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Thread: Did setup change wake up the better player?

  1. #1
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Did setup change wake up the better player?

    I know it sounds weird, so I'd better explain:
    I recently modified the bridge on my Fylde OM to make it lighter by drilling two large holes near the two feet where it is thickest. I've read a lighter bridge makes for more volume and longer sustain, though I wasn't hoping for much - just an experiment.

    When I placed the bridge back where it had been and tuned the strings back to pitch, I was blown away by the brilliant sound and presence it now had. So far so good, experiment successful and that's all there is to it. Or so I thought.

    During the next practice session, when I played my usual repertoire of tunes, I found I suddenly could play them with a much more relaxed concentration, and my usual concentration failure challenge I do for testing myself (playing while watching Russian dashcam videos) suddenly went much better - I could watch the worst accidents and never miss a beat of the tune.

    What is happening here? Has anyone else experienced such a boost from mere instrument properties, or am I going mad?
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  2. #2

    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Definitely going mad.

    I havn't experienced such a thing with a modification to the setup, but I have experienced something like that where the tunes just effortlessly come off during a practice session. I attribute it to being totally relaxed, and not thinking about the act of playing. Usually happens when I practice first thing in the morning. For me, these times don't happen very often, but when they do, it is wonderful. I suspect this is what a true musician is able to do most of the time, relax and be in the moment, to almost be one with the instrument.

    Perhaps you were in a similar space, enjoying the new sound, running on auto pilot and letting muscle memory do its thing, and efficiently letting the brain do several things at once.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Possibly one had to do with the other. Or perhaps your no longer thinking about changing the setup allowed your mind to better relax and just play the tunes.
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    Registered User Brian560's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Is it possible that when you drilled those holes you immediately got the sound you were after. You no longer had to worry about where on the string your pick was landing, finding the sweet spot. You also didn't have to check your fretting to see if that was diminishing your sound. I have noticed that on some days, usually dependent on humidity, my mandolin simply plays easier.

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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    I have lightened my bridge in different ways and like the sound much better, but I also notice that when the mandolin is totally unstrung and strung back up, it sounds different for at least a week until it settles back in. Let us know in a week what you think.
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    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    I think it's about being in the zone. When my mandolin sounds great to me, for whatever reason, it helps me focus on it and I play better. Or at least I think I do. I think there are connections between player and instrument on many levels and hearing what sounds go to you may engage the brain on a different level or in a different way.

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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Setup change can be fun. I recently tried out monel strings and a lighter pick and my playing felt like I jumped 6 months in progression. As in sucks less maybe but it feels nice to get a playing bump from setup or equipment

  8. #8

    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post

    What is happening here? Has anyone else experienced such a boost from mere instrument properties, or am I going mad?
    1. Ergonomics
    2. Yes
    3. Perhaps, but always a matter of perspective

  9. #9
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    A question Bertram - Did you drill the holes front to back or 'up' into the bridge from the base ?. I only ask because i've seen it done both ways (Red Henry's bridge experimants).

    Regarding your playing - i think that you're simply enjoying the 'new sound' & definitely being more relaxed. I've noticed similar differences at times. When i'm really enjoying it & not simply practicing for the sake of it,i seem to play much better,
    Ivan
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  11. #10
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    A question Bertram - Did you drill the holes front to back or 'up' into the bridge from the base ?. I only ask because i've seen it done both ways (Red Henry's bridge experimants).
    It's front to back, Ivan. The vertical option simply did not occur to me, but sounds interesting, too.

    All posts in this thread seem to be unanimous in the opinion that this is a psychological effect taking place, and that it is still a legal state of mind Thank you all.
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  13. #11
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    I got the info. in my last post wrong. Red Henry certainly did a lot of experimenting with mandolin bridges - But !!. I think that the 'vertical option' came from Frank Ford (Frets.com),
    Ivan
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  14. #12
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    That's what it looks like.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  15. #13
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    You did a very neat job there Bertram. I can imagine the bridge vibrations travelling along those thinner sections better than the original 'all solid' bridge. At least it seems that ''something good'' happened !,
    Ivan
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  17. #14
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Ivan, I think that just reducing the mass of the bridge changes the overall oscillation characteristics, while the exact position of the holes is only important for maintaining structural integrity. I too was inspired by Red Henry's "swiss cheese style" bridges.
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Interesting, there is surely something to be said for reducing mass and I think what you did is testament to that if even only in your head but, if you hear it, you hear it.
    I remember some of the “vertical hole” bridge seats. I don’t think I could drill them accurately so, I’ll live with what I’ve got.
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    Registered User Dave Fultz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    I’d think the lessened mass (as long as rigidity wasn’t affected) would allow less dampening of the energy created by the strings. But it’s such a small amount, I’d wonder if there wasn’t something else at play, such as changing the saddle to a more optimal, better intonated position or allowing the saddle to have better contact with the top

    my girlfriend has a km-254 that sounded funny. I reintonated it and bam it sang.

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  21. #17
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    It would take a bit of Lab testing to try to establish exactly 'what' might have happened,but i certainly believe that 'something' did indeed happen. I don't know exactly how it could be established,but maybe measuring the mass / resonant frequency (RF) of the bridge in it's original state, would have been the first thing to do,& then measure the mass / RF after the modification,to see what the co-relationship between between the 2 factors indicated.

    As in many other things,i feel sure that there's an optimum 'mass' / 'whatever' for a mandolin bridge 'too much / too little' = no good (common sense),but just how far can you go in reducing bridge mass before it ceases to function correctly ?. The 'acoustic outcome' would of course be influenced by the instrument on which the specific bridge would be fitted,& the string brand /gauge - not all mandolins & strings are the same - as we all know,making it next to impossible to formulate any sort of 'rule' (physical 'Law' ?) for predicting the mass / RF for a bridge for any specific mandolin.

    My brain hurts !!,
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  23. #18

    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Well known by faith healers and medicine shows, anything you think can improve your performance can improve your performance.

    I am reminded of a video of a Kenny Werner seminar, where he has someone play a piece, make a mental “adjustment”, and then play it again. Of course, the second time is better.

    I like Werner’s book, but that’s classic medicine show.
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  24. #19
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonZ View Post
    medicine shows
    You mean like toothache dispersed by the mere whirr of the dentist's drill?
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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    I have one sure-fire way of making my mandolin sound MUCH better . . . I let somebody else play it!
    I recently finished a new homemade 4-song EP of original solo acoustic songs; (sorry, no mandolin content this time). If you are interested in a FREE copy, feel free to send me your address via Private Message, and I will be glad to send you one. Trust me, it will be worth the price!


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  26. #21

    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    I have been through many iterations of where the instrument was holding me back, or stated in the positive, where a setup change freed me to play better.

    If the instrument was comparatively 'dull' before, possibly you were working (perhaps unconsciously) harder to draw out tone, when the instrument suddenly started making better tone for less work, that freed you up to do other stuff, and it could have been additional inspiration as well.

    For the naysayers: While the placebo effect is real, is also short-lived, so if the effect lasts , you know it is real. And when someone says it was an unexpected effect, it isn't really the placebo effect at all.

    In my case, I have often been surprised how much difference small changes can make.
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  28. #22
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    From kurth83 - " I have often been surprised how much difference small changes can make.". Totally unexpected differences as well !!.

    Myself & one other Cafe member who hasn't posted in a long while,both own Weber "Fern" mandolins. Both of us had a tiny adjustments made to our mandolin truss rods - they were tightened up by a very small amount - about a 1/4 turn of the nut in my case. It made no visible or 'feelable' difference to the fingerboard at all. A couple of days later i came to play it, & the overall volume had increased dramatically. It was very much louder,but with no change in 'tone'. I can only assume that the tiny increase in compression of the TR, did somehow increase the downward pressure of the strings on the bridge to create the extra volume ??. Or,could it have affected the top tension ?. I don't profess to understand what went on,but the extra volume remains !,
    Ivan
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  29. #23
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    While the placebo effect is real, is also short-lived, so if the effect lasts , you know it is real. And when someone says it was an unexpected effect, it isn't really the placebo effect at all.
    Then my case hasn't been a placebo thing. The effect ist still there, and apparently, others can hear it too: during a session 2 weeks ago, one of the patrons bought me a drink, and when I went to pay the rest (half price for musicians anyway) another one intercepted me and paid it instead, saying "thanks for the sound" (this has never happened before)
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  30. #24

    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Placebo Effect Can Last for Years

    The placebo effect may not be just a one-shot or even a 20-pill phenomenon; the brain's power to make people feel better can last for years, according to a study reported today.

    The New York Times

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    Default Re: Did setup change wake up the better player?

    Instruments are rather sensitive. A touch, and things change. Many touches, and the change may be substantial. At a certain point, a door opens.

    My dentist friend kept his late wife's large Bosendorfer grand piano. There was music in that piano that never appeared in mine.
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