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Thread: What's gong on with my mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default What's gong on with my mandolin?

    It's not a buzz, but kind of a distortion, almost like overdrive, but I'm not playing that hard. Is this a set up issue, something inherent in the instrument, or just me not having the right technique? Is this common? But I want it gone. What I am talking about is most noticeable around the 50 second mark. It doesn't always do it, but is more pronounced when playing louder. Thanks.


  2. #2
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    I think you are getting sympathetic vibrations from the strings between the bridge and the tailpiece. I'd lace a piece of leather through the strings to dampen it and see if the problem resolves.

    Great playing by the way! Thanks for sharing!

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    Peace. Love. Mandolin. Gelsenbury's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    I agree with Al. You may also wish to check the tailpiece itself. Is it firmly in place, and is there some dampening between it and the strings?

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    . . . . or it could just be that the tailpiece cover is loose - try making sure that it is firmly in place . . . that usually works for me.
    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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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    That is a customized James tailpiece. The cover and tailpiece are one (hinged) and there are built in dampers to prevent the problems that are being brought up. Whatever the issue I doubt that it is the tailpiece.

    I would check every screw for tightness (tuners, tailpiece), check action (too low), relief ( if any), could be a high fret somewhere, could be a nut slot cut too wide, buzzing in the slots (have you changed string gauge recently?). Are you the original owner? You could contact Mr. Apidus for guidance, even if you bought it used (most makers ogpf that level want their instrument to represent them well, regardless of who owns it). Is it a new instrument to you? Or have you had it for some time, and it just started doing this? If this is a recent development, consider what has changed. Something must have.
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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    could be a nut slot cut too wide, buzzing in the slots (have you changed string gauge recently?
    This was my first thought as I had a guitar that would make this sort of sitar sound from the B and E strings when played open. I watched the video but could not tell if your buzzing sound is only happening when playing open notes. Is it? In my case the nut slots were cut too deep and wide for the strings.

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    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    As mentioned, the James tailpiece is hinged but must be adjusted to the particular instrument.
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    First of all you fingers are fretting past the frets, try and stay behind the frets when you play. Second there are several times when your ring finger is pushing the A strings closer together when you fret them. I would agree to check the setup, but stop when you hear the sound and play the note carefully putting your finger in the correct place and see if it is still there or goes away. I had a similar problem with my middle finger pushing the A strings together decades ago.
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  10. #9

    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    If the O rings on the James tailpiece get dried out, the cover won't close tightly and could vibrate. Apply a little petroleum jelly to them every few string changes.
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  11. #10

    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    One thing to check is your tuning. Sometimes you can be just a little bit off between the pairs, and you will get that ringy tone. That said, the weather has certainly changed in the Northeast, and keeps on changing. If you have a luthier that you use, it won't hurt to have he/she check it out. Sometimes it can just be a high fret or something as simple as the nut on the truss rod is a bit loose.
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  12. #11

    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    Hey thanks everyone so far. I will take these points up one by one. It definitely happens in open and fretted positions. I am the original owner and this is something that I noticed in the first week. (Nearly a year old now). Yes I could reach out to the builder and might, though there is the distance factor regionally, and frankly, I haven't even known exactly what to say is the issue.

  13. #12
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    First of all you fingers are fretting past the frets, try and stay behind the frets when you play. Second there are several times when your ring finger is pushing the A strings closer together when you fret them. I would agree to check the setup, but stop when you hear the sound and play the note carefully putting your finger in the correct place and see if it is still there or goes away. I had a similar problem with my middle finger pushing the A strings together decades ago.
    I agree with pops1 on both observations. I watched the video around 50 seconds a few times. I also think the nut slot angles could be doing that but that would produce buzzing only on open strings. One other question. How old are those strings you have on there? You might consider changing them if they are a few months old or you play a lot. I also can't quite tell but it looks to me that those unwound strings are set up to be closer together than they need to be and when hit hard they could be vibrating against each other.
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    If your tuner buttons are held on with screws, make sure they are tight.
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    Registered User Toni Schula's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    I once had a loose truss rod in my mandolin. The setup did not require the truss rod to pull back, but it was way to loose and the nut or washer vibrated when I played. Gently tightening the truss rod just a little bit solved the issue.
    Last edited by Toni Schula; Jan-10-2019 at 5:00pm.

  16. #15

    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    That should be pretty quick to indentify in person. Find the most offensive note (best if an open string). And keep playing it while touch tuners, the tailpiece, other strings...

    Once you rule all that out. check that the truss rod is snug. I agree with Toni. It sounds a lot like a loose truss rod, moreso than the strings.
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  17. #16

    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    Get Rob Meldrum's free setup book and a set of feeler gauges and check all your clearances. Then get some aluminum flat bar stock and cut some small lengths so you can span three frets high and low on the fretboard. You will have to sand the edge of the bar flat. Sandpaper taped to a piece of window glass works great. Then you span three frets and see if you get any rocking. If you do, it is a high fret.

    If your neck has too much relief, your strings will not clear the upper frets. I find there is a point where the string is not distinct, but doesn't buzz either. Anyway if you check things out, you can annoy your set up guy with how much you think you know.

    I agree with the truss rod possibility too.
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  18. #17
    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    First of all you fingers are fretting past the frets, try and stay behind the frets when you play. Second there are several times when your ring finger is pushing the A strings closer together when you fret them. I would agree to check the setup, but stop when you hear the sound and play the note carefully putting your finger in the correct place and see if it is still there or goes away. I had a similar problem with my middle finger pushing the A strings together decades ago.
    I think this may be it. If the video is paused at 47-48 seconds, the two A strings can be seen pushed together as the note is fingered at the 5th fret.

    My first thought was the string rattling against the next fret, which would be a set-up issue, but I'd consider technique first. If the finger is placed on top of, rather than behind the fret, that could cause it to vibrate against the next fret - as well as giving a less clean sound.

  19. #18
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's gong on with my mandolin?

    I had a similar sound coming from a used mandolin that I bought last year and eventually found that the slot in the SADDLE (rather than the expected nut) was angled incorrectly (string not sitting firm on front edge) which made the sound occur with open notes AND fretted notes.
    Five minutes with the correct file fixed it. YMMV
    Phil

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