few good sets of guitar strings, its an amazing deal. Im happy.

    Ill make a full report when im done.
    Last edited by Smyrna5; Dec-03-2018 at 1:51pm.

  24. #18
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a bad instrument sound good enough

    Bad bridge fit ====> dull sound.

    All the best with your new mandolin and the ensuing adventures.
    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).

    My website and blog: honketyhank.com

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